Saturday, 24 December 2016

Maria Island details

I like to get close and explore texture and form when I take photographs for myself.

Here is a set of such shots from the Maria Island trip.

The Painted Cliffs - a well known sandstone feature on the island.

A close up of the weathered sandstone around the corner from the previous shot.

And another from around the next corner.

Meanwhile, over on the far western side of the island, there are the fossil beds at Fossil Bay - once quarried for limestone to make cement.

Footprints left on the beach by a Tasmanian Devil as it prowled at night.

The distinctive claw pattern of an echidna's tracks where one crossed a sand dune.

To keep sand and dirt out of their ears, wombats have a dense mat of hairs covering their aural orifices.

The striped pattern on eucalyptus trunks left by bark cast at different times.

Maria Island wildlife

Here is a simple set of images that give a taste of the wildlife on Maria Island. I could say much more and post a blog on each species, but for now I prefer to present just a short list to give a hint of the flavour.

A hermit crab climbs back into its shell as it is rescued from the tideline - there were gulls and oystercatchers about.

Bright starry flowers and fleshy succulent leaves of Pink Pigface.

A pair of Cape Barren Geese - these birds, which were becoming endangered elsewhere, had been breeding well on the island until Tasmanian Devils were introduced. No geese have produced young for a few years now. The devils were sent there to maintain a virus-free population in isolation, at the cost of them killing geese and other animals. A strange conservation strategy.

A Tasmanian Native Hen, they too are no longer rearing young due to predation by the devils.

A Tasmanian Pademelon - these marsupials are about the size of a large brown hare, or a little more. Perhaps, they are just large enough to escape from the devils, as they seem to be thriving on the island.

A Bennett's Wallaby - as she scratches her ear, her joey peeks out from behind its own tail which is hanging out of the pouch.

A Wombat lies sleeping during the day. A favourite wombat past-time. This one is lying at the entrance to its burrow.

A modern, or rather, a still extant mollusc sits on the fossilised shells of extinct molluscs.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Maria Island

This is the first of three posts, an overview, on a recent trip to Maria Island off the east coast of Tasmania. The island is a national treasure, for history as well as wildlife and it is managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania. As it is an island, it has to be accessed by boat and there is no vehicle service, so all is quiet on the island. And I never tried to seek a signal for my mobile either. Peace.

Our perfect landing spot on the beach of Chinaman's Bay on the west coast of an isthmus between the two main landmasses at the north and south of the island. At the longest, the island is about 20 km, and at the widest, about 13 km.

Trails of Pink Pigface Carpobrotus rossii spread down a sand dune on the east side of the isthmus on Ocean Beach, where there is usually a swell coming in from the Pacific.

Granite rocks present a rough headland at the southern tip of the island, the clean rock indicating how high the sea hammers on the cliffs in storms.

Orange lichen grows on the coastal granite just above the water splash zone. These are Hymeneliaceae sp. and are characteristic of coastal granite in southern Australia. This cove is Haunted Bay, sheltered from the westerlies and once used by whalers to lie up while processing blubber from whales and seals killed in the surrounding sea.

Mount Maria (711 m), the highest point on the island is in the northern part. This and the other high peaks, Bishop and Clerk, are of dolerite and all the high ground is swathed with continuous eucalyptus forest.

There are a few wetlands, pools and marshes on the coastal plains on the west of the northern part of the island. The most abundant birds I saw there were white-faced herons and black swans.

The eastern side of the island drops off in cliffs, their abrupt edge contrasting with the gentle slopes on the west. The whole island would have been covered with forest as in the background of this photograph, the grassland is a remnant from the days of european settlement and agricultural clearing.

The east coast of the northern part of the island does not present such a perfect landing spot.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Tawny Frogmouths and ants

A family of Tawny Frogmouths line up along a dead branch
Mum is farthest away, then the single fledgling and dad is watching from the right

Most of the young Tawny Frogmouths have fledged by now, except for those from nests where the adults lost their first clutches of eggs or broods of young. The chicks will be with their parents for another month or so before they venture off on their own and lead an adult life.

The fledglings are so curious they watch people as much as they watch them - if they can spot them in the first place

It is not all peaceful and easy just sitting on a branch all day waiting for dark and then going about the woods looking for food. I found this female being very tolerant of a string of ants that were marching up and down her roost branch.

She watched me through part open eyelids, but was unconcerned about the ants

I watched her for several minutes and she gradually reclined into a relaxed posture once she realised I was no threat to her. Still, she never reacted to the ants in any way, and she would have been sitting there for several hours before I saw her. She would have been there since dawn. I suppose that frogmouths must be used to ants chewing on their toes, or the ants don't go any further than that, for ants will attack and kill small birds if the come across a nest or an injured bird on the ground. The question is, why didn't the ants attack her? Have frogmouths adapted some form of ant repellent which allows them to sit in one spot all day and not be bothered by them?

Meat ants Iridomymex sp. chewing at the dead skin on her toes


Monday, 21 November 2016

Xanthorrhoeaceae - Grasstrees

Xanthorrhoeaceae, what a splendid name for this splendid plant family. It means 'yellow flow' and refers to their yellow resin. The plants shown here, Balga Xanthorrhoea preisii, are regrowing fresh shoots from their stems, blackened by a recent bush fire in the Perth Hills.

Another species of grasstree, Slender Balga X. gracilis. These are smaller than the more common Balga and do not form the tall columns of the latter. The two are shown here next to one another for comparison.

The flower spikes of the Balga can reach 5 m tall, this one was not much short of that, yet the main stem was only just above ground level. The stems grow about 1.5 cm per year, so this one is already several years old. Tall specimens can be hundreds of years old.

A honey bee zooms around the nectar-bearing flowers on the spike. The air was buzzing with insects as they dashed around the numerous plants that were in flower all at once in this grove.

The flower spikes were used for the buts of spears by aborinal people, as they are light yet strong. Part of that strength comes from the spiral growth pattern, the torsion adding spring to the stems.

Ants crawling over and through the flowers, collecting nectar

Tall Blaga spikes rise up from the bush in the Perth Hills while the spikes of Perth city centre rise from the urbanised plain.  

Friday, 18 November 2016

Perth Hills Flora - Gallery 4

In this, the fourth gallery of wild flower shots from the Perth Hills in Western Australia, I show a selection of backlit images. Much of the colour in the plants are washed out when in the full harsh sunshine of the Australian bush, but in the early morning or late afternoon the light is softer and at a favourable low angle. Although, even then, some shots are too well lit in over the shoulder light shots. So, I prefer to shoot into the light and capture the details high-lit by the same harsh light from behind the subject. This is what I tend to see anyway. I seldom take wide landscape shots for the same reason, preferring to zoom in on a detail, or several details that make up the whole. So here in this gallery, I show what I saw when walking through the Perth Hills bush into the sun.

White Cottonhead Conostylis setosa

Lovely Triggerplant Stylidium amoenum
white variety 

Eucalyptus sp. sapling leaves

Hibertia subvaginata

Smooth Grevillea Grevillea manglesii

Hairy Jug Flower Adenanthos barbiger

Black Eyed Susan Tetratheca hirsuta

Lovely Triggerplant Stylidium amoenum 
pink variety in the last drop of the sunshine

Candle Hakea Hakea ruscifolia
A particularly dense growth form regrowing after a bush fire

Billy Buttons Craspedia variabilis
Seedhead in front of a blackened, burnt tree trunk

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Perth Hills Flora - GALLERY 3

Pink Enamel Orchid Elythranthera emarginata
The petals really loook like they are glazed - and this one a bit chipped

Scented Sun Orchid Thelymitra macrophylla
These were growing on metre-tall stems
They open in the sun, hence only a few were fully open in the dappled woodland light

Blue Lady Orchid Thelymitra crinita
There were blooms about every 10 m as far as I could see

Purple Flag Patersonia occidentalis
Not an orchid, but just as colourful

Black Eyed Susan Tetratheca hirsuta
These flowers are typical of the species, hanging down rather than facing up into the light

Gompholobiuim shuttleworthii
One of two pink members of the Pea family, Fabaceae, in the Perth Hills

White Banjine Pimelea ciliata 
Like many of the common shrubs, these flowers are worth stopping to look at closely

Hibbertia pachyrrhiza
A low ground creeping species, hiding in the undergrowth  

Hairy Yellow Pea Gompholobium tomentosum
A yellow shrubby member of the Pea family

Bristly Cottonhead Conostylis setosa
Only a few centimetres high but it catches the eye

Bristly Yellow Featherflower Verticordia acerosa
The pollinated flowers turn red, emphasising the yellow of the fresh flowers

Beaufortia macrostemon
A member of the Myrtle family with no common name
The whole bush was aflame