Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga

A Few Notes
January 30, 2011, 10:51 pm
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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.


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.

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.

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.

(Some of) The Flora and Fauna of Livingstone National Park
December 13, 2009, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Flora, General, Lists | Tags: , , , , , ,

This post profiles a selection of the more interesting flora and fauna recorded in and around Livingstone National Park. A birdlist for the area is available here. See also this earlier post on the park’s orchids.

Stypandra glauca is probably the most common – certainly the most conspicuous – of the park’s groundcover species. It has a dense, shrubby growth habit.

In the early part of the 20th century, when native species weren’t sacrosanct, the Bulbine Lily was considered a serious weed. It has an enduring reputation for causing diarrhoea in stock.

The Finger Flower gets its name from the five yellow anthers that resemble (if only slightly) outstretched fingers.

Goodenia hederacea is a tough, spreading groundcover species. It is able to grow even in shallow, stony soils and, despite the hot, dry conditions, a number of plants remain in flower.

Common Raspwort is a common plant with a tiny, inconspicuous and variable flower. Its petals can be red, as in the photo, or green.

Drosera species are carnivorous and are found throughout the world. They may have originated in Australia, but this is far from certain.

There are many pea-flower genera in Australia – Swainsona, Bossiaea, Pultenaea, Dillwynia, Daviesia, and so on. I don’t know to which the pea-flowers in Livingstone belong. A single species – Pultenaea lapidosa – is mentioned in the management plan.

Livingstone seems to support a substantial population of the Lace Monitor, an exceptionally large arboreal lizard. Two distinct forms are known, the typical form (above) and the Bell’s form (below). Both have been recorded within the park.
Lace Monitor (Varanus varius), Bell's Form

Lace Monitor (Varanus varius), Bell's Form

That’s all for now. I have also added the White-Bellied Cuckoo-Shrike (Coracina papuensis) and Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula) to the list for the Wagga area. Both were recorded at Livingstone this morning (December 13)

A Brief Update
November 18, 2009, 6:35 pm
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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.

Flowerdale Update
October 29, 2009, 8:57 pm
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Eight species have been added to the list of species recorded on and around Flowerdale Lagoon. Most interesting of all is the Blue Bonnet (Northiella haematogaster). This is not a rare parrot, but Wagga Wagga represents the easternmost limit of its range. I have never previously seen the species within the city limits. It is typically seen by roadsides near open agricultural land.

This brings the species count for Flowerdale Lagoon to 61, 56 of them native. Also seen in the lagoon was this individual:

This, I believe, is an Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis). They are the second most venomous snake in Australia (or the world, according to Wikipedia), and are responsible for most of the country’s snake-bite fatalities. The most venomous snake is the Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), which is very secretive.

Eastern Browns are good swimmers – meaning that it was fairly stupid to stop and take pictures.