Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back to Nangara

A brief sojourn into Nangara Reserve at Jindivick yesterday in a vain attempt to tick a couple of favourite summer visiting birds did however produce a few nice sightings of butterflies and sun-orchids.

Snowy Daisy-bush and Forest Boronia were putting on quite a display and attracting plenty of insect life despite the rather dull day. Blue-wrens, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails, Rufous and Golden Whistlers were enjoying the feast but alas my two ‘target’ birds for the day, the Rufous Fantail and Black-faced Monarch failed to make an appearance.

A couple of members of the Browns family of butterflies gave me a brief opportunity to switch the camera on to macro for a quick shot or two as they rested between fluttering flights. This Forest Brown came to rest on a gum leaf and with open wings - probably to warm up - provided a chance for a photo.

A little later a Swordgrass Brown fluttered by, pausing occasionally, but seldom using its favourite host plant, swordgrass, even though there was plenty in the vicinity.

I came upon some nice examples of the majestic Tall Sun-orchid, (I think), too. In spite of the coolish and dull morning, one or two plants were in bloom. A partially open flower in one case was being attended by a visiting insect.

I dipped out on my target birds, but as usual a good time was had by all, (well just me actually).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bunyip State Park with Latrobe Valley Naturalists

A few days ago some Heyfield Birdwatchers joined some of the Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists for a walk around the Button Grass Walk in the Bunyip State Park and I was introduced to some new and fascinating plants. Birds too, such as the Southern Emu-wren, Brush Cuckoo and Blue-winged Parrot and Restless Flycatcher were some of the better ‘gets’ for the day.

This walk is a good place to see a representative of one of the oldest plants still living – Bushy Clubmoss, a fern ally that is a descendant of a giant tree that grew 300 million years ago and reached heights of 20 metres.
Ye olde Clubmoss

Just like a miniature conifer

Another interesting plant we ticked was Fairy Aprons. These odd little things are bladderworts  and are carnivorous – they have tiny bladder-like traps that capture minute prey that swim in water saturated soil.
How could something this attractive be carnivorous?

A small group of Fairy Aprons

The Buttongrass that the walk is named after grows in damp nutrient poor soils and is a sedge, not a grass. It has button-like flowers on the end of long stalks and is more plentiful in Tasmania where it is thought to be an important food source for the Orange-bellied Parrot.
Buttongrass tussock

Buttongrass visitor

Buttongrass flower heads

Thanks Alix, Ken, David, et al for a great day.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Of Ducks and Donkeys

A recent trip east for some bird surveys provided me the opportunity to visit a couple of favourite orchid sites.

At Glenmaggie the weird and wonderful Large Duck-orchids were in full flight. Despite the very dry habitat the plants were quite prolific with several patches containing perhaps a dozen or more specimens. I even ticked a double-header which to me is a bit unusual despite some field guides describing up to 5 flower heads per stem. (In NSW there is some concern for the Large Duck-orchid in regard to threatened losses due to hazard reduction burns!)

In the same spot I came across a few of the less common Small Duck-orchids. At this site these tiny orchids always seem to be growing closely to the trunks of Stringybark trees probably inferring some symbiotic relationship. In the pictures below a couple of the flowers can be seen in the closed position adopted to snare an insect for a short time to enable some pollen to be transferred.

The Purple Diuris or Donkey-orchids at Longford were well represented too, with many hundreds of flowers being in bloom. Some were strongly coloured, others quite pale and I even found one or two almost completely white.

The Purple Diuris is listed as a ‘vulnerable’ species in the most recent DEPI list.