Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Moths April 2018

The moths are still flying here in Canberra, and the autumn flying species are beginning to show. As with previous months, I have posted here a brief selection of species I saw when out trapping moths with Glenn Cocking on Black Mountain last week. Glenn also identified them for me.

This first one, above and below is Chenuala heliaspis, a robust species with a good covering of 'hair' and splendid spreading antennae.

Some of these shots were taken of the moths on the white sheet which the lamp was shining on, others were of moths that landed on nearby trees or shrubs. To attain true colours, it is important to shield the moths from the lamp light and use a flash to freeze all motion.

Proteuxoa cinereicillis - what are the little spikes on its legs for?

Agriophara sp? If this one wasn't aligned squint with the bark it would be virtually invisible.

Achyra affinitalis - what lovely long legs this one has, and spectacular large eyes for such a slim body and head.

Utetheisa pulchelloides - the heliotrope moth.

Hednota sp - a long slim body, well about 1 cm, with distinctive stripes along the folded wings and long slim antennae.

And this was the champion of the night, as far as size matters. A male White-stemmed Gum Moth Chelepteryx collesi. A full 14 cm wingspan.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Bowra Birds

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos Lophochroa leadbeateri fly over the lagoon at sunset

Here are some shots of the birds we had around the campsite at Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary, see previous post. For more on the birds caught and banded visit the piece Jon Coleman, who organised the meet, on the Facebook page of Australian Bird Study Association Inc.

Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius parrots forage for seeds around the edge of the camp. They like to keep in the shadows. That way their eyes are shielded from the sun and they can see any predators approach.

Parrots are so versatile, they can grip such slender stems such as on this shrub, to reach the seeds still set in the dried flower heads, then pull out the seeds with their tongues and bills.

Over by the lagoon, there were four Willy Wagtails Rhipidura leucophrys hunting insects. This one was using branches lying in the water as perches to hawk from.

This Willy Wagtail was using a kangaroo as a hunting perch.

It wasn't catching insects on the kangaroo's back, just using it as a vantage point to spot prey on the ground nearby, possibly disturbed by the roo.

There were several White-headed Stilts Himantopus leucocephalus patrolling around the water, dipping to snatch insect larvae from the water, mosquitoes hopefully.

And there were six Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops feeding in the very shallowest water. Well, their legs are a lot shorter than the stilts'.

In fact they are rather small birds, small enough for the group of them to hide in the sand around a log lying on the shore.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Campsite Reptiles

Last week I was out at Bowra Sanctuary, west of Cunnamulla, Queensland. This is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and I was one of a volunteer team mist-netting birds as part of a long-term project studying the birds in the reserve. More on the birds in a later post. For now here are a few photographs of the gorgeous reptiles we found in the campsite. This first one is an Inland Velvet Gecko Oedura cincta, about 12 cm long and with big black eyes.

This gecko was found by Shoshano Rapley, who was handy to have in the team as she is a specialist in reptiles. She found this one when spotting with a torch around the campsite.

I was sitting watching the various insects scurrying about on the ground one night when I noticed a sigmoid line tracing below the dirt. It was moving, then I saw a glimpse of scales and I thought it might be a snake or a legless lizard, so I called over our expert. And sure enough when I touched the dirt with a stick a blind snake popped out and wriggled across the leaf litter. It was a Prong-snouted Blind Snake Anilior bituberculatus.

These reptiles are very difficult to identify, this one was recognisable by the pattern of the scales on its face. It was incredibly wriggly, so difficult to photograph with flash, but the fineness of its scales can be seen here. It looked and almost felt like a giant earthworm, and it emitted a defensive odour which scented my hands for a while afterwards.

Blind snakes are incredibly difficult to find due to their underground lifestyle. This one was about 30 cm long. They feed on termites and ants, their eggs and pupae.

Our other special visitor, or rather we were their visitors, was a 2 m long Inland Carpet Python Morelia spilota metcalfei. This was spotted crossing the ground between the tents, so we picked it up and placed it a tree, where it soon worked itself into ambush posture and lay there quietly for hours. Well past my bedtime at least. I like the violet forked tongue.

Peter Davidson takes a photograph of the python on the branch.

These snakes are difficult to spot in daytime, and once this one was settled into the branches in the dark, it was very difficult to see at all.

One thing the flash did was highlight the pattern of the snake's scales. I was using a remote flash in coordination with the camera flash. This not only brought out the colour and pattern but added shadows to the layering of the scales. All so soft and warm to touch. The snake was not aggressive at all.

I particularly liked the way the snake twisted back on itself and kinked its neck, all set for ambushing any small rodent that happened to wander too near in the dark.