Two little beauties

I used to work in the Marine Invertebrate section of the South Australian Museum, and the curator and his assistants (including me) would go on field trips to get specimens, especially for our marine tank. This was not on display to the public, but I quickly learnt that marine tanks are fussy to look after and can turn into a stinky mess overnight.

We’d get rocks with lots of weeds and put them in the tank. It was always exciting to come in the next morning and see what had crawled out – especially nudibranchs.

We’d bottle them up in formaldehyde and send them off to the expert at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Bob Burn, who often discovered that many of these were new to science. He had the fun and privilege of describing and naming them. There’s no windowii, though.

It’s still exciting for me to see a nudibranch, and these days there are many websites, books and CD-ROMS available to help with ID.

Here are two new – for me – nudibranchs from Flat Rock last weekend. They were both about 2 cm long.

Plocamopherus imperialis on a half-shell

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Thoughtlessness can cost lives

I’d wanted to get photos of our local flying foxes, but not quite under these circumstances. I really hope it was not a malicious act, and I’m going to assume it was just thoughtlessness, when someone decided to light a fire to destroy weeds under the local flying fox camp on Saturday.

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Field notes

I’ve just finished reading “Field Notes on Science and Nature“, edited by Michael Canfield, and enjoyed it tremendously – it’s well-written, accessible and inspiring.

I’ve been keeping field notebooks since 1995 and have not thought much of them until now, to tell the truth. A friend recently told me all the data in it would be useful “one day” – I doubted this as I am no longer a professional zoologist (alas).

But I find that the blog is serving a similar purpose of preserving observations, with the advantage of digital photos.  I look at the old notebooks  when I’m stuck for a detail. Now that my old camera is broken (salt on the button you press to take the shot has corroded the metal, and so the button is stuck), I’ve gone back to the traditional method until my new camera arrives. I find I’m impressed with the amount of information in the old notebooks – I’d forgotten how much fun it was compiling the entries.

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Bundjalung National Park – bloomin’ lovely

Bundjalung National Park takes its name from the Aboriginal nation whose country this area. It’s coastal heath. We recently explored the northern-most part of the park – see this map. There’s a wild headland (Goanna Headland, an Aboriginal special place) with waves smashing at the bottom, and a small lighthouse on the top. The lighthouse carries a stern warning …

Evans Head lighthouse high on headland - no vessels to be attached!

Considering this lighthouse is a few hundred metres above sea level, the only vessel likely to “tie up” is the TARDIS!

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Fighting or fornicating?

Friends Peter and Linda took these shots of two red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus) in action on their property in south-east Queensland. These snakes are highly venemous  to people but not particularly aggressive, prefering to slither quickly away. Peter took a fantastic video, too, but here I’ll post just some of his photos, with thanks. You have to imagine the snakes writhing sinuously together. All photos by Peter Scharf.

Red-bellied black snake about to encounter another

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Ooom, ooom, ooom, ooom

That’s the sound I heard, softly, as I walked from the beach to the campsite at dusk at Woody Head on Saturday. I recognised it as a tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) – we hear them on our property, the male making this call echoing around the valley.

I walked on, and the sound then came from behind me. I looked up and back and – ta da! – there he was!

Tawny frogmouth on paperbark tree

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The first koel

No, not a typo in a Christmas carol, but the common koel, Eudynamys scolopacea. These cuckoos arrive in northern and eastern Australia from Indonesia and New Guinea to breed in spring, and I heard the first one last night. And I have heard it on and off all day. Our male looks like this one, feeding on the fruit of a palm. Ours likes the fruit of the mulberry tree.

Male koel; photo by Charles Lam, Wikimedia Commons

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In the wetlands, among the paperbarks

A lot of leaves had been ripped off trees and scattered on the ground by the recent Ballina hail storm, but luckily there were a lot left on high. An Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) and an eastern water dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) shared a moment in the native water lilies …

Eastern water dragon and Australian white ibis

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Be wary of hairy!

The cup moth (family Limacodidae) is so-named because its cocoons resemble cups, as shown by the set I found on the Illawarra flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) up the back of the property.

Cup moth cocoons; photo by Andrew Roberts

The caterpillars have already left these cocoons.

Relative size of cup moth cocoons; photo by Andrew Roberts

Cup moth caterpillars are spectacularly coloured, with don’t-mess-with-me irritating hairs that stand up in groups on the body. The hairs lodge in the skin and cause wheals and rashes.

These caterpillars  are sometimes called Chinese junks, presumably because of the shape of the body, but they have other common names (some unprintable, as anyone affected by these can attest).