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Focus on Foxes

April 20, 2018

Focus on Fauna is joining with the King Parrot Catchment Fox Control Project (KPCFCP)   to hold a forum on foxes this coming Sunday 22nd April at Strath Creek Hall, starting at 10am.  A panel of experts will provide an overview of the damage the introduced Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, causes particularly to native wildlife; report on a fox management research project; and look at various methods of control.

To establish the abundance of foxes in the district, the KPCFCP has been running a program using remote cameras on both private and public land in the King Parrot Creek catchment area. The latest round of monitoring has recorded plenty of foxes as well as a variety of native animals that are vulnerable to predation by foxes.

Click on any of the photos below to view as a slide show.

Fallow Deer


The camera monitoring program also shows up other pest species in the environment such as cats, another introduced predator of native wildlife, and deer, which can cause significant damage to native vegetation and fragile ecosystems.



For a snapshot of sightings of foxes and a range of other feral animals go to the FeralScan website.

Not so comedic after all

April 16, 2018

The harlequin is a character from 16th century Italian comedic theatre. Over time it has been portrayed as a dimwitted fool, an intelligent trickster or as a reinterpretation of the devil. Invariably it is dressed in a chequered  costume of many colours. It is the chequered colours that give the Australian Harlequin Bug (Dindymus versicolor), pictured, its name. As pretty as they look it is not so funny to have this insect in your garden.

The Australian Harlequin Bug is an hemipteran, that is a sap-sucking insect. Like other hemipterans previously discussed on this blogsite, such as the Southern Green Shield Bug, this bug develops through a series of instar states until the adult emerges. The insect feeds on common orchard weeds such as marshmallow, dock and wire weed but also fruit and vegetable plants as well.

Over winter the adults hide under the bark of trees. Mating occurs in early spring when large numbers of these insects can be seen  swarming on trees and fence posts. The eggs are laid by the larger female in leaf litter.

Both the adult and instar bugs use their mouthparts to pierce the outer layer of the plant or fruit and then suck the sap. In fruit this results in a depression in the surface of the fruit and browning underneath. Such is its notoriety that the Harlequin bug is listed as a Australian biodiversity pest on the government Pest and Diseases Image Library (PaDIL).

When confronted with a threat i.e. a camera lens, these bugs will actively hide on the underside of vegetation. Methinks more devil than fool.

Keeping a low profile

April 12, 2018

There are certain birds that, although common and widespread, often seem to be overlooked. A couple of these have recently been encountered on our Strath Creek property. The first is the Australasian Pipit, a well camouflaged ground-dweller that darts about in bursts in pastures, grasslands and open woodlands, feeding on insects and occasionally seeds.

It often perches on logs, rocks or fences and wags its tail up and down on landing, but can be quite unobtrusive even in close-cropped paddocks. It feeds, sleeps and nests on the ground so needs to be alert to avoid predators like foxes and raptors.

The pictured bird was one of four we came across on our back hill. They were remarkably unconcerned by our close presence which allowed for some clear photos.

The other species that appeared the other day among a mixed flock of thornbills, Weebills and Grey Fantails, was a small group of Varied Sittellas which included a couple of juvenile birds (see left) that were still being fed by an adult. The sittellas are rather odd little birds, adept at busily foraging among tree branches and head-first down tree trunks. They have sharp slightly upturned bills ideal for prising out grubs, beetles, spiders etc. When feeding they seem to be perpetually on the move, but when they do rest, they often huddle together with a lot of jostling for best position.

So, perhaps unobtrusive, but it’s always a delight to spot either of these two species!

It’s easy being green …

April 5, 2018

… when you look like a leaf, as this rather prehistoric-looking insect does.

It’s a katydid, a close relation of crickets in the order Orthoptera, which also includes grasshoppers and locusts. We think it’s a Gum-leaf Katydid, Torbia viridissima, although it is equally well disguised on the Callistemon sp. branch shown here as it would be among eucalypt leaves.

Not so well hidden though when first found on the low Spyridium obcordatum shrub shown at right in our garden. In fact katydids are mostly nocturnal, so it was surprising to see it out and about in the afternoon. At night they ‘sing’ to attract females and protect territory by rubbing their wings together, rather like crickets . They feed on foliage and even small insects, although the Gum-leaf Katydid apparently feeds solely on gum leaves.

Katydids can sometimes be confused with praying mantids (order Mantodea), and with stick insects (order Phasmatodea), but the katydid’s enlarged hind legs in particular distinguish it from these other insect groups.

So keep an eye out for ‘leaves’ with strong back legs!

Close but no cigar

April 1, 2018

This blogsite was borne out of a project to record and report on fauna returning to the King Parrot and Strath Creek valleys after the 2009 bushfires. To this day Macwake makes sure that we keep to the original vision by only publishing posts of fauna from those valleys.

Recently I observed a distinctive looking bird doing acrobatics in a eucalypt tree. It turned out to be a juvenile Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis), pictured below.



The green patch around its eye is bare skin and is indicative of the age of the bird. Young birds have yellow skin around the eye which turns green after six months. This skin turns blue after about 16 months and what a colour it is (see photo left). Blue is such a rare colour in nature and this hue is stunning.

This honeyeater is found in open woodlands north of the Great Dividing Range all the way up to New Guinea. These photos were taken just north of the Strathbogies and therefore fall outside the range of fauna reported on this blogsite. Close, but no cigar.

Forget that you read any of this.

Nature at the door

March 21, 2018

Our glass-panelled back door seems to have been a magnet for interesting insects just lately. The small fly pictured at left we thought at first was a mosquito, but Karen Retra from the Wild Pollinator Count suggested on the BowerBird website that it may in fact be a non-biting midge (family Chironomidae), and so far no one has disputed that.

If so, it is a nectar feeder and potential pollinator, although not all adult midges actually feed. But with those feathery antennae (which indicate a male) plus a hairy abdomen and rear legs, it is easy to see it being an efficient pollen collector. Click on the image for a closer look.

Then we noticed the small long-legged fly (family Dolichopodidae) pictured at right with green eyes, striped abdomen and patterned wings. Any further identification suggestions for this one would be welcomed.

Another non-fly insect keen to have a peek through the door was this small frail mantis nymph at left, which was only about 4cm long.

We thought about cleaning the door for better photography, but then perhaps the dirty glass is what these insects find attractive?!

Pete Best – in our garden

March 3, 2018

Gardening is such a peaceful past-time. Sometimes the idyll is punctuated by the sighting of a snake or the unearthing of a Pobblebonk, or worse still, half a Pobblebonk, just to add that dash of excitement. My gardening experience was recently interrupted by an angry buzzing (click on the sound clip below. Ignore the cockatoos in the background).

Instantly a number of possibilities came to mind – none of them good. If the neighbours had been watching they would have seen me hurtle out of the garden and then from a safe vantage point survey the veggie plot for a considerable amount of time.

The result – nothing. The expected appearance of an angry something (bee?/wasp?/frog?/cicada?) failed to materialise and after a while the sound stopped only to kick off again as soon as gardening resumed. The culprit, a Rhinoceros Beetle (Dasygnathus trituberculatus), pictured below.

Rhinoceros beetles are Scarabs just like Christmas Beetles. They are active at night. The male beetle sports three horns, one on the ‘nose’ and two on the ‘forehead’. The former is used for digging in the soil and for fighting other males with during mating season. The larvae live in the soil and feed on plant roots.

I am not sure of the mechanism by which the sound was made. It was obvious on closer inspection that the abdomen was vibrating rapidly under the hard wing case. Maybe the sound was generated by friction or maybe by air. But the investigation went no further and it was released. Clearly a very annoyed beetle. Just like Pete Best (a bit of trivia for all you Beatles aficionados!)