Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


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.

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