Thursday, 17 December 2009

Cicadas of Tasmania

Two other bloggers have recently posted on cicadas (here and here) so I thought I'd keep the theme going by posting some photos of a couple of local ones. For the benefit of those doing Google searches for Tasmanian cicadas I have also included a list below of all the species which can be found in this state.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
White Flash Cicada ( Cicadetta torrida )

Yellow-spot Cicada ( Diemeniana euronotiana )

Yellow-spot Cicada ( Diemeniana euronotiana )

In the three and a half years I've been back in Tassie these are the only two species I've seen although I must admit I haven't been actively searching for them. The White Flash Cicada came to the Mercury Vapour light at night and the Yellow-spot Cicada I just stumbled upon.

Two species is not much but it sounds better when you consider there are only eight species found in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Cicada Checklist

Cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera and the family Cicadidae.

Subfamily: Cicadinae

  • Psaltoda moerens

Subfamily: Tibicininae

  • Cicadetta abdominalis
  • Cicadetta spreta
  • Cicadetta torrida
  • Diemeniana euronotiana
  • Diemeniana hirsuta
  • Diemeniana tillyardi
  • Pauropsalta encaustica


Monday, 14 December 2009

Sibling Cannibalism

.....Common Spotted Ladybird (Harmonia conformis )

The macabre practice of cannibalism is rife in Tasmania. It's been occurring since long before the days of convict Alexander Pearce and right up to the present day. It takes place not only in the remote wilderness areas but even in some of the more affluent suburbs of our cities and towns. Read on if you dare.

A few weeks ago I posted a photo of some ladybird eggs on my nectarine tree. Well the tree is now covered in all stages of the ladybird life cycle.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Newly hatched ladybirds - Harmonia conformis

After hatching, many insects feed on their own egg shells for their first meal. In the photo above you can see newly hatched larvae feeding on the eggs. I knew something was wrong with this photo but it took a few moments for it to dawn on me that the eggs in the photo have not hatched.

Note the empty (white) egg shells on the left

A few centimetres away you can see the empty eggs shells where the larvae have come from. They have then moved along to feed on their unhatched siblings.

Sibling cannibalism among ladybirds is not unusual. In fact it can be quite common, particularly if there is a shortage of food. It's a mechanism which appears to allow at least some of the ladybirds to get a good start in life as opposed to them all going hungry and dying off.

Larval Moult

This one is doing well. It has shed it's skin and entered another stage in it's development. You have to wonder how many siblings and cousins have helped it to get to this stage.

A larger (probably final instar) larva.

A pupa which looks ready to emerge

A newly emerged adult.

Adult Harmonia conformis


* Osawa, N. 1992.
Sibling cannibalism in the ladybird beetle Harmonia axyridis - Fitness consequences for mother and offspring.
Researches on Population Ecology 34, 45-55.

* Nakamura, K.; Miura, K.; Jong, P.W. de; Ueno, H. (2006)
Comparison of the incidence of sibling cannibalism between male-killing Spiroplasma infected and uninfected clutches of a predatory ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)
European Journal of Entomology 103 . - p. 323 - 326.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mothing - Late November 2009

I have so many moth photos taken from mid to late November that it would not be practical to post them all. I've included a small selection below. I've also included some unidentified moths which you may be able to help with.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Helena Gum Moth (Male) - Opodiphthera helena - Saturniidae

Acyphas semiochrea - Lymantriidae

Ptochostola microphaeellus - Crambidae

Arhodia lasiocamparia - Geometridae

This photo shows the difference in size and shape of the female (left) and male (right)

Hypodoxa muscosaria- Geometridae
Chloroclystis testulata - Geometridae

Phaeophlebosia furcifera - Arctiidae
This photo was overexposed but I tried to save it as it is the first time I have recorded this moth.

Unidentified Moths:

Below are a selection of moths I have not yet managed to identify. If you recognise any of them please let me know.





Some additional information for the unidentified moths:# 1. (Since identified as Epyaxa rosearia)
# 2. (Since identified as Nisista sp )
# 3.(since identified as (Cerura) melanoglypta  )
# 4. Prob. Philobota sp
# 5.
# 6. (Since identifies as Prometopus inassueta)
# 7. (Since identifies as Prometopus inassueta)
# 8. (Since identified as Agrotis-porphyricollis )
# 9. Pyralidae
#10. Since identified as Spectrotrota fimbrialis )
#11. Proteuxoa sp
#12. (since identifies as Heteroteucha dichroella)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A Visit to the Tamar Island Wetlands Reserve

I recently visited the Tamar Island Wetlands Reserve just north of Launceston. The Tamar Estuary at 70km in length is said to be the largest in Australia and it drains Tasmania's largest catchment area which covers 18% of the state. The reserve itself protects around 60 hectares of mud flats, reeds beds, coastal paperbark forest and small islands.

Some of our small party were a little less enthusiastic about entering because as soon as we got out of the car they spied a snake slithering off the path and into the reeds. Unfortunately I missed seeing it. It was likely to be a Lowland copperhead, Austrelaps superbusas, as that is the only snake that has been recorded in the reserve.

Between the entrance and the interpretation centre you pass through an area of freshwater lagoon. Apparently this is a good place for spotting the rare Green and Gold Frog, Litoria raniformis. On sunnier days they sit basking on the bank but we "dipped out" as it seems the frogs had "dipped in". The photo below is of a captive specimen.

Green and Gold Frog - Litoria raniformis

The interpretation centre has a lot of information on the wetlands ecology and also has a spotting scope set up for watching the birds.

Interpretation Centre

About half a kilometre down the boardwalk there is a side track that takes you through some coastal paperbark forest and then to a small bird hide.

Along the main boardwalk you pass though large areas of reed beds (Phragmites australis) where I spotted a Little Grassbird, Megalurus gramineus.

Reed Beds

There are three species of skink in the reserve. Along the boardwalks we spotted two metallic skinks, Niveoscincus metallicus, and also the rare Glossy Grass Skink, Pseudemoia rawlinsoni. This species is found in other parts of south-eastern Australia too but it is rare here in Tasmania only being known from a few sites mostly in the Launceston area.

Glossy Grass Skink - Pseudemoia rawlinsoni

You also cross over a series of bridges spanning drainage channels. At low tide these areas reveal extensive mud flats.


Drainage Channel

Some of the 53 Black Swans, Cygnus atratus, we saw at the reserve

Great Egret - Ardea modesta

Black-fronted Dotterel - Elseyornis melanops

Juvenile Welcome Swallow - Hirundo neoxena at the side of the boardwalk
(Only about 60cm from lens)

At the end of the walk you cross over to Tamar Island (1.5kms from the entrance). The island has a long history of European occupation and is dominated by exotic trees and shrubs. The birds I saw here were, not surprisingly, mostly introduced species such as Greenfinch and Goldfinch but there were also some natives like Silvereyes, Zosterops lateralis and Superb Fairtywrens, Malurus cyaneus.

This was a fairly rushed trip and much of the time was spent covering the area as opposed to sitting and watching for birds. We only saw 22 of of the 63 birds that have been recorded there. My intention was mostly to spy out the land to see if it was worth visiting. The answer was an emphatic yes.

List of birds seen:

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides)
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
Australasian Shoveler (Anas rhynchotis)
Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea)
Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta)
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)
Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans)
Eastern Australian Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus)
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops)
Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)
Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)
Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)
Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus tasmanicus)
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)
Little Grassbird (Megalurus gramineus)
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Grindelwald Coots Fight it Out

..... Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)

Grindelwald is an imitation Swiss village in the Tamar Valley. It's really not my scene. If I wanted to see a Swiss village I'd rather see one in Switzerland or else just look at a photo of the real thing. However, as the family very patiently waited while I was looking at the Queechy Lake Birds the day before it was now my turn to patiently wait on them. I found a bench, and sat down to read some leaflets I had on the Tamar Wetlands. It staved off the boredom for a good five minutes. Then I discovered that they had a dam out the back with a few birds on it.

There were Pacific Black Ducks, Coots, a couple of Purple Swamphens and a Great Cormorant. Many of the birds were quite tame as they had been regularly fed by well meaning tourists. Indeed there were people feeding them while I was there. The good side to this was it allowed me to get a close up photograph of a coot's foot. Unlike a duck with it's webbed feet, a Coot has wide lobes of skin along the toes.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Detail of a Eurasian Coot's Foot (Fulica atra)

Aside from swimming these feet also make good weapons when defending territory. One pair of coots were up on the lawn among the ducks but every time a second pair of coots tried to approach they were chased off. The invaders kept trying to approach until the territory owners chased them all the way into the dam where feathers began to fly. All four coots began to fight but two seemed to be more aggressive. I'm guessing these may have been males but I really don't know. They would circle each other with wings raised up over there heads. Then they would spread their wings and lean back on them into the water while kicking at their opponent. If one managed to latch on to the other it would try to hold it's opponent down under the water as if trying to drown it. I have heard of cases of birds actually drowning other birds so this may in fact be what they were trying to do. The fighting went on for a good five minutes before the invaders turned back and kept their distance.

Here are some photos of the action:

(Click on photos to enlarge)










So if you're ever passing by Grindelwald it may be worth popping in. They really do have something for everyone.

Grindelwald Village