Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


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.

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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.



Native Orchids in Livingstone National Park, Autumn Edition
May 21, 2010, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Flora | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Livingstone National Park has been logged, mined for gold, tin and wolframite, and used as a bombing range. And yet it is almost certainly the best-preserved area of remnant vegetation in the vicinity of Wagga. It was finally gazetted (as Livingstone National Park and Nature Reserve) in 2001. In 2006, the southern end (adjacent to the locality of Burrandana) was declared a State Conservation Area.

The park is apparently home to 20 or more species of orchid. Nine spring-flowering species were documented in this earlier post. PlantNET lists four further spring-flowering species (Caladenia dimorpha, C. phaeoclavia, Pterostylis mutica and Thelymitra ixioides) in the park. The management plan lists another four species: the greenhoods Pterostylis curta and Pterostylis longifolia, the ruddyhood Pterostylis pusilla and the tiny finger orchid Caladenia mentiens. Additionally, four species of autumn-flowering orchid are known from the park. These are profiled here.

* * *

Eriochilus cucullatus is a tiny, delicate and inconspicuous species. Each plant may carry up to five flowers, though most have only one or two. It has been recorded from the both the northern and southern sections of the park, and also from Murraguldrie Flora Reserve.

This identification is tentative. Genoplesium is a large genus, but G. rufum is the only species listed by PlantNET for the NSW South-West Slopes bioregion. This species is extremely variable. Its colouration runs the gamut from deep purple-black to mostly green with reddish or brownish tips to the lateral sepals (as in this case). Some debate exists as to whether Genoplesium rufum constitutes a single species or a complex of related varieties. The flowers on this particular specimen have closed for the year.

The Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora complex accounts for almost a dozen species, subspecies or varieties of orchid. The variety found at Livingstone (assuming there is only one) may be the one referred to in Bishop’s 1996 field guide (currently out of print) as Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora (Large Red-brown). Complicating this identification is the fact that many plants were found to have seven or eight flowers, whereas Bishop claims that Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora (Large Red-brown) only rarely has more than six. Another variety it resembles commonly has up to eight flowers, but is known only from the Melbourne, Victoria area (designated by Bishop as Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora (Eastern Melbourne)).

Tthe genus Speculantha has been proposed to distinguish the tiny greenhoods from the larger species, like the one below.


Another complicated identification. Pterostylis falcata is not recognised by Bishop and does not have an entry in PlantNET’s Flora of New South Wales. Nevertheless it is the only autumn-flowering greenhood that comes up in a PlantNET search for the flora of the Wagga Wagga LGA. (That list is not complete, however)

This species is extremely common in Livingstone National Park, often occuring in colonies of up to thirty plants. These colonies are composed of plants at varying stages of maturity. Younger and older flowers often take on unusual shapes:

* * *

Coming soon: posts on Nest Hill Nature Reserve and Plum Pudding Hill TSR and a series of posts on common urban and suburban birds of Wagga.



Fungi — Wallpapers
May 15, 2010, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Fungi | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve produced three wallpaper versions (1024×768, 1280×1024 and 1600×1200) of the Resupinatus cinerascens shot from the previous post, if anybody is interested.

Resupinatus cinerascens

Resupinatus cinerascens

All links open in new windows:

1600×1200
1280×1024
1024×768

I may do this with other photographs (flowers, birds, and so on) if there is any interest.



Fungi
May 10, 2010, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Fungi | Tags: , , , , ,

This post has been a long time in coming. Apologies!

The rains in December, February and March brought out a large crop of fungi of various kinds, and now, with the temperature dropping and dew beginning to form, there seems to be a constant supply of unusual and interesting fungus species. A few of the more interesting are shown below.


Resupinatus cinerascens is a tiny fungus – the largest fruiting body being around 1cm in diameter – found on the underside of rotting logs. This particular specimen was found in Wallacetown.

***


Coprinus plicatilis is a common but inconspicuous fungus of lawns and gardens. The fruit has an extremely short life, sometimes lasting only a few hours before putrefaction sets in. It occurs in clusters as seen here:
Fairy's Parasols (Coprinus plicatilis)

Fairy's Parasols (Coprinus plicatilis)


Young fruits are only a few millimetres across.

***


The genus Calocera contains a number of very similar ‘jelly’ fungi. This specimen was photographed on the side of a rotting log in Ganmain State Forest.

***


Geastrum triplex is larger and more attractive than most of the Earth Stars found in the area. It seems to occur in colonies in very wet leaf litter.


This particular colony was found in a wet gully on the northern end of Livingstone National Park.

***


This fungus has been tentatively identified as Phylloporus clelandii, one of a group of large, fleshy fungi sometimes referred to as gilled boletes (true boletes have pores rather than gills on the undersurface of the cap). This fungus is, according to Bruce Fuhrer’s field guide, generally uncommon. This particular specimen was again photographed on the northern end of Livingstone National Park.

***


Macrolepiota species are very large (around 20cm, in this case) and are found in a variety of locations. The specimens seen here were part of a very large colony found in the grounds of the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens. Despite their size the young fruiting bodies grew very close together:
Macrolepiota sp.

Macrolepiota sp.


Competition for space may explain why many of the fruiting bodies had been uprooted. This particular species – found as it was in a lawn composed of exotic grasses – may not be native to Australia.

***


Finally, the bird’s-nest fungus Cyathus stercoreus. This extraordinary species is usually found on herbivore dung – in this case cow. The small ‘seeds’ or ‘eggs’ are called peridioles. These contain the spores and are dispersed by raindrops. This cluster of fruiting bodies was spotted at the Kyeamba TSR (which may recieve a full profile at a later date).

I hope soon to add a post on the autumn-flowering orchids recorded in the area. The bird count remains unchanged.



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.