Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blue on Cannibal

Today at Mt Cannibal, consistent with Mrs Gouldiae’s observations - the blue flowering shrubs in the bush are among the first to appear in spring – some Common Hovea and Purple Coral-pea were catching the eye on the lower slopes.

Common Hovea is a widespread straggling to erect shrub found in heathy woodlands of Vic, Tas, SA, NSW and Qld.

Good old Hardenbergia or Purple Coral-pea needs no introduction but is always pleasing to see it twisting and climbing through the bush. Now a common garden plant with numerous cultivars, in the bush it can be found down the south-eastern coastal strip of the mainland and throughout Tasmania.

To cap the ‘blue theme’ at cuppa time a Superb Fairy-wren family visited us at the picnic tables. The dominant male was in his full blue uniform but wouldn’t come too close. The juveniles were happy to hop closely by however.

Seems things are hotting up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spring Bee Here?

It doesn’t feel like it just now, but a few days back we had a touch of spring weather. The Wax-flowers, (Eriostemon sp/Philotheca sp?), in the front garden began exuding their aromatic oils from their leaves.

It didn’t take long for the local Honeybees to locate the shrubs and begin collecting nectar and pollen. I imagine the bee colony they belong to is probably depleted considerably after the winter months.

By all accounts, any excess drones – the males that mate with the queen then die – are killed off at the end of summer to help preserve food supplies for the winter. The female workers collect the pollen and nectar, guard the colony, build and maintain the nest, etc. 

Apart from the honey they provide directly, Honeybees and other insects put food on our tables by pollinating about 30% of our food crops. They also pollinate 80-90% of all wild flowering plants.

Pollen packet on the hind leg is clearly visible in this close cropped shot
Wild Honeybee colonies can consist of up to 50,000 individual bees. Each colony has its own odour identifier, produced by the queen and passed onto the drones and workers. Should a colony grow too large, or should the queen lay too few eggs, a new queen is produced by the workers and the old queen will ‘swarm’ with a few workers to begin a new colony in a new location.

Useful and amazing creatures, Honeybees deserve our respect and regard.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In Support of Urban Trees

The population of Baw Baw Shire is set to expand considerably, (Population modeling has predicted the shire will continue growing at an annual rate of 2.3 per cent to reach 60,452 by 2026. It is expected Baw Baw Shire will have 71,683 residents by 2036, having grown at a rate of over 1.7 per cent annually over the previous decade. - from Baw Baw Shire website). Planned increases in urban density are likely to result in the removal of a significant number of trees from centres like Warragul and Drouin.

(Click on images for a larger view)
Drouin's trees clearly visible on Google Earth
Warragul expanding into valuable agricultural land
The rapid growth of an urban region can result in environmental consequences such as increasing ambient air temperatures. Urbanization inevitably replaces existing natural landscapes with paved surfaces and buildings creating an urban heat island effect.  Trees provide shade by directly blocking the sun’s rays, thus mitigating air temperature increases considerably.
Treescapes are pleasing to the eye
Through transpiration, trees can act as natural air conditioners. More than 90% of the water taken up by the roots of a tree is evaporated through its foliage, absorbing heat from the atmosphere in the process.
Exotics too can play a role
Numerous studies are available that directly connect urban trees with improved health and social benefits for the community. Green tree cover encourages more physical activity by residents. Healthier residents result in reduced health costs. Some research even suggests that less violence occurs in well treed urban areas. Tree canopies filter many airborne pollutants. Undeniably, treed environments are far healthier places in which to reside.
Tree planted parklands can lack understorey
Any real estate agent will confirm that properties in treed zones command greater values!
Higher property values in treed streets
By filtering heavy rainfall with their canopies and binding the soil with their roots, trees play an important role in preventing erosion. Native trees and shrubs in particular are used in many places to help control groundwater recharge and soil salinity.
Street trees and powerlines often don't mix
Much of our urban native wildlife of course is completely reliant on pockets or corridors of native trees for their survival. Various birds, possums, bats, frogs, lizards, insects and spiders all use trees and it would be a sad day to see these wonderful species disappear from our urban areas.
An example of sensitive infrastructure
Faced with an increased population and future environmental concerns in regard to forecast climate change, one significant challenge for Baw Baw Shire is to factor trees into urban planning to help create a shire that is resistant to the predicted increased heatwaves and storms, and yet remain a comfortable and pleasant location in which to live. 
Some remnant giants - worth saving
Trees are the lungs of the planet.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nangara Notes - 16th August 2015

It has been some time since I did a report from Nangara. Chilly weather and a few other activities have kept me away but I got up there briefly this afternoon. On stepping out of the ute it was nice to hear and see some old favourite bush birds – Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Brown Thornbill, Superb Fairy-wren, Brown Gerygone and others.

An attractive bed of unidentified moss caught my eye.

I decided to get a few shots to add to my swelling ‘unidentified’ folder. Hope I live long enough to learn this stuff!

When I got down for the close up, I noticed an ant in the vicinity.

Red-headed Spider Ants apparently are endemic to Australia and are mostly found in the south-east corner of the continent. They are relatively common and fairly widespread throughout Victoria.

Colonies of Red-headed Spider Ants are generally smaller in size than many other species, numbering just several hundred at most. When disturbed, like today, they move quickly with their abdomens elevated and their speed and long legs and antennae make it tricky for the camera to focus.

Always something new – I haven’t ticked this species at this location before.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Koonwarra with Bass Coast Birdlife

I joined the ‘Bass Coasters’ yesterday for a fascinating and rewarding outing at Koonwarra. It was especially nice to tick Crested Shrike-tits and Brown Gerygones in some bush beside the Tarwin River West Branch, (near the junction with Gwyther Creek!!!), at the recreation reserve.
Brown Gerygone. Must just about be at the southern limit of its range at Koonwarra?
Crested Shrike-tit. With some patience and a little digital assistance it was nice to get one of these ‘canopy birds’ low enough for a picture in a patch of dark bush.
We surrounded this Koala with binoculars and cameras.
And, with special help from Gordon, I got my first ‘acceptable’ shot of a ‘hoodie’ on the beach at Inverloch.

Hooded Plover. A dumpy little species that is probably in decline due to human invasion of their beach breeding areas. On the endangered list for Victoria.
A nice day, (thanks to Helen, Penny, et al), ended with a lovely bowl of soup at Gus’s place – thanks Gordon and Lyn.

"C'arn, you've been for a walk today, now its my turn".