Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, May 29, 2009

Flight over the Wollondilly and Nattai Rivers

Several days ago I went for a quick flight with my friend Jim.
He wanted to go west, over the Wollondilly River, to show me a particular geographical feature he had seen on a trip back to his home from Cowra.
We flew just south of Bowral - towards Mt Jellore, which is west of Mittagong, and north of the Wombeyan Caves Road (at High Range). Mt Jellore is a near perfect cone which stands high above the horizon in this view (above where I have written its name). (Click to enlarge image)

Unfortunately, the weather was against us, when we got out towards the Wollondilly River, near Bullio. We circled around to see the clifflines and obvious hills out there, but many features could not be seen because of low cloud.
Here is the Wollondilly Valley, with a cliff line from near Mt Wanganderry
which is the highest point on the High Range, along the Wombeyan Caves Road.
Here is Mt Jellore, seen from close above.
This contour map image shows well how round this mountain is.
It is over 800 metres high, rising out of the Nattai Valley and Wollondilly Valley.

The weather was against us, but what could be seen was pretty wild, and invites further examination - by 4 wheel drive vehicle, and on foot.
This remarkable cliff formation is extremely narrow.
Without checking for names on detailed contour maps, I don't know if it has an official name.
I have referred to it as the Knife Edge Cliff, beyond Mt Jellore.
Even Jim was impressed with it, and graciously allowed another fly past, for me to get this shot.
It looks like a natural spot to find Peregrine Falcons, to me.
Wonderful clifflines.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Douglas Park. Images from Caroline's garden

I am now going back to Caroline's garden, with a few images left over from the other day.
Firstly, here is the Swamp Wallaby again, as seen the other day. Once again, caught in action in Caroline's vegie garden. This time, the target is the cabbage patch.
Here is the result, after it has left.
A Superb Fairy Wren (a.k.a. "Blue Wren"). Malurus cyaneus. This is a male bird, in "eclipse plumage", i.e., a male in non-breeding plumage. The tell-tale clue is the blue tail, and the dark beak and eye. Females have brown tail feathers, brownish beaks and a reddish mark around their eyes.
In the morning light, the leaves of the Pistachio tree were a lovely golden colour, as seen through the window of Caroline's lounge room. I could not resist taking the photo.
I showed an image the other day of a possible Crowea exalata, growing above the Cataract Gorge, in the yard of Caroline's neighbour's property. That plant had shorter leaves than today's plant, and wider-spread flowers.

Here is a better photo taken two weeks previously, of a similar species of plant, at Bombaderry. Although on the South Coast, near Nowra, it was growing in very similar habitat - a sandstone gorge. With a better photo here, I think this may be Crowea saligna. Croweas have 5 petals and a tightly structured cluster of stamens "cohering by their prominently pilose margins, apices spreading during anthesis." (PlantNET).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recently I found the first flowers (for this season) of the tiny Helmet Orchid (Corybas aconitiflorus) flowering near Robertson. This was in a patch of tall wet Eucalypt forest beyond Belmore Falls. Not an area I had seen any Orchids in before. This plant was flowering just above the leaf litter, which is pretty normal for this genus. Strangely, it was a solitary flower, whereas this genus typically grows in large groups of plants.I promised you a better set of photos of the Chiloglottis trilabra on Mt Gibraltar. Here they are.
You can clearly see the "gland" or "pseudo-insect" on the labellum. This is part of the flower, mimicking in scent a wasp sitting on the flower. It attracts male wasps, which pollinate the flower, inadvertently, while trying to mate with the pseudo-insect.

Here is the flower seen from the side, showing the labellum clearly.
Click to enlarge.
For "Mick", here is the "habitat" in which this flower grows - amongst dry grasses, under a dead wattle tree, on the side of a very rocky hill. It was very hot on The Gib in February and most of the moss beds on the exposed rock surfaces dried out very badly. Many small trees which had grown in the moss beds, died out (including this one). So, a few flat weeds survive, as well as the orchids which were dormant over summer and have re-appeared after the worst of the summer heat had passed. Click to enlarge image, to see leaves and flower of the Orchid (outlined in yellow) and other Orchid leaves to the right.
It takes some practice to find these dark flowers hiding away like this. The paired leaves of the Chiloglottis are fairly easily spotted once you know what to look for. I had, in fact, seen leaves here over a year before, and did not know exactly what they were, but I knew they would turn out to be Orchids - so it was a matter of checking this location on each visit to the Gib, until I found them in flower.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rivers SOS meeting above Cataract Gorge, Douglas Park

The Rivers SOS group met at Caroline's place at Douglas Park, for our quarterly meeting, in May 2009.
Here are four images of the group, just getting the meeting under way.
Taken from the back end of the room.
From the top end of the room (with light behind me).
Here is a group photo of the Rivers SOS meeting, taken after our meeting adjourned.
It was good to be joined by a number of Environmental Studies students.
Caroline is very proud of the sign writing.
(Click to read the words)
After dinner (and a very fine dinner it was), we were entertained by two very fine musicians, Mirabai Peart (who has been a member of the Rivers SOS group for some time) and Mahesh Radhakrishnan. They play together in "Tapestries of Sound"
Mahesh sings and plays guitar, and Mirabai is a very fine violin player.
Here Mahesh is playing a Thamboura.After the music, we had an informal party.
Next morning, the resident Swamp Wallaby was up nice and early
tasting the delights of Caroline's vegetable garden.
This Wallaby has suffered some kind of injury, unfortunately.
After breakfast (his and ours) we went out to explore the local area.
We started with a quick look over the Cataract River Gorge.
Here is a zoom shot showing the river flowing below.
After the rain of the week before, there was a good flow happening.While walking back I noticed this plant, which I think is a Crowea exalata.
Then we drove over to the West Cliff Colliery.
I could not believe their "Zero Harm" slogan. Can you?
Then we went to "Marhnyes Hole", below Appin.
This is on the Georges River.
Here, Julie is explaining the damage which occurred after subsidence caused by BHP longwall mines. There has been much "remediation" work in this area. And, after a week of rain, the river was flowing reasonably well. Neville and Amanda are looking on.We hope to meet again, next time, at Stroud, to find out more about the efforts of the locals to save Mammy Johnson's River.
Neville ("Chappy") Williams is from Lake Cowal, in western NSW, where Barrick Gold's mine is destroying the lake, with the support of the NSW Government.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swift Moths love the cold, wet weather

I have some difficulty in identifying these Swift Moths which have been coming to my front porch in the last week, of cool, wet weather. Any help in identifying these Moths would be appreciated. You can see in this image that there is considerable variation in size and colour markings of these moths, yet I assume they are the same species.
I was originally inclined towards the species known as Abantiades hyalinatus (HEPIALIDAE) until I saw the images on Donald Hobern's Flickr Gallery of moths, which clearly showed a violet colour to the hindwings and the upper part of the body. Also his specimens were recorded in January.
My specimens show a deep russet colour, but not purple
on the hind wings, and the body brown.
This was taken at 1/500th of a second, but still the image is blurred
showing how fast these Moths flap.

However, there is another likely candidate: Elhamma australasiae (HEPIALIDAE) . Don Herbison -Evans' encyclopaedic website on Australian Moths says: "The earliest adults appear in January, but they are most common in March and usually disappear by April."
As these moths have just appeared in Robertson, in the last week, when it has been cold and wet, the timing of Elhamma australasiae, as reported, hardly fits. I have written about these Moths previously, on 2 June 2008 (when it was cold and wet); and before that, on 27 May 2008
So, perhaps it is Oxycanus dirempta (HEPIALIDAE). At least Donald Hobern's images of this species are all recorded in May.
What troubles me is the variability of these moths - not just in my images, but in the available images on other galleries and websites.
Here is a handsomely marked specimen,
with a clear wing stripe.
Long antennae are also evident.
Here is a much redder specimen
with spots on the wings, not the clear wing flash
And a really dark specimen
with wing blotches, not white spots nor wing flash
Here is a very pale specimen, viewed "head on". It does look very similar to this specimen of Donald's Elhamma australasiae, so I am totally confused.I took this image and marked eight different moths
around my front porch at the one time.
I must admit to an assumption that these are all the same species - simply based upon the similarity of habit and timing of their appearance.
As I said at the beginning, any help in identifying these Moths would be appreciated.


Donald Hobern came through with an ID - many thanks.
He said they "all look good for Oxycanus dirempta".
That's great.
Thanks Donald


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crickets and Fungi of the rotten logs of Robertson.

Here is a large Cricket with thick legs. All I can work out is that there is a creature called a "Thick-legged Raspy Cricket", but I can find no images of it, nor any details of where it comes from, what it does, etc. This one was a bit scary, for I know that Crickets like this have huge mandibles (chewing jaws). Its legs were very spiny. In general shape it resembles the Illawarra Raspy Cricket which I have shown before, but this one was bigger and wilder looking, with its powerful orange thighs.

Thanks to Dave Rentz, retired CSIRO entomologist, and Blogger from Kuranda in Queensland, I now know that this wonderful creature is an "Australian King Cricket" Australostoma opacum (Brunner). Dave told me what I had already surmised that these guys can give a nasty bite (remember I had seen their "cousins" up close previously). Also they can exude a nasty cocktail of pungent chemicals from their posterior, as part of a defence mechanism. For me, the entire appearance and build of the creature gave me enough warning signals to know to be wary of it, anyway.

This is a fine example of "Icicle Fungi" hanging on the rotten log.These Olive Cups looked to me like a form of Lichen, at first.
But then I realised that in their smaller stages, they looked like a form of Cup Fungus.
Note the tiny one on the right - that stem looks like a classic Cup FungusThis I have seen before, and it is known as a "Pretzel Fungus".
These tiny stemless fungi were hanging from the underside of a rotting log.
From below you can see that they are a form of Gilled Fungus.
This small, but perfectly formed gilled fungus, showing an "annulus" ring on the stem.
It is possibly a Hygrocybe, but that is a wild guess on my part.
It cap was only about the size of a 10 cent coin.
These near perfect tiny Fungi were growing as a pair on the rotten log.
Note the myriad white fibres growing from the base of the stem.
Here is the inside view of the cap of another one of these fungi
which was accidentally broken.
You can see the long white gills.This was a lovely clump of lilac-mauve small Fungi
growing out of rotted wood fibres at the base of a fallen tree trunk.From the underside, you can see the white gills of these pretty lilac fungi.Here is a single "Puff Ball" which we found while on our Millipede Search.