Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Weeping Fungus is back.

In 2010 I found the most beautiful fungus I had ever seen.

it was growing in amongst fallen leaves on the underside of a living Eucalyptus obliqua stump


(back later .. child is awake)
It took ages to find someone who could help with an ID and eventually I was referred to Pamela Catchside ...
Last word:
I am delighted to have had this fungus identified by Pam Catcheside

Editor, Fungimap Newsletter,
Honorary Research Associate,
State Herbarium of South Australia,
Plant Biodiversity Centre,
Dept for Environment & Heritage,

Among the photos of thata first find are these two.



I have watched that site very closely in the interveneing years, but no sign of it.

Then, last week, in a quite new site about 60 metres away, another.

Yet again, the site is under a slight overhang of the base of a Messmate (E obliqua).

This is the general view.

and looking closer ...

and closer again ...

and again ... 

   and lucky last for today.

Inonotus dryadeus,  The Weeping Bracket Fungus, 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Grey Shrike Thrush is Back

I can hear one just outside the kitchen window, but not see it.
I took this photo seven years ago at my previous home and am longing to get a clear shot at one here.

Grey Shrike-thrush (cropped)
The call is a delight ... and can be heard at the Australian Birds in Backyards, here.

Along with the thrush, the blue wrens are hopping about on the ground and the thornbills are racketing around in the Eucalypts' foliage.

Or it would be but for the sun directly behind them  :)

*puts the camera away and "just" enjoys watching*

At least if they build a nest here they will be safer than in Stirling, in suburbia and only 6k away.
The previous owners there had hand fed birds, including kookaburras.
If we had a BBQ on our deck outside as many as five Kookaburras would arrive and sit on the handrail, waiting to be fed.
They would fly up into the trees and eat and then return for seconds.

Not only that; if we cooked meat in the kitchen, the exhaust fan over the grill would release enough of that smell to call them!.

As a consequence, the population of Kookaburras (which predate on other birds' young) had exploded.
Our next door neighbours who ran a marvelous (and highly recommended)  B&B really appreciated the many birds close by, but the costs to the environment are high..

This little thrush in the picture made its nest in the crown of a large tree fern.
Each time it raised a baby it was picked out and eaten by the Kookaburras.

(Had we stayed we'd have rigged chicken wire over the top of the fern, of a size the thrush could get through, but not the Kookaburras, but didn't think of that until too late.)
Way too much of our general "good will" has had catastrophic results :(

And the B&B?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Yellow Blacks "in the pink".

Yesterday was a beautifully cool day; a max of 25C

The flock of a dozen or so Yellow Tailed Black cockatoos was back again.

Unlike yesterday, when they had sat in one place for as long as an hour at a time, with their wings held out from their bodies and beaks open, they were very active.

They ate, talking quietly to each other, and then at intervals took short flights around their currently preferred food source here (PInus radiata) and longer ones along the valley, calling all the way,  and back again.
It was great to see.

It's been two years since I have been able to get a good photo of them, so today was a special treat.

There is some dispute about what to do with the Pine Trees.
Pinus radiata

They are a pest plant in our bush.
Many want to remove them, but imo a staged removal is vital for these birds, although they are a major means of spreading the seeds, so it is a vexed issue.

We need to undertake major replanting of their original food plants, notably Hakeas, Banksias and Sheoaks before removing any more of the pine trees.
Seeds spread some distance on the wind, and are also carried into bushland by Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.
Impact on Bushland
Radiata Pine establishes readily, creates dense shade, and carpets the ground thickly with needles. It depletes the soil of nutrients and water, changes soil chemistry, and excludes native plants. It favours the growth of weed seeds dropped by perching birds. A significant fire hazard."

And what we most certainly do NOT need here is anything that adds to our already VERY significant bushfire hazard.

Monday, February 3, 2014

More 40C+ Temperatures

Yes, it IS Summer and yes, this is when we expect our hot weather, so that is not worth mentioning.
What is worth mentioning is that the maxima are so high and general AND so variable.
It was 43C yesterday and today's forecast maximum is 25C, though only 18C at present.

We received about 7 spots of rain last evening, so that was a blessed relief, not.

The only reptiles I routinely see are small skinks, and even they were not out on the rocks sun-baking in the real heat, but are scampering around today.

The birds yesterday were clearly distressed.
Sheltering beaks open and wings held out from their body.

The "news" , given that so many different species have been seen to do so before, is that yesterday and for the first time, so were the Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos.

These two photos were taken late in the afternoon, close to 7PM

Earlier in the day, at the hottest, three flew down to one of the water trays and took turns drinking.
they have not been seen to do that here before.

I didn't risk disturbing them in order to take a photo.

Their call can be heard here and clearly they do seek out other peoples' bird baths.

More Information

Monday, January 20, 2014

Red Wattle Bird suffered in the Heat

The Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) does not often look vulnerable.

This one did in our four consecutive 40+C days.

We know them as "WattleJacks" from their call but there were no calls this day.

A summer storm brought rain with a cool change.

Their calls can be heard here ...

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo

The Grey Fantail

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

 "The Grey Fantail is most easily recognised by its constantly fanned tail and agile aerial twists and turns."

In this case there is nothing aerial to show because I am too slow with the camera to catch it.

But here is one at the bird bath.

It seemed to be taken with its reflection at first

and then, 

into it!
There can be few more energetic splashers.

Then a few more moments wagging its tail at its reflection 
or so it seemed

Hmmmm ... there's that one again ... oh well.

and *gone*

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Red Wattle Bird

We have had four  days of maximum daily temperatures over 40C (104F) here in the Hills, while down on the Plain, Adelaide was even hotter

Not one bird played in the bird baths as they usually do.

Mostly they came to them and just sat on the edge, some with drooping wings and beaks open.
They took occasional sips of water before resting and then flying up into the overhanging tree.

It appeared that even doing that much took some thinking time.

Even the larger ones like the Red Wattle Birds slowed right down.

Once the cool change came through though, they were back to their old exuberant selves.

I heard the splashing of a larger bird, looked and there one was.
It appeared to be practising the old-fashioned road drill.
(Remember Hector the Cat?)



LOOK LEFT , this way, AGAIN

Who Cares!
Over We Go!



A Feed the Birds RANT

Please don't do it; do not feed the birds.

At least please think carefully about how and what you feed them AND the effects.

This is hard to do, because the effects are not immediately apparent.

These birds are being fed bread.
Not only is it bread, but it is far too much and far too often.

They come almost every day with this kind of thing, flying from across the valley, and if I do get it from them in time, they fly right back and get more, and return.

They bring lumps of bread and other kitchen refuse (sorry leftovers) like waffles,

It isn't simply a matter of dipping it in the water and flying back "home" to eat it.
They bring it here and stay until they have eaten enough, so the feeding people never know.

They work it ... tearing it apart; stamping on it ... and so they foul the water.

The pity is that this is a "hot topic".

Most who do feed free birds never see the resulting damage, which often doesn't show up until the next generation.
Wildlife rehab people see them though, because they receive them  ... birds with too bendy beaks that cannot dig into the earth for worms themselves, for starters.

More significantly for this block, the little free birds begin to get a taste for it and will peck it out of the water trays.
By the end of a day, if I have been away, the water that they all NEED is slimey.

If I am not here for a few days it gets absolutely foul.
In summer, what could have been a lifesaver is a serious health hazard.

AND the balance of bird species shifts, to favour the big and/or assertive ones.

Somewhere here I have photos taken three years ago of a Currawong feeding lumps of bread to nestlings,, one of which could neither swallow it nor spit it out. The adult spent a long time pushing it in, and then, finally pulled it out.

If I get around to finding it I will post it here.

Of course, I do not know how many feeding people there are ... I find it hard to believe any one family would have so much excess bread.
This goes equally for over-feeding seeds to birds like parrots and  mixtures for honey eaters with permanently set up feeding stations.
There is lots of info on the web; perhaps this is a good start.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yesterday was hot ...

and today is said to be getting even hotter.

Still the birds come and take their turns.

As I am getting to know them better, I can see that the pecking order is remarkably well established.
Thornbills wait for no-one.
Yellow-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa)

Eastern Spinebills wait for everyone
Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris)

and the Grey Fantails seem to prefer having the space to themselves, but sometimes will barge in and have a very quick dip and up and out again.
Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lobelias ... not Orchids.

The Lobelias are straggly and look as if they are struggling in amongst the healthy understory plants.

I don't know if finding more every year is a result of me getting to know them better and getting to know where to look, or whether there really has been an increase every year.

My first years here came at the end of several very dry winters (such that many local Eucalypts died).

The last three winters have seen excellent rains, however,   and I suspect that is also a reason for the increase.

They aren't easy to see, at first, despite the clear blue of the flowers, and the first year I only saw three.
Last year I counted well over a dozen and so far this year, more than 30.

The first year I was here I thought them orchids at first!

A friend notes a peculiar feature of their growth, on his website ...

From John Walmsley "Management of Lobelia.
An interesting plant in that the bottom of the plant is dead and dry by the time it flowers. It therefore goes through the entire flowering and seed setting period using the energy stored within the plant. It can be very easily introduced to an area simply by moving it to where it is required while it is flowering."

Too darned hot!

Even for this New Holland Honey Eater ...  

to say nothing of the Kookaburra (so I won't).

Friday, January 10, 2014

Speaking of Birds ... Baths!

Today on Twitter people are listing all kinds of ideas for beating the heat, using the hashtag #BeatTheHeat

One of the resources mentioned there is this by the SES.

Among the many recommendations for making Summer endurable are reminders to consider the birds and, again, some useful resources are mentioned, one of which is this website.
It is invaluable for Australians wanting to support the birds in their* backyards.

The New Holland Honey Eaters are among the most exuberant bathers at the bird baths here.
Common Name: New Holland Honeyeater
Family: Meliphagidae
Scientific Name: Phylidonyris novaehollandiae

Every so often though, another more sedate bird wants to join in ... and doesn't wait to be invited OR for those there first to complete their ablutions.

Common Name : Grey Fantail
Family: Rhipiduridae
Scientific Name: Rhipidura albiscapa

* ambiguity intended.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Agapanthus: a valuable weed, for now ...

I do love white flowers; it's an unaccountable thing.

Knowing that the Agapanthus will eventually have to go, I began by removing the blue ones, but one day, the white ones will too.

The bargain I have made with myself is that I will take them out when there is sufficient adjacent, replacement cover for the small creatures, that they so effectively protect and provide for.

In the meantime, they are just beginning to flower again and birds are making the most of their bounty.

The Eastern Spinebills (Acanthorhynchus tenuirstris) make great use of them.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Postponed Post "There's no point offering excuses ... "

I just discovered that this post had not gone up and I am not going to rewrite all this, but it matters ... at least the information is important to ME and I want to share it.
So, from my very own wayback machine, here it is from August / September, 2013!

I haven't been lazy, actually ... more like "busy".
This year has brought new grandchildren (two days caring a week) and lots more traveling.

More directly relevant though has been the ongoing caring for this block.
My weeding proceeds very well, though dramatically reduced.
I am sure it must sound boring (or be boring to read about) but I find I enjoy it; it is quite rhythmical (until this time of year) and I can always look back at the end of a solid days' work and see the results for a few weeks at least.

About now the ground is getting dry and hard and it is hard to pull the weeds up, so from here on it is not a big part of my days.

Watsonia Report.

This year the block was inspected officially by an Environment Department officer who first surveyed the block over 10 years ago and registered it for assistance.

He not seen it since then.

Because of the long time the change was apparently very striking and he indicated that he was so impressed by the progress in that time that he volunteered extra help.

Part of the deal was that he had been looking for a "trial site" for a new herbicide which is getting good results in Western Australia, so he decided this block was a worthy contestant for that funding.

As a result a professional team of five worked here for a couple of days carefully painting the  herbicide on the Watsonias and the resultant kill is stunning.

In past years I have FILLED a ute with just the cut off flowering stalks and sent over 10 cubic metres of pulled-up-by-the-roots entire plants to the landfill; this year I have only been able to find about 150 seed heads.
More than that, my one fear was proved groundless.
I was afraid that there would be a lot of "by catch", ie of good plants growing close to the poisoned watsonia  being killed as well.
That has not happened.
In some places Watsonias grew intermixed with Correa, Pimelia, Dianella, Lomandras,  and more and they are all still green as ever while surrounded by dried, yellowed watsonias.

So, great progress and I look forward now to being able to diversify my weeding.

Did I say that the Watsonias were the big story?

Well, a bigger one is that it would seem that the block is to be accepted as an official "Heritage Bush" site.

After much back-and-forthing the final document ( four copies of it) are now with the Minister for his  / her signature.
There will be many restrictions on what I can do here, but none that trouble me unduly; mostly they are things I would not ever do, although technically I ought not "prune" plants either (which I do).

If that is what it takes to try to protect the bush in the long term, I am happy to live with that.

Welcome to 2014

Though this blog has been neglected, the block has not.

That it is raining again this morning, means I will be out there weeding AGAIN as well.

I take every opportunity that softened soil provides and 14mm of rain over two days is perfect.

The most recent news is that all the many rounds of inspections and paperwork for this block to be a Heritage Protected  one, have been completed. I understand the documents are now awaiting the Minister's signature.
It's been a long time and a big job, but I am pretty excited about it.

I have also been traveling to Eyre Peninsula a lot and THAT has taken heaps of time and energy.

I think the time has come to pull my head in and focus at home a bit more, and my own resolution (prompted by Snail's MUCH more demanding one*)  is to ensure I update here once a week.

For the moment, I am listening to Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos feeding a youngster while the usual suspects go about their early morning greetings to the day.

Right now the dominant blossom is our Chirstmas Bush, Bursaria spinosa.

And THIS is the biggest one I have ever seen, in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

*waves to Snail!*