Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga

Murraguldrie Flora Reserve
January 31, 2010, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Flora, General, Observations | Tags: , , , , , ,

Murraguldrie Flora Reserve is located around 45km southeast of Wagga on the Tumbarumba Rd., which separates it from Murraguldrie State Forest proper. The Flora Reserve was established to protect the only known population (a few hundred mature specimens) of the bush-pea Pultenaea humilis in NSW. It is a wetter forest than is usually found in the area and this is reflected in the health and density of the vegetation and the large populations of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) found there.

There are other signs of a slightly different microclimate. Vanilla Lilies (Arthropodium milleflorum) and Chocolate Lilies (Dichopogon strictus), which typically flower in late spring, remained in flower in the reserve in mid-January.

Most of the reserve consists of eucalypts – including the Inland Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus rossii) – with a heathy understorey. Among the wildflowers found in the reserve are the Small St. John’s Wort (Hypericum gramineum) and several species of goodenia.

Note: Hypericum gramineum should be distinguished from the much larger Hypericum perforatum, which is a noxious weed. At least one other major weed – the Blackberry (Rubus sp.) – is found in the reserve.

Cassinias, a group of flowering natives with a tendency to spread, are also found in the reserve – principally along roadsides.

There is likely to be a substantial insect and arachnid population in the reserve as well. The following photographs show a selection of the more conspicuous species.

A list of bird species recorded in the reserve so far can be found here. (Note that this was compiled from very few visits and is likely to grow in the future). The most interesting species on the list are the White-Throated Gerygone (Gerygone olivacea) and the Olive-Backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus), neither of which has been recorded elsewhere in the region. The Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnis), listed as vulnerable in NSW, is also a significant find.


Nocturnal Activity
January 19, 2010, 11:08 am
Filed under: General, Lists, Observations | Tags: , , ,

The Southern Boobook is not the only nocturnal creature to occupy Willans Hill. The Common Brushtail Possum photographed above was found very close to human habitation, and most likely supplements its ordinary diet of eucalyptus leaves by scavenging in gardens for fruit and vegetable scraps. In Canberra, where they are very common, they can often be heard making distinctive barking and hissing noises. These are their territorial calls. There may be several groups on Willans Hill, but the population density is probably too low for these territorial arguments to break out.

There are probably other nocturnal mammals to be found on the hill – rats, mice, bats and so on. It is possible that the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis), which has been found elsewhere in the Wagga Wagga area, will occasionally be seen on the hill.

I have added the Olive-Backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus) to the list for the Wagga area. This brings the number of species recorded to 156, of which 7 are introduced.

The Olive-Backed Oriole, like the White-Throated Gerygone, was recorded at Murraguldrie Flora Reserve. This is, I believe, within the Wagga Wagga Local Government Area, but it is a far moister forest than is typically found here. This is presumably why it attracts birds most commonly seen further east. I intend to post a full profile of the reserve soon.

Owls and Wolves on Willans Hill
January 9, 2010, 3:27 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , , , ,

There was an article in the Daily Advertiser yesterday about a family of five Southern Boobooks (Ninox novaeseelandiae) that had taken up residence in a suburban backyard. Boobooks seem to be rather more content in residential areas than other owl species: another family has found a home on Willans Hill. The two photographed above are juveniles (too young to have learned the famous ‘boobook’ call, instead making insect-like trills). Two other owls were seen nearby, at least one of which was an adult.

The Yellow Owl-Fly (Suhpalacsa flavipes) is so named, I suppose, for its enormous eyes. They are not especially nocturnal, though the individual above was photographed late in the evening.

I spotted one for the first time shortly after posting the previous entry, which lists many of the insect species found on the hill. This is one more for the already lengthy list.

Alright, so it’s not an actual wolf:

The Wolf Spiders (family Lycosidae) dig very neat, circular burrows in which they spend much of their time. I can’t identify the above to the level of species, but the most common of the Wolf Spiders is the Garden Wolf Spider (Lycosa godeffroyi).

Willans Hill in Summer
January 5, 2010, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Flora, General, Lists, Observations | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have added the White-throated Gerygone (Gerygone olivacea) and the Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) to the Wagga list. The former species was recorded in Murraguldrie Flora Reserve, a short distance south-east of Wagga. Birdata gives the impression that it is rarely seen any further west. The Dollarbird, on the other hand, is probably a regular, if uncommon, summer migrant to the area.

[NOTE: Click on the red text to view photographs].

Summer is now well and truly here and few wildflowers remain in bloom on Willans Hill. The heavy rains in mid-December encouraged a few of the more opportunistic species (Calotis spp., Vittadinia spp.) to put out new flowers, but even these are disappearing. A few Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) remain, but most have gone to seed. Those bluebells (Wahlenbergia spp.) that remain will likely be gone within a few weeks. A single flowering plant of the summer-blooming Yellow Rush Lily (Tricoryne simplex) has been located; I would expect others to be present.

At present the hill’s understorey is comprised largely of native grasses, including Spear Grasses (Austrostipa spp.), Wire Grasses (Aristida spp.), Wallaby Grasses (Austrodanthonia spp.) and Common Wheat Grass (Elymus scaber). A few dry tussock grasses may be native Poa species. Redgrasses (Bothriochloa machra and Bothriochloa decipiens), Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata), Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis) and Hairy Panic (Panicum effusum), all natives, are also found on the hill, but principally in the more settled areas.

Many birds, including Grey Fantails (Rhipidura albiscapa) and Rufous Whistlers (Pachycephala rufiventris) are still to be seen with dependent young. Other young birds, such as this robin (probably a Red-Capped Robin), are starting to become semi-independent. At present the hill’s bird fauna is chiefly comprised of small insectivores (Weebills, Yellow and Yellow-Rumped Thornbills, Western Gerygones, the aforementioned Grey Fantails and Rufous Whistlers) — not surprising given the increasing insect population of the area. Probably most of the smaller insect species spend much of their time concealed in debris or under bark, but others can be seen gathered around the flowers of the Kurrajong tree (above). The Kurrajong, specimens of which are scattered across the hill, is a native, but is never the dominant species in natural woodlands. It is popular today in avenues and windbreaks, and has some value as a source of fodder in times of scarcity.

Grasshoppers (like this one and this one) are among the most numerous (and diverse) of the insects to be found on the hill at present, but there are also many wasps (Ichneumonids, Gasteruptiids, Braconids, Pompilids, and so on), flies (House Flies and Bush Flies, of course, but also Blowflies, Drone Flies, Hoverflies, Robber Flies, Flesh Flies, Bee Flies, and Tachinids [chiefly Rutilia sp.]), and beetles (Scarab Beetles, Christmas Beetles, Weevils, Belid Weevils, Pollen Beetles, Jewel Beetles, and, of course, Ladybirds).There are crickets, cicadas, leafhoppers, coreids (including the Eucalyptus Tip or Clown Bugs, Amorbus spp.), alydids, scorpionflies, native cockroachs (chiefly Ellipsidion australe and Ellipsidion humerale), antlions, lacewings, ants of various kinds, many insects too small to be noticed (though the tiny Rutherglen Bug [Nysius vinitor] forms breeding swarms so large as to be unmissable), and many others beyond my capacity to identify. Moths are well represented, as well. The most common are Oecophorids (including Eochrois spp. and Crepidosceles spp.) and Noctuids (including the Bogong Moth [Agrotis infusa] and the pest species Helicoverpa armigera). Geometrids and Cossids are seen reasonably frequently, also. The moths are so diverse they may warrant a series of their own.

The most conspicuous insects are, of course, the dragonflies and butterflies. The following 14 species of butterfly have so far been recorded on the hill: Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi), Cabbage White (*Pieris rapae), Caper White (Belenois java), Chequered Copper (Lucia limbaria), Common Brown (Heteronympha merope), Common Grass-Blue (Zizina labradus), Dainty Swallowtail (Papilio anactus, above), Greenish Grass-Dart (Ocybadistes walkeri, below), Lesser Wanderer (Danaus chrysippus), Meadow Argus (Junonia villida), Saltbush Blue (Theclinesthes serpentata), Spotted Jezebel (Delias aganippe), Two-Spotted Line-Blue (Nacaduba biocellata), Yellow Admiral (Vanessa itea). The Small Grass-Yellow (Eurema smilax) is known to occur in the Wagga area (having been recorded at Silvalite Reserve) and several others are predeicted to occur here. The most common butterfly is the tiny Common Grass-Blue, which is often seen in numbers in lawns and around flowering plants. The larger butterflies seem to alternate in frequency, with one species dominating for a time and then being being usurped by another. At present the Common Brown is the most commonly encountered, but earlier in the season it was the Caper White and before that the Australian Painted Lady. The introduced Cabbage White has remained relatively common throughout the season.

Only one member of the Skipper family (Hesperiidae) has been recorded here, the Greenish Grass-Dart. Other species can be found further east.

Spiders are also common on the hill at present, presumably taking advantage of the large number of small insects. Among the more common are the Garden Orb-Weaver (Eriophora transmarina), the Golden Orb-Weavers (Nephila spp.), the Common (or Bug-Mimicking) Swift Spider (Supunna picta), the Garden Wolf Spider (Lycosa godeffroyi), several Huntsman Spiders (family Heteropodidae), a number of Lynx Spiders (family Oxyopidae), Crab Spiders (family Thomisidae), Flower Spiders (Diaea spp.), and many Jumping Spiders (family Salticidae). Many of the spiders associated with human settlement – including the Black House Spider (Badumna insignis), White-Tailed Spider (Lampona cylindrata), the Daddy Long-Legs (Pholcus phalangioides) and the well-known, if not well-liked, Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) – can be found on the hill. There’s also the occasional oddity.

That’ll do for now. I hope to post entries on Murraguldrie Flora Reserve and the Mates Gully Rd Travelling Stock Reserve soon.