Post title blog pager

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Late Night Possum Party

Walking past Carlton Gardens one night last week I came across the following sight:

For those not familiar with Melbourne, Carlton Gardens is a park and World Heritage Site on the northern edge of downtown Melbourne, home to the Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building. It also has a thriving population of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) - but while they aren't uncommon, I've never seen them gathering in numbers like this. I counted at least twenty around the base of this tree, with more up the tree, and similar groups around other trees I could see.

My hypothesis was that there could have been a reproductively receptive female up the tree, and the males were competing for the opportunity to climb up and join her, but this is pure speculation on my part. The possums on the ground seemed to show no hesitation in running up to me, and at times acted quite aggressive, but whether this is some kind of territoriality to do with mating, or just that being inner-city animals they're accustomed to humans, I don't know. 

Whatever was really going on, I at least got the chance to observe the possums up close, and take a few decent photos.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#201 Red-browed Finch

Neochmia temporalis
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Seaford Swamp, Melbourne, Australia
Time: 1230 AEST June 30, 2012

#200 New Holland Honeyeater

Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Seaford Swamp, Melbourne, Australia
Time: 1200 AEST June 30, 2012

Swamp Stomping

Red-browed finch at Seaford Swamp

I've recently started a new job. It involves early mornings, long commutes, and "real people" hours (9-5, Monday-Friday), all of which are completely new to me. All this has meant that I have had much less time for writing or posting, let alone excursions to wild places. I've even missed a few Random Invertebrate Days, which is about the laziest form of blogging I could do, since it just involves pulling some old pictures out of the archives.

Seaford Wetlands Panorama - Click for larger version

Anyway, a few weeks ago I did manage to get away from the house, and spent a Saturday afternoon seeing what there was to see at Seaford Wetlands. The Seaford Wetlands, or Seaford Swamp as it is maybe better known, are the remnants of the ancient Carrum Carrum Swamp, the majority of which  was drained in the late 19th Century.

Though the day had seemed quite nice when I boarded the train, by the time I reached Seaford an hour later it had gotten rather cold and windy, and it started raining about 5 minutes after I arrived at the wetlands. Still, once I had resigned myself to having thoroughly wet shoes, I had a fairly enjoyable walk around the swamp. 

I got a chance to try out my new panorama app, Photosynth by Microsoft, the results of which can be seen above. As well as producing flat images like the one above, it can also take full 360 by 180 degree photos, and display them in a 3D viewer (like Google Streetview). Once I have figured out how to upload them in this format, I'll post or link to some. Photosynth is very intuitive, produces excellent results, and I would highly recommend it - it's free, and available for iPhone and Windows Phone devices.

I also snapped some pictures of a couple of new species. Above is a New Holland honeyeater, Phylidonyris novaehollandiae, and below showing the distinct yellow wing patch.

Shortly after seeing the honeyeater, I saw a small flock of red-browed finches, Neochmia temporalis. One photo is up at the top of this post, and another of the same bird is below.

I also found a nice skull amongst a pile of bones and fur:

And here's a picture from an old property bordering the swamp. Although I do like this photo, it unfortunately doesn't do justice to the scene: the windmill was whirling and squeaking away, a loose piece of corrugated iron on the roof of the shed was banging in the wind, and somewhere in the distance a pig was squealing:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Random Invertebrate Day #7

Today's invertebrate pic is a photo I took way back in September 2008. This beetle was in the Ark in the Park, an exciting project in the Waitakere Ranges, near Auckland, New Zealand. A joint project between Forest and Bird, a local conservation group, and the Auckland Council, Ark in the Park uses intensive trapping and baiting to control invasive predators for the benefit of native species. 2008 was the last time I visited the park, and the forest was already loud with birdsong at the time. Since then the area of pest control has been increased, and there have been several reintroductions of endangered native birds. I look forward to visiting the Ark on my next visit to New Zealand, and seeing the progress that has been made.

As for the beetle, I'm not sure, but I think it is a member of the genus Stethaspis, in the family Scarabaeidae.

And now here are some gratuitous pictures of the great kauri trees and nikau palms in the Waitakere ranges.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

#199 Painted Dragon

Ctenophorus pictus
IUCN Redlist: Not Evaluated
Location: Pamamaroo Lake, NSW, Australia
Time: 1440 AEST May 2, 2012

Random Invertebrate Day #6 Cnidarians

Today's inverts are a selection of cnidarians, a group characterised by stinging cells, bodies made up of two cell layers (in contrast to three in most multicellular animals), and radial symmetry. Above is a giant green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica, taken at Brady's Beach, Bamfield, on Vancouver Island. This species has a symbiotic relationship with two algae species, which live in its body, providing it with food and giving it a vibrant green colour. Close to where I took this photo was a sea cave, and the same species living within the cave was almost white, as there was insufficient light to support the algae.

Next up is a sea nettle, Chrysaora fuscescens, taken from the Bamfield dock. This one was in the vanguard of a great swarm of sea nettles. The day I took this photo I only saw 2 or 3 sea nettles in the inlet - by the next morning, and for a week or so after, there were thousands of them.

Above is a stalked jellyfish, a member of the Stauromedusae, found in the intertidal in Victoria, BC. Although it seems to bear more resemblance to an anemone, it is actually a jellyfish that has turned upside down, and attached to the substrate at the top of its bell.

The stalked jellyfish have typically been included within the class Scyphozoa, together with the "true" jellyfish like the sea nettle above. Anemones are members of the Anthozoa, together with corals; other classes include the Cubozoa, or box jellyfish, Hydrozoa, and the parasitic classes Myxozoa and Polypodiozoa, though the evolutionary affinities of the last two have been the subject of some debate, and the matter is not yet settled.

And finally, here is a series of photos of anemones living on the underside of the Bamfield dock.

In the photo below you can also see some members of another class, the Hydrozoa. The feathery, plant-like structures in the upper left part of the photo are hydroids, a colonial form of cnidarians. Small anemone-like polyps build a home of chitin and proteins, and are joined by tubelike structures called hydrocauli.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

#198 Whistling Kite

Haliastur sphenurus
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Pamamaroo Lake, NSW, Australia
Time: 1410 AEST May 2, 2012

Random Invertebrate Day #5 Mexican Butterflies

Following on from the last Random Invertebrate Day, Mexican caterpillars, today's theme is Mexican Butterflies. The top butterfly I found emerging from its chrysalis at our hostel in Oaxaca city. Below is the same butterfly with its wings open.

This next butterfly was also in Oaxaca, outside the Panteon General, the main cemetery, which we visited on El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, November 1st 2011. 

The next two were in Mazunte, a small town on the pacific coast of Oaxaca state.

Above is a butterfly from Lake Catemaco, in the south of Veracruz state, and below are two sitting on the ruins of El Tajin, in the northern part of the same state.

#197 White-necked Heron

Ardea pacifica
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Pamamaroo Lake, NSW, Australia
Time: 1410 AEST May 2, 2012

#196 Australian Raven

Corvus coronoides
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Pamamaroo Lake, NSW, Australia
Time: 1400 AEST May 2, 2012

There are 5 resident species of Corvus in Australia, all of which are all-black with a white iris, three of which live around the Menindee Lakes in New South Wales, and the easiest way to tell them apart is by their calls. The call of the Australian raven, as described in the Simpson & Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, is a series of slow 'aaaa...' notes with a strangled, drawn out finish. They can sound quite human-like, like an upset child.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random Invertebrate Day #4: Mexican Caterpillars

Today's theme is caterpillars I saw in Mexico. The first was in Playa Ventanilla, close to Mazunte in the state of Oaxaca.

The rest are all from Lake Catemaco, in Veracruz State. Click on all pictures for a larger version.

I got this next one on video, as it was moving in an unusual way, pausing frequently to waggle both ends of its body

I suspect it might be a form of mimicry, copying the action of looking around with the fake head on its rear end.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#195 Noisy Friarbird

Philemon corniculatus
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Menindee, NSW, Australia
Time: 1230 AEST May 2, 2012

I wasn't going to post this because of the quality of the photos, but the friarbirds are just such weird-looking birds, I couldn't resist. In the photo below you can see a magpie-lark, one of a pair that the friarbird was harassing, though they were fairly unperturbed by it.

In addition to having a darker head, and that dark throat-band, the noisy friarbird can also be distinguished from the little friarbird, the other species found around Menindee, by its red eye, which you can just make out in the photo below.

Here's a much better picture from wikimedia commons, by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

The original can be found here, and it has been made available under the GNU Free Documentation License, a copy of which can be found here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Invertebrate Day #3: Leeches

Today is Random Invertebrate Day, and I have decided to post about leeches. I had my first intimate encounter with a leech on my recent trip to the Dandenong Ranges National Park. While looking at a mossy log, I noticed a small creature moving towards me with a looping motion. I thought it was a caterpillar at first, and started to film it. At that point I realised it was in fact a leech. Only after I had finished filming, did it dawn on me that where there was one leech, there was bound to be more, and a quick inspection revealed I was covered in them. Luckily none managed to bite me before I flicked them off, but it was a close thing.

Leeches have also been in the news lately, as a recent paper has demonstrated their utility in monitoring mammal species in dense forests. This is one more valuable tool in the often desperate field of conservation biology.

I have embedded a video of the leech looping its way across the moss. It's pretty blurry, but if you look at the left hand side of the screen between 2 and 5 seconds, you can see a cool little mite or something scurry along and then disappearing into a crack. These miniature forests and their inhabitants are so fascinating.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

#194 Emu

Dromaius novaehollandiae
IUCN Redlist: Least Concern
Location: Menindee, NSW, Australia
Time: 1130 AEST May 2nd, 2012