Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


(More of) The Flora and Fauna of Lake Albert
November 26, 2009, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Flora, Fungi | Tags: , , , , , ,


The lake is not looking especially healthy at the moment – and this picture was taken before the worst of the recent weather. Birdlife is scarce (though I have recently added the Sacred Kingfisher to the list), so I’ve decided to continue with my series on the flora of the lake. This is the second post in the series. The first can be found here.

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis) Seedhead


Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)


Common Blown-Grass is easily the most conspicuous of the grasses around the lake. It’s one of a number of “native tumbleweeds,” seedheads of which are often found in large drifts by roadsides. Hairy Panic (Panicum effusum) is another well-known and widely distributed species.

Onion Grass (*Romulea rosea)

Onion Grass (*Romulea rosea)


Small-Flowered Onion Grass (*Romulea minutiflora)

Small-Flowered Onion Grass (*Romulea minutiflora)


These two are common, widespread and potentially destructive introduced species. They are a favourite foodsource of the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus), however.

Barley Grass (Hordeum sp.)

Barley Grass (*Hordeum sp.)


Ripgut Brome (*Bromus catharticus)

Ripgut Brome (*Bromus catharticus)


Soft Brome (*Bromus molliformis)

Soft Brome (*Bromus molliformis)


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seedhead

Dandelion (*Taraxacum officinale) Seedhead


Ryegrass (*Lolium sp.)

Ryegrass (*Lolium sp.)


Narrow-Leaf Plantain (*Plantago lanceolata)

Narrow-Leaf Plantain (*Plantago lanceolata)


Flatweed (*Hypochoeris radicata)

Flatweed (*Hypochoeris radicata)


Mouse-Ear Chickweed (*Cerastium glomeratum)

Mouse-Ear Chickweed (*Cerastium glomeratum)


Tall Flatsedge (*Cyperus eragrostis)

Tall Flatsedge (*Cyperus eragrostis)


These are all very common, very widespread weeds. The following are also weeds, and also reasonably common, but are at least better-looking!

Common Centaury (*Centaurium erythraea)

Common Centaury (*Centaurium erythraea)


Celery-Leaved Buttercup (*Ranunculus sceleratus), aka Cursed Buttercup, Poison Buttercup

Celery-Leaved Buttercup (*Ranunculus sceleratus), aka Cursed Buttercup, Poison Buttercup


Redflower or Carolina Mallow (*Modiola caroliniana)

Redflower or Carolina Mallow (*Modiola caroliniana)


Redflower Mallow can be recognised by its distinctive fruits. This is a young fruit and this an old one.

Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia sp.)

Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia sp.)


This is probably the most successful native grass in the area, frequently appearing in lawns and parks. Austrodanthonia species are not easy to separate – so I haven’t bothered trying.

And finally, some fungi:

Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.)

Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.)


The following fungus (Bolbitius vitellinus, I believe) formed an enormous colony, extending a kilometre or more, alongside the walking track next to the lake.

Young Fruiting Body

Young Fruiting Body


Typical Fruiting Body

Typical Fruiting Body


Older Fruiting Body

Older Fruiting Body


This last fungus is among the most common in the area. I have seen it near the lake, on Willans Hill and in many local parks and gardens.

Laccaria lateritia

Laccaria lateritia

That’s all for now. There will probably be more later.

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A Brief Update
November 18, 2009, 6:35 pm
Filed under: General, Lists | Tags: ,

I have added the Rainbow Bee-Eater (Merops ornatus) to the lists of species for Malebo Hill and the Wagga area. The Rainbow Bee-Eater is probably a regular September-April visitor to the area.

148 species have now been recorded in and around Wagga since March of this year, 141 of them native.

I hope soon to post bird lists for Livingstone National Park, Berry Jerry State Forest and Currawarna State Forest. I also intend to continue my series on the flora and fauna of Livingstone, Lake Albert and Willans Hill.



Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)
November 16, 2009, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Observations | Tags: , ,

I typically think of the Red Wattlebird as being largely an autumn-winter resident, like the Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina). In Canberra, certainly, they are far more common in the colder months, though a few individuals may be present year-round. It’s possible that this is simply because of the lack of adequate nesting sites in urban areas; a shortage of space means that the birds are required to spread out into neighbouring woodland in order to breed. This year, however, the wattlebirds did not leave when the currawongs did. Many have elected to remain in town to establish breeding territories, which they defend aggressively.

The young bird above was photographed in O’Halloran Park, near Lake Albert. Two rival breeding pairs appear to have claimed the park as their territory, and this poor individual had to hop slowly across open space (it was too young to fly over distance) and into the safety of a tree occupied by its parents, all the while being swooped by rival wattlebirds. They grow up quickly, however: within a few weeks this young bird had reached full adult size.



(Still More of) the Flora and Fauna of Willans Hill
November 11, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Flora, Fungi, General | Tags: , , , , ,

This is the third in my series of posts on the more interesting flora and fauna of the hill. The first post can be found here and the second here. A list of birds recorded on the hill is available here.

Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum), aka Yellow Buttons

Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum), aka Yellow Buttons


Australian Bindweed (Convolvulus erubescens)

Australian Bindweed (Convolvulus erubescens)


Milkmaids (Burchardia umbellata)

Milkmaids (Burchardia umbellata)


Mat-rush (Lomandra sp.)

Mat-rush (Lomandra sp.)


Chocolate Lily (Dichopogon strictus)

Chocolate Lily (Dichopogon strictus)


The specimens found on Willans Hill are typically a much richer purple than those found at Matong State Forest (see here). Dense clusters of Chocolate Lilies produce such a strong smell of chocolate that they can be detected on the basis of scent alone.

Fuzzweed (Vittadinia cuneata)

Fuzzweed (Vittadinia cuneata)


This is one of several Vittadinia species found in the area.

This next selection of images depicts some of the many fungi found on the hill. Australian fungi are not well known and therefore not easy to identify, and the names given here (in those cases where a name is given at all) are ‘best guesses’ only. If you think my guesses are wrong, let me know!

Gymnopilus junonius

Gymnopilus junonius


Puffball (Lycoperdon sp.)

Puffball (Lycoperdon sp.)


Puffball (Lycoperdon sp.)

Puffball (Lycoperdon sp.)


Bracket Fungus (possibly Piptoporus sp.)

Bracket Fungus (possibly Piptoporus sp.)


Unknown Fungus

Unknown Fungus


Earthball (Scleroderma sp.)

Earthball (Scleroderma sp.)


Puffball (Pisolithus sp.)

Puffball (Pisolithus sp.)


Psathyrella sp.

Psathyrella sp.

And now for a change of pace:

Scorpionfly (Harpobittacus sp.)

Scorpionfly (Harpobittacus sp.)


This extraordinary creature perches in place and uses its lower limbs, which end in sharp hooks, to snatch passing insects from the air. I have seen one feeding on a Common Grass-Blue (Zizina labradus) butterfly.

Orange Caterpillar Parasite Wasp (Netelia producta)

Orange Caterpillar Parasite Wasp (Netelia producta)

That’s all for now. There will be at least one more entry in this series, but the area is rapidly drying out and few wildflowers remain in bloom.



(Some of) the Flora and Fauna of Lake Albert
November 5, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Flora, Fungi | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve added a list of species recorded in the Wagga area since March of this year. It is available (as are all other lists) from the “Links” section on the left-hand column.

The vegetation surrounding Lake Albert is in places quite dense, and probably consists of several hundred species of plant. There is no chance of my ever documenting it thoroughly, but I hope through a series of posts to give a general idea of the sorts of plants likely to be encountered. At the same time I intend to point out a few of the interesting animals that may be spotted there from time to time.

Even a cursory examination of the lake’s flora reveals the presence of many introduced species, some of them highly invasive. They are a mixture of escaped ornamentals (Patterson’s Curse, Echium plantagineum, being the most well-known) and pasture grasses. I have made a special effort to locate and photograph the native species, but these posts will inevitably be dominated by exotics (indicated by an asterisk).

Bluebell (Wahlenbergia sp.)

Bluebell (Wahlenbergia sp.)

 

Jersey Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum)

Jersey Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum)

 

This is one of many species of plant with the word ‘weed’ in its name, despite actually being native.

Knotweed (Persicaria sp., formerly Polygonum sp.)

Knotweed (Persicaria sp., formerly Polygonum sp.)

 

This is another one.

Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata)

Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata)

 

This is a common and widespread native grass (according to PlantNet it is found in every botanical subdivision of NSW). The image shows it flowering, which it does opportunistically in response to rainfall.

Patterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)

Patterson's Curse (*Echium plantagineum)

 

Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula)

Capeweed (*Arctotheca calendula)

 

These two are the most conspicuous and prolific of the weeds in the Wagga area. They tend not to be actively managed, probably because there is simply no hope of getting them under control. A recent spraying within Livingstone National Park may have had some success in reducing the Capeweed population there.

Medic (*Medicago sp.)

Medic (*Medicago sp.)

 

There are a number of Medicago species that are difficult to separate without close examination. There is no such thing as a native medic, however.

Wild Oats (*Avena fatua)

Wild Oats (*Avena fatua)

 

Tall, drooping exotic grass. Extremely prolific in the area (Willans Hill is covered in it) but less colourful than Capeweed and Paterson’s Curse, and hence less conspicuous.

Narrow-Leaf Clover (*Trifolium angustifolium)

Narrow-Leaf Clover (*Trifolium angustifolium)

 

Hare's-Foot Clover (*Trifolium arvense)

Hare's-Foot Clover (*Trifolium arvense)

 

Paradoxa Grass (*Phalaris paradoxa)

Paradoxa Grass (*Phalaris paradoxa)

 

Phalaris paradoxa is another major pasture weed. There are a number of similar Phalaris species in the area.

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

 

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

 

Many interesting and unusual species of fungus are found in the damp ground around the lake. The first picture shows a young Shaggy Ink Cap fruiting body. The second shows an older member of the same species, close to completing auto-digestion. This process can take only a few hours (according to Australian Fungi – A Blog) or up to 36 hours (A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia, A. M. Young, 2005). Eventually only a stem and an inky black blob will remain.

Water-Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster)

Water-Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster)

 

This sighting was a one-off. Lake Albert seems like an unusual choice of habitat for a Water-Rat: too open, and too many predators (seven species of raptor have been recorded in the area). They are typically seen in closed-in bodies of water with convenient hiding places, like Wollundry or Flowerdale Lagoon.

More to come.



Report: Matong State Forest – October 25, 2009
November 1, 2009, 11:20 am
Filed under: Flora, Reports | Tags: , , , ,

1. Apostlebird
2. Australian Magpie
3. Australian Raven
4. Australian Wood Duck
5. Brown Falcon
6. Brown Treecreeper
7. Buff-Rumped Thornbill
8. Cockatiel
9. Common Bronzewing
10. Crested Pigeon
11. Dusky Woodswallow
12. Galah
13. Grey Shrike-Thrush
14. Hooded Robin
15. Jacky Winter
16. Long-Billed Corella
17. Nankeen Kestrel
18. Red-Capped Robin
19. Red-Rumped Parrot
20. Rufous Songlark
21. Rufous Whistler
22. Southern Whiteface
23. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
24. Superb Fairy-Wren
25. Weebill
26. Western Gerygone
27. White-Browed Babbler
28. White-Winged Chough
29. White-Winged Triller
30. Willie Wagtail
31. Yellow Rosella
32. Yellow-Rumped Thornbill
33. Yellow Thornbill

Matong State Forest covers an area of around 3200 hectares (so Bonzle tells me) and is located near Kockibitoo State Forest and Ganmain State Forest. These three forests, together with Currawarna State Forest and several well-treed roadside verges, form a substantial vegetation corridor along the Old Narrandera Rd. Matong is a large area and likely contains a diversity of vegetation types. The area surveyed (marked red on the map) is a narrow strip between agricultural land and Cypress-pine (Callitris sp.) forest. There is a diverse groundcover but little understorey (though there are large piles of debris), and this means that certain bird species are unlikely to be found in the area. You will notice, for example, that not a single honeyeater is listed above. Elsewhere in the forest the situation may well be different.

Matong State Forest is quite hot and quite dry at the present, and most plants have already flowered. A few stragglers remained, and the late-flowering Chocolate Lily (Dichopogon strictus) was present in numbers.


Most specimens of the above in Matong State Forest had already gone to seed at the time of the survey. A typical Vittadinia flowerhead looks like this.


Note that Chocolate Lilies actually smell quite strongly of chocolate.

A number of unusual groundcover species were present as well.



Pussytails (Ptilotus spathulatus)

Pussytails (Ptilotus spathulatus)



Pussytails (Ptilotus spathulatus)

Pussytails (Ptilotus spathulatus)



Maireana humillima

Maireana humillima

Among the more interesting bird species present were the White-Winged Triller (Lalage sueurii), the Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis; pictured), the Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans), the Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) and the Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata; pictured). The latter two are listed as vulnerable in this part of their range.


Most of the birds recorded in this part of the forest were small insectivores, making use, I suspect, of the enormous fly population in the area.