Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some Orchids of the Shoalhaven 31 July 2013

Alan Stephenson and I went out for the day, on Wednesday 31 July.We were looking for a few unusual Orchids which our records showed ought be in flower at this time of year.

As with many "Corybas" (Helmet Orchids), leaves of the Anzybas unguiculatus were found, but flowers were few and far between. Ultimately we found a few "finished" flowers, but only one which was properly open. They were in heavy leaf-litter under mixed Turpentine and Bloodwood forest.

Corybas unguiculatus (Anzybas unguiculatus)
We then drove across Deans Gap Fire Trail to a location Alan knows, under a powerline, where we found a good flowering of "Gnat Orchids". Many had tiny leaves, and they were showing only one or two flowers. But some had reasonably large leaves, with up to 3 flowers and a bud.
Cyrtostylis reniformis - "Gnat Orchid"

Boronia ledifolia ("Showy Boronia")

There were many Nodding Greenhoods in flower.
Pterostylis nutans
We found a small group of these lovely "Maroon-hoods".
Pterostylis pedunculata
We then returned towards Nowra and Alan spotted these
beautiful little "Blue Caladenias" (Cyanicula caerulea)
in flower at Flat Rock Creek.
Gorgeous little things and the first of "pretty Orchids" we found.
A sign of a coming Spring season?

Cyanicula caerulea

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Clouds at Sunset

After a long series of warm days, tonight we got a lovely sunset. It was followed by a mini-thunderstorm just after dark.
The evening sky to the south west,
colouring up as the sun prepared to set.

Sydney and Canberra are both reporting a record warm spell in July 2013. Hottest ever. Sydney had had (I believe) its hottest July ever.

A cumulo-nimbus cloud "head"
this is south from Robertson.
Therefore, at this likely distance, probably over Nowra.
We had some lightning and small amount of rain,
but I heard from Alan Stephenson later on,
that it is was "pissing down" at Nowra.
He rang to express doubts about a planned trip tomorrow.
The comments on the temperature "record" for July have been confirmed by some colleagues. Various "takes" on what it means, why politicians don't understand what it means, etc.
Most straightforward comment was: "160 year record for warmest July in White man's history".

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sassafras in full bloom

I snapped this late last night. And I did it much to the puzzlement of Roden Mauger who was returning his truck back to his farm, presumably after taking a load of cattle to agistment somewhere. I was out on the the road, taking photos when suddenly Roden's truck came roaring along. I flashed my phone's LED light in his direction (it is only a very weak beam of light), to make sure he know I was there, and that he knew I knew he was coming (of course I did).

But a photographer on a Robertson street, on a dark night is not what a truck driver expects to find.
Sassafras Tree in full flower.
The white flowers stand out brilliantly at night.
They are much less obvious in daylight.
The Sassafras trees flower heavily some year, but not others. From tracking back, last time we had a really good flowering season for Sassafras, was in July 2009, Prior to that flowering season, the previous "good year" for Sassafras was 2006. So, they seem to flower heavily every 3 or 4 years. Presumably seasonal rainfall is a factor.

After a heavy flowering season these trees produce masses of fluffy seeds, (or hard black seeds with hairs which allow the seeds to blow on the wind). After the July 2009 flowering, the seeds were dispersed heavily in May 2010. The seeds and their fluff formed thick carpets under trees and against fence lines - like a brown snow-drift. That suits the Sassafras, as they like to germinate in the shade of tall trees, and dense shrubbery. I know that, because I have been collecting self-sown Sassafras seedlings from under my Camellia bushes this last week. Presumably these young seedlings are now in their fourth year - at about 150mm high, they're not fast to establish. I saw some other seedlings about knee-height, in a friend's garden today, and presumably they were from the 2006 seeding.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Springtime activity of the "Birdies"

I have recently posted about signs of Spring, in the plants. But yesterday and today, even though cold in temperature, have seen excitement amongst the small birds in my yard.

Superb Fairy-wrens have been dancing at my windows. At first I saw a female at my bedroom window. I suspected she gathering cobwebs as nesting material. But during the day, I heard and saw a male in eclipse plumage approaching another window, where there were no obvious spider webs, and I concluded he was doing that most masculine of things - chasing away an imaginary rival (his own reflection).
Here he was looking at me, from the Dogwood tree just a few feet away. Whenever i looked away (or put down the camera) he would dart in and fly up against his own reflection.

Eclipse plumage of male
Superb Fairy-wren.

Brown Thornbill
These little birds are wonderful at hiding
behind a leaf or flower of the Sassafras tree.

Lewin's Honeyeater
This bird is a permanent resident
and it loves to get nectar from my plants
even Camellias, but especially the known nectar producers

The elusive Eastern Spinebill
This little bird moves very quickly.
and so is quite hard to photograph.
This was taken through my study window.

another view of the Eastern Spinebill
showing how long the beak is.
These little green and grey lumps on the ground
are Red-browed Finches
They come in family groups, feeding together.
If scared by something (anything)
they all fly off together.
These little birds are popular cage-birds
and they have many names,
Red-heads, Red Rumps, Firetails, etc.
I prefer to see them flying free, like these guys.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Springing into Robertson

Spring has arrived in my garden and along the local roadsides. 

Sassafras flowers are sweetly scenting the air.
Doryphora sassafras has just started to flower
in the rainforest patches around Robertson.

Every few years the local Sassafras trees
flower prolifically.
Seems that this is one of those years.

Camellia "Bryan" (a Williamsii hybrid)

One of the Sasanqua types
I seem to have misplaced my files on the Camellias I bought.
Hopefully one day I will find my records.

Another Camellia for which I have no name (any more)
It is a very strong growing shrub
with lovely flowers.

Here is a close-up of the flower.

I love the irregular shape of the flowers
of this Camellia

Here is another flower of the same Camellia

"Blue Bush"
Acacia covenyi

"Blue Bush" is just starting to flower.
Acacia covenyi.I will need to get this plant
seriously reduced in height after flowering.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Please watch out for local Wombats, in Robbo.

We all know that there are Wombats about on the roadside edges, in and around Robertson.
Some of them appear to be stubborn and stupid and their behaviour can be un-predictable.
But in some cases there is evidence that locals go out of their way to deliberately run over Wombats.

This was a healthy young male Wombat

His eyes were not affected by mange
He has bled from the nose, indicating a head injury.

His hind feet are very good condition

And the front paws and toes are in excellent shape.
These are their main digging tools.
This one died opposite the Robertson Nature Reserve, close to the new Sewerage Scheme pumping station, at the eastern end of South Street. This is a 50 KpH speed zone, and very close to a nearly blind right angle corner which warrants slow speed anyway.

He was about 20 metres off the road, and from blood stains, he had been even closer to the fence, before he eventually died. But there are heavy vehicle tyre tracks beside the road (off the road). To me, it looks like someone deliberately ran him over, and then he staggered towards the fence, couldn't get through the fence, and circled back a few metres before he died. Not a quick death. And frankly, if my theory is right, this has all the hallmarks of a bastard act.

I do know that sometimes they charge across roads, and get hit - in circumstances beyond the control of drivers. But such events do not involved heavy skid marks on grass, off the side of the road. That's why I figure this is a deliberate killing, not an accident.

I am aware that many "locals" regard Wombats as vermin. That is unfortunate. If they continue to be killed on roads at the rate at which we all see dead ones, in winter and spring, then one day we will realise it it too late, and we will bemoan the loss of a once-common animal (just as has happened with their arboreal cousins, the Koalas).

Wildlife carers swear that Wombats are actually very smart and engaging creatures.
Many talk about their ability to sniff out a packet of chocolate biscuits from the back of a cupboard.
(No comments on the suitability of that as a diet, please).
But in terms of them being frisky little critters; check out this video.

Wombats are protected animals, and ought not be killed like this.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Moth weekend in Canberra

On the weekend before last, I went to the Australian National Insect Collection, (part of CSIRO) at Black Mountain, in Canberra.
They had invited a group of professionals and some amateurs like me, to a weekend where we could meet other Moth-ers, and exchange notes, get to know eachother, and also, of course, have access to the "Collection".
Marianne Horak and Ted Edwards and Youning Su were there from ANIC, as well as Dave Rentz, a former CSIRO entomologist, and many other experts.

In addition to posing for a group photo, we also went to lunch at the Botanic Gardens (ANBG) Cafeteria, and I took a few "happy snaps".
John Landy, (former Governor of Victoria)
(facing camera, on left)
a keen amateur entomologist,
with Don Sands (close to camera, centre)
with the Kuranda "gang" of Entomologists,
Dave Rentz, Buck Richardson and Max Moulds

cabinets holding the ANIC Lepidopteran collection

some of the Library reference books

These Swift Moths are common at my place, in winter,
especially on wet nights.
Oxycanus dirempta specimens
showing variability between individuals

Specimens of a Butterfly from Asia
which has recently been recorded in Darwin
"Tawny Coster"

Specimens of a Butterfly from Asia
which has recently been recorded in Darwin
"Tawny Coster"

Post Script: Dave Rentz also has written about the Mothing weekend, with lots of nice photos as well.

Post Script 2: Len Willan sent me a Paper by Ted Edwards re two newly described species of Hepialids from the Kosciuszko National Park:  "Two new species of Oxycanus Walker (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) from Kosciuszko National Park, one with a sub-brachypterous female" Edward D Edwards and Ken Green. Australian Journal of Entomology (2011) 50, 78–85:

I was particularly interested in the comments about weather and Oxycanus, as I have observed a very obvious weather-related pattern in their appearances at my place - they fly on rainy nights, especially, in May and June.
  • Introductory notes on both new species:  "In this and other species of Oxycanus adult emergence is closely timed to weather fronts (Helson 1970; Common 1990) and this simplified the search for males."
  • (Oxycanus oreades) Biology. Like other Australian species of Oxycanus the larvae and pupae live in tunnels underground and the adults emerge mostly on a single night, at a closely similar date each year and timed to coincide with the passage of a westerly or south-westerly weather front producing rain and a rapid drop in temperature.
  • (Oxycanus oressigenes) Biology. The species has a similar general biology to O. oreades except that the female is fully winged. Adult females were found on 15 March 2009 and 6 March 2010 in daylight following or during rain resting on a dense sward of Poa costiniana accompanied by loose pupal shells, but almost all the males were taken at light in rain. O. oressigenes flies with the first rains after about the beginning of March, and into April if no suitable rain occurs during March.
So, my notes about the Swift Moths at my house appearing during rainy nights clearly fits a well-established pattern (of which I was blissfully unaware until today). Thanks again to Len Willan.

That all confirms the wonderful co-operation demonstrated amongst the "Moth-ers" of Australia, and the value of such gatherings as the ANIC Mothing weekend.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Rain has officially finished - for now. + evening edit

I recorded just 0.5mm of "rain" yesterday. Probably in fact the result of a heavy dew. But moisture is moisture.
But I am pleased to show the first full 60 KM view I have been able to see for the last 10 days.

A full range view into the Shoalhaven Valley
Some sign of mist on the
ridge on the way up to Sassafras.
That is approximately 60 KMs away.
 Sunny days are great for plants and animals (including me and my fellows, and Lulu).  She can rejoice in sitting outside at Cafe Pirouette this morning.


Here is a distant photo of "Mountain Ducks" (Chestnut-breasted Shelducks or "Australian Shelducks". I found them on this same paddock on 1 July last year. Synchronicity? I got much better photos last year - but today they got spooked by traffic and flew to the far side of the paddock. But the bird is still recognisable (if you click on the image to enlarge it). There were two birds, a pair, but the female is hiding behind a clump of long grass. The male has its bold white neck ring clearly visible.
Australian Shelduck in paddock
on the way to Moss Vale
And now an evening view of the same distant panorama, looking over the Upper Shoalhaven valley, towards Sassafras.
A zoomed image, in last afternoon light.
The hills are blue, and it is good to see them
at 60 Km distance - that's not bad.

The far ridge goes up to Sassafras.
That is on Main Road 92
from Nowra to Nerriga and on to Braidwood.