We live on a wildlife corridor joining large areas of forest to the south and north. The birds are at a peak now and breeding, especially the honeyeaters. This young Yellow-Tufted Honeyeater is having a little rest after hitting a window at warp speed. He flew off to join the others soon after the photo was taken. If you would like to see more small birds in your garden in the Ellalong area you can start planting more native shrubs to attract these little guys. The corridor needs all the help it can get. Small birds have disappeared from the cities - these corridors are the last stronghold for them.
A rare sighting this morning while having breakfast. Species number 115 for Wallaby Gully...a Bassian Thrush. Very well camouflaged, it runs in short bursts and then remains very still for a few seconds which provides an excellent opportunity for a photo. The books say that these birds require lots of leaf litter for foraging. Leaf litter although a fire hazard is extremely important for much of our fauna as it contains a huge amount of insect life.
The dam was built 20 years ago and has been through many changes, including the increase in the yabby population. Many years ago, they moved from the small waterhole in our creek line and established a big presence in the dam. Since then the frogs have largely disappeared so I am assuming that they eat frogs eggs. The dam wall has become peppered with holes as they build their tunnels. A friend - who is now known as "Magic Laurie" or "The Yabby King"- lived here in May whilst we were away and diligently set the yabby trap daily to try to decrease the population.
His total at the end of the month was 275! I am still catching around 5 per day but they are getting smaller. They are either being released in local creeks or other farm dams. We are hoping that the frogs may make a comeback if we keep at it.
Living in the bush is not for the faint-hearted. Numerous obstacles are always present... fire, big trees, things that might eat your house, things that might kill you, things that may force you to consider living a "safer" life in the city or suburbs. You can always clear the block and make it like suburbia but if you do that maybe you should live in suburbia. Many people do "clear the block"... the first things to go are the prickly native bushes. We burnt an area about 4 years ago and the prickly native bushes are back many fold. They are an intrinsic part of the vegetation and support a huge number of invertebrates.
I will be detailing these obstacles during future posts so that you can have some idea of the difficulties involved in living here.
During these humid, rainy days after the big dry of January, more dragonflies have been seen around the dam. This is one of the biggest - an Australian Emperor. Dragonflies have almost 360 degree vision and when living underwater in their larval stage they have "rectal gills" - meaning they breathe through their anus.
What’s happening in the Grow Local nursery? The new propagation experiment for ground orchids is underway.
All you can see at present is a number of pots with white tags, but under there
are the dormant tubers waiting for autumn to sprout forth their new leaves.
Native terrestrial orchids are topsy-turvy in their growing - being dormant in
summer. I have to be careful to give them minimal water during this time. At a
time when all other plants are at their maximum water usage, these little fella’s
need very little. It’s hard to walk past without watering.
The trial is to increase the population of Diuris tricolor, a Donkey Orchid. This
is classed as a vulnerable species and any new tubers will eventually go back
in the ground near where they were collected or on nearby offsets.
Terrestrial orchids have a symbiotic relationship with
micorrhyzal fungi, so I have to add a little original soil from
the site to introduce the correct fungi to the potting mix.
Your eyes are not playing tricks - a pink birds nest. Found this in an Angophora just about to drop it's fruit. A small nest, probably a honeyeater of some sort. Love the intricate use of thin pieces of pink baling twine.
The micro - house on the tiny house. I’ve been sleeping in
the tiny house and enjoying the nocturnal sounds of the wildlife around the
dam, except maybe for the microbats as they scramble up the fly-wire door
looking for a new cave to roost in. So, I have found a website that has plans
for a microbat house. The timber at the bottom has a landing pad with shade
cloth, the bats then crawl through a narrow opening into the dark interior
which also has shadecloth where they will roost during the day. These fast
flying little critters can be seen skimming the dam just before dawn.
Apparently they love
eating mosquitoes...can’t be a bad thing.
Louise and Chris (left in centre) are in the process of having their beautiful piece of a valley protected under a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with National Parks. The Yengo area is south west of Wallaby Gully and joins with the huge 5000 sq.km Wollemi wilderness... an enviable lifestyle in the Australian bush.
VCA's are an important part of adding to our national bio-diversity in perpetuity.
A little further down the track is a view of Mt Yengo (below). This basalt-capped mountain has great significance for the aboriginal people of the area.
One of my earliest posts on this site is of the Wedge-tailed Eagles nest on the mountain above (March 5, 2010). After many climbs on the mountain during the past 17 years I have finally found the nest active. The white chick is quite young and will spend many weeks being reared by the parents. A rabbit carcase can be seen in the background.
We are experiencing the biggest Spotted Gum flowering since we have lived here. This is a composite image of a tree and flowers. A cacophony of honeyeaters and parrots during the day and screeching fruit bats on the night shift. A few kilometres away a large group of Regent Honeyeaters have arrived for the feast.... one of the most endangered birds in the country.
After two successive La Nina's and big rains the birds are jubilant! This Banksia is outside the bathroom window and is usually frequented by our resident Spinebill's (see post in April 2010). This is the first time a Black Cockatoo has visited to eat the seeds from the cones. I was able to get a clear head-shot with a telephoto lens from a few feet away without him seeing me.
...checked the book this time. "Harmless to Humans"
So, get in close and try for a good head shot, still difficult due to all the grass in the way. Only the second time I have seen one of these, a Red-Naped Snake. Quite small at 30cm almost fully grown.
Many species of small birds slowly start to leave the gully at this time, at the end of the breeding season. There are a few less than usual at the moment due to the hungry young Goshawks. A pair raised 2 or 3 chicks in the top of a big ironbark and they have been terrorizing the small birds for a few weeks. This one was at rest near the birdbath drooling at the wrens having their daily bath.
The reptile season continues although rather cool for this time of year. I dug up this Bandy-Bandy when planting a tree, played with him for a while to get him all worked up into this strike pose. I thought Mr Bandy-Bandy was non-venomous but when I checked the book...not so. Why did I not check the book first??
The range above us has one of the last populations of Brush-tail Rock Wallabies left in NSW. This old fellow has suffered a split ear at some stage in life. We have a favourite bit of the steep sandstone escarpment to sit and watch them before our descent back home.
The big "La Nina" event has finally gone from the country. We missed it at Wallaby Gully, having well below average rainfall since January this year. So, last week when La Nina left we had 130mm in three days which filled the dam for the first time in four years and our creek is still flowing!
The Acacia Moth caterpillar is eating some of my wattles in the nursery. It's relatively small at about 30mm long and I am willing to sacrifice a wattle or two to watch this very ornate caterpillar grow. This is the rear end of the moth opening his "false eye" after I tickled his bum with a stick!
One of our neighbours recently found this Emperor Gum Moth and I have been able to get some good photos even though it was dead.
This is one of the largest moths in Australia with a wingspan up to 150mm. It has a very short life span as an adult and does not feed at all after the caterpillar stage, so I suppose this is an adult that ran out of food!
Have been trying for years to get a decent photo of a Scarlet Honeyeater. It's only on the very hot days like today (40 celsius) that thirst overcomes fear and they will come close enough for a photo. Look closely and you will see the long, pointy tongue designed for searching for nectar in native flowers. I waited for 2 hours for this shot which was hard to do laid back in my banana lounge drinking cider.
Sex at Wallaby Gully can be fatal. The Brown Antechinus (Marsupial Mouse) are nesting in the studio and madly searching for food. All males die at eleven months after a few frenetic days of mating which can last up to six hours at a time. This weakens their immune system and leads to internal infections. The females are less stressed and can live for another season.
The frogs are back after good spring and summer rains. This warty little Ornate Burrowing Frog appeared when I was digging a hole to plant a plum tree. They live in chambers underground coming out to forage at night.
It's been a long time between babbles.......work gets in the way. Now is the time for ground orchids to rear their heads. This one is called "Brown Beaks" and is one of many orchids that are dormant underground for most of their lives, appearing for a couple of weeks in spring.
Climbed the mountain behind our property this morning and was fortunate enough to spot this Sooty Owl peeping out of a rock overhang. This is the 106th bird species on our list for Wallaby Gully. This large owl is listed as threatened in NSW. Destruction of habitat is one of the critical concerns particularly hollow bearing trees. The call during the breeding season can be alarming - a high pitched scream like someone being strangled.
Alison Green has had this design in her t-shirt range for a number of years.
Click here and visit her website to view the design in full.
The Regent Honeyeater is a critically endangered species and has been sighted only twice here in the 15 years we have been at Wallaby Gully. They feed in eucalypt open forest and woodlands in inland Victoria and NSW and their range is still diminishing. In 1997 their global population was estimated at a total of 1500 birds.
Alison Green, a Wallaby Gully artist, has just created this new design to add to her range of hand-printed T-shirts. The image illustrated here appears on the front of the shirt. Visit the Alison Green Designs website to view this and other designs in her range.