Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Penrose and Tallong Cemeteries

Today I went with some local botanical artists to see some of the local Orchids which survive with little disturbance at Penrose Cemetery and Tallong Cemetery. This year was drier than in previous years, and so, many of the orchids had finished flowering already. And at Tallong the Goulburn-Mulwarree Council mowers had destroyed the famous collection of purple Diuris plants there. Alan Stephenson was less than impressed, as he had an arrangement with the Parks and Gardens supervisor; except that chap had moved jobs, and had not left a file note for the new incumbent.

But here are some of the Orchids we did find. And an unusual "flower Spider".

Thelymitra pauciflora

Side view of the column of
Thelymitra pauciflora
These flowers were heavily reflexed
in the warm, sunny weather

Purple Bearded Orchid
Calochilus platychilus
(formerly known as Cal. robertsonii)

two flowers of Calochilus platychilus

Thelymitra ixioides
Spotted Sun Orchid

Diuris sulphurea
Tiger Donkey Orchid

Two forms of Purple Diuris
Diuris punctata
from Tallong (left) and Penrose (right)

Spotted spider on Daviesia latifolia.

Pink form of Thelymitra pauciflora

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick trip to Gloucester

I visited Gloucester this last weekend, to participate in the "Groundswell Gloucester" Conference.
I have uploaded a series of images of the main speakers (not all, however, as the conference included a series of workshops, so inevitably no-one sees or hears everything).

I have also uploaded here a few images of some of the birds I saw in the grounds of the township of Gloucester.

As usual, you can click to enlarge the images to see the details better.

Sacred Kingfisher
which was nesting in this tree.

Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike flying over me.

Satin Bowerbird waiting near his Bower

Satin Bowerbird's bower is a display ground - not a nest.
Blue "toys" scattered on the far side of the Bower.
Mostly blue plastic - straws and bottle tops
Some Crimson Rosella tail feathers (blue ones).

Next door to my motel there was a clump of
"Wild Tobacco" plants where the local
Cattle Egrets assembled each night to roost.
Safety in numbers, presumably.

Several Helicopters were being used by the RFS
as there was a large fire burning to the north from Gloucester

Male Australian King-Parrot
This bird flew into the Motel grounds while I was watching.

Male Pied Butcherbird
Two adult Pied Butherbirds and a chick

It was the presence of the chick which
presumably triggered this and other similar
divebombing displays.
One the second morning, the air was clear of smoke
and this was the view from our Motel.

A massive rock face is a feature of the Buckets Range.

Full view of the Buckets Range.
Wild Country by any measure.
Talking of wild country
It seems this geography has inspired the locals
to "go feral" - at least in their slogans.
lets hope it is merely a "bluff"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nature photos from Jerrawangala NP and Bulee Gap

A new batch of Nature photos has been added to my Picasa Photo-sharing Album.
It is publicly visible.

Plants and one beetle found along Main Road 92 - the road from Nowra to Nerriga.
Some were low down, in Jerrawangala National Park. The Leek Orchids were found there.

As yet un-named Leek Orchid
This is the same species as is found along
Tourist Road, Kangaloon.
Copper Beard Orchid
Calochilus campestris

The Boronias and Philotheca and Darwinia and the beautiful orange Drosera were all found high on the range, at 900 metres. 

Sun Orchids and Diuris Orchids found in both localities.

Spotted Sun Orchid
Thelymitra ixioides
Drosera glanduligera
Pimpernel Sundew

This beautiful orange Sundew was a "first" for me. I have subsequently learnt that this species is famous for having fast-moving long "hairs" around the edge of its leaves, which lie on the ground. These prominent hairs are hinged and movement-sensitive. These special hairs flip an insect up and into the centre of the leaf, where the sticky glands are located, which trap and then dissolve the insect - for the nutrition of the plant.
There is a long video which explains much about this particular species.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weddin Mountains and Conimbla National Park

This is my second trip this spring to see the orchids which grow in profusion at these small, rocky outcrops west from Grenfell and north-west from Cowra.
These are in the central-west of NSW.

It is a long drive from Robertson, but the plants there make it worthwhile doing the drive.

A Green-comb Spider Orchid
Possibly Arachnorchis atrovespa
Originally known as Caladenia atrovespa.
PlantNET is down or I would link to that site.
Stegostyla cucullata - a lovely flower
A close-up of the labellum of Stegostyla cucullata
Hymenochilus bicolor
One of the Midget Greenhood Orchids
Originally called Pterostylis bicolor

This is an interesting encounter - an insect on the Spider Orchid. As far as I can tell it is not pollinating the Orchid, not is it feeding on the Orchid. It may well be attracted by colour, shape or possibly perfume. Either way, it was sitting there, so I took its photo.

Insect on Spider Orchid
Possibly a Mirid Bug.
It is likely to be a Mirid Bug, of which there is a large population in Australia.

I have uploaded a full set of photos on Picasa.

This album is fully public.
There are some photos of other plants to start with to set the scene, and a Bearded Dragon for variety.

The first trip is recorded in an earlier Picasa Album - also fully public.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Robertson Railway - 80th Birthday and re-enactment

Please see my Picasa Album (public viewing enabled) with photos of the very successful re-enactment of the first train visit to Robertson, in 1932.

This was topped off by acknowledgement of the presence of four ladies who were present as School Children when the train line was opened.

The youngest girl, Tessa and the youngest boy from Robertson Primary School helped with the cutting of a commemorative cake, with Violet Lymbery and Gladys Fisk. These two ladies were present as School Children themselves, when the first train arrived in Robertson.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Springtime in Robertson - photos and coming Weekend Events

I was asked to take photos of the Waratahs in the Robertson Common, which is the precinct of Robertson Heritage Railway Station

Magnificent Waratah flower
Telopea speciosissima - NSW Waratah
Probably the "Cultivar" known as Fire and Brimstone
which comes from the local (Kangaloon) catchment areas.
I have uploaded a bunch of photos I took while walking around the main streets of the Village.

Some are of common garden plants, (some would call them "weeds").
Forget Me Nots, Herb Robert, "Honesty" (Lunaria) and then some photos of the Cherry Trees in Hoddle Street (otherwise known as the Illawarra Highway). But it is the Waratahs which steal the show.

Double-flowered Cherry Blossoms
in the main street of Robertson
In between, there are photos of the Railway Buildings (which are recognised as being of historic significance), and also the Fettlers Shed Gallery.

This weekend will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the opening of the "Mountain Railway" - from Port Kembla (the steel works) to Berrima Limestone quarry, originally owned by Sir Cecil Hoskins.
I still find it extraordinary that Sir Cecil, a director of the Australian Iron and Steel managed to persuade the State Government to pay for the railway line between his Limestone Quarry and his steel mill and port at Port Kembla. And the knighted him for his efforts!
  • "After complex negotiations in 1927 the State government agreed conditionally to build a railway connecting Port Kembla with the main southern line at Moss Vale, and construction of a blast-furnace and deep-water wharf began."
In these days, I cannot imagine such a deal going through. Instead of giving Sir Cecil a knighthood, he would probably be charged with insider trading or something.
However, this "deal" however shady it might seem to me, today, would probably seem completely natural and even desirable to the likes of Gina Rinehart or Clive Palmer.

Anyway, for better or worse the Railway runs through Robertson (almost exclusively as a Freight line these days),  and as a Tourist line for special occasions, such as this weekend.

 See the details on the Robertson website.

 There will be Open Gardens you can enjoy visiting too.

a delightful delicate pale pink
Double-flowered Cherry Blossom

Monday, October 08, 2012

A delightful small, pink moth with black spots

I had never seen anything like this delightful moth before.

Scoliacma bicolora
Daniel found it when the ANOS group was at Ken's place at Bullio, last week (where we saw the "Rufa-type Greenhood").
Scoliacma bicolora
Scoliacma bicolora
Scoliacma bicolora

Scoliacma bicolora
This little day-flying moth was relatively tame, and it walked around on Daniel's hand for a few moments. It then flew off fairly weakly, but it travelled far enough for me to lose track of it. Oh well, I had a few photos.

I then came to trying to identify it, with little success at first.

Naturally I tried to search images for a fairly distinctive moth, but somehow I missed it in the Australian Moths On-line  But of course it is in that wonderful collation of images.

For those not familiar with that on-line reference for Moths,  "most of the information comes from Len Willan’s collection and from the Australian National Insect Collection housed in Canberra at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (formerly CSIRO Entomology).
Copyright of all images belongs to Len Willan and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences."

How did I get to know this?

Well, that's where I have to sing the praises of Dave Rentz and Len Willan.
My Blogging colleague Dave Rentz, a retired CSIRO entomologist (now living in Insect Heaven at Kuranda, Qld. Dave has helped me many times with Cockroaches, Stick Insects, Katydids, and other odd insects I have come across.

I was also helped greatly by Len Willan, who I have met several times at Entomology Workshops which CSIRO Entomology has held over several years. You will already have noticed the credit to Len for compiling the images in that Moths On-line website. In fact I understand that Len more or less built that website.

Len told me that my moth is in a group known as Lichen Moths, which are treated in this paper from the Lichen people at the ANBG and the Australian National Herbarium.

I just love it when scientists work in an interdisciplinary manner. The Insect people do that really well, because the Moth larvae are often very host-specific. So the moth experts have to know their plants.

That paper tells me:  "Scoliacma bicolora. This species has been found in north and south Queensland and from there south to Victoria, Tasmania and south-east South Australia. Near Adelaide larvae of this species have been seen eating moss and, less frequently, lichens on rocks in grassy areas."

Len's further information was as follows:
  • Your moth is Scoliacma bicolora (Boisduval, 1832)( (Arctiidae: Lithosiinae),
  • I have most of the described  Arctids well covered on Australian Moths Online, they best seen as a Slideshow for Arctiidae  
  • A resting specimen at Mt Annan Botanical Gardens is shown via this link
What can I say?
All my questions had been promptly answered by both Dave Rentz and Len Willan, and I have only met Len a couple of times. He was even kind enough to tell me he likes my Orchid photos. So that's very nice to know.

He added this point, with which I completely concur:
I presume that these populations and other lichen feeding moth larvae are been completely buggered by successive wildfires and above all repetitive "control burning".

One of these days I will write more on "control burning" a subject about which I have recently reported a little, but not enough. I previously reported on an SCA "control burn" which was similarly overly hot and ran out of control.

In my view, if the endangered Ground Parrots and Eastern Bristlebirds at Budderoo Plateau have their habitat burnt at breeding season, (and when they are well-and-truly known to be present), what chance is there that fires will be planned around the need to protect creatures as little known as Lichen Moths and Tussock Moths? 

Its almost enough to make one despair. But Len ended his email with this note:
"Slow Stoning wears away the Drips"

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Tangle Root Orchid - Plectorrhiza tridentata

These photos were taken this morning in Robertson. They are photos of Plectorrhiza tridentata - the "Tangle Root Orchid". This species is not common here, but there are a few places of relatively little disturbance where these plants still "hang on".

That dreadful pun is because they are in a  group of Orchids known as "Twig Epiphytes" which literally attach themselves by their roots to flimsy structure on other plants. In this case it was growing on (hanging from) a large, but dying plant of Cassinia trinerva.

I have posted an album of a number of images which are easily accessed and can be scrolled through quickly,

Here is my clearest photo of the flower.

Plectorrhiza tridentata
The Tangle-root Orchid
Note the spur below (behind) the white labellum.
That is where a "nectary" is located.

Plectorrhiza tridentata
Note the yellow top of the column visible above the white labellum.
Apparently this flower is perfumed
(I cannot detect the perfume myself)
and is pollinated by native bees.

My favourite image - showing the hollow tube
leading to the Nectary
of Plectorrhiza tridentata

And this is why I made that dreadful pun about these few plants "hanging on". That's what they do - quite literally. Hence the name "Twig Epiphytes". The scientific name "Plectorrhiza" means "plaited or twisted roots" - a very apt name.

Plectorrhiza tridentata
hanging from a low and flimsy branch of a Cassinia.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Timing is everything, when taking photos

Yesterday the Cherry Trees which line the main street of Robertson were at their glorious best (fully opened flowers).
The light was clear and bright.
I suddenly realised that I ought take their photos.

Pink, double-flowered Cherry Trees
in the main street of Robertson.

A close-up of just one spray of Cherry Blossom

Just as well that I got those shot when I did, as later on in that afternoon, it got misty, and then it drizzled overnight. Today it has been misty, followed by a sudden thunderstorm.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Cheery Blossoms will have been destroyed or at least, their beauty will have peaked.

As I say, Timing is everything when taking photos, in Nature.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Dirty skies, hot day, and Flying Termites

Today was one of the most unpleasant days (climatically) I can recall in ages.
Sure there have been much worse days, but we in Robertson need a bit of acclimatisation to these hot north-westerlies. 

OK it was only 27.1 C (max), but the humidity is the clincher. Close to 100% at present.
I can't get a retrospective reading on that, from the Fire Brigade Weather Station, unfortunately. But it was "sticky as...." (as the young people say).

This is what the sky looked like at Albion Park Airport, at lunchtime.

Normally one can see the Illawarra Escarpment
really clearly from here.

This is the view from the top of the Macquarie Pass
Under the dirty cloud
(which is not pollution, by the way)
one can normally see Lake Illawarra
and the Port Kembla Blast Furnaces.
This is simply a result of nasty atmospheric conditions.

The immediate effect of the burst of hot weather was an enormous swarming of Termites.
All the way up Macquarie Pass (through the rainforest)
I was driving through clouds of flying Termites.
If you look at this image closely, you will see little creamy "dots"
They are the wings (the only things clearly visible on these insects)
of hordes of flying Termites.
Termites swarming in the hot air.
There are probably 80 or so in that one frame.
and that was literally a single "snapshot"
of one place, at one time.
The drive up the Pass is about 6 Km long.
How many Termites hatched today?

Late in the day, the sky turned a dirty yellow
with the sun just about to disappear.
This was at 7:02PM
Strange colours. Not a classic sunset at all.
Lets hope tomorrow is a better day.

In writing this, I am aware that there have been bushfires in the Central Coast area, and I am not trying to compare our conditions to theirs. But the "dirty sky" is not smoke haze from burn-offs, and certainly not smoke drifting down from those fires. It was just a very strange day.