Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


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.

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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.



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.



(More of) The Flora and Fauna of Lake Albert
November 26, 2009, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Flora, Fungi | Tags: , , , , , ,


The lake is not looking especially healthy at the moment – and this picture was taken before the worst of the recent weather. Birdlife is scarce (though I have recently added the Sacred Kingfisher to the list), so I’ve decided to continue with my series on the flora of the lake. This is the second post in the series. The first can be found here.

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis) Seedhead


Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)

Common Blown-Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis)


Common Blown-Grass is easily the most conspicuous of the grasses around the lake. It’s one of a number of “native tumbleweeds,” seedheads of which are often found in large drifts by roadsides. Hairy Panic (Panicum effusum) is another well-known and widely distributed species.

Onion Grass (*Romulea rosea)

Onion Grass (*Romulea rosea)


Small-Flowered Onion Grass (*Romulea minutiflora)

Small-Flowered Onion Grass (*Romulea minutiflora)


These two are common, widespread and potentially destructive introduced species. They are a favourite foodsource of the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus), however.

Barley Grass (Hordeum sp.)

Barley Grass (*Hordeum sp.)


Ripgut Brome (*Bromus catharticus)

Ripgut Brome (*Bromus catharticus)


Soft Brome (*Bromus molliformis)

Soft Brome (*Bromus molliformis)


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seedhead

Dandelion (*Taraxacum officinale) Seedhead


Ryegrass (*Lolium sp.)

Ryegrass (*Lolium sp.)


Narrow-Leaf Plantain (*Plantago lanceolata)

Narrow-Leaf Plantain (*Plantago lanceolata)


Flatweed (*Hypochoeris radicata)

Flatweed (*Hypochoeris radicata)


Mouse-Ear Chickweed (*Cerastium glomeratum)

Mouse-Ear Chickweed (*Cerastium glomeratum)


Tall Flatsedge (*Cyperus eragrostis)

Tall Flatsedge (*Cyperus eragrostis)


These are all very common, very widespread weeds. The following are also weeds, and also reasonably common, but are at least better-looking!

Common Centaury (*Centaurium erythraea)

Common Centaury (*Centaurium erythraea)


Celery-Leaved Buttercup (*Ranunculus sceleratus), aka Cursed Buttercup, Poison Buttercup

Celery-Leaved Buttercup (*Ranunculus sceleratus), aka Cursed Buttercup, Poison Buttercup


Redflower or Carolina Mallow (*Modiola caroliniana)

Redflower or Carolina Mallow (*Modiola caroliniana)


Redflower Mallow can be recognised by its distinctive fruits. This is a young fruit and this an old one.

Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia sp.)

Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia sp.)


This is probably the most successful native grass in the area, frequently appearing in lawns and parks. Austrodanthonia species are not easy to separate – so I haven’t bothered trying.

And finally, some fungi:

Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.)

Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.)


The following fungus (Bolbitius vitellinus, I believe) formed an enormous colony, extending a kilometre or more, alongside the walking track next to the lake.

Young Fruiting Body

Young Fruiting Body


Typical Fruiting Body

Typical Fruiting Body


Older Fruiting Body

Older Fruiting Body


This last fungus is among the most common in the area. I have seen it near the lake, on Willans Hill and in many local parks and gardens.

Laccaria lateritia

Laccaria lateritia

That’s all for now. There will probably be more later.



(Some of) the Flora and Fauna of Lake Albert
November 5, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Flora, Fungi | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve added a list of species recorded in the Wagga area since March of this year. It is available (as are all other lists) from the “Links” section on the left-hand column.

The vegetation surrounding Lake Albert is in places quite dense, and probably consists of several hundred species of plant. There is no chance of my ever documenting it thoroughly, but I hope through a series of posts to give a general idea of the sorts of plants likely to be encountered. At the same time I intend to point out a few of the interesting animals that may be spotted there from time to time.

Even a cursory examination of the lake’s flora reveals the presence of many introduced species, some of them highly invasive. They are a mixture of escaped ornamentals (Patterson’s Curse, Echium plantagineum, being the most well-known) and pasture grasses. I have made a special effort to locate and photograph the native species, but these posts will inevitably be dominated by exotics (indicated by an asterisk).

Bluebell (Wahlenbergia sp.)

Bluebell (Wahlenbergia sp.)

 

Jersey Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum)

Jersey Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum)

 

This is one of many species of plant with the word ‘weed’ in its name, despite actually being native.

Knotweed (Persicaria sp., formerly Polygonum sp.)

Knotweed (Persicaria sp., formerly Polygonum sp.)

 

This is another one.

Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata)

Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata)

 

This is a common and widespread native grass (according to PlantNet it is found in every botanical subdivision of NSW). The image shows it flowering, which it does opportunistically in response to rainfall.

Patterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)

Patterson's Curse (*Echium plantagineum)

 

Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula)

Capeweed (*Arctotheca calendula)

 

These two are the most conspicuous and prolific of the weeds in the Wagga area. They tend not to be actively managed, probably because there is simply no hope of getting them under control. A recent spraying within Livingstone National Park may have had some success in reducing the Capeweed population there.

Medic (*Medicago sp.)

Medic (*Medicago sp.)

 

There are a number of Medicago species that are difficult to separate without close examination. There is no such thing as a native medic, however.

Wild Oats (*Avena fatua)

Wild Oats (*Avena fatua)

 

Tall, drooping exotic grass. Extremely prolific in the area (Willans Hill is covered in it) but less colourful than Capeweed and Paterson’s Curse, and hence less conspicuous.

Narrow-Leaf Clover (*Trifolium angustifolium)

Narrow-Leaf Clover (*Trifolium angustifolium)

 

Hare's-Foot Clover (*Trifolium arvense)

Hare's-Foot Clover (*Trifolium arvense)

 

Paradoxa Grass (*Phalaris paradoxa)

Paradoxa Grass (*Phalaris paradoxa)

 

Phalaris paradoxa is another major pasture weed. There are a number of similar Phalaris species in the area.

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

 

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus), aka Lawyer's Wig

 

Many interesting and unusual species of fungus are found in the damp ground around the lake. The first picture shows a young Shaggy Ink Cap fruiting body. The second shows an older member of the same species, close to completing auto-digestion. This process can take only a few hours (according to Australian Fungi – A Blog) or up to 36 hours (A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia, A. M. Young, 2005). Eventually only a stem and an inky black blob will remain.

Water-Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster)

Water-Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster)

 

This sighting was a one-off. Lake Albert seems like an unusual choice of habitat for a Water-Rat: too open, and too many predators (seven species of raptor have been recorded in the area). They are typically seen in closed-in bodies of water with convenient hiding places, like Wollundry or Flowerdale Lagoon.

More to come.