Monday, 3 May 2010

Life on a Brain Fungus

Mites and Springtails on Tremella fuciformis

Yesterday I took a photo of a jelly fungus on a rotting log up in the backyard. Then I noticed that what I thought were specks of dirt were in fact little mites, apparently feeding on the fungus. I tried for some close up shots but the detail is lacking. However you can see they have a shield like process at what, for simplicity, we'll call the shoulder. From what little I can find on the subject, these seem to belong to the family Galumnidae.

It wasn't until I looked at the first photos that I noticed other tiny creatures crawling around. These turned out to be tiny Poduromorph springtails. Having placed some in a container I witnessed one jump at least 5 cm. Quite a feat for an animal a mere 1.8 mm in length.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
White Brain Fungus - Tremella fuciformis
(You can see the mites and springtails more clearly on the larger image)

A Springtail - Order: Poduromorpha - less than 2mm long

Galumnid Mite just over 1 mm long

You can just make out the shield like process at the right shoulder.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Heliotrope Moth (at last)

.....Utetheisa pulchelloides

Yesterday I spotted what looked like a small white butterfly. When I tracked it down to where it had landed I was thrilled to see it was my first Helliotrope moth. For some reason it seemed like every one else was seeing these moths except me. I've waited for four years to see this little beauty of a moth. The common name comes from the fact that they are known to feed on (among other things) the weed Heliotrope - Heliotropium europaeum.

In the evening I put the moth trap out for a few hours and it brought in another two of the moths and a fourth was found in a nearby wattle. So, I guess on average I've now seen one a year since moving back to Australia :-)

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Heliotrope Moth - Utetheisa pulchelloides

Heliotrope Moth - Utetheisa pulchelloides

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A Wet but Pleasant Day at Narawntapu

Earlier this month we went with friends to Narawntapu National Park having virtually guaranteed they would get a good view of a wombat. Upon arrival it was dull, overcast and the place seemed to be devoid of life bar a couple of ravens flying overhead.

We took a walk to the lagoon bird hide and along the way we did spot a few Pademelons. We also found some nice fungi. The shot below is a little over exposed as I had not yet figured out how to reduce the flash intensity on the new camera and did not have the manual with me.

Fungus along the track to the hide
(ID Suggestions welcome)

Half way to the hide, the heavens opened up and we got a good drenching. From the hide itself there was not a lot to be seen. Even the ducks were taking shelter. However, we did get good views of some Hoary-headed grebes which were feeding just in front of us. According to the Birddata site they are fairly common around here but I rarely see them. A lull in the rain allowed for a couple of photographhs. Indeed, these are the first photos I've managed to get of them.

Hoary-headed Grebe - Poliocephalus poliocephalus
Breeding plumage

Hoary-headed Grebe - Poliocephalus poliocephalus
Non breeding plumage

On the far side of the lagoon there was a mob of Forester Kangaroos but too distant to get a photo. We returned to the main picnic area and enjoyed a good BBQ lunch and some shelter from the continuing showers. Finally I spotted a couple of wombats through the binoculars. We started walking up the Springlawn track in the hope of a better view but after only 100 metres or so we were called back. A wombat had made an appearance. It was a little wet like the rest of us but at least it allowed me to shoot a few photographs.

A rather wet Wombat - Vombatus ursinus

Wombat close up - Vombatus ursinus

A Bennet's Walaby also made a brief appearance before returning to the shelter of the scrub.

Bennet's Wallaby - Macropus rufogriseus
The little streaks in the photo are rain drops.

So despite the rain it wasn't a bad day out. We only seen 12 species of bird. The best sighting was the Dusky Woodswallows. There were only about 5 within the park but along the roadside outside the park there were 100's of them busily feeding. No doubt they were preparing to migrate to a sunnier climate.

Birds seen during visit:
  1. Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
  2. Australasian Shoveler [sp] (Anas rhynchotis)
  3. Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea)
  4. Hoary-headed Grebe (Poliocephalus poliocephalus)
  5. White-faced Heron [sp] (Egretta novaehollandiae)
  6. Little Pied Cormorant [sp] (Microcarbo melanoleucos)
  7. Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii)
  8. Masked Lapwing [sp] (Vanellus miles)
  9. Brown Thornbill [sp] (Acanthiza pusilla)
  10. Grey Butcherbird [sp] (Cracticus torquatus)
  11. Dusky Woodswallow [sp] (Artamus cyanopterus)
  12. Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus tasmanicus)

Monday, 26 April 2010

Life in the Leaf Litter

Forget about life in the undergrowth. Go down even further to the leaf litter and you'll find a whole world of living things all busy either recycling all that organic matter or else preying upon one another. I recently sifted through just a few handfuls of leaf litter. The photos below show a small sample of what it contained.

First up is a small larva which I assume belongs to the Diptera ( a fly maggot if you wish).

(Click images to enlarge)
Fly larva - just a few mm long.

Anyone who has picked up seaweed on the strand line has probably seen hoards of little jumping creatures know as Sandhoppers. Their cousins who inhabit forest leaf litter are sometimes called Landhoppers. The one in the photographs belong to the family Talitridae which are a type of amphipod crustacean.

Edit: I had erroneously named this landhopper Talitrus sp. until seeing Bob Mesibov's comments below. The paper referred to says all 15 Tasmanian landhoppers belong to the family Talitridae. Those which were once placed in Orchestia and Telitrus have long since been moved into new genera. Only one of Tasmanias landhoppers is also found on the mainland.

A Landhopper - family Talitridae
(possibly Keratroides vulgaris)

The most obvious creatures among the litter were the millipedes. Some of those below are only around 10 mm is length. I had a go at trying to ID some of them but for now have put them on my "To Do" list..

Millipede A

Millipede B

Millipede C

Millipede D

Millipede E

A small beetle of about 3 - 4 mm in length.

An intoduced slug - Deroceras sp, probably D. panormitanum
(See Kevin Bonham's comments below)

Aside from the above, there were numerous tiny spiders which I did not manage to photograph very well, the native snail which I posted recently, and countless other organisms too small for me to photograph.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Native Snail

.....comes out of it's shell.

On 10th April I posted photos of a native snail feeding on fungi. I returned to the same location yesterday and while searching through some leaf litter, I came across another one. To my untrained eye looks to be the same species, Stenacapha ducani. This one was much less shy, coming out of it's shell and allowing me to get some better photos.

Edit: I told I had an untrained eye. This one turns out to be Stenacapha hamiltoni. See comments below for an explanation of differences in shell morphology.

(Click photos to enlarge)
#1- Stenacapha hamiltoni

#2- Stenacapha hamiltoni

#3- Stenacapha hamiltoni

#4- Stenacapha hamiltoni

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

~ What Katy Did ~

Well actually I don't know what Katy did but I can tell you which Katydid. It's the Common Garden Katydid. Two of these came to the back door last night asking to have their portraits taken.

Katydids belong to the order Orthoptera along with crickets and grasshoppers.

(Click to enlarge)
Meet Katy - The Common Garden Katydid - Caedicia simplex

The Common Garden Katydid - Caedicia simplex

The Common Garden Katydid - Caedicia simplex

Monday, 19 April 2010

White-bellied Sea-eagle Pays a Visit

.....Haliaeetus leucogaster

The White-bellied Sea Eagles often fly over my place but very rarely land. I was quite chuffed the other day when one circled around the hill and then came down and perched in a tree on the hill behind the house. I had to be content with not walking up the hill for an even closer look. Thus, the photos are quite heavily cropped and are not too good in quality but I'm very happy to have seen this magnificent bird at fairly close range.

(Click to enlarge)
White-bellied Sea-eagle - Haliaeetus leucogaster

White-bellied Sea-eagle - Haliaeetus leucogaster

...and of it flies.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Fern Glade Fungi

In the last week or two I've photographed various fungi along the walking track at Fern Glade on the Emu River. Some I have put a name to but any suggestions or corrections are always welcome. My knowledge of fungi is a little lacking but I am always fascinated with the vast variety of colour and form.

(Click to enlarge)

#1 - Possibly the Weeping Polypore - Ryvardenia campyla or could it be Postia punctata ?

#2 - One of the Coral fungi - Ramaria flaccida

#3 - Unknown
The cap on this would only be around 7mm across. It was growing among leaf litter and debris below tree ferns.

#4 - Unknown

#5 - Cortinarius archeri

#6 - Russula sp.

The next four photos show various stages of the Beefsteak Fungus. These were growing on an old Eucalyptus stump.

#7 - Beefsteak Fungus - Fistulina hepatica
Early stage of the Beefsteak Fungus

#8 - Beefsteak Fungus - Fistulina hepatica
This is part of the same clump above 6 days later

#9 - Beefsteak Fungus - Fistulina hepatica
A more advanced specimen lower down on the same tree stump.

#10 - Beefsteak Fungus - Fistulina hepatica
This is the the same one as #9 photographed from above

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Birds of My Backyard.

I often like to just sit in the backyard and watch the birds. My block merges into bushland at the back and I can also see the sea so there are a reasonable variety of birds to be seen. (see pictures of backyard here) Having said that, my "From the backyard" list is not very large at only 47 species and that's including several sea birds which I can watch with the binoculars or small scope.

The sea birds on my list include Black-browed Albatross and Shy Albatross and just yesterday I watched dozens of Australasian gannets. They were slowly heading west along the coast while actively fishing. Only once I spotted two Pelicans flying fairly low over the backyard.

There are also many birds of prey. They regulars include White (Grey) Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk and White-bellied Sea-eagle and it's not too unusual to spot one or more Wedge-tailed Eagles circling overhead.

Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos regularly fly over and often land in the trees on the hill behind us but always in a position that makes it impossible to photograph them. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have been seen but are a rarity here as are Galahs. Another regular is the Green Rosella. Usually we only see a pair but at this time of year their is often a small flock of 5 or 6. A much rarer visitor is the Swift Parrot.

Six honeyeaters are found here. My favourites are the Yellow-throated honeyeater and the Black-headed honeyeater. The most common is the New-holland Honeyeater. At the moment these are turning up in noisy and excited flocks of 15 to 20 birds. This is something I've not noticed before.

Five of Tasmania's 12 endemic birds have been seen in the backyard. These are Dusky Robin, Tasmanian Native Hen, Green Rosella, Yellow-throated honeyeater, and Black-headed honeyeater.

Tawny Frogmouths are known to inhabit the bush behind us but I haven't seen one. In fact it has been 36 years since I have seen a frogmouth anywhere. Of course 8 of those years were spent in Scotland so I wasn't exactly maximising my chances. We have had an occasional visit from a Boobook Owl.

We get our fair share of ferals too. Of these the Goldfinch and Greenfinch I could almost learn to like. Well almost :-) Beautiful birds but in the wrong place. The funny thing is I see far more Goldfinches here than I ever saw in Scotland where they are natives. The Blackbird has a beautiful call too but in the breeding season they are very aggressive in chasing off some of our natives including the Green Rosellas.

Of course seeing birds and getting a photograph are two different things. Below are some of this weeks attempts at photographing the birds in my backyard.

Some Backyard Bird Photos from the Last Week or So
(Click to enlarge)
Grey fantail - Rhipidura fuliginosa
Most of our Grey Fantails will soon be migrating north .

Grey fantail - Rhipidura fuliginosa

Green rosella - Platycercus caledonicus
A Tasmanian endemic

Yellow-tailed black cockatoo - Calyptorhynchus funereus
Flying over

White-bellied sea eagle - Haliaeetus leucogaster
An immature eagle carrying a small fish.

Male Superb Fairy-wren - Malurus cyaneus
We currently have a flock of seven that spend most of their time in our backyard. Two are in male breeding plumage, one male in non-breeding plumage, and four females.

Female Superb Fairy-wren - Malurus cyaneus

Silvereye - Zosterops lateralis
Currently these are coming through in flocks of up to twenty. They all seem to be heading west perhaps in preparation for their migration across Bass Strait.

Male Scarlet robin - Petroica multicolor
These robins are regulars in autumn and winter but I only occasionally see them here in the warmer months

Female Scarlet robin - Petroica multicolor

Golden whistler - Pachycephala pectoralis
I've never seen a male here

Eastern spinebill - Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
Feeding on Canna lilies. I've been trying to get rid of these lilies but they keep coming back. At least they are providing a little nectar.

Eastern spinebill - Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

My "From the Backyard List"

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)
Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta)
Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator)
White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
Grey Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae)
Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus)
Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus)
Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)
Brown Falcon (Falco berigora)
Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii)
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)
Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)
Swift Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans)
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus)
Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)
Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus)
Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
Shining Bronze Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus)
Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook)
White-throated Needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus)
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)
Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)
Yellow-throated Honeyeater (Lichenostomus flavicollis)
Black-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus affinis)
Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera)
Crescent Honeyeater (Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus)
New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)
Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris)
Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)
Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)
Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis)
Grey Shrikethrush (Colluricincla harmonica)
Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)
Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus)
Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang)
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)