Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mixed Bag

Today’s mixed bag begins with a Lace Monitor that strolled slowly across in front of the ute on the Bunyip River Road inside the Bunyip State Park. With its tongue tasting the air every couple of steps, it didn’t seem too upset at getting snapped from a distance.

When I stepped a little nearer though, those excellent claws were put to good use when it scaled a tree for safety.

After saying farewell to Mr Monitor, I legged it for awhile under the power lines and came to a small remnant puddle that had some life.

Fairy Apron
Utricularia, (utriculus = Greek for little bladder), is a small family of carnivorous bladderworts and several were flowering strongly around the edge of the puddle. I’m not deadly certain they were U dichotoma, but Fairy Apron is pretty close.

Wandering Percher
I think this is a Wandering Percher, a fairly common and widespread dragonfly that likes to inhabit still or sluggish water including temporary puddles.

Always something to look at in the bush.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Rufous Fantail - Cuckoo Saga - Episode 2

Today I went back to check on the progress of the Rufous Fantail’s herculean task of raising a cuckoo. The cuckoo is still in on the nest and still being fed by the poor overworked fantails.

Apparently both Pallid and Brush Cuckoos like to use open cup-shaped nests of fantails, Willie Wagtails, etc, (whereas Fan-tailed Cuckoos and both ‘Bronze’ Cuckoos prefer the dome-shaped nests of thornbills, scrubwrens, fairy wrens and heathwrens).

According to the field guides, the juvenile Brush Cuckoo is heavily barred dark brown. At the moment it is looking like a baby Brush Cuckoo to me. More monitoring required, but!

Swamp Wallaby
Nearly each time I have visited this picnic ground, an old Swamp Wallaby has appeared and grazed away, not caring too much by my presence. He/she is a little grey on top and around the face, and is displaying a few battle scars. Some horse riders went by today and the horses were more flighty than the wallaby when they each caught sight of the other.

Brush Bronzewing
I took a little used bush track on the way home today and scattered several small groups of Brush Bronzewing pigeons. This fairly uncommon bird is smaller and more colourful than the Common Bronzewing. The last bird managed to not fly off immediately and let me get some pictures, albeit with the light not quite right for my camera, (or me), to capture those stunning colours on the wing coverts. (Gimp to the rescue!)

The only other incident to report is that after turning onto Black Snake Creek Rd and travelling 500m, I had to give way to a … Red-bellied Black Snake. It was camera shy and disappeared rapidly into the roadside vegetation

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Avian Duplicity

The Mortimer Picnic Ground is situated just within the Bunyip State Park near the western boundary. The picnic ground is reasonably well appointed with parking areas, tables, fireplaces and a drop toilet. There are several walking tracks, bridle paths and maintenance vehicle roads that head out from the reserve.

The park is close to the junction of the William Wallace and Diamond Creeks both of which are lined with a variety of ferns and other typical wet temperate forest species.

The Mountain Grey gums are the stand out tree species in the reserve.

Both creeks are lined with water ferns, tree ferns, swordgrass, Pomaderis, Prickly Currant Bush and similar species, (including some stinging nettles I discovered!).

Rufous Fantail plus …?
After exploring small sections of a couple of trails I put the billy on and scanned the creek line through the bins. I ticked quite a few different birds but the one that caught my eye was the Rufous Fantail. At least a pair of birds seemed to be flying in and out of one particular patch of scrub – worth a closer inspection.

I got close enough to see one bird had food in its beak. Keeping an eye on where exactly it disappeared to, I soon found the nest just over the water.

As is plainly visible, it is a VERY large Rufous Fantail nestling – I don’t think - has to be a cuckoo species. Obviously we have some brood parasitism going on here, (YouTube video link). I’m a little ambivalent about this. The fantails have naturally lost this round of young in their rearing cycle. Perhaps they had an early season rearing anyway? Maybe they’ll try again once the cuckoo has fledged?

The cuckoo parent on the other hand has been very clever and I’m just as delighted to see a cuckoo in the bins or the camera as I am seeing a fantail. So, I’m feeling a bit dismayed for the poor fantails but a bit excited to see which breed of cuckoo they will raise! If I can manage to keep an eye on things I’ll post the results here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Morwell River Falls

It was necessary to check out the MorwellRiver Falls Reserve as a possible Heyfield Birdwatchers destination – so I HAD to go and look!

In a long past era I had lived nearby and visited this spot before but I have very little memory of it, perhaps due to my physical condition at the time, after riding my mountain-bike up there. Aah, those were the days. Anyway I probably spent most of the time recovering beside the road before the very pleasant downhill ride home – I just don’t recall.

The Falls
There are three drops in the river.

This is the first and largest drop - no Niagra here.

The falls are located about 20km south of Boolarra on the Morwell River Rd. Historically they have been a recreational spot for around one hundred years. Several years ago a ‘friends’ group was formed and have since performed some excellent work in track construction and weed control, etc.

The usual suite of wet forest ferns are present, tree ferns, water ferns and epiphytes.

There are two species on the branch and fertile fronds with spore are clearly visible.

I was a little surprised to come across an excellent Ghost Fungus specimen, (Omphalotus nidiformis I think). Surprised, because I thought February would be ‘out of season’ for fungi of almost any species.

Omphalotus colonises stumps and logs and sometimes is found at the base of living trees.
Omphalotus possesses a bio-luminescence causing it to glow in the dark.

Striped Xenica (Oreixenica kershawi)
I didn’t get real close to these little brown beauties and I wasn’t able to put in a lot of time capturing a close up shot. They were in good number, flitting about from leaf to flower to bare stick, etc.

This quite small butterfly, (22mm), is not a widespread species.
The Striped Xenica often inhabits lower altitudes than other members of the ‘alpine xenicas’.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Short Interesting Walk

With the temperature threatening to rise yesterday, I headed for an early start in the Bunyip State Park again, this time at the Mortimer Picnic Area. As I pulled in to park the ute, a Lyrebird scuttled across the reserve and a Wallaby looked up momentarily from its grazing – a good start to the morning. Numerous ‘brown’ butterflies jinked about and in the shady parts they were joined by pairs of Imperial Whites.

I didn’t want to spend the whole day here, so just decided to do the short nature trail and get back home for lunch and the air conditioner!

Forest Wire-grass
The ground cover in much of the wooded areas on the lower slopes of Bunyip SP consists of Forest Wire-grass, Tetrarrhena juncea, a straggly species capable of climbing over rocks, logs and understory trees and shrubs. 

Forest Wire-grass can be very invasive but is grazed on by herbivores and is the host plant for a number of species of butterflies.

Crane Fly
This crane fly caught my eye at one point and rested long enough on a piece of wire-grass to let me get some pictures.

I haven’t been able to identify the species yet – I thought the abdominal patterns would be a reliable enough clue. Any ideas?

The halteres – the small knobby stalks that used to be the rear wings – are clearly visible. Apparently they move rapidly in flight and function as gyroscopes, enabling the insect to balance correctly.

Water Skink
I shared one of the boardwalks with a Southern Water Skink, (I think it might be Eulamprus tympanum).

For quite some distance, the reptile just remained a metre or two ahead of me, making no attempt to disappear between the boards or over the side. I even got ahead and it kept coming toward me.

Oh Deer
 Is this a Fallow Deer?

Apparently the park and nearby ranges are well inhabitated with deer species. I don’t wish for this blog to become a forum on the pros and cons of hunting in parks. I think most readers would understand my stance on the matter. (Try Googling – ‘hunting’ ‘parks’ ‘Victoria’, etc – you might be surprised.)