Saturday, June 28, 2014

LVFNC at Uralla

Any day in the bush is a good day. This was confirmed today when a dozen or so Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists braved the horrible forecast and journeyed to Uralla Nature Reserve in Trafalgar. In fact the bad weather didn’t eventuate and I don’t know about others, but by the end of the walk I was wishing I hadn’t worn so many clothes!

This small reserve, (45Ha), is on the edge of the town and is a real surprise. Silvertop and Mountain Grey Gum are probably the dominant eucs but the ‘rainforest’ gullies are peppered with a huge variety of non-euc species, vines, broad-leaved shrubs, tree ferns, mosses, lichens, epiphytes and fungi providing a wonderful biodiversity.

One of our first surprises was a Greenhood that had most of us scratching our heads. Turns out it was a familiar Cobra Greenhood, Pterostylis grandiflora that hadn’t quite fully developed. A little later in the walk some properly formed specimens were discovered and the problem solved.

We ticked several bird species but it just wasn’t a birding type of day. One bird list for the site details such species as Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Rose Robin, Scarlet Honeyeater, etc so I think this is yet another spot to spend some more serious time.

Mosses and ferns proliferated and it was good to spot several patches of Dawsonia superba with the spore dispersing capsules in place. 

Halfway up a steady incline someone thankfully found a good example of the common Vermillion Grizette fungus and we stopped to photograph it – between deep breaths. Amanita xanthocephala likes to associate with eucalypts and is thought to be quite toxic.

We had lunch with some Green Skinheads nearby – Cortinarius austrovenetus, also a euc forest specialist, but its distribution is not well known.

And from where do I get much of my new found knowledge of fungi? Why, from Sally of course. Great work Sally, and thanks!

PS: Corrections etc please - heyfieldwaresatwidebanddotnetdotau

Mt Cannibal

Mt Cannibal in Cardinia Shire is the flat-topped HILL, (after all, I was able to climb it), that you see just north of the Princes Freeway between Bunyip and Garfield just east of Melbourne. The 53 hectare Mt Cannibal Flora and Fauna Reserve contains a 3 km circular walking track that takes you to the top of the hill with some wonderful panoramic views on the way. 

I have never found it easy to take a still shot that indicates a windy day. The best I could do yesterday is this one …

However, indicative of the strength of the wind was the tree across the top of a car in the carpark! Four ladies had arrived shortly before me, and were just setting off on their walk when the tree dropped. No one was hurt. (Broken windscreen, large dent in the roof). I felt it would be too impolite to ask permission to take a photo – they were arranging some support by phone when I left them. I met them again halfway round on the walk and they seemed quite unperturbed.

This was my first exploration of the site. The diversity of flora in this reserve is impressive and I think I will become a regular visitor as the seasons change, etc. The wind seemed to have eased some and I was encouraged to continue by the number of other visitors who turned up and headed off in front of me.

As I headed up the hill listening to but not seeing treecreepers and spinebills – about the only two birds I ticked, no doubt due to the wind - I spotted a nice example of the fairly common Parasol Mushroom, (I like to call it the cappuccino umbrella), Macrolepiota cleandii I think.

In the distance I could see a pink flowering shrub that set a bit of a challenge to both photograph in the wind and to ID – it was new to me.

Turns out to be Erica baccans, Berry-flower Heath, an indigenous South African plant grown here originally for the cut flower market but has now become an invasive weed species in many localities of NSW, Vic and SA. Quite attractive one has to say.

Dusty Miller, (Spyridium parvifolium probably), was plentiful also and its understated grey foliage was eye-catching too amongst the green herbs, grasses and shrubs. This plant is endemic to southern NSW, Vic and parts of SA and in Tasmania it is listed as threatened.

I saw quite a bit of orchid leaf here and there but I’m not able to name to ID too many of our terrestrial orchids from their leaf – I have enough trouble once I find a flower. I do know the Mosquito Orchid leaf – heart shaped, purple underside – and eventually found one in flower, Acianthus pusillus probably, the Small Mosquito Orchid.

The moss and lichen covered granite rock outcrops and the views from the summit are worthwhile in themselves.

Yep, reckon I might return, particularly in spring.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

More Fungi

Oh dear, I haven’t done a bird blog for a bit and the last one I did produce was another person’s efforts anyway – Jim’s very excellent finch shots from his recent trip.

I have been consumed in another couple of directions lately, one being those flamin’ fungi. Boy, can they tie you in knots when trying to identify them? Some even have a different spelling of the same scientific name. (Incidentally, if I’ve got these IDs wrong and that’s quite likely, please do not hesitate to advise – heyfieldwaresatwidebanddotnetdotau - I’m a willing learner).

I found this first one in my nearby favourite little Nangara Reserve at Jindivick. I think this is Cyptorama asprata, or perhaps Cryptorama asprata. (I pre-type these blog notes in Word and it doesn’t think much of either of those spellings!)

One source gives it a common name of Orange Scruffy and that’ll do me. It was growing amongst some moss on a dead log and made a nice composition I thought. I believe that bright colour might pale down to a yellow/orange with age. A bit of research led me to discover that this species might have some larvicidal properties against the yellow fever and dengue virus mosquitoes.

This next fungus confused me a bit too. I’d seen photos previously and have often wished to luck upon one myself but didn’t realize how tiny they were. I found it just north of Labertouche.

These are called the Bird’s Nest Fungus and I think this one is Nidula, (of course), emodensis.  The ‘eggs in the nest’ are called peridioles and they contain the fertile spores of the organism.

The peridioles are dispersed when raindrops fall into the nest, splashing them out. There are several theories on what happens next, one being that a,(an?), herbivore ingests the peridioles which then get further dispersed within the dung of the animal.

If you are not too bored you can see another theory on the dispersal of peridioles here.

Wow, nature just continues to amaze.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gouldians et al In the Wild!

Recent readers here may not understand why ‘Gouldiae’.  A brief explanation occurs here.

I’ve not seen one ‘al fresco’ myself, so alas, this story is not mine, its Jim’s and I should tell you some things about Jim first.

The second time I met Jim – the first time is another story again – we were each in the avicultural game. We each kept Australian finches as our preferred species and we each liked large open natural aviaries with mixed birds rather than the small ‘cages’ that were common. We both now much prefer to get our ‘bird fix’ in the natural environment and neither of us has had aviaries for some time.

Jim is one of the best bird watchers I have had the pleasure of working with in the field. A testament to his ability is that on one trip to Gluepot in SA, Jim’s binoculars remained on his kitchen table back in Victoria. Each time we went on a sortie, he saw and correctly identified far more species than I.

I am always impressed by fellow birdwatchers who can separate a blue wren from a scrubby from a thornbill from a …, without seeing the bird. Jim’s sharp and accurate hearing is enviable. I have lost count of the number of times he has declared that some almost imperceptible change of habitat will produce this or that bird and suddenly, bingo, this or that bird will pop up on a nearby branch.

I digress. Back to Gouldians in the wild. Jim has recently returned from a long and eventful inland road trip with a card full of delightful images and I’ve twisted his arm to allow me to post some here. Mostly these birds were found on the roadside between the Victoria River Roadhouse and Timber Creek in the Northern Territory. The Gouldians were part of a flock of 60 birds which seems promising to me.
Gouldian Finch
Gouldian Finch: Threatened in the wild, abundant in aviaries.
Long-tailed Finch: Sometimes called the Blackheart Finch
Red-eared Firetail: An uncommon species restricted to a very limited range at the bottom of WA.
Masked Finch: A relatively common species of the 'top end'.

Jim assures me there was ‘a bird’ on top of this bit of rock. I can’t see it. I think he needs a longer lens!

Thanks James,