A Grey Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa) perched in a patch of sunlight. The Grey Fantails is an active bird, regularly fanning its tail and then flying from branch to branch. To get this shot I waited near the bird with my lens focused on the branch until the bird’s natural curiosity took over, at which time it perched long enough for me to get this shot. It soon became even more inquisitive and started flying right up to within inches from my face, but unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough getting focus to be able to get a shot of that.
Grey Fantails are found throughout Australia and often announce their presence by their repetitive chirping.
A Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) peers out from a nesting hollow high up in an old gum tree. Nesting hollows like these are left behind as scars where old branches have died and fallen off.
Falling branches can leave an almighty dent in a house, and you sure don’t want to be standing under one either. Yet the hole left behind in the tree is of great value to many species of animals, including birds. So this presents itself as a bit of a dilemma for city councils. While most councils don’t want to stop wildlife thriving and breeding in their municipalities, they also don’t much like the idea of extremely heavy branches falling onto perfectly innocent rate-payers. So in the city, more and more branches are removed long before they look like falling, and this is resulting in a shortage of decent nesting hollows in towns and suburbs.
So it was nice to see this hollow, complete with a pair of birds, during a recent country stroll.
Last week it was a Superb Fairy-wren. This time it’s a Variegated Fairy-wren (Malurus lamberti) shown peeking out from behind a branch. It’s a common assumption that all the drab-looking fairy-wrens are females, which is hardly fair because the non-breeding males can look mighty drab too and closely resemble the females and younger birds. In fact, the black beak on this one shows that it’s a male.
It’s only when the male bird grows its breeding plumage (inset) that they get the spectacular colours for which they are well known. So, while all the brightly coloured ones can safely be said to be males, it is not correct to say that all the drab ones are females. Variegated Fairy-wrens are distributed across most of Australia.
A male Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) decked out in full breeding plumage always makes an impressive display. This one was in Sydney.
An Eastern Grey Kangaroo joey pops its head up from the grass. While taking this shot, its mum was nearby, watching me very carefully.
A Lantana Treehopper (possibly Aconophora compressa) on the stem of a Fiddlewood tree. Lantana Treehoppers were released in NSW and Queensland to help reduce the vigour of infestations of the weed Lantana (Lantana camara). Qualifying as a true bug these little guys have mouth parts modified for sucking sap. They will often cover the stems in very large numbers, leaving the branches sticky from honeydew.
An Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog, Litoria fallax. Fully grown they are about an inch long. This one was only half that. Photographed in south-east Queensland.
Large areas of Australia have been experiencing a particularly bad mouse plague lately. This one was running around the edge of a house in the middle of the day, in south-east Queensland.
This photo shows about as much of a smile as you’ll ever see on a Cane Toad.
Cane Toads are an invasive pest species deliberately introduced to Australia in a botched attempt to control a critter called the Greyback Beetle. You see, the larvae of Greyback Beetles were munching their way through sugar cane, much to the disappointment of the farmers, and so it was assumed that a giant toad with a voracious and undiscerning appetite would eat the larvae and solve everyone’s problems. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to release the toads, people failed to appreciate the fact that Cane Toads can’t climb and they can’t fly. Instead, they spend their entire lives on the ground or in water. And so the Cane Toads weren’t able to get up to the top of the sugar cane plants where the beetle larvae were.
Years later, we are now faced with a problem of how to control the Cane Toads. Even as I type this, the toads continue to spread across northern Australia, along the way proving themselves to be ineffective at killing Greyback Beetles, but mighty efficient at killing the native wildflife, both large and small. They eat the little critters like frogs and invertebrates, and poison released from sacks on their backs kills any predator that tries to swallow the toads whole.
By the way, if you want to know the humane method for killing Cane Toads you can find it here on the RSPCA’s website.
Okay, I know I’m leaning a lot towards jumping spiders in this section but seriously, what’s not to love about them?
Up close and personal with a European Wasp
An Asian House Gecko pauses on a sheet of paper. These lizards are an introduced species in Australia, probably accidentally brought into the country as stowaways inside shipping crates. For such a little lizard they make a remarkably loud call, often described as a ‘chuck, chuck, chuck’ sound. They can also run, fast, up smooth surfaces like bare walls and glass windows. As they scamper up a wall you might hear a very distinctive padding sound as large numbers of microscopic structures under their feet grip and then release from the surface at high speed. They feed on insects and spiders.
A Lynx spider, photographed in happier times than those depicted last week
A jumping spider feeding on a Lynx Spider. Both types of spiders use speed, agility and excellent eyesight (for a spider) to capture their prey. Photographed in south-east Queensland.
An Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) demonstrating poor oral hygiene after feasting on some carrion. Photographed in Sydney, NSW.
It can run but it can’t hide. This tree frog is working hard to avoid being noticed, by squeezing itself into a corner on a wall. Photographed in south-east Queensland.
Last week I ran a photo of a Noisy Friarbird chasing a Crow. This week it’s more bird chases between different bird species. And again, it’s the smaller birds chasing the larger ones. Birds which are known to sometimes prey on young birds are often chased away by the parents although sometimes small birds chase and harass larger birds that posed no threat at all. Clockwise from left: Torresian Crow (Corvus orru) chasing a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus); Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) harassing an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides); Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae) chasing a Brahminy Kite.
A Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus) in hot pursuit of a Torresian Crow (Corvus orru) in south-east Queensland.
There be dragons — or at least, one really little one. This fellow is a very young dragon lizard and it was small enough to require my macro lens to capture this portrait. Its full length was only about 28 cm long and more than two thirds of that was tail. There are 70 species of dragons known in Australia, which is about 70 more than I can identify with any accuracy.
Some weeks back I had a pic of a Latticed Stinkhorn. The charmingly named stinkhorns are a type of fungus that uses the smell of rotting meat — or worse — to attract flies in order to spread spores. Here’s another stinkhorn. This one is an Anemone Stinkhorn. If you look carefully you’ll see a fly at the base of one of its ‘arms’, which will give you an impression of size.