Dinosaurs on the move

The Dinosaur Discovery exhibition at the Queensland Museum (developed by the Western Australia Museum and constructed by Chinese animatronic specialists) is pretty impressive. The website says:

Dinosaur Discovery: Lost Creatures of the Cretaceous gives you a chance to experience life on Earth 145 million years ago.

Featuring more than 20 animated, life-size dinosaur models, including the fearsome T-Rex, and Queensland’s very own Muttaburrasaurus, Dinosaur Discovery: Lost Creatures of the Cretaceous will transport you back millions of years to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

Get up close with these titans of the Cretaceous and see first-hand how they moved, roared, gnashed and bellowed.

Each dinosaur has been made to scientific specifications to capture the real look, feel, sound and movement of these magnificent creatures, giving you a close up look at some of the most extraordinary creatures to have ever walked the Earth.

You know you’ve reached the right place when you get to the museum. Note the dinosaur descendant at the top right of the photo.

Brachiosaurus animatronic at the entrance to the Queensland Museum

Brachiosaurus animatronic at the entrance to the Queensland Museum

They start you off with the small, cute ones …

009A… then progress to the slightly larger, more threatening ones (Australovenator) which roar, wave their claws and breathe. If you move away, they stop moving – if you go back, they start up again.

Australovenator

Australovenator

On to Australia’s 0.7 m long ankylosaur, Minmi paravertebra

Australia's minmi

Australia’s Minmi

Tail of the minmi

Wagging tail of the Minmi

The somewhat larger ornithopod, Muttaburrasaurus (Minmi in foreground) …

Muttaburrasaurus

Our very own Muttaburrasaurus

Protoceratops from Mongolia …

Protoceratops andrewsi

Protoceratops andrewsi

Also from Mongolia, the Therizinosaurus

Therizinosaurus

Therizinosaurus

Therizinosaurus fossilised claw

Therizinosaurus fossilised claw

Amargasaurus (from what is now Argentina) with its peculiar neck spines …

Amargasaurus

Amargasaurus

Peculiar double spine

Peculiar ‘double spine’

Canadian Styracosaurus and baby …

Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus baby

Styracosaurus baby

From the USA, Deinosuchus, the extinct giant relative of alligators …

Deinosuchus

Deinosuchus (foreground)

The 5.4 metre high, 15 metre long Spinosaurus from North Africa …

065A

Spinosaurus

Swordfish …

069AAnd I thought American bullfrogs were big – Beelzebufo ampinga from Madagascar were apparently big enough to eat baby dinosaurs …

Beelzebufo ampinga from Madagascar

Beelzebufo ampinga from Madagascar

The 4.3 metre high, 11 metre long African Carcharodontosaurus

Carcharodontosaurus

Carcharodontosaurus

The burrowing Oryctodromeus cubicularis from Montana, USA …

Oryctodromeus cubicularis

Oryctodromeus cubicularis

No dino exhibit is complete without Tyrannosaurus rex. This model had to be re-made 80% shorter as the original was higher than the room in which it was meant to be housed.

Tyrannosaurus rex

Tyrannosaurus rex

The exhibit was well supplied with just enough information – not too little, not too much – on each dinosaur and how they fitted into the scheme of things in the Cretaceous. Additional info was available through interactive games and apps on smartphones or tablets.

Humans did not co-exist with dinosaurs, but the thing I probably enjoyed most was standing still and imagining myself coming face to face with living versions of these – awesome!

T rex

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The cutest cockroach in the world

The enthusiastic volunteer at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane probably thought she’d get a rise out of me when she offered to let me stroke a cockroach. Ha! One look and I recognised it as one I’ve seen on my property, but hadn’t taken a photo of. So I gladly accepted her offer.

It’s the giant burrowing cockroach Macropanesthia rhinoceros, also known as the rhinoceros cockroach. The largest cockroach in Australia, it can weigh 35 grams and reach 8 cm in length.

Hello, my little lovely! Giant burrowing cockroach

Hello, my little lovely! Giant burrowing cockroach, Macropanesthia rhinoceros

These cockroaches don’t have wings. They live, yes, in permanent burrows and eat dead leaves on the forest floor. The ‘dent’ in the ‘forehead’ can help differentiate males from females – the males have a bigger dent. Females give birth to live young rather than laying eggs, and adults can live up to 14 years. Apparently they make good pets.

Giant burrowing cockroach_2 Giant burrowing cockroach_3There are something like 450 species of native cockroaches in Australia, and they don’t go inside houses. Esperance Blog (from Western Australia) has good photos and info on other Australian native cockroaches. Thanks to the volunteer at the museum for being so knowledgeable and keen. It was a pleasure talking with you.

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A whole lotta muscle!

Things that go bump in the night are always intriguing around here. Last night it was a crash from the back deck that had me investigating. It was the local carpet python (Morelia spilota), probably the one that occasionally lives in the roof, and it had knocked over a ceramic candlestick.

Python_2This beauty is over three metres long, if the shed skin I found two years ago is anything to go by. It’s probably much bigger by now, and is easily thicker than my upper forearm.

Many people have resident pythons around here, great for keeping down the numbers of rats and mice (and possums – see here). If you have chooks, you need to protect them against hungry snakes or be prepared to lose a few.

Python_3Python_4What are you looking for, peripatetic python? Do you want to say hello to my medusa?

Python_5She’s got more snakes than you, but then she is already stone. Must have looked in a mirror.

After annoying the hell out of the python with the camera so that it crawled into a ball, we turned off the lights and let it go in peace. Happy hunting, my little lovely!

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Best mailbox ever!

Here in the countryside, we often see interesting things used as mailboxes – old milk cans, small metal animals and so forth. An acquaintance has an old toilet bowl (cleaned) with lid at the bottom of her driveway, as she figures her bills deserve nothing less. Fortunately no one has made more, shall we say, appropriate deposits.

About 40 km from Tenterfield, nearing the small town of Deepwater (I keep wanting to call it “Dark Water”, after the penultimate Doctor Who episode last season), we were playing I-spy to pass the time … paddocks, boulders, cows, trees, sheep, sheep, dalek, sheep – WHAT?!

A dalek called "Dwater"

A dalek called “Dwater”

It’s about 5’6″ tall, and designed as a mailbox. A plaque nearby tells the story …

The story of the Deepwater dalek

The story of the Deepwater dalek

I can imagine this dalek wandering the hills looking for verminous victims to exterminate – did it shriek “Ex-vermin-ate!”?

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When is a paddock not a paddock?

When it’s a wetland, and apparently the pale-vented bush-hen (Amaurornis moluccana) thinks ours qualifies.

Pale-vented bush-hen (Amaurornis moluccana)

Pale-vented bush-hen (Amaurornis moluccana); photo by Aviceda, Wikimedia Commons

I heard this bird for the first time last night, and the description on the Michael Morcombe and David Stewart bird app of “noisy” is about right – a repeated loud squeaking. I was scrolling through the app in bed last night trying to ID it, and the call is unmistakeable. “Distinctive shrieking calls” is another description that fits the bill (and the whole bird).

The bird is apparently uncommon in our area, the southern end of its range. It is listed as vulnerable by NSW Environment and Heritage. That website says:

 In NSW, bush-hens are an apparently uncommon resident from the Queensland border south to the Clarence River, though the species appears to be expanding its range southwards with recent records as far south as the Nambucca River. …

The pale-vented hush-hen is secretive and cryptic, usually remaining in dense vegetation near watercourses or at the edges of wetlands.

I can’t say I blame it for thinking our place is currently a wetland. The weather over the past few days, courtesy of a few lows plus the fall-out from Cyclone Marcia, has produced a distinctly sodden environment. It’s still raining although the cyclone has now moved east out to sea. We had 110 mL over 24 hours, and 215 mL over five days so far. That’s not anywhere near a record, nor as bad as for folks further north, so I think we got off quite lightly with this weather system.

We have some springs, a couple of small ponds and a narrow creek with dense vegetation (and, sadly, much lantana among the macadamia trees – you’ll notice the photo above shows the bird in lantana), and apparently the bush-hen likes such cover. I suppose I can console myself that the weeds provide protection for a vulnerable species.

The Environment and Heritage website also says:

  • The pale-vented bush-hen inhabits tall dense understorey or ground-layer vegetation on the margins of freshwater streams and natural or artificial wetlands, usually within or bordering rainforest, rainforest remnants or forests.
  • Also occurs in secondary forest growth, rank grass or reeds, thickets of weeds, such as lantana (Lantana camara), and pastures, crops or other farmland, such as crops of sugar cane, and grassy or weedy fields, or urban gardens where they border forest and streams or wetlands, such as farm dams. Can also occur in and around mangroves, though rarely do so, if at all, in NSW.
  • Key elements its habitat are dense undergrowth 2 to 4 metres tall and within 300 metres of water.
  • The diet consists of seeds, plant matter, earthworms, insects and some frogs, taken from ground cover or by wading at edges of streams or wetlands.
  • The breeding season is from spring to early autumn, October to April.
  • The nest is a shallow bowl or cup of grass stems, often partly hooded, built close to water in thick ground vegetation such as dense blady grass (Imperata cylindrica), mat rush (Lomandra) or reeds, often under or growing through shrubs or vine or beneath a tree.
  • Birds lay 4 to 7 eggs in a clutch and will re-lay after a successful breeding attempt and make multiple attempts after nesting failures.
  • The incubation period is about 3 weeks. The hatchlings are precocial and can run soon after hatching; they are probably dependent on their parents for 4 to 5 weeks after hatching.

I hope our bird is breeding happily before the paddock reverts to its usual self.

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More Five Corners fungi

Continuing from the previous post, here are more of Mazza’s fungi photos, in no particular order.

Five Corners fungus 12A

Five Corners fungus 12A

Five Corners fungus 12B

Five Corners fungus 12B

Five Corners fungus 13A

Five Corners fungus 13A

Five Corners fungus 13B

Five Corners fungus 13B

 

Five Corners fungus 14

Five Corners fungus 14

Five Corners fungus 15

Five Corners fungus 15

Five Corners fungus 16

Five Corners fungus 16

Five Corners fungus 17

Five Corners fungus 17

Five Corners fungus 18

Five Corners fungus 18

Five Corners fungus 19

Five Corners fungus 19

Five Corners fungus 20A

Five Corners fungus 20A

Five Corners fungus 20B

Five Corners fungus 20B (underside of 20A)

Five Corners fungus 21A

Five Corners fungus 21A

Five Corners fungus 21B

Five Corners fungus 21B

Five Corners fungus 22A

Five Corners fungus 22A

Five Corners fungus 22B

Five Corners fungus 22B

Five Corners fungus 23

Five Corners fungus 23

More to follow in the next few posts.

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The song of the mushrooms woke me from my bed

That title is the wonderful first sentence in “That sounds fungi, it must be the dawn chorus”, chapter in Terry Pratchett, “A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-fiction” (2014, Doubleday). Teachers of writing have said that the first sentence is a very important “hook”, and this one sure had me.

The chapter is about Pratchett getting up early to collect edible mushrooms. It’s certainly something my parents and I did when I was a kid, driving into the countryside to favoured spots in paddocks or forests on Sunday mornings to gather field mushrooms. As in other countries, in Australia we have to make sure they are edible before we eat them, as some will kill you in particularly painful ways.

The fungi in the photos below, untested as to edibility, are all from Five Corners, Copmanhurst in dry sclerophyll, sandy country (thanks to Mazza Verdante who took the photos). I was going to try to identify them, but time has gotten away so I’ll just give them numbers in case some kind reader can identify them for me or I get around to it in future. There are quite a few photos, and they will extend over several posts.

Five Corners fungus 1

Five Corners fungus 1

Five Corners fungus 2

Five Corners fungus 2

Five Corners fungus 3B

Five Corners fungus 3A

Five Corners fungus 3A

Five Corners fungus 3B

Five Corners fungus 4

Five Corners fungus 4

Five Corners fungus 5

Five Corners fungus 5

Five Corners fungus 6A

Five Corners fungus 6A

Five Corners fungus 6A_50

Five Corners fungus 6B

Five Corners fungus 6C_50

Five Corners fungus 6C

Five Corners fungus 7

Five Corners fungus 7

Five Corners fungus 8

Five Corners fungus 8

Five Corners fungus 9

Five Corners fungus 9A

Five Corners fungus 9B_50

Five Corners fungus 9B

Five Corners fungus 9C_50

Five Corners fungus 9C

Five Corners fungus 9D_50

Five Corners fungus 9D

Five Corners fungus 9E_50

Five Corners fungus 9E

Five Corners fungus 9F_50

Five Corners fungus 9F

Five Corners fungus 9G_50

Five Corners fungus 9G

Five Corners fungus 10

Five Corners fungus 10A

Five Corners fungus 11A

Five Corners fungus 10B

Five Corners fungus 10C_50

Five Corners fungus 10C

Five Corners fungus 12A

Five Corners fungus 11A

Five Corners fungus 12B_50

Five Corners fungus 11B

There will be more fungi from the same location in the next few posts.

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