Saturday, 27 April 2019

Last autumn post for 2019

I was clambering up Mt Majura in north Canberra the other day and came eye to eye with these seed pods lying on top of a ridge.

The autumn gold of the seeds inside a Kurrajong seed pod. Old dry and blackened pods lie around.

The ground in the grove was littered with seed pods, some old some new.

The stand of Kurrajong trees were up on a ridge. Their straight stems and lush green foliage make them instantly recognisable. The ground cover of grasses and herbs was close-cropped by Eastern Grey Kangaroos.

There was a good crop of seed pods on most of the trees, but I don't know what animals eat them. Any suggestions?

The glistening green pods under a bright blue sky, what a lovely tree.

One last last crisp autumn view over Canberra.

And one final butterfly for the season in Canberra, an Amethyst Hairstreak Jalmenus icilius basking on a track on a hillside today. Other species seen flying today were Meadow Argus and Cabbage White.

It's Spring for me next week.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Autumn - eagle display

Autumn in Canberra is just getting brighter and better every day at the moment. Crisp clear light with far away views, like this one from Black Mountain across the city and lake to the distant hills.

And the Wedge-tailed Eagles are making the best of the weather for their autumn displays. Like this male over Mount Ainslie on the edge of the city.

He was with his partner, but no youngster from last year as this pair never bred. Although I have seen other pairs still with their last year's offspring, it won't be long til they move on and find their own way in life. For all this recent display activity is part of the eagles' bonding and territorial claim for the upcoming breeding season - they will lay eggs in July here in Canberra.

This pair were soaring over a wooded ridge, but there wasn't much wind so the display was a bit casual. The female was circling quite low while the male rose up, then as he stalled to a stop he would tilt over into a dive.

He tucked his wings in and charged on down, always in perfect control even when so tightly folded.

When he saw fit, he simply and easily turned up out of the dive and opened his wings to catch the wind, then he climbed back up to a high point and repeated several times. As it was quite a still day, the pair eventually dropped to perch in a tree. The best displays are done in breezy conditions.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Pasture Day Moth

Spot the moth - yes it is well-spotted

It's autumn, and there have been some cold nights in Canberra, but there are still some butterflies flying and a few daylight-flying moths. Like the one in the picture above, the well named Pasture Day Moth Apina callisto. Except the ones I saw the other day were not in pasture, they were all spread along the verge of a track through a low scrubby hillside.

The moths were lifting from nowhere as I walked along the track. I just never saw them until they moved. They were so well concealed by their cryptic colouring, so like the gravel they were resting on. The spots on their wings, when folded, matched the whites, yellows and reds of the tiny stones in colours and size. With the black lines hinting at shadow lines like those between the stones.

I stopped to take a proper look at them, but had to wait till they landed before I could grab any photographs. When flying, they flashed large cream patches on their wings. Then when they landed I had to creep up on them and use a 400 m lens to take decent shots, even from only two metres away. They are only about 3 cm long.

They all landed on gravel after a short flight. Although they are named pasture moths, they never landed on the grasses or herbs on the path edge. They all landed on a clear gravel patch. The pasture is where they lay their eggs, and their larvae hatch and feed.

Their strategy was working, for I watched some Pied Currawongs hawking butterflies, Meadow Argus, catching them as they flew low along the track or snatching them as they landed.

How many moths can you see in this habitat shot, I can't see any although I know there at least five on the edge of the track. They lift when disturbed, but only at the last moment.

Autumn is when many of the larger moths in the Canberra area emerge. Their large bodies, filled with fats, make excellent food for Tawny Frogmouths, which are hunting hard at this time, to put on weight to see them through the cold winter months.

Thanks to Suzi Bond who identified the moths for me.