Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, February 29, 2008

Ironwood Chamber Ensemble play in Robertson

Last week the "Ironwood Chamber Ensemble" performed in Robertson, to an appreciative audience of members of the Robertson Village Music Society.

As may be understood from their website (linked above) this group has a flexible membership and plays a selection of chamber music pieces appropriate to the artists and their favourite instruments.
Five members of the Ensemble came to Robertson on Wednesday. They were, from left to right, (as shown in the image above)
Rachael Beesley violin
Lisa Stewart violin
Daniel Yeadon cello (with back to camera)
Nicole Forsyth viola
Valmai Coggins viola

Naturally, their choice of repertoire for this particular membership of the Ensemble was works for Viola, Violin and Cello. The piece in which all five members of the Ensemble played together (above) was Mozart's Quintet in C minor (K 406).

Lisa and Nicole played Mozart's Duet for Violin and Viola in B (K 424)Nicole and Valmai played Carl Stamitz's Duo for two violas, No 5 in D majorHere is Valmai, pictured in reflective contemplation during the Stamitz piece.The Robertson Village Music Society has as its aim "Bringing fine music and song to the Southern Highlands". Although the society is new, it is now into its second year's schedule of performances, I reported on their last Chamber Music concert, in November last year. Their next concert is scheduled for Wednesday 28 May 2008. The Society holds its performances in the new hall at the Christian Education Centre, Meryla Street, attached to St John's Anglican Church, Robertson.

Enquiries may be addressed to the General Manager, Robertson Village Music Society, Mr Robert Goldsack, by email at:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, Knights Hill

Yesterday evening the manager of the Illawarra Fly held a special briefing for members of the National Parks Association. I did not get any photos of the structure itself, as the time and the weather were against me. However, their website has pictures and gives the following introduction:
  • The Illawarra Fly is a 500 metre long, 25 metre high elevated tree top walk ascending at a gentle grade and suitable for visitors of all mobilities. Nestled amongst the temperate rainforest of the Southern Highlands the treetop walk takes you along the picturesque Illawarra escarpment and offers inspiring views from Shellharbour to Bass Point, Lake Illawarra and the South Pacific Ocean.
  • For the thrill seeker a 45 metre high lookout is ascended via a spiral stairway offering panoramic views, combined with the beauty of the rainforest. View the Blackwoods, Gully Gums and Sassafras from a vantage point generally reserved for our flying friends.
Even in the dull, misty light the views along the Escarpment, towards Wollongong were breathtaking, and on a clear day it would provide an unsurpassed view of the Illawarra Region. You look out over Bass Point, and Shellharbour, Albion Park, Lake Illawarra and Port Kembla (and the Steel Works), and on to Wollongong itself. And of course the jagged skyline provided by the local landmarks of Mt Keira and Mt Kembla.

From the Naturalist's point of view the walk starts in regrowth Cool Temperate Rainforest, with Brown Barrel Eucalypts, with true rainforest plants at the lower level of the canopy. They are all growing on rich red basalt soil. You walk in and start down the slope then go onto the metal pathways, which gently rise over the next band of forest, which is mostly Gully Gums (Eucalyptus smithii,) and Silver-top Ash (E. seiberii), with a rainforest understory, of Blackwoods, Sassafras, Scentless Rosewood and of course, Tree Ferns (of both the Dicksonia and the Cyathea genera), and occasional Cabbage Tree Palms. There are numerous vines visible climbing through the tall trees. This "Gully Gum Forest" forms a narrow strip, just about 100 metres wide, as it sits immediately above the exposed edge of the Illawarra Escarpment. The Escarpment Cliffline is visible from the Illawarra Fly in several places, and of course, it has exposed Sandstone rock faces. So one is reminded that the red soil (on the walks in and out from the Illawarra Fly) indicates that, geologically, this mountain top is a basalt cap overlying the Sandstone structure. It is a "volcanic intrusion".

Here is one of the tall Tree Fern as viewed from above, from one of the metal walkways, some 30 metres off the ground.
From my point of view, it was great to see how this enormous structure has been fitted into the forest with barely a tree dislodged. It was built in pre-fabricated modules, then moved in. The tower was craned into place, a fair effort as it reaches 45 metres high.

And this is a Giant Earthworm, some 50cm long (about 18 inches). It was the largest one I have yet seen. They are recorded to grow even longer. They love this red basalt soil, and the high level of organic matter found on the forest floor in places such as this. This fellow had been disturbed when a trench had been dug, but it was in the process of recovering, and making its way out of the 600mm deep (2 feet) trench.The operators of the Illawarra Fly have a policy of employing local staff, and local suppliers of goods, as far as possible. This is an excellent policy as far as the local Chamber of Commerce is concerned.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Manning Lookout Bushwalk was great fun.

A small but enthusiastic group of people returned to their vehicles after 4 hours of strolling through the bush, along the top of the Kangaroo Valley Escarpment, last Sunday. These people had joined me in doing the Manning Lookout Walk which had been advertised under the auspices of the National Parks Association.

Starting from the car park, at Manning Lookout, we firstly went to the main lookout point, which has nice safety rails, and offers a great view over Kangaroo Valley township, way down below us. Then we back-tracked a little to see the strange rock formation which I have previously written about, under the name of "Rhinoceros Rock". That side excursion probably took us about 30 minutes, by the time we got there, appreciated the view, checked out some interesting rock shelves and then returned back to the main road. Then we set off on the real walk.

We followed the track around to the "old lookout", which no longer has any guard rails, and so some members of the group held back a little. But this point does give you an excellent view of the strange rock formation which I refer to as the "little 3 sisters".We also took the opportunity to examine the Mallee Gums which grow along these exposed clifflines. True Mallee forms of Eucalypts are well known to exist in the upper Blue Mountains, and in tiny enclaves such as this place, around the edges of the Shoalhaven Valley, here and at Bundanoon and further south. Their habitat is restricted to a narrow band about 80 metres wide, just on the very exposed points along these cliff lines. Here the soil is so shallow (amongst rocks), and the evaporation is so great (because of exposure to wind) that only specially adapted plants, such as these Mallee Eucalypts and some "sandstone heath plants" can survive here. These Mallee Eucalypts have thin stems, (instead of a central trunk). The stems arise from a swollen root mass, in just the same way that classic Mallee Gums do, out west, and in Victoria's "Mallee Belt". This adaptation also serves as a fire survival technique, for while the leaves and stems might be killed in a fire, the woody lignotuber survives and can re-shoot after the fire.

We then pressed on along the path. Firstly we rose up along a gentle incline, going across some large rock shelves with classic "moss gardens" and passing some weird-shaped rock structures which have been severely eroded by the weather and the passing of time.

Then we started descending into wetter country. The track moves away from the cliff-line, heading towards a gully where we passed underneath a small waterfall, known in the NPWS guidebook at Bridal Veil Falls (one of many falls to carry that name).

In this deep gully, about 60 metres below the surrounding plateau, the temperature was noticeably cooler, and we were surrounded by stems of Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum) and "Black Wattle" (Callicoma serratifolia ). There were also some very fine Eucryphia trees there, which were apparently still in flower, judging by the sprinkling of white petals on the ground.

Here the green light is delicately filtered by the leaves of a young Eucryphia tree.We crossed the creek just below the falls, by stepping across some large rocks and fallen logs. That was a little treacherous, but we assisted less nimble persons in our group across without too much trouble. Then we proceeded out of the gully, by walking underneath a long overhanging cliff, where there was a constant drip of water from the rocks above. Great ferns, and mosses, and insects and interesting red fungi. Anni took this photo of group of small red fungi, with bright red gills. It is possibly Hygrocybe coccinea, but don't hold me to that - it just looks "about right" for that species, but I have not checked for distribution maps, etc.

At this point we were looking for a lunch break, and it took a little longer than I had expected until we made it back up to the sandstone plateau and walked along to the so-called "lost lookout". This is such a great lookout, still with its rusting iron railing and mesh fencing. There was much debate about who were the people who created these tracks and lookouts in the first place. For they certainly worked hard, cutting rocks for steps, carving steps into rocks where a foothold was necessary, and then, right out on the end of this point, creating this wonderful (and safe) lookout.
We had a good view down over the properties in the Bunkers Hill Road area below us. We also admired some of the wonderful rainforest trees, such as the huge Pencil Cedar in the middle of this photo below (with its light green foliage) and the Cabbage Tree Palms surrounding it.
We stayed there for about half an hour, for lunch and rested our leg muscles before returning via the waterfall, back to the car. To my mind, this view of the falls is the prettiest framed by the rock overhang, with dappled light. A brief rest was required after climbing out of the rainforest gully, and we had several encounters with Leeches which were hitchhiking inside people's shoes and socks, but only one person was actually bitten. That is a reminder of the need for thorough preparation for bushwalking in this kind of scrub. Protective trousers and good shoes and socks, and a dose of insect spray beforehand is thoroughly recommended. The one person to actually fall victim to a Leech had turned up late (missing out on my pre-walk briefing), and had declined the spray with insect repellent!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Variable Midge Orchid located (maybe)

I wrote about the so-called Variable Midge Orchid (Corunastylis fimbriata) several days ago. Today, I know more than I did then, and I know less. Confused? Welcome to the world of tiny Australian Native Ground Orchids.

I now believe*** I have found the true species - with fringed labellum and fringes on the dorsal sepal and petals as well (as it should have, according to the books).
*** I no longer believe that to be correct. This species is too dark to match the descriptions. Yet it has a fringed labellum and fringed dorsal sepal, but the purple colour is not right. I am still working on identifying this plant. DJW 6/3/08

Corunastylis simulans
A species formerly not known to occur
south from the Blue Mountains.
Now known to occur here (Kangaloon) and
in the Shoalhaven region (Cambewarra Mountain)
Incidentally, the "experts" do not agree on a name for this genus of plants. Some who have made a special study of these plants, consider they should be called Corunastylis. The traditionalists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, prefer to stick with the name Genoplesium. The international Orchid community seems to have accepted Jones and Clements revision of these plants into Corunastylis.Here is David Young's image of the critical detail of the flower - the fringed edge of the boat-shaped Dorsal Sepal. The hairs are clearly visible in silhouette on the right hand side of that organ. It has a green exterior, as the tip narrows to a fine point. The edges are all fimbriated (fringed with fine hairs).This is my own photo, which is nice and clear from direct on, but the labellum, which is pointing directly in front of and above the dorsal sepal, is out of focus, and almost invisible, unfortunately. These tiny flower really are hard to photograph well. The yellow pollinia (sticky grains of pollen) are really clearly visible. The photo below has also been provided by David Young. Thanks. (Click on the image to enlarge it). David has captured the flower cluster on the stem, nicely. The crooked and hairy labellum is visible, waving in the breeze to the left of the main flower (centre left), while the dorsal sepal is clearly visible underneath the labellum, shaped like a little boat, with the yellow pollinia clearly evident in the centre.
Contrast David's photo of today's plant (above)
Corunastylis sagittifera
(Identified since this was first located here).
with my photo of the first plant, from two days ago (below) .OK, so what is this plant? I honestly do not know (yet).

It definitely is in the same genus. But the plants are green with red stripes, not mostly purple as today's plants were. The individual flowers are even smaller (only 8mm across) than the one found today, which itself is tiny 9.5mm across (smaller than my fingernail on my little finger). Most significantly, it lack the hairy edges of the Dorsal Sepal - see below.

Today's flower is on the left. And the other plant, lacking the obvious hairs, is on the right.I like this image, for it looks like the horns of a Billy Goat about to charge me. It is in fact the wide-spread petals which open up when the weather is right for these flowers to open their labellum out, to allow pollination to occur. The flower is still curved over The curved "labellum" is not yet fully open, (we are looking at the top of the labellum here). When the time is right, the labellum can be lifted (reflexed) right back out of the way. But it only does that for a very short period of time, it seems, and perhaps only on a single day. Today was warm and humid, and that seemed to suit these plants.

My friend David helped me photograph the minute distinguishing features of this plant. I promised him I would put up a link to an amazing photograph he took a few days ago, of the green eyes of a Robber Fly. The reason this subject came up is because while I was out in the field tracking down various specimens of these Orchids, today, I saw A Robber Fly carrying a relatively large insect. I tried to photograph it, but it would not let me get close enough. Then while I had a special macro-lens-adapter on the camera (for ultra-close-up work on these Orchids) I suddenly realised I had come across the Robber Fly again - still with its precious "Take-Away" meal of a Bee, firmly in its grasp, while sitting on the leaf of a narrow sedge-like plant. I managed to get a photo of it on my second encounter with it. Unfortunately, owing to depth of field problems caused by having the specialist lens adapters fitted, and my urgent desire to complete the shot before the Fly took off again, the photograph is poorly composed. Only the legs of the Robber Fly are in sharp focus (Click to enlarge the photo and check out the complex claws or pads on its feet).

I decided to publish the photo for the interesting event it records - a Robber Fly which is eating (sucking dry) a Bee. They fly with the victim held firmly (and safely) from above, where the Bee cannot sting the Fly. Still, a photograph to document what I saw is better than nothing. Although this is a poor photograph technically, it is a perfect companion to the story David published the other day, about how these Flies hunt, and carry their prey.

You ought to visit David's blog site to see his stunning photos of his Robber Fly. The details of the Fly's eyes, and hairy face and mouth are amazing.

These powerful insects remind me of the design of the Sikorsky "SkyCrane" Helicopter which was designed to lift and carry huge loads. If you are not familiar with the image of these helicopters, click here. You probably have heard of the Water-bombing Helicopter called "Elvis", used in Australia every summer to help fight bushfires. It is a variant of these planes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting ready for "The Robbo Show"

Nothing is bigger in Robbo than "The Robbo Show". It is our Village's "once-a-year" opportunity to show off. And for the individuals to tell tall stories about the heaviest rain we remember, the thickest fog, and who won the Spud Race, when, and who was tripped up on the last bend, in the fog, and by whom.

All else is meaningless, in this village, if the Show is not a success.
And it always is! We make sure of that!

Today the Show Committee, and their band of volunteers
began fitting out the Show Pavilion for the 2008 Robertson Show.
It will be held on Friday 29 February, and Saturday 1 March 2008.
This coming Friday and Saturday, these Show benches will be laden with Cut Flowers, and the famous Robertson Show Vegetable Competition. The 54 separate window panels of the glass show cases were polished, inside and out. I will have you know that means 108 separate surfaces to clean (guess who did half them?)

These show cases will hold the Cakes, including the "Group 5 Rich Fruit Cake Competition" (from which the winner will proceed to the Zone Final, and in turn the winner of the Zone will proceed to the "Sydney Royal Easter Show"). This is serious stuff, folks. There will also be the Champion Decorated Iced Cake (award and ribbon), the Champion Sponge, and numerous other classifications of cakes, scones, biscuits, pies and home-made chocolates. There are 56 classes in all, just for the Cookery section. No wonder I had to polish the glass in all those windows!

Tapestries, lace-work and needle-work,
knitting and hand-weaving will be displayed here.
I thought I would let you see what the Show Pavilion looked like before the Show got underway. Next weekend you can see what it looked like when the Show is in full swing.

This is the scene from this morning, with cars belonging to the Committee, and volunteers.And in keeping with the tradition of theatrical "dress rehearsals", we even organised the fog to turn up, on cue - in preparation for the real event. Here is the view, in the afternoon, of the gateway to the Robertson Showground, as the fog gathered strength.
And my favourite Fog image:
a giant Radiata Pine, looming out of the fog, this afternoon
in readiness for the 2008 Robertson Show. God Bless the Robertson Show, and the Fog;
and all who participate in them both.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two more little Ground Orchids.

These little Ground orchids are not rare. In fact they are quite common, if you happen to be looking where they like to grow. But for one of them, it is the first time that I have found the flower open.

Corunastylis fimbriata (Variable Midge-Orchid) is one of those fussy little things which forms its buds, matures, opens very briefly, then sits there while it ripens its seeds. Throughout all that process, one can easily find the flower stem. But to find the flower open takes some degree of luck, and much perseverance.To start with it is grass-coloured and grows amongst grass. It is very short, about 5 or 6 inches high (generally) (100 to 150mm). The main thing you need to know is that the local plants are opening just now.

A point of clarification of the structure of these flowers. These Orchids are not upside down, as most Orchids are. What this means, is that the dorsal sepal is the lowest part of the flower, in this group of Orchids. The two wide-spread parts of the flower are the lateral sepals. The purple labellum is opening, but is not fully reflexed (yet).

An underneath view of the flower
(I have tilted the flower back about 60 degrees)
to show the fringed edge of the labellum (which is just opening up)
and part of the un-fringed dorsal sepal - the striped part of the flower.
See next image for more detail.
These flowers are just hard to find OPEN. Today I went to an area of about 100 m by about 50 m, where last week I had seen lots of these plants developing their flowers. It took me an hour to find the one open flower stem in this area.

In this next photo I have lifted back the little fringed "labellum" (held in my fingers), in order to look for one of the diagnostic features of this plant (or not to see it, in this case). This is very fiddly, for the entire flower is only 8mm across when open (about the size of my little fingernail). My thumbnail is visible, while I am holding the uppermost (lateral) sepals and the labellum, exposing the dorsal sepal underneath and the two petals on either side.Supposedly the dorsal sepal is meant to be heavily fringed. This specimen was not fringed there. You can clearly see the yellow dots of the "pollinia" (the sticky grains of pollen), but the boat-shaped dorsal sepal, while clearly marked with red stripes, does not have the fringed edges which it is supposed to have.

Graeme Bradburn's photograph
Corunastylis fimbriata,
nicely fringed and fully reflexed purple labellum (top part).
The two petals on on either side,
and the dorsal sepal (the lowest part of the flower) are all fringed.
I shall persevere with my identification of my specimen as C. fimbriata (as it is the most common species of this genus) until I can get scientific clarification (if ever). But it does not have the fringed edges to the dorsal sepal and petals as shown in this PlantNET illustration.
While I was there, lying on the ground, taking these photographs, an Electrical Contractor working for the Sydney Catchment Authority approached me, to check that I was all right. We had a bit of good natured banter about the damage which might be inflicted if the SCA puts power-lines through this area. But that's OK, I was very touched that he bothered to inquire about my welfare, for, indeed I might well have been having a heart attack, or something.

I thanked this guy for his concern.

I must say, I have been impressed with the good natured behaviour of the SCA contractors I have had to deal with. There was only one exception, when a bunch of local school children were inspecting the SCA's handiwork, and an SCA contractor took all our photographs (even the children and their parents). But I got over that, by making a point of quite obviously taking her photograph, (with a better lens than the lady was using!). But at least I pixellated her face!

Back to the Orchids.
This is the cheerful little "Parson's Bands" Orchid or "Bunny Ears" Orchid. Eriochilus cucullatus. It is also a small flower, but fortunately it is easy to see, because of the stand-out quality of its white "lateral sepals" - the white parts which earn it the name for the old-fashioned collars with protruding bibs which were once the height of fashion in clerical attire.

These flowers stand out amongst the short tufts of grass where they grow, because of their white or pale pink colour of the two "bibs". Also, they can be quite prolific, if you find yourself amongst these flowers. They have only just started to open, for I checked this same patch last week, (looking for the "Tiny Greenhoods"), and did not see a single opened Eriochilus flower. Today there were about 20 in flower. Next week, there might well be hundreds in flower in this same small area.
I know I am anthropomorphising, but I find these flowers to be quite cheerful.That is in contrast to the Midge Orchid species discussed to day, which is so tiny, and so unco-operative in its flower opening that it is just plain hard work! Mind you, I always find the Eriochilus flowers difficult to photograph. The depth of field is hard to manage with such a small, dark centre to the flower, contrasting with the bright coloured, but protruding sepals. It is hard to get the entire flower in focus, but keep close enough to capture the important details.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Not the last, but certainly the "least" of the Greenhoods

Well, hopefully this will not be the last, but it is certainly the "least" of the local Greenhoods. Speculantha sp. aff parviflora would be the most precise way in which to write the name of this plant.*** That Latin shorthand means a plant in the "Speculantha genus, which has affinities with Spec. parviflora". In other words it is close to, but not identical with Spec. parviflora.

It is one of a group of "Tiny Greenhoods". of which the nominal species is "Speculantha parviflora". It used be known as "Pterostylis parviflora" The name "parviflora" means small-flowered. The flowers of this species of Greenhood are very small. This plant was no more than 4 inches (100mm) high. The flowers are carried in multiples, on a single stem (not just a single flower per stem, as in some Greenhoods). In this case, it has four flowers. They are described as "inward facing", as the flowers do not face outwards away from eachother, nor are they all facing the one direction. They all seem to point towards eachother.
Just to confuse you, this stem was half-flattened, and then the flowers each tried to reach up vertically, so they have ended up facing away from eachother. No rules are ever "perfect" in botany. The lower flower is growing from the same main stem, but its own flower stem being lower down the system, has straightened up behind the top flower. If the main stem was vertical, this lower flower would be on the right of the stem, facing back towards the top flower.

The reddish colour of these flowers seems to indicate that they are slightly more mature than the other flowers in the top photo. If you look at the top photo again, you will see that the higher flowers are darker in colour, and they are the newest flowers. The lower flowers are fading and are reddish. So that seems to be a pattern - they open dark chocolate brown, and fade to reddish-brown. That colour-change seems to be a characteristic they share with the "Scarlet Greenhood" which I showed you yesterday.

These plants are growing in poor sandy loam soil, in an open, sunny situation along Tourist Road, Kangaloon. There is sparse grass cover where they are growing. These plants flower on a stem growing directly out of the ground, with no basal rosette leaves. The tiny rosettes form some weeks after the flowers have finished. The entire rosette of leaves is about the size of an Aussie 5c coin. Tiny.

*** When I first found these plants, two years ago, I discussed them with David Jones, in the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra. He told me that the Orchid taxonomists "knew about these plants, but had not got around to naming them yet". This is a not uncommon situation in the world of Orchids, and much less so in the world of insects, where as many as 50% of species might not yet have been accurately described. So many species, so little time....
David Jones has since retired from CSIRO. One hopes that, after taking a well-earned rest, he might resume labouring (part-time) over his microscope and drawing board, amongst lots of dried specimens. Australia has not enough good taxonomists like him. And our plants deserve proper specific names.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Greenhoods coming into flower

As I mentioned yesterday, there are other Greenhoods coming into flower just now. This is the start of the season for the "autumn flowered" species, apparently. Today's plants were both found in the Bowral area. Both these species are still known by some taxonomists as members of the Pterostylis genus - as you will find if you follow the hotlinks under their names. The slight spelling differences in the endings of the species names is as a result of the different generic names following different linguistic traditions, having feminine and masculine endings. You can safely ignore that detail. The names I have used are accepted by the main Orchid experts in Australia.

Firstly let us look at Diplodium coccinum, the so-called Scarlet Greenhood. At present these plants are more of a bronze colour, in my opinion, but they may redden up as they age. I saw one flower just as it was finishing, last year, and it was quite red then. Time will tell if they do justify the name.This plant has a very fine tip protruding from its "hood". Not all specimens exhibit that feature, though.

This next specimen has a very hairy tongue ("Labellum") which is quite prominent when "set". However, the "tip" (of the "hood") is short and bent (damaged?).
From above you get the impression of a very handsome flower, strongly marked. The petals beside the tip of the hood are almost free-standing as is evident here. This is a bit unusual amongst Diplodiums. The long tip is present, just not clearly visible in this photo.
This next species is at least a green Greenhood. It is Diplodium reflexum. Its labellum is long and very prominent, but much finer than the other species shown above. The "hood" has a very prominent tip, which curves down over the top of the flower, and thus earns its "reflex" name.
This specimen is a little atypical in that it is not holding its "points" high, as it is meant to do. Because this specimen was slightly damaged, I will not hold that slight imperfection against it. I was delighted to find it, as it is the first record for me of this species. There was just a single plant in flower, but hopefully there are more about somewhere.

Still to come: more Greenhoods - the "Speculantha" family of tiny flowered Greenhoods. And also another new Orchid species for me, in the Corunastylis genus.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Greenhoods - late summer brings "promise".

The local Greenhood Orchids are starting to flower. Well, I should say that the late summer and autumn-flowering varieties are starting to flower.
The first Greenhood which I found in flower this new season is Diplodium pulchellum, the so-called "Escarpment Greenhood". This particular plant was budding in late January, and was open on 31/1/2008. Others are still developing in another location, not far away. This specimen is not growing in the typical habitat for this species, adjacent to or underneath a waterfall (i.e., within range of the spray drift from a waterfall). This one was growing in a muddy creekbed, alongside some of the Chiloglottis sylvestris plants about which I wrote recently. In this photo above, you can just make out the "labellum" of the flower - held inside the hood. The labellum of Greenhoods is a sensitive organ, and it moves forward or backward in response to movement, or typically, the presence of an insect. This is part of the pollination process of these flowers. When they sense an insect is inside the flower, the labellum snaps back against the column (within the hood) to try and trap an insect where it will brush against the "pollinia". In the case of this particular flower, although I saw it on 3 separate days, I never saw it with its labellum "set" in the forward position.

Close-up of the labellum,
showing its "notched" appearance.

This plant was difficult to photograph because of its location in a Melaleuca thicket (you will have noticed that I was using a flash on all shots, because it is so dark in this area). When you consider that there is a little creek flowing through where these plants are growing, the reality is that one has to get "down and dirty" to take these photos. Oh, and did I mention the Leeches? DJW 1: Leeches 0 on this occasion. I saw the little blood-sucker coming!

In fact this flower was knocked over when the creek level rose, after heavy rain. You could describe it as a mini-victim of a mini-flood.Still, this plant is slightly better off than the Chiloglottis plants nearby which were actually underwater for about 3 days. But then again, all these occurrences are natural, and so presumably these plants (both species) have adapted to these conditions, for they flower in February, in Robertson, which is our normal summer rainy season. So they must expect the occasional inundation.

I shall write more over the next few days about other Greenhood species which are just coming into flower now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My 600th Blog posting, and a clutch of Butterflies.

Yesterday was my 600th post. Who would have thought it possible? I could not have imagined it when I first expressed interest in setting up my own Blog about 'The Nature of Robertson". And I doubt that Anni would have either, when she responded to my request for some coaching in how to set up a Blogger account. And what a slow learner I was. I am still learning, hopefully.

Thanks to the people who have visited my site a total of 22,585 visits since 30 November 2005. Give yourselves a pat on the back. I certainly appreciate your loyal support.
I have followed up yesterday's post about the corporate branding of Women's Cricket with a feisty letter to the editor of the Southern Highland News (the local paper produced in Bowral). Lets hope it gets published.
Meanwhile back to the theme of creatures, great and small. Remember a few weeks ago I published a photo of the large green Caterpillar with the bright pink "horns" which suddenly popped out when the creature was alarmed? Those defensive organs are called "osmeteria". Well, I told you it turned into the large black and white Orchard Swallow-tailed Butterfly (Papileo aegeus). Well here is one of them. This is a male, with black wings, with clearly marked large white patches, and two red spots in the lower panel of the hindwings.
The females of this species, have a series of red and blue spots along the trailing edge of the hindwings.

This next Butterfly is called the "Yellow Admiral" (Vanessa itea) These butterflies have large cream patches on the forewings, and the very dark tips of the forewings. On the day on which I took these photographs, it was a warm morning and Butterflies and other insects were swarming over the pure white flowers of this bush (which I have not yet identified - much to my annoyance). If you really want to photograph Butterflies, watch for where they are feeding, and just walk up close, but very quietly. If you do not disturb them, you might be lucky to get some good shots.The underwing has the forewing cream patch visible, and the dark tips, with a blue "eye marking" (occellus) surrounded by the black markings. The hindwings have a very well camouflaged effect of silver and brown mottled markings. It makes the actual location of the Butterfly difficult to focus upon, which is surely a good defence mechanism. Sometimes these butterflies would land high on this bush, and sit with their wings spread flat and wide open. This is a common display technique adopted by this species.

I have written about the Macleay's Swallow-tailed Butterfly (Graphium macleayanus) previously. But this photo is the clearest I have managed so far of the insect sitting on a flower. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can even see the insect has green legs. Very cute. It is a large-bodied butterfly, and is extremely active. This is a hard one to catch sitting for more than a second or two. Fast shutter speeds required, as they often flutter their wings, even when perched like this, having a feed. This Butterfly lays it eggs on Sassafras and Native Pepper, both common plants in the rainforest of Robertson - as these are appropriate feed plants for the developing caterpillars of this species. So these butterflies a re commonly seen here. They are attracted to many nectar-producing flowers, especially my Buddleja davidii plants.

This last species for today is one of the very large family of "Skippers" or "Darts". These butterflies earn their general name from their habit of resting (well camouflaged) and then suddenly flying away very quickly, then dropping to the ground again, and becoming very hard ot relocate once "sitting still" again. This one was found at Kangaloon, sitting on a log in the bush. One of the common plants there is the Spiny-headed Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia) It is possible that this species is "Iacchoides Skipper" (Trapezites iacchoides). That species is an obligate feeder on the Lomandra mentioned above, which is one of the most common plants in the tall Eucalypt forests of Kangaloon.