Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Dobsonfly - Archichauliodes species.

I always find Dobsonflies to be slightly strange insects.
They are as big as Dragonflies, but they fly with a weak, fluttering motion which immediately sets them apart from Dragonflies. They are partially aquatic. Eggs are laid on land (on rocks or vegetation). Then Larvae crawl to fresh water and become completely aquatic, until such time as they are ready to pupate.

Megaloptera: dobsonflies and alderflies
CharacteristicsThis is a very small order of Australian insects commonly known as alderflies and dobsonflies. They are medium to large sized insects with a wingspan ranging from 20 to 100 millimetres. Alderflies and dobsonflies can be recognised by the following features:
Archichauliodes species
Archichauliodes species (CORYDALIDAE)
  • Long, soft, flexible bodies, usually dark coloured
  • 2 pairs of membranous wings of similar size, often bearing dark patches.
  • At rest the wings are held roof-like over the body
  • Mandibulate mouthparts
  • Long filiform antennae which taper towards the end
CORYDALIDAE is a widespread family of dobsonflies and well represented in Australia.
Archichauliodes species are inhabitants of cold-water streams and can be found from southern Australia to north Queensland. Adults of this species can usually be recognised as they have 4 or 5 large spots on their hind wings in addition to many smaller spots towards the edges of the wing.
The larvae of alderflies and dobsonflies are aquatic, appear caterpillar-like and possess gills along the sides of their abdomens.
Archichauliodes species
Archichauliodes species (CORYDALIDAE)
DJW Notes:
They are not completely Aquatic in larval stage of their life-cycle (again, unlike Dragonflies).

Back to CSIRO site:

"All species have aquatic larvae and mating occurs on the vegetation close to freshwater streams. Female alderflies and dobsonflies may lay up to 3000 eggs on rocks or debris close to the stream but not in the water. When the larvae hatch they enter the water and live a permanently aquatic life until they are ready to pupate. At this stage the larvae move out of the water into the adjacent leaf litter or soil where they pupate for several weeks. The complete life cycle may take only one year in warmer areas or up to 5 in colder climates."

Here was my first ever photo of a Dobsonfly.
It took me ages to get a proper ID on it, because, apart from specialist Entomologist site, there is not much readily available on them. At first I thought this was a Stonefly, but it is not. Nor is it a Giant Lacewing (with which it might be confused).
Dobsonfly on Tea Tree.
Wingecarribee Swamp, Nov 2007
This was found on the edge of the Wingecarribee Swamp, in late November 2007. On a flowering Tea Tree (Leptospermum sp.) But that fits with its aquatic larval lifecycle. My insect, from yesterday, was also attracted to the flowers of relative of the Tea Tree (Astartea fascicularis).

Archichauliodes species (CORYDALIDAE)
  • Great photo of a Dobsonfly
    originally sourced from CSIRO "What Bug is That?"
    Unfortunately that site appears to be
    no longer being maintained.

    Thanks Mr Abbott.
    Dobsonfly on my front porch - attracted to the light
    4 December 2013
    Seems they like to fly at this time of year.
Here is another page from CSIRO, to show some of the differences between Dobsonflies and Ant Lions and Lacewings.

Since publication, I have been contacted and provided with a working link to the "What Bug Is That?" site.
It is
Thanks to the ever alert members of the scientific community.
You know who you are :)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Privets and Hay Fever

This morning I woke with my house filled with the nauseating scent of Privet everywhere.
It is overpowering on humid nights (like last night) and mornings like this morning.

The culprits are the custodians of the Railway Line (who would probably be ARTC). But also the next offenders are the non-existent Committee in charge (nobody is actually in charge) of the School Forest.

Privet is the problem.

Privet is in the same family as the Olive - a fact which only comes obvious when the little black seeds develop in a couple of months. Small birds love them, So do bowerbirds unfortunately, and so also do White-headed Pigeons which last year swarmed all over these same trees and bushes, eating the fruit, and thus spreading the seeds. Damn.
White flowers of Ligustrum sinense
The Small-leaved Privet 
Flowers and small, slightly crinkled edged leaves of Privet
Leaf margin referred to as wavy, which is good word.
It helps people trying to weed out Privet seedlings.
Because the leaf edges are
distinctively wavy when plants are very small.

This is why I get cranky about the lack of responsibility
for these plants.
They are not on railway land, but have spread from the close-by
Railway easement to the "School Forest".

The Railway line is visible on far left of this image.
The Laurence Langley Memorial Redwood Grove
 is visible in the background.

An as-yet unknown (to me) Moths which was on my fly screen
this morning.
And my first Christmas Beetle of the season.
Because Robertson does not have many Eucalypt trees
we do not get many true Christmas Beetles like this one.
Lots of annoying small Brown Beetles do occur here.
Hay Fever is directly triggered by the sweet and overpowering scent of Privet. However, technically, it is classed as an allergy. Hence runny eyes as well as sneezes and difficulty in breathing. In fact, the scientists say that the problem with Privet is a direct irritation of the sensitive mucus membranes of the nose. I'll leave that for the experts to sort out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bearded Tylophora flowering inside my Study

As I write, my Study is being invaded by a branch of Tylophora barbata, the “Bearded Tylophora”.

Ever since moving to Robertson in 2002, I have been aware of this small “climber” but have never known why it got its bearded reference. Just this last week, I realised that one of these small plants had made its way up from below my house, snuck in between the external cladding and then having entered the house structure, it has followed a tiny shaft of light, through a hole. Thus it has entered my Study.

I have ignored it for many months. My reward for doing that is that when I looked at the plant in late October, I realised that there were some flowering structures “Umbels” with small, dark flowers attached.

This surprised me. So I grabbed the camera.
And this is what I found. Flower of Tylophora barbata held against a  5 cent coin for scale.

Tylophora barbata
held against a 5 cent coin - for scale purposes.
The first thing which struck me was the extreme geometrical construction of the flower. It also reminded me of a Hoya flower which my mother used grow. Indeed they are in the same family.

Here is a closer image.

Tylophora barbata
Note the 5 segments of the flower
and the dark nodular glands
and the 5 white segments in centre
which are where the anthers are located.

This shows the structure of the sexual organs of the plant: “Calyx segments 5, sometimes with small basal glands inside. Corona of 5 spreading fleshy obtuse knobs fully fused to staminal column”. So the stamens are in the central white structure. The dark knobs are glands, presumably to emit scent to attract tiny insects as pollinators. My nose is not sensitive enough to detect any scent.

This next shot (using a different lens and flash setup) shows that there are short, silvery bristles all over the inner parts of the flower. 

That takes me back to the name of the plant.
The generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek tylos "knot", and phoros "bearing", from the swollen staminal coronal lobes. Barbata means "bearded" from Latin.
In “The Guide to the Yarrawa Brush” it says: “There are small hairs on the petals, hence the name Bearded Tylophora”.
Tylophora barbata - note the fibres on petals.

So how does this plant get inside my house?

Paired leaves ("Opposite")
of Tylophora barbata
Here is the plant outside my hose, climbing up one of the brick piers.
It likes to grow in dark, moist places, under trees, or in this case under a house.

In fact, it has snuck up between the outer cladding of the house and found a small hole in the floor. The vine stems are so fine that it can enter just about anywhere it wishes to explore.

One it grew to the appropriate height, because it is in a dark area,  it would then follow any shaft of light, to grow up towards the light, Thus it is easy to work out how it appears to have a "sense of direction". The light give it that direction to follow.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Two days in Kangaloon

As happens these days, I create albums in Facebook and post links here,
You do not need to be a Facebook Member to view the Albums. No need to sign up for anything.

Yesterday's Album has the iconic Critically Endangered Thelymitra kangaloonica - the Kangalooon Sun Orchid. Also a very nice specimen of the Copper Bearded Orchid, Calochilus campestris.

Orchids and some others, from Kangaloon yesterday

Copper Bearded Orchid  Calochilus campestris

Kangaloon Sun Orchid Thelymitra kangaloonica

Margot and Bryan visit Kangaloon

Today's Album had several nice Orchids, especially the Red Bearded Orchid and a nice (open for a change) Thelymitra carnea - the tiny Pink Sun Orchid.
Various other annoying non-Orchids found their way in front of my Lens.

Red Bearded Orchid Calochilus paludosis 

And my favourite "Pretty" the diminutive Pink Sun Orchid Thelymitra carnea

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My garden is looking pretty good after the big storm last night.

Here is a link to a Facebook Album of recent photos.

You do not need to join Facebook - this album is fully public to everybody.

Here is a sample. My favourite Waratah flower growing just outside my front door. It is looking at its prime right now.
The styles (the pointy bits in each flower)
are now opening out well.
The whole head of flowers is called a "conflorescence"
About 50% of the individual flowers are now open.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spring Orchids of Robertson and Kangaloon

Here is a link to a Facebook Album of photos taken over the last few days.
This album is open to the public. You do not have to be a Facebook Member to see these photos. 10153242702784829.1073741963.809229828&type=1&l=efb6c7d14f

Add caption

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Prunus glandulosa 'Sinensis' - Double-flowered Dwarf Almond

Prunus glandulosa 'Sinensis' - Double-flowered Dwarf Almond
Double-flowered Dwarf Almond
Prunus glandulosa 'Sinensis'
Bush seen from 2 metres.
Close-up of Dwarf Flowering Almond
Prunus glandulosa "Sinensis"

A dwarf Double-flowered Prunus. Some authorities say it is an Almond. I know it has tiny red "plum-like fruit". It is very pretty in flower. It suckers like crazy though, which is a disadvantage in a "neat" garden. Not a problem in my garden.
There is a white-flowered variety as well. My friend George grows that.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Petalochilus mentiens - a delightful Spring surprise

I have been away from Robertson for several weeks and more specifically I have not been out Orchid hunting in the local area for about a month. 
In that month it has rained and rained and rained. I have had 560mm since 17 August. 

So I was delighted to find that the tiny, (minuscule one might say) Petalochilus mentiens has just started to flower. It is a Caladenia, of course. These plants are all less than 2 inches high (in the old money) or 50mm if you prefer. 

Petalochilus mentiens.
Note the erect dorsal sepal,
the tightly hugging labellum wings and the protruding labellum tip
and the prominent v shaped tip of the labellum.
One of them was a delightful pale pink. The others were all white or cream
Pink specimen of Petalochilus mentiens

In each case,the dorsal sepal was held erect, and the labellum wings are tightly curved around the column, but the labellum tip is prominent, and very tightly v shaped (but not re-curved).
In one area there were about 8 plants within several metres, One shot shows 4 plants - a restriction of my macro lens and my inability to walk back to the car to change lenses.

a nice group of 4 flowers together.
This plant is not exactly rare, but it does not flower here every year, so I am making a bit of a fuss about it now, seeing as I found it today.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Is Pru Goward capable of being an Environmental Hero?

This morning, there was a gathering of Environmental campaigners outside Pru Goward's office in Bowral.
Cranky Koala, with an endangered Gang-gang Cockatoo
and Batwoman
all characters, of course.
(thanks to Lindy Boyko, Alex Walker and Mark Selmes)
The idea was  to invite Pru Goward to be a Climate Change Hero and use her powers as NSW Minister for Planning, to block the huge Whitehaven Coal mine which threatens to destroy Leard State Forest, in north-west NSW. 

This mine will greatly increase Global Warming when the coal (which is currently safe in the ground) is dug out and burnt for electricity in Australia, or sold off to India or China. Either way, it still adds to global pollution, leading to Climate Change, and of course, acidification of the Oceans.

Who would think that the humble Local Member for Goulburn has such power?
More to the point, why does she do nothing with it?

Send her a letter at

Mark Selmes in character as Cranky Koala
He is in fact "conducting" the Choristers of Ecopella

The members of Ecopella, spell out their message.

Two more Super Heroes for the Environment,
Spidergirl and the Incredible Hulk
both asking the question what does Pru Goward
think is more important?

Cranky Koala and his young off-sider, Pesky Possum.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wonga Pigeon RIP

As should be evident from the title of this post, it contains images of a freshly deceased bird.
There is no better opportunity to study details of birds which one can not normally see.
If this is likely to offend you, please come back to this blog on another occasion.
One of my local Wonga Pigeons flew into a window on my back deck. It died almost instantly - it fell just 2 metres from the window, but off to the side. So clearly it was flying across the back deck and I stood where it had apparently come from, and clearly it was confused by the reflection of some flowering wattle trees below the house. In other words, it did not see the window, and instead thought it was flying towards those trees. Bang. Dead. Stone dead.

The strongly marked belly and under-tail coverts
(feathers of the underneath side of the bird)
apparently act to camouflage the bird when it is nesting,
as Wonga Pigeons raise their tails when nesting,
and when they land on a branch.
(HJ Frith "Pigeons and Doves of Australia" P.285)
Wonga Pigeons walk just about everywhere. So it is hardly surprising that its feet are well adapted to that lifestyle. The toes are spread wide, and they have nails which are strong, but not grasping claws. These are "walking feet",

As such the structure of the Wonga's feet is quite unlike "perching birds" (passerines) and very different from the grasping toes and talons of Owls or Hawks. This Pigeon's toes are strong, individual toes, in a 3 forward: 1 hind toe arrangement which is a classic bird arrangement (think of a Chook's feet).
Toe structure of a Wonga Pigeon.
In that sense, they differ from Parrots. "Parrots have two forward pointing toes (which are relatively long), and two thicker, stronger, backward pointing toes ("zygodactyly"). When the foot is closed, the forward pointing toes nestle in between the two rear toes. The claws on the rear toes are very powerful." See this image by way of contrast.

Here is a close-up of the head of the Wonga Pigeon.
The beak is that of a seed eater. The soft tissues around the nostrils and the eyes are a delicate pink flesh. as are the legs.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wet week in August 2014 in Robertson

Here is a video taken at Carrington Falls by Benjamin Hansen.
Click on the word "post" - it is a hot link and will open the video of Carrington Falls in full flood on 18 August 2014.
Post by Benjamin Hansen.

Fitzroy Falls in full flood.
19 August 2014
Photo by Beth Boughton
The reason there is so much water is because of the rainfall we got: 54mm, 162mm, and then 108mm. It has been raining a bit since then, but not nearly as much.

Here is another link to a video from Fitzroy Falls also posted by Beth Boughton on 19 August 2014.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Great sunset colours this evening Monday 28 July 2014

While working on my computer, this afternoon,
I noticed an eerie pinkish glow in the western sky.
Of course, it was sunset.
But such rich colours, with a distinct purplish tinge.

Looking to the far-south-west.
Main patch of colour around to the right (west).

The tall conical tree is the Sassafras I regularly photograph.
The light changes, the range of visibility changes,
depending on conditions.

Similar angle, slight change in light as sun set changes colour.

Taken from the western side of my house.
Looking through deciduous trees.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bassian Thrush near Carrington Falls

Yesterday I went to visit my friend Jim Foran, who lives at the end of Cloonty Road, which runs out beyond Carrington Falls.

As I drove there, I saw a Bassian Thrush beside the road. just past the Kangaroo River crossing (the main bridge) on the Carrington Falls road. It was between the Bridge and the turn in to the main parking area leading down to the main lookouts. This is across the River, not the popular swimming hole used by the locals, which is accessed by veering right, before the River crossing.

The Bassian Thrush is a fairly secretive bird, a little smaller than a female Bowerbird (which looks somewhat similar). Bowerbirds hop with both legs simultaneously (they "bounce") whereas the thrush runs low to the ground and moves quickly, once it decides to go. When I flies it has a faint light stripe along the wing. It has a mottled chest, and a dark olive/brown back. It has a large dark eye, with a pale ring of feathers around the eye.

Bassian Thrush
Formerly known as "Ground Thrush"
I seldom see these birds around Robertson and never seem to get a decent photo of them. They seem to like dense thickets of vegetation, not necessarily rainforest. But I have seen them at the Robertson Cemetery where there is a dense patch of remnant rainforest.

However, I have more frequently seen them in wet sclerophyll forests around the bottom of Fountaindale Road (which is taller forest than at Carrington Falls, but not far away, "as the Thrush flies". I have also heard them and occasionally seen them beside the road to Belmore Falls, in what I refer to as sandstone scrub below Eucalypt forest, with many Banksias present in the vegetation mix. I know it is a very imprecise description, but it does not fit the classic definition of "wet sclerophyll forest" (as described by NSW Office of Environment - well certainly not the "grassy sub-formation") This is typical wet forest on sandstone around the southern Nepean River catchment and the northern end of the Shoalhaven River. 

I drove on to Jim's place, where there has been a lot of clearing, and saw another Bassian Thrush beside the road beside a stand of remnant (maybe regrowth) forest on black soil, over shallow sandstone.

Then as I drove back several hours later, I saw another Bassian Thrush, not far past the entrance to the Carrington Falls picnic area. Possibly the same bird as previously sighted.

From notes i have been receiving from the Canberra Ornithologists group, it seems Bassian thrushes are starting to breed in and around Canberra, so this seasonal factor might explain their apparent more obvious feeding beside roadways around the local sandstone forests.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The mystery of the Acacia longifolia in my yard continues

I have written something about this plant, previously, although it is not apparent from the title.
My Bad!
This year it is flowering even more early in the season.

Flowers starting to open yesterday 8 July 2014
Flowers of Acacia longifolia
Thing is, this plant occurs below Robertson, on the Sandstone Plateau. But it does not occur naturally up here on the basalt soil. I know I did not plant this plant here. In fact, I was tempted to remove it, but decided to leave it to grow, when I first recognised that it was not a Blackwood Wattle (which is completely normal here). I decided to let it grow, to see what species it is. Now that I know, do I let it grow on?
Flowers of Acacia longifolia.
This is one of the Acacias with flowers on "rods"
not in a ball-like structure.
It is now taller than the adjacent Blackwood self-planted seedling. It will probably grow quickly, and then die off. I hope so. Whereas Blackwoods are huge trees, and they live a long time. Landscape trees.
But I do not want two huge trees growing side by side, directly in front of my house. They will cut off the natural light in the house.

"Leaf " (phyllode) of Acacia longifolia
Note veins and short stem (pulvinus)
and location of the "gland"
close to the stem. (top right)

Pulvinus (stem) of the "phyllode"
(swollen stem which acts as a leaf)
Note the gland on lower edge of phyllode
and the slight change in angle of the edge of the phyllode.
Most of the Wattles with phyllodes have these glands.
The theory is that they are there to attract ants
which in turn would protect the Wattle from insects.
Possibly a remnant (archaic) structure.

Two main veins running more or less parallel,
Several minor veins also apparent.

In this photo, the two dominant veins are clearly evident.