Sunday, 29 November 2009

Welcome Swallow Feeding it's Young.

.....or Swallow Nearly Swallows Swallow

Yesterday I watched a group of for juvenile swallows perched on a broken branch in the river and waiting to be fed. I tried capturing this on video but the lighting was so harsh that the video camera could not deal with it at all. With the SLR, two stops of exposure compensation at least allowed me to get a few reasonable shots.

(Click Photos to Enlarge)
Payload delivered

Patiently awaiting the next instalment

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Narawntapu Marsupials

Yesterday we took an overseas visitor to Narawntapu National Park. She was quite impressed with the local wildlife, particularly the close encounters with the wombats.

(Click to enlarge photos)
Wombat Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis

This is a Tasmanian subspecies of the Common Wombat. There is also another subspecies, Vombatus ursinus ursinus, which is found on Flinders Island.

Bennett's wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus)

This is the Tasmanian subspecies of the mainland Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus banksianus). Bennetts wallabies are a little smaller and have longer fur.

Tasmanian Pademelon (Thylogale billardierii)

This species is extinct on the mainland.

Forester Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis )

The Forester kangaroos were keeping their distance as usual. These are the Tasmanian subspecies of the mainland "Eastern Grey" kangaroo and are listed as a threatened Species. There was a mob of 10 at the western end of the Springlawn area.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Brush-tailed Possum Joey

.....Trichosurus vulpecula

As I walked up the backyard to check the moth trap last night there were at least 8 Tasmanian pademelons (Thylogale billardierii) and one Waskily wabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) busily mowing my lawn. Then I spotted this Brush-tailed Possum with it's joey on her back. The possums here are not tame as they are in some places so she wasn't going to allow me to have a clear view. The mum took to hiding in the dense foliage but I don't think she realised that the poor old joey was left out in the open.

This one would be from 4 to 6 months old (roughly). I'm basing this on the fact that they spend about four month's in the pouch and a further month or two on the mother's back.

(Click photos to enlarge)
Brush-tailed Possum Joey

You can see the mother's eye in this shot.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Tachinid Fly - Close Up

This fly (family: Tachinidae) came to the mercury vapour light last night. I'd estimate it to be around 10mm in length. It appears to be one of the Tachinid flies, also known as Bristly flies. This family are mostly parasitoids and parasites of moth larvae as well as various other insect groups.

When I lined up the second shot I saw a funny sight through the viewfinder. I noticed a much smaller fly (smaller than this ones head) which kept flying into this ones face and annoying it. Good to see them getting a taste of their own medicine. It reminds me of the old saying:

Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them,
and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
the 17th century writer Jonathan Swift)

(Click photos to enlarge)
Frontal view

Lateral view

Sunday, 22 November 2009

No Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos - Just Insects

After reading Denis Wilson's post on photographing Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos I was quite chuffed to see a flock of seven alighting on the dead trees in the gully near my house. I quickly ran inside to grab my camera and off I went up the hill to do a bit of bird stalking. Of course we all know wearing thongs in the bush is a bad idea but I had to get there before the birds took off. (For northern hemisphere readers, thongs = flip flops or rubber sandals - not those other things :-) I slipped twice while pushing through the scrub nearly dropping my camera but I pressed on until I located a good vantage point. I arrived a little scratched up, totally puffed out and with shaky hands. (Moving rapidly uphill no longer agrees with me) . It was all worth it, I thought to myself, as I had a clear view straight across the gully to the cockies. The closest one was a juvenile begging for food. Just as I lifted my camera the clouds blocked the sun and I could see I was not going to get a sharp image. Still it would be better than nothing eh? Then, just as I pressed the button, the camera battery died. Could things get any worse? Yes. A large ant then stung me right between two toes and it is still hurting as I type. Until today I did not know that cockatoos could laugh but I'm sure that's what they were doing.

So dear reader you will just have to imagine the impressive sight of those Cockatoos or go on over to Denis's blog and enjoy his photos. Either that or you can content yourself with these images of some insects which I have come across over the last week. Unfortunately I did not get a shot of the ant as after I was through with it, it was not worth photographing.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
Dagger Fly (Empididae)

This tiny fly (around 4 or 5 mm) was attracted to the MV light. Empidid flies are predators. Note the proboscis which can be used for piercing it's prey.

Echthromorpha intricatoria - Cream-spotted Ichneumon (Ichneumonidae)

This is quite a striking wasp. The adults feed on nectar and pollen but they parasitise Lepidopteran larvae. The caterpillar below had better watch out.

Ichneumen Wasp (Ichneumonidae)

Here's another Ichneumon hanging around the trap. There are a variety of similar looking species to this which often come to light. These also parasitise Lepidopteran larvae.

Caterpillar (Noctuidae)

This one came to the MV light trap. This is not that unusual. In Scotland I often had Noctuid larvae come to the light trap. Perhaps, as a nocturnal, ground dwelling species, they simply stumble upon the box and crawl in or perhaps they are actually phototropic. Maybe someone has already answered that question. I'll have to look into it one day.

Soldier Fly - (Stratiomyidae)

This one was photographed on a sunny wall. Again. the adults Soldier flies feed on nectar and pollen. The larvae are found in aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats but some also feed in rotting vegetation. I used to have one of those anaerobic compost bins which was always full of soldier fly larvae.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Milestone Reached - 400 moths

The Lepidoptera of Tasmania website reached a new mile stone today with 400 species now illustrated. While many of the photos are my own I have only scratched the surface of the (at least) 1,480 moths to be found within Tasmania. Thus I would like to give a BIG Thank You to those individuals and organisations who have been so kind as to allow the use of their photographs.

Also, may I mention that if anyone else has images that could be used to fill the gaps then I'd be happy to hear from you. They do not need to be taken in Tasmania as they will serve as place holders until I eventually photograph a local specimen. Any images used will be reduced to around 440 pixels wide (or long) with full credit given as well as a hyperlink back to the person's web site (if they have one)

(In alphabetical order - Apologies if I have missed anyone)

Thank you,
  • Cocks, Graeme
  • Corver, Christine
  • Fraser, Duncan
  • Gilligan, T
  • Guyonnet, Antoine
  • Herbison-Evans, Don
  • Hobern, Donald
  • Martin, E. L
  • Mazzei, Paolo
  • Melville, James
  • Pittaway, A.R.
  • Schmidt, Olga
  • Scott, Lynne
  • Smith, Ian F.
  • Young, Catherine
  • Wirtz, Peter
  • David Jones,

As well as:
  • Central Science Laboratory, Harpenden Archives, British Crown
  • Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series
  • Colorado State University (Whitney Cranshaw)
  • Entomart
  • Kansas State University, GPDN (Bob Bauernfeind)
  • Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture (Coombs, Eric)
  • University of Georgia (Jones, David)
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Department of Entomology)
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (Payne, Jerry A)
Melanodes anthracitaria
... And just to brighten up this post, here's a brightly marked example the the Black Geometrid, Melanodes anthracitaria which came to the light trap last night.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Resplendent Leaf Beetle

Aside from moths, there are many other visitors drawn in by a light trap including flies, wasps, bees, and birds. In the course of a week there will always be something new and unusual that I have not seen before. This morning it was the magnificently coloured leaf beetle, Chrysophtharta nobilitata. It doesn't appear to have a common name so, given it's shining and dazzling appearance, I'll put my vote in for the Resplendent Leaf Beetle :-)

Chrysomelidae (Leaf beetles, or Tortoise beetles) is quite an extensive family with at least 153 named species in Tasmania. Many a very difficult to separate so I don't usually try to name them. I'll make an exception with this one as it is so brightly coloured and distinctively marked that it's hard to imagine it being confused with anything else.

For comparison I've also posted a photo of another leaf beetle which came to the trap last week. Note the much more subdued pattern and colouration.

Please forgive the poor quality photos. These beetles are only around 5mm (if that) in length and I'm usually photographing them while I'm still waking up.

(Click to view larger photos)
Chrysophtharta nobilitata

Chrysophtharta nobilitata

A Chrysomelid beetle (Leaf Beetle)

A Chrysomelid beetle (Leaf Beetle)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Mothing - 16th / 17th November

.....Nothing Much to See Here
.....Mothing - Much to See Here

Eight species came to the trap last night not including numerous little micros which were unphotographable, unidentifiable and not all that unforgettable.

(Click to view larger photos)
Noctuidae: Hecatesia fenestrata
These are known as the Whistling moth. This one is a female.

Noctuidae: Hecatesia fenestrata
Lateral view of the Whistling Moth

Geometridae: Hypobapta percomptaria
This individual is lighter than the ones I usually see around here.

Geometridae: Hypobapta percomptaria
The moth obligingly crawled onto my finger and then onto a piece of glass enabling me to get a clear ventral view.

Geometridae: Gastrina cristaria

Noctuidae: Persectania ewingii

Other moths that came to the light last night include Agrotis infusa (The Bogong), Pantydia diemeni, Acyphas semiochrea and Plutella xylostella.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Mothing - 13th / 14th November 2009

.....The early birds got the worms but I got the moths.

The sun rises at around 5:50 am so when I headed out to the backyard at 6:30am to check the nights catch I expected to be fighting off the fairy-wrens who are usually hanging around the trap for a free feed. I was surprised to see that for a change I had beaten them to it. They must have been having a sleep in.

It had been a clear night with a bit of a breeze but the temperature had only got down to 9° C. Although there were only a dozen or so moths in the box I was happy to find among them two new species for my backyard. One is the Tinead, Monopis icterogastra and the other a Geometrid which I have not yet identified. (Any suggestions welcome.)

(Click on photos to enlarge)

First up is the Geometrid, Niceteria macrocosma. These have beautiful golden underwings as can be seen by clicking here.

Here is a nice fresh specimen of Heliomystis electrica, also a Geometrid. The name "electrica" no doubt comes from the latin and greek words for amber. You might wonder why this moth would be given such a name until................ see the under wings in all their glory from below.
- and no I'm not conducting experiments to discover whether or not moths are ticklish :-)

This is one of the species new to my garden list. It is Monopis icterogastra and belongs to the Tineidae. Notice the woolly head which is quite a common feature within this family.

Last up is the Geometrid which I have not yet had time to identify. If you happen to know what it is then please let me know.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

'Lepidoptera of Tasmania' Returns

After and absence of around 6 months (or was it more) I have finally uploaded the site to a new host. While there is always going to be more work to do, I hope that even in it's current state, fellow mothing enthusiasts may find something of interest there.

As I have only just uploaded the files there are likely to be a few broken links for which I apologise in advance.

  • The new URL is
  • You may not be able to access the site until the DNS propagates. (If it doesn't work today it should work tomorrow)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mothing - 10th / 11th November

I put the trap out for the first time in ages last night. It wasn't until around 10 pm that I got it set up. At around 11 pm I went and checked it. Wow! I'd caught a blow fly :-) A breeze was picking up and the temperature had started to drop but as no rain was expected, I decided to leave it running overnight.

In the morning, aside from the rather conspicuous Helena Gum moth, it seemed the box was empty but a little searching in the nooks and crannies soon produced a few moths.

If anyone has any suggestions regarding the Paralaea sp or the micro, that would be greatly appreciated.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Saturniidae - Female Helena Gum Moth - Opodiphthera helena after release
This is only the second I've seen this spring, the first being at Somerset on 3rd November.

Pyralidae - Gauna aegusalis
showing it's strange resting posture

Geometridae - Paralaea sp

A micro which I have not yet put a name to.

Noctuidae - Praxis -porphyretica

Noctuidae - Agrotis porphyricollis
in one of it's many forms

Geometridae - Capusa senilis

Also seen but not photographed was the Geometrid, Hypobapta percomptaria and quite a few Diamondback Moths, Plutella xylostella.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Birds, Birds, Birds

A few photos from the last week or so.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)
Having a scratch

Tasmanian Native-Hen (Gallinula mortierii)
Nest building

Tasmanian Native-Hen (Gallinula mortierii)

Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
I don't often see Swift parrots here. They are more common in the east of the state. These were part of a flock 0f 20 or so feeding noisily in the Blue Gums at Wynyard.

Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
...another one. Not great shots but a nice record of a not so common bird.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Harmatopus fuliginosus)
At sunset

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)
A bad photo but a funny one :-)

Crested terns (Sterna bergii)
Near Wynyard at sunset

Sunday, 8 November 2009

More Humpback Whales

.....and slightly better photos.

Well I didn't have to wait long for another chance at photographing the whales as more were spotted here this afternoon. There were at least 3 whales, a mother and calf and another adult further out. We also spotted another 2 adults later on. (Possibly the same ones).

As the whales headed east, I moved along the coast hoping to get a better view but they had headed further out to sea. Although too far away for photographs, I had great views through the binoculars of the whales breaching and creating huge splashes.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Really Bad Whale Photos

.....but I like them because they are the first I've managed to get :-)

Yesterday I spotted another Humpback whale and its calf from the backyard. Of course this may be the same individuals that were here last week. Humpbacks migrate southward at this time of year. While many head straight down the east coast, some come into Bass Strait to feed and play.

These photos are probably deserving of some kind of award as the worst whale shots on the Net but for now they are all I have managed to get. These ones were much further out than last weeks whales ( at least 2 km I'd say) but wanting to try out my new teleconverter I decided to have a go. They were not breaching this time either so there was not a lot to focus on. In any case at least I know that next time they come in closer to shore I have a reasonable chance of getting some better photos.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

You can see the calf in this one on the right

Mum's flukes and the calf on the right

Note the small dorsal fin of a Humpback

Both whales are in this shot but I'm not sure which bit is what :-)