Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photos from Bermagui and environs

Here are the first photos from my weekend away, at Bermagui. Readers of the Aussie Nature Blogs may already have seen my smiling visage on David's Blog, "Focus on Nature". Today it is my turn to show the first of my images.

There is a very interesting pond across the road from David's house, which is well populated with Ducks, and other water birds and waders.
The first up is the ubiquitous Black Duck
Next is a pair of Chestnut Teal.
This is the only duck I know of to have popular brand of Sherry named after it.
The male is very handsome. The female looks very similar to the Grey Teal.
At one of the estuaries in the area, we stopped to watch Pelicans and Swans. While David was photographing the Pelicans and gulls fighting over a bucket of fish scraps. I happened to spot this Caspian Tern flying over. I haven't seen one of these birds in many years. In truth, I was suspicious that this tern was something other than a Crested Tern, because of its large size, and slow flapping flight. But I was not sure until I developed the image. Apart from its size, the dark red beak is diagnostic. In my limited experience with this species, whenever I have seen a Caspian Tern, it has been as a solitary bird, whereas Crested Terns tend to hang out in groups - frequently over the ocean, or on sand dunes. This bird was circling high over the river estuary.
Having left the estuarty and coast, we headed into the bush. This is a Bell Miner.
Here is the casing of the Lerp insect (Cardiaspina sp). Bell Miners love these insect casings, which are a sugary exudate, made by the tiny insect which lives underneath the shell. It chews the Eucalypt leaves, and secretes this lattice-like casing. The insect starts out small (tiny), and then grows, and as it does, so does the casing which it secretes from the sugary substances which it extracts from the Eucalyptus leaves. These hard sugary coatings were eaten as "bush tucker" by Aboriginal people. One would have needed to eat hundreds of these Lerps to get a snack. Each of these Lerps is about the size of my fingernail.

These "lerps" are the favourite food of the Bell Miners, which vigorously defend (as their "territory") the trees on which these lerps are found. David has described what happened when I made a squeaking noise, with my lips, to see if I could attract the Bell Miners from high in the trees. They appeared out of "nowhere", ready to drive away any "intruders".

Bell Miners live in colonies, and when they gather together, the Lerps are advantaged, because the Bell Miners vigorously chase away all other birds which also might like to eat the casings of the Lerps. Eventually, whole section of trees end up being defoliated by the insects, aided and abetted by the Bell Miners. That is a condition known as "die -back". Although die-back is not exclusively caused by these Lerps, they can contribute to death of mature trees, and, as such, they are of economic concern to State Forestry Departments, and Academics. Here is the tiny nymph-stage of the Lerp insect which lives under the exuded casing. It was exposed by me lifting (and eating the hard white casing). Eventually these insects turn into flying insects. But they are mostly identified only by their little "houses". This insect can be seen to have strong crawling legs, and it is developing its rudimentary wings (like little "Chicken wings"). As befits an insect living almost entirely under a shell, its eyes are very poorly developed at this stage. No doubt it will quickly create a new shell casing. Click to enlarge the image.Here is an environmental protest sign - an anti-logging protest. Apparently the State Forests wishes to permit logging of the Spotted Gum forest in this are, south from Bermagui. This sign was at Wapengo Creek. Unlike Lerps, people can apparently destroy forests, without having Academics paid to write papers about them. As such, it is left to the local environmentalists to put up old tin signs like this one, alerting people to the vandalism about to be caused by the State Forestry authorities, in the name of supposed economic development. I wish the protesters very best of luck.Here is David at work, photographing some of the creatures which live in the rock pools, near the famous Blue Pool at Bermagui.
Yesterday, David published an interesting image of Mosquito larvae living in a fresh water pool, within a few metres of the salt-water rock pools. Here is David taking that image. It was an interesting observation on his part, to even spot that these were "Wrigglers" and therefore, that the water was not a salt-water pool, but a rain-fed fresh water pool (albeit with some salt spray added, very likely). A mere 5 metres away, lower down is a true salt-water pool. The ocean is visible in the background, but in fact, this pool was only 20 metres from the crashing surges of each wave, as it ran up through the rocks. Clearly this position was above the normal high tide level, though.And here is the clearest image I managed to take all day.
There was a lot of lens changing going on, from Macro, to wide angle scenic shots, to the 300mm zoom lens. But this Great Black Cormorant was very co-operative, sitting on its lamp pole, at the harbour at Bermagui. There was another one, sound asleep, on an adjacent lamp, just a few feet away, but this fellow was very alert, and was checking me out. It shows the diagnostic yellow face markings, the white patch on the side, and also the oily sheen on the wings.
Click to enlarge the image.I shall publish more images from Bermagui, later on. It is a lovely spot for photography, and a nice spot to have friends, who are kind enough to invite you (me) to visit. Thanks David.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

Hi Denis,

an interesting trip, no doubt. I was very interested in your lerp photos as I have not previously seen the 'latticed' variation of the sugaring cases. I have only seen the tiny shell-like cases (photos below in my link).

PS. I've been away from the computer for a few weeks, and will be looking forward to catching up on all of your nature observations.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gaye
I remember your Pardalote story, and the Lerps. If you go to the linked paper on Lerps (in my story) there is an image which shows several different styles of lerp casings.
From memory, it does not show either the "fishbone" construction of my specimens, nor the fine fibrous "knitting" style additions to the conical cover, shown so well in your post.
There are so many different creatures out there, which academics seldom seem to report on.
Information on Lerps is pretty scarce, or worse, just a regurgitation of the very basic stuff.
Your images and mine show different species, obviously, but clearly related. Similar wings, legs, etc.
Good to have you back to Blogging.

mick said...

Its interesting having two people tell about the same day but from two different points of view. I liked the photo of the chestnut teals - I tried to get one the other day but it was too distant. We get lots of Little Black Cormorants but seldom Great Black Cormorants. I like the perspective in the second photo of your friend on the rocks. I must do some reading about the Caspian Terns as they are fairly common up here but never in the numbers that was see the Cresteds etc.

David said...

Hi Denis,

Very nice post.
The Great Black Cormorant shows great detail considering the glare we had to cope with.
I look forward to seeing how the rest of the shots came out.
It was great to have you down.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick and David.
It seems the "tag-team" thing works well.
Of course, Gouldiae and Duncan have been doing it for years.
I was very pleased with the Cormorant. As David has commented, the sun was very glary. I had to wind the shutter down to a pinhole, which is why the sky seems so dark. But I got some good detail, anyway.

Anna said...

Denis lot of stuff to digest. I can see you got some birds, we have here, cormorant, this is very interesting bird to watch, and the feet, I have no idea how they get to sit on the trees....Excellent post! Anna :)

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Anna
Interestingly, my Cormrant was stretching one foot backwards, not using it for support, while sitting on the lamp post.
How they land, and build nests 9especially when forast starting) is a bit of a puzzle.
By the way, it is a nearly universal bird, as you have now realised. Obviously an avian success story.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Great post, full of interest. The Bell Miner/Lerp/dieback connection is something we have down here with our Noisy Miners. All the smaller birds that might like a feed of Lerp insects, Pardalotes, Thornbills, etc are driven away by the Miners. When I try to explain the relationships to some people I get strange looks in return. I'm hoping to live long enough for the dieback to reach a stage where there's insufficient Lerps left to support the Miner population and they move on somewhere else. Might get back some little birds on the course again.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gouldiae
I was not aware that the Noisy Miners cause similar problems with "die-back" as their little green, "tinkling" cousins do.
These guys were so aggressive, that when I tried to "squeak up" some of the birds, for a photo opportunity, half a dozen of them descended upon us in an instant, checked out the "intruders", and left. It all happened so fast, that I missed the best potential images, as I had to re-set my camera - they were that close to us.
If I had been another small bird, I surely would have been attacked by them.
Its tough when you are forced to want the trees to get die-back in order to rid yourself of the Noisy Miners, or Bell Miners - but I do understand your frustration.