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

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Perth Hills Flora - GALLERY 2

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw Anigozanthos manglesii
These are a symbol of the Western Australian flora - here in setting sun

Many-flowered Fringe Lily Thysanotus multiflorus
A small individual plant growing afresh after a forest fire

Climbing Fringe Lily Thysanotus scaber
This one is trailing along the ground as there were no shrubs nearby to climb over after a forest fire

Milkmaids Burchardia multiflora
Flowers and forming seed-pods

False Blind Grass Agrostocrinum hirsutum
Easily mistaken for one of the blue orchids

Billy Buttons Craspedia variabilis
A simple composite flower

Everlasting Daisy Hyalosperma cotula
These are about to open into bloom, they grow low in scattered groups, carpeting open clearings 

Yellow-eyed Flame Pea Chorizema dicksonii
Over forty species of the Pea family, Fabaceae, grow in the Perth Hills

Crinkle-leaved Poison Bush Gastrolobium villosum
The poison is monofluoroacetic acid, the main active constituent of 1080 poison  

One-sided Bottlebrush Calothamnus quadrifidus
Last year's fruit and this year's flower

Prickly Hakea Hakea amplexicaulis
New fruit forming

Hakea fruit opened after a forest fire
Wavy-leaved Hakea Hakea undulata

Monday, 14 November 2016

West Australia

I have been back from Western Australia for a week or so now and it has taken a while to catalogue the thousands of photographs I took on the trip. Although I was there to help Simon with his eagle studies (see previous post), it was impossible to not notice the wealth of wild flowers that were in bloom as we walked through the forests and heaths in the Perth Hills. WA is famous for its wild flowers and many were new to me as I live in eastern Australia where many of the flowers differ from those in the west. So, here I have selected and posted a some shots that give an impression of the variety of colour and form of those plants. There is a set of ten pictures in this first gallery and more will follow as I slowly progress through the catalogue. Only the species names and a few notes are given. This not an intense post, I simply want to share their beauty.

Perth Hills Flora - GALLERY 1

Sticky Starflower Calytrix glutinosa

Variegated Featherflower Verticordia huegelii
The flowers turn from white to pink after fertilisation

Blue Leschenaultia Leschenaultia biloba

White Cottonhead Conostylis setosa

Rough Honeymyrtle Melaleuca parviceps
Like bursts of fireworks

Hairy Pimelea Pimelea imbricata

Resurrection Plant Borya sphaerocephala
These plants of dry rocky places spring into life after rain 

Goodenia drumondii 
Are there so many plants in Western Australia that this one cannot be given a common name?

Native Fuchsia Grevillea wilsonii

   Flowerhead detail of Native Fuchsia Grevillea wilsonii showing the uncurling pollen-presenters