Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


PechaKucha Night, July 21
July 7, 2011, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Fungi, General

This is just a quick note to say that I have been invited to give a presentation as part of PechaKucha Night on the 21st of July. For those (like me until very recently) not familiar with PechaKucha, the website gives an explanation and includes some recordings of presentations given elsewhere in the world. The page for the upcoming Wagga event is here.

I’m going to be talking about fungi – chiefly the local fungal flora, with a few examples from elsewhere. I’ve no idea who the other presenters will be or what they will be talking about, but it should be interesting.

The event is going to be held at the old council chambers at 6pm on the 21st of July. A flyer (.pdf) is available here.

Finally, I realise I have been neglecting this blog. I hope at some stage to do some reorganisation and maybe add some more content, but we’ll see.

Advertisements


A Few Notes
January 30, 2011, 10:51 pm
Filed under: General, Lists | Tags: , , ,

I see that it has been more than two months since I last posted here. I’m afraid posting will probably continue to be sporadic and unreliable.

I’ve added two species to the list of bird species found in the Wagga area: the magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata) and the plumed whistling-duck (Dendrocygna eytoni). Both species were recorded in a flooded paddock some distance south of The Rock (and so including them here requires a very generous definition of “the Wagga area”). They were seen together with many hardheads, pacific black ducks, australian wood ducks, grey teals, whiskered terns, white and straw-necked ibises, white-faced herons, eurasian coots and purple swamp-hens. This brings the total number of species recorded here to 168, of which 161 are native.

Also, there is a brief article on fungi by me in the most recent issue of Woodland Wanderings (Vol. 7, Iss. 2; Spring 2010), the newsletter of the Grassy Box Woodlands Catchment Management Network. It is much the same as this blog entry. Also note that in the published article the photographs of Resupinatus cinerascens and Mycena sp. are in the wrong spots.

More substantive updates to come soon, hopefully.



The Mates Gully Rd TSR [Flora]

The Mates Gully Rd TSR is a long, narrow strip of remnant Box-Ironbark forest running northwest to southeast along Mates Gully Rd. near Tarcutta. A report by the Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water) estimates that prior to European settlement almost 12,000 hectares of Box-Ironbark forest would have been found in the Wagga area. According to that same report, less than 10% of this forest-type remains. The authors recommend listing this woodland community as vulnerable under the TSC Act. They give their rationale as follows:

Although some remnants in fair to good condition remain, most notably in Mates Gully travelling stock reserve and small areas around Tarcutta, a large proportion of this community has been cleared or degraded as a result of clearing and grazing by stock [DEC, 2005: 28].

Mates Gully does show some signs of clearing and degradation, and noxious weeds like St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) have infiltrated the reserve, but it is nevertheless remarkably well-preserved.

A small and by no means complete list of bird species recorded in the TSR can be found here. Two vulnerable species, the black-chinned honeyeater (Melithreptus gularis) and brown treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus), have been recorded in the reserve. The Mates Gully Rd TSR is also a known overwintering site for the endangered swift parrot (Lathamus discolor), though I haven’t recorded it there.

The reserve is also home to a number of reptiles, including the lace monitor (Varanus varius) and several skinks.

Trees

The dominant canopy species are Mugga Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon), Red Stringybark (E. macrorhyncha), Red Box (E. polyanthemos), Grey Box (E. microcarpa) and Blakely’s Red Gum (E. blakelyi). The northwestern section of the TSR is only sparsely treed, presumably as a product of historical clearing, and is dominated by Red Stringybark and Mugga Ironbark. Immediately adjacent to this is a large stand of Red Box, which is relatively uncommon in the area. The southeastern end of the reserve has a much thicker canopy.

Shrubs

The Mates Gully Rd TSR displays a much greater diversity in the shrub-layer than do most of the area’s reserves. The northwestern section of the reserve, though dominated by forbs and grasses, contains four wattle species (Acacia paradoxa, A. genistifolia, A. pycnantha and A. lanigera) and five shrub legumes (Daviesia leptophylla, Dillwynia sericea, Hardenbergia violacea, Indigofera australis and Pultenaea foliolosa), as well as the yellow rice-flower (Pimelea curviflora) and a New Holland daisy (Vittadinia sp.). The centre of the TSR is dominated by Cassinia species, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. The southeastern end possesses probably the greatest shrub diversity in the reserve, containing heaths, wattles and legumes, including Hovea linearis, Dillwynia phylicoides and Platylobium formosum. The daphne heath (Brachyloma daphnoides), the peach heath (Lissanthe strigosa), the urn heath (Melichrus urceolatus) and a beard heath (Leucopogon sp.) are all common here. Hibbertia obtusifolia can also be found at this end.

Herbs and Forbs

The TSR also displays a great diversity in its groundcover species. Orchids recorded in the reserve are Cyanicula caerulea, Diuris chryseopsis, Hymenochilus muticus, Microtis unifolia, Petalochilus fuscatus (see below), Pterostylis nutans, two species of Stegostyla, and a sun orchid (possibly Thelymitra pauciflora). There are likely to be others. The northwestern end is dominated by the Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum), which can be seen in the photograph above, and also contains many Bulbine Lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) and Chocolate Lilies (Dichopogon strictus). Familiar herbs/forbs found in the TSR include a rock fern (Cheilanthes sp.), the pygmy sunray (Triptilodiscus pygmaeus), the smooth solenogyne (Solenogyne dominii), a woodruff (Asperula sp.) the native carrot (Dauchus glochidiatus), two saltbushes (Einadia hastata and Einadia nutans), the twining legume Glycine clandestina, the murnong or yam daisy (Microseris lanceolata), bluebells (Wahlenbergia spp.), the hill raspwort (Gonocarpus elatior) and the common raspwort (Gonocarpus tetragynus), the ivy goodenia (Goodenia hederacea), scrambled eggs (Goodenia pinnatifida), the pale sundew (Drosera peltata), the stinking pennywort (Hydrocotyle laxiflora), the many-flowered mat-rush (Lomandra multiflora), a fireweed (Senecio sp.), a native plantain (Plantago sp.), the black-anthered flax-lily (Dianella revoluta) and the blue flax-lily (Dianella longifolia), and the yellow rush-lily (Tricoryne elatior). Some areas are dominated by the shrub-like forb Stypandra glauca and there are many patches of the common buttercup (Ranunculus lappaceus) and the familiar sticky everlasting (Xerochrysum viscosum) at the southeastern end. Among the less familiar groundcover species found in the area are a copper-wire daisy (Podolepis sp.), spur velleia (Velleia paradoxa), kidneyweed (Dichondra repens), many finger flowers (Cheiranthera cyanea) and the blue pincushion (Brunonia australis). Hyssop loosestrife (Lythrum hyssopifolia), considered by some sources native and by others introduced, occurs in wetter areas of the TSR.

Grasses, Rushes and Sedges

The northwestern section of the reserve is a grassy open woodland dominated by speargrasses (Austrostipa spp.). At least three speargrass species are present, the most conspicuous being Austrostipa densiflora, which can be seen in the photograph at the top of this article. There are also two wiregrass (Aristida) species, including the brush wiregrass (Aristida behriana). Nineawn grass (Enneapogon nigricans) and common wheat-grass (Elymus scaber) occur in patches. Wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia sp.) and kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra) are also present in the reserve, as is weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides) and what looks like a native lovegrass (Eragrostis sp.). Red-anthered wallaby grass (Joycea pallida) occurs at the southeastern end. A sedge (Carex sp.) and a rush (Juncus sp.) have been recorded in the wetter areas of the reserve.

Fungi

The reserve also appears to possess significant fungal diversity. The following species/genera have been recorded in the area (though difficulties of identification mean that this list may not be entirely accurate): Agaricus, Aleurina, Amanita, Arcyria, Calocera, Campanella, Cheilymenia, Clitocybe, Coltricia cinnamomea, Coprinus, Cortinarius, Cyathus stercoreus, Geastrum, Hypholoma, Limacella, Lycoperdon, Macrolepiota, Mycena, Omphalina chromacea, Pisolithus, Poronia erici, Pycnoporus, Ramaria, Russula, Scleroderma, Stereum, Tremella, Xerula/Oudemansiella. Also recorded in the TSR was a small, ground-hugging cup fungus, possibly a species of Peziza. Both brown and black specimens were found.



More Insects
June 21, 2010, 3:43 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , , , ,

This earlier post listed a few of the insect species found in the area. The present post is a continuation of that one.

A common and widespread mantid, Orthodera ministralis is often found (as its common name suggests) in suburban gardens. This individual was photographed on the South American potato vine Solanum jasminoides.

Breeding pairs of the Tricolor Soldier Beetle were commonly seen in late summer and early autumn. Other species of soldier beetle, C. lugubris and C. pulchellus, routinely form enormous breeding colonies, and so are often called Plague Soldier Beetles. See the Brisbane Insects website for more information.

This breeding pair was photographed on Willans Hill.

The Circulionidae (true weevils) is among the largest and most diverse of the insect families. It is often very difficult to identify particular species. This particular individual bears a very strong resemblance to the Elephant Weevil Orthorhinus cylindrirostris and may belong to the same subfamily (the Molytinae).

This individual was photographed on a Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus), which seems to be a favourite foodsource of a couple of weevil species.

This is another weevil species, this time photographed in a suburban garden. The relatively short, broad rostrum (snout) suggests that this individual belongs to the subfamily Entiminae (broad-nosed weevils).

This species of leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) is common in vegetable gardens, particularly as a pest of cucurbits (in this case zucchini). They can be extremely destructive. This article from the Department of Primary Industries (now Industry & Investment and formerly NSW Agriculture) has some information on pests of cucurbits, including this species.

Chrysodeixis spp. are quite conspicuous – at least as caterpillars. The adults are not nearly as noticeable. As a leaf-eater with a taste for cultivated vegetables (this one was photographed on a bean plant) they can be quite destructive.

The Banded (or Purple-banded) Concealer Moth belongs to the family Oecophoridae (concealer moths), which is particularly well-represented around Wagga. Several other species are known from the area – some entirely white, some entirely yellow, some yellow with brownish or purplish markings. They are often found clinging to the underside of plant stems and leaves.

This individual was photographed on Willans Hill.

These are the nymphs of the Two-lined Gum Treehopper. The adults can be seen at the Brisbane Insects website. The young are attended by ants (in this case probably a species of Golden-tailed Sugar Ant Camponotus sp.) who collect from them a sugar secretion called honeydew. The ants essentially ‘farm’ the nymphs.

These individuals were photographed on Willans Hill.

Another species of hopper, also in the family Cicadellidae, though belonging to a different subfamily (Tartessinae, not Eurymelinae). Leafhoppers are plant-feeders, using their piercing mouthparts to extract sap from trees. These individuals were seen on a young eucalypt (possibly the River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis) near Lake Albert.

* * *

That’s all for now. In bird-related news, the Black-chinned Honeyeater (a vulnerable species) was recorded at Mates Gully Rd. TSR and has been added to the lists for Mates Gully and for Wagga Wagga. Also added to the Wagga list was the Swift Parrot, an endangered species, which was recorded (by call only) at Red Hill Reserve, near Pomingalarna. It is also known to overwinter in Mates Gully Rd. and Kyeamba TSRs.

In less encouraging news, the Scarlet Robin has recently been declared a vulnerable species (see here). Its numbers are apparently in decline. In the Wagga area it is known from Livingstone National Park and Mates Gully Rd. TSR.



Nest Hill Nature Reserve

Nest Hill Nature Reserve, formerly Pulletop State Forest, was gazetted in January 2001. It is located roughly 35km south of Wagga Wagga and 25km north of Holbrook. It is accessible only via management trails. The management plan can be found here, but is sadly rather light on details.

Surveys carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service recorded only 20 bird species in the park. The following is a list of more than thirty recorded by me in the space of a single visit (the discrepancy is hard to explain):
1. Australian Magpie
2. Australian Raven
3. +Australian Wood-Duck
4. +Black Swan
5. Black-Faced Cuckoo-Shrike
6. Brown Falcon
7. Brown Treecreeper
8. Common Bronzewing
9. Crested Pigeon
10. Eastern Rosella
11. Eastern Yellow Robin
12. Flame Robin
13. Galah
14. Grey Fantail
15. Grey Shrike-Thrush
16. Laughing Kookaburra
17. Magpie-lark
18. +Masked Lapwing
19. Pied Currawong
20. Red Wattlebird
21. Red-Rumped Parrot
22. Restless Flycatcher
23. Rufous Whistler
24. Striated Pardalote
25. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
26. Superb Fairy-Wren
27. Weebill
28. Welcome Swallow
29. White-Plumed Honeyeater
30. White-Throated Treecreeper
31. White-Winged Chough
32. Willie Wagtail
33. Yellow Thornbill

(Those species marked with a + were recorded on a farm dam immediately adjacent to the reserve). Of particular note is the Brown Treecreeper, the eastern subspecies of which (Climacteris picumnus victoriae) is classed as Vulnerable. (Though there is some debate as to whether the local subspecies is C. p. victoriae or C. p. picumnus). The Fantail Cuckoo and Cockatiel were recorded in the surrounding area in spring.

The Reserve is dominated by three vegetation communities:
1. Rough-Barked Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos)/White Box (E. albens)
2. Inland Scribbly Gum (E. rossii)/Norton’s Box (E. nortonii)
3. Red Stringybark (E. macrorhyncha; pictured above)/Inland Scribbly Gum/Rough-Barked Red Box

Nest Hill NR contains what is probably the largest stand of Red Box in the Wagga area (it is found in smaller quantities in Livingstone NP and Mates Gully Rd TSR). The presence of Red Stringybark is also noteworthy for similar reasons.

The understorey is sparse and generally lacking in diversity, owing to extensive grazing prior to the Reserve’s gazettal. Weeds (including *Sonchus asper, *Galium aparine and *Trifolium spp.) are encroaching on the Reserve’s boundaries.

Among the species recorded were the heaths Melichrus urceolatus (Urn Heath; pictured above) and Lissanthe strigosa (Peach Heath); the orchids Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora (Tiny Greenhood; see here and here) and Pterostylis falcata (Autumn or Sickle Greenhood); and the small herbs Goodenia hederacea (Ivy Goodenia; pictured below), Cymbonotus preissianus (Austral Bear’s-Ear; pictured below), Geranium solanderi (Native Geranium), Hydrocotyle laxiflora (Stinking Pennywort) and Dauchus glochidiatus (Austral Carrot).

Also recorded were the grasses Austrostipa scabra (Rough Speargrass), Microlaena stipoides (Weeping or Meadow Rice-Grass; uncommon) and a species of Poa (Tussock Grass). Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea sp.) were also present.

There was also a substantial fungus population, including several large colonies of Phylloporus clelandii (pictured above), Limacella spp., Pisolithus tinctorius (Horse Dropping Fungus) and a small, woolly bracket fungus (possibly a species of Stereum; pictured below).

There were also a number of mosses and lichens.

***

This information comes from a single visit to the Reserve. Future visits are likely to yield much more.



Insects
March 29, 2010, 11:56 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , , ,

An earlier post (Willans Hill in Summer, January 5) listed a number of insect species found in the Wagga area. The present post can be considered a continuation of that one. Where possible the insects illustrated have been identified to the level of species, but identification is not always straightforward. Of the many resources I have used, the Brisbane Insects website is probably the most useful (I take the blame for any incorrect identifications, of course).

This is likely to be the first of many posts on the insect fauna of the area.


The Tailed Emperor is a large and beautiful butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is probably not a permanent resident here, but vagrants have been known to reach southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. The larva is pictured here on a Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus), one of the species’ many larval foodsources, on Willans Hill. The “horns” are purely for intimidation: the caterpillar is completely harmless.


The larva of the Privet Hawk Moth is a large, robust and strikingly patterned caterpillar that – despite its name – is equally at home on a variety of introduced garden plants. The individual photographed was seen in a suburban garden, apparently feeding on the leaves of the Purple Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana), a South African import. Privet (Ligustrum spp.) is a significant garden escapee. Two species, L. sinense and L. vulgare, are declared noxious weeds in NSW.


Wasp Moths belong to the Ctenuchinae, a subfamily of the Arctiidae (Tiger Moths). There are a number of similar Amata species, which cannot be easily distinguished. A number of individuals were seen recently in Livingstone National Park.


The Tiger Lichen Moth is also a member of the Arctiidae, this time of the subfamily Lithosiinae (Lichen Moths). Once again, several individuals were seen in Livingstone.


This stocky, distinctive moth was seen on Willans Hill and at Mundwaddery Cemetery. It belongs to the family Notodontidae. Its face is obscured by a dense mane of fibrous hairs:


The Diamond Beetle, also known as the Botany Bay Diamond Weevil, was the first Australian insect to be formally described. It is apparently very common around Sydney but is less so here.


Most ladybird species are considered to be important control agents of crop and garden pests. The Twentyeightspotted Ladybird (also referred to as Epilachna 28-punctata and Epilachna cucurbitae), on the other hand, is a leaf-eater, and is also highly prolific. The larva is bizarre:


A total of fourteen mature individuals were seen on a single zucchini plant.


Paropsis variolosa resembles a large ladybird. It feeds exclusively on the leaves of Eucalyptus species. This individual was photographed on Willans Hill.


This Longicorn (“long-horned”) Beetle was photographed on a Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa) shrub in Livingstone National Park. The precise identity of the beetle is uncertain, but it may be a species of Platyomopsis.


The Green Potato Bug is – like the Twentyeightspotted Ladybird – a common resident of suburban gardens. It feeds on tomatoes, potatoes and other cultivated plants.

I have added the Black-Faced Woodswallow (Artamus cinereus) to the birdlist for Wagga Wagga. This brings the total number of species recorded over the past twelve months to 157, exactly 150 of which are native.



After the Rain
March 13, 2010, 12:59 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , ,

“TORRENTIAL” screamed the front page of the Daily Advertiser, following Wagga’s wettest March day on record. The lake has filled for the first time in a very long time.

This is the lake as of March 11. By way of contrast, the photograph below shows the lake as it looked on January 21.


Very few shorebirds remain at the lake, of course, as there is no longer a very distinct shoreline. The water will most likely recede before long.

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I have two in the works: one on fungi and one on insects.