High noon, low tide at the rock pools

Around spring equinox, the low tides are lower than usual. The sand deposited by winter storms is starting to be washed off the rocks, and there is now lots of life in the Flat Rock rock pools, although surprisingly few humans on the beach, considering it is the start of a fortnight of school holidays.

I can’t resist a nudibranch, even though I’ve already posted another photo of this one, Rostanga arbutus

Nudibranch, Rostanga arbutus

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A bookish spider

Indulge my anthropomorphism for a moment …

“Know thyself”, wrote Plato, and this little spider is perhaps taking it to heart, trying to read a scientific tome.

"So many insects, so little time!"

But it’s reading the wrong book – the CSIRO’s “The Insects of Australia”. Perhaps I’ve misread its intentions, and it’s really trying to research its lunch!

My 10 minutes of fame

This time last week I was chewing my fingernails, psyching myself up for a radio interview on ABC North Coast about my post on the greater glider and my blog.

It was weird that I was so nervous, as I have been an editorial trainer, requiring me to stand up in front of groups of people and teach them publishing procedures, have had training in doing that, and also have no problem singing in public, either in choirs or solo.

I settled in as soon as the interviewer started talking, and my friends who heard it said it went well. Phew! It was 10 minutes and flew by, as the radio interviewer was skilled. I didn’t say anything I might regret!

It was interesting to get experience with a form of communication I’m not familiar with, at least not on the ‘giving’ end.

Giant sculpture of giant squid

My mate Alan, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, has kindly allowed me to post his photo of a sculpture at the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, USA.

I don’t know if it’s meant to be a “real” squid – the correct size for a giant squid – or just a giant sculpture of a “normal” squid. Nice, anyway!

Postscript: The artist, Patrick Wickline, has been in touch to say it is a juvenile but an adult would be about 18 metres (60 feet) in length (see his comment below). Thanks, Patrick! Click on his name to go to his website and see his other works.

On the rails

We don’t often see buff-banded rails (Gallirallus philippensis) close up – maybe a fleeting glance as they run across the road or back into the grasses on the edge. They are quite common but tend to hide away from human eyes.

But today we saw two just outside the studio! They were comfortably pecking the ground for seeds and insects about 6:30 a.m.

The photo does not do justice to the handsome plumage as it was taken from inside the building, and the bird was moving. But it’s enough to give a definite ID.

Buff-banded rail; photo by Andrew Roberts

It looks a bit like a painting, but it’s verite, au naturel – or in the buff.

The window-cleaning bird

Our house windows are broken into sections by wooden frames, so local birds don’t get the urge to fly into them, mistaking the reflection of trees for the real thing.

I admit to being slap-dash about house cleaning, and especially window cleaning. Such interesting things happen among the cobwebs – moths, insects and spiders, for instance.

On this lovely spring, a couple of noisy miners (Manorina melanocephala) have decided to do me a favour and flutter at the windows, cleaning up the cobwebs. Their bills are completely covered with the soft white web. Thanks, girls, very kind of you!

Noisy miner taking a break from cleaning windows

Realistically, they are probably lining their nests with the webs. Breeding in colonies, the females construct the nest and both sexes feed and care for the young. They’ll breed several times in a good season.

These birds commonly pick at my thyme and marjoram plants, taking away snippets. I wonder if these pungent herbs repel mites in the nest.

International flippin’ Rock-flipping Day

When I started this blog 10 months ago, I looked at overseas models and found some excellent ones. I wanted a vehicle to record my natural history and other adventures, with photos, to share with my friends and interested others (who might become friends). And to find like-minded individuals and get help with identification of creatures. I’d been keeping a natural history field note book for years, and a blog seemed a natural extension of that.

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A very long tail – and a sad one

We do our best, but sometimes it’s just too late.

Sunday morning we visited friends up the mountain behind our place for tea, cake and chat. On the drive home, I spotted a goanna (lace monitor, Varanus varius), walking up a tree. They make it look so easy! This one was at least 2 metres tip to tail.

Lace monitor demonstrating tree-climbing - helps to have really sharp claws!

We stopped the car, I got out, took the shot and, on the way back to the car, spotted what I thought was a small corpse hanging limply on a barbed-wire fence, with flies buzzing about. Then – oh, horror! – its paw moved. Feebly. I then realised it was still alive, and needed help quickly.

We have always carried an ‘injured wildlife kit’ in the back of the car, since being members of the a wildlife carers group a few years ago. Out with the cardboard box and old bed sheets. Andrew put the box under the creature to support its weight and covered it up with a sheet to reduce stress to the animal as much as possible. He identified it as a greater glider, Petauroides volans and, once I’d got back from telephoning the wildlide carers and had time to look at it, I had to agree.

The greater glider is a beautiful animal. This was the dark form. I didn’t take a photo as I didn’t want to stress it more than necessary, but you can see pics here. They have the softest fur and extraordinarily long tails: the head and body may be 45 cm, and the tail a further 60 cm.

Like the koala, they almost exclusively eat eucalypt leaves – of one or two species only in a particular area – with the indigestible material broken down by bacteria in the elongated gut. They are nocturnal, and spend daylight in hollows in trees. They glide up to 100 metres  from tree to tree to feed. They are silent, unlike other possums (information from the Australian Museum’s “Complete Book of Australian Mammals”). They range from the coast to inland along the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to Cairns in eucalypt forests, but not rainforests.

Gliders, and flying foxes too, often get caught on barbed wire in the farmlands. The wind has been fierce lately, and it’s easy to imagine the glider getting blown onto the barbs and being unable to extract its skin-fold. Cows will walk through anything that isn’t barbed wire, so it’s not likely that farmers, no matter how much they admire native wildlife, will be covering their dozens of kilometres of barbed wire with polypipe any time soon.

I dashed back to our friends’ house and rang the wildlife carers. The volunteer on phone roster found another carer who lived in the vicinity but was in town at that time. Our friend got a fence strainer and wire cutters so that when we cut the barbed wire, it wouldn’t snap back and harm either the glider or ourselves.

We drove carefully down the mountain with the glider in the box, under strict instructions not to feed or water it and to keep it covered up and warm, and the carer phoned us to arrange a rendezvous – vets are open only for an hour on Sundays, so he would have to look after it until Monday morning.

But, alas, half an hour later we got a call that the little one had passed away. It was all just too much for it.

Perhaps if we’d left it there, the goanna would have eaten it. It’s distressing to hope to save such a beautiful creature, and have that hope dashed. Thanks go to the volunteer wildlife carers who acted as fast as they could. They do a mighty job but, despite the best efforts of all, sometimes there’s not a happy ending.