Emerald-spotted tree frog

It seems to be frog-spotting season. This one decided to live in my bathroom for a few days. It’s the emerald-spotted tree frog, also known as Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii).

Peron's tree frog

Peron's tree frog

You can see the green spots in the photo above, but with the flash they stand out even more, although the skin looks paler than in real life …

Peron's tree frog

Peron's tree frog

This one was 50 mm nose to tail, just as stated in the reference books. You can hear its call from this page.

Now it’s autumn and cooling down, I guess the frogs are going to be going into hibernation – their heart beat and breathing slow down and they rest in hiding places until the weather warms up.  The subtropics never get super cold, so winter is not too much of a problem for them. My bathroom is not the best place to be undisturbed, though.

Have a good rest, froggies!

A great barred frog

Last night was one of those weird nights when the wind was swooshing the trees around, and it couldn’t make up its mind whether it was cool or warm, so tried both alternately. The land itself seemed restless and it was not conducive to sleeping, so when Andrew found this frog I had a midnight look at it. It is the great barred frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus), common in our area.

Great Barred frog_2

The great barred frog; photo by Andrew Roberts

I’d often heard them ‘wark’-ing away on wet summer nights, their call deep and resonating. But I imagined from the sound that they would be a lot bigger than this one – 7 cm from nose to rear end. This is within the normal range of 6 to 8 cm for adults.

Great Barred frog_3

It’s called ‘barred’ because of the markings on the legs.Great Barred frog_4

You can here the sound from a link on this page.

I’ll now be able to put a face to the sound in the night – and a very nice face it is, too.

Tai chi with stick insect

I don’t practise tai chi, but it sure felt like it this morning when I was handling a stick insect a friend brought for me to see. She’s often out maintaining her plantings, and sees a lot of interesting insects. It’s likely to be the titan stick insect (Acrophylla titan).

The insect kept climbing up, and I had to keep moving around to prevent it climbing onto my shoulder or head. This resulted in a kind of dance that would have reminded tai chi exponents of how not to do tai chi.

Stick insect mudra

Titan stick insect

Stick insect

Stick insect auditioning for Cirque du Soleil

The titan stick insect has been measured as the second-longest insect in Australia. I measured this one as 150 mm from top of head to tail fork.

It moved in a fairly slow but determined manner. You can read about the species of Australian stick insects here.

This photo shows the serrations on the legs …

Serrations are visible on the forelegs

This one just wanted to keep walking up. When it got to the end of my fingers, it paused with its front legs stretched out in the air. If I let those legs touch something, it moved forward again. Otherwise, it just stayed in that position.

Head of the stick insect

Head of the stick insect

Tail of stick insect

Tail view

The Lord Howe Island phasmid, which I wrote about here, is related.

Preparing to hide under a leaf

I hid it under some foliage. Stick insects feed on leaves at night, and this one went into ‘stick’ camouflage position, presumably because it was still daytime – front legs stretched out together and back legs together, doing a credible imitation of a long thin brown twig.

I’ve seen bigger titans on my property, but never had a chance to take a photo before. Many thanks to Jan for bringing it around.

A Liebster award!

I got a nice surprise back in January. Lynette from SoulSong Art kindly gave me a Liebster award. (“Liebster” seems to mean “beloved” in German. In English I guess it would mean “favourite” in this circumstance.) I’ve put off accepting it until now, as it involves certain obligations: I had to decide on five blogs, each with fewer than 220 followers [update: a little research shows this can vary a bit – some sites say under 200, some under 300], to pass it on to. The idea is to bring attention to these small blogs who deserve more attention.

Rules for giving the award

  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you (thank you, SoulSong Art!).
  2. Reveal the five blogs you have chosen and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award onto your blog (see above).
  4. Request the people you have chosen to receive the award pass it on to their favourite bloggers.

And the winners are …

In no particular order …

1. The Nature of Robertson: about nature and other doings in Robertson, Southern Highlands, NSW

2. The House of Fran_mart: about nature in rural Australia

3. Coastal Georgia Birding: birding on Jeckyll Island, Georgia, USA

4. Brazen Artifice: about the next big thing, 3D printing

5. Anybody seen my focus?: an Aussie transplant to Georgia, USA, photographing nature

Blog on, folks!

They’re doing it – they’re doing it now!

I have a long-standing fascination with the deep ocean. Hence my interest in Her Deepness Sylvia Earl, and my books on what’s known so far: Van Dover’s “The Octopus’s Garden” and “The Ecology of Deep-sea Hydrothermal Vents”, Broad’s “The Universe Below”, Rice’s “Deep Ocean”, Chave and Malahoff’s “In Deeper Waters” and Cameron’s “Aliens of the Deep”.

It was originally thought that not much lived in the cold, dark and high pressure, but then nobody had really looked. In fact, there’s a bunch of strange animals down there, a large food web, relying at base not on sunlight as the source of life but on sulfur-eating bacteria. You can see images of some deep sea animals at the NOAA website here and here.

In places there are vents spewing super-hot (measured up to  464 degrees C) water containing mineral sulfides, and cold seeps with springs releasing methane and hydrogen sulfide-rich water.

Now James Cameron, he of “Avatar” and other multi-buck-making movies and explorer extraordinaire, has financed and had built a submersible to take him to the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. He’s already gone on a test expedition to 7260 metres in the New Britain Trench (not quite to the bottom of it), and writes about his experience here.

A few things went wrong:

“Sitting down there at 27000′, alone in the dark, with no comms, no contact whatsoever with the world so far above, and nothing but the ingenuity of the engineering to get me back … it’s simultaneously scary and exhilarating. It’s the precipice we put ourselves on by choice, to test ourselves and our machines.”

But nothing he couldn’t get out of. Better for it to happen here than on the main expedition, going to 10,900 metres.

Assuming success, Cameron will be only the third person to go to the very bottom of the sea. The first two were Walsh and Piccard in 1960.

You can read the expedition journal here. I’ll be following it with bated breath.

Bats not in the bellfry, but in the bell

Here are some (Brigitte thinks) Gould’s long-eared bats (Nyctophilus gouldi). Unlike flying foxes who squeal a lot, microbats are secretive and quiet. They like to roost in snug places where they can get in close together. These are likely to be females, as the males roost alone.

Gould's long-eared bats

Gould's long-eared bats roosting during the day; photo by Brigitte Stievermann

They are inside a bell hanging from a roof beam inside Brigitte’s house at Barker’s Vale. From my own experience at my place, they are very silent and fast flyers, so you hardly know they are there. That was before I put up insects screens, so now I don’t have the pleasure of their company indoors, or the feeling of seeing a tiny shadow flit past very fast at night. Nor do I have to clean up after them when they poop inside the house, thank goodness.

Gould's long-eared bats snuggled up to the ceiling in another of Brigitte's buildings; photo by Brigitte Stievermann

Microbats are enthusiastic eaters of lots and lots and lots of insects. I hate to think what things would be like without them.

Orchid – Dipodium

Orchids are flowering lately … here’s one courtesy of the mountain behind our place.

Dipodium orchid; photo by Heather Fraser

I didn’t see the orchid myself, but according to PlantNet there are five pink Dipodium species in New South Wales. The distribution maps don’t point to a definitive answer, so I’ll leave it as Dipodium species for now. Thanks to Heather, Jacki and Amanda for tracking this one down, leeches, stinging trees and all!

Update: Another person I asked for help with ID says:

It is hard to decide exactly which one it is from your photos. Maybe when you take photos, try and get details of the reproductive bits, and with any flowers or seeds visible get in nice and close so you can see clearly distinquishing features, e.g. with your species there is obviously a recurved tip to the petal ends and this is a good indicator for you as the Dipodiums are either recurved there, or not at all or just slightly and the spotting patterns is also important. If you can get another good look at it in real life it will help definitive ID, but maybe it is punctatum as the sepals and laterals petals seem only slightly recurved at the tip and the sepals and lateral petals also appear to be cupped. Its habitat also fits “in wet sclerophyll forest to dry sclerophyll woodland, on a variety of soils chiefly on the coast and ranges west to Warrumbungle Ranges”, Harden, Flora of NSW Vol 4. page 238.

An Australian native ground orchid

Brigitte, who lives about 20 minutes’ drive from me at Barker’s Vale,, was kind enough to let me have these photos she took of Epipogium roseum, a native Australian ground orchid, on her property.

Brigitte says there are only three species of Epipogium in the world; Australia has one native one and this is it. Eight came out in the leaf litter at her place. The flowers stayed about one week. They have a short flowering period of about a week and they look a little like fungus from a distance. The measurement guide is 10 cm from start of plant, so gives you an idea of size.

Epipogium roseum 1 Lilifield

Epipogium roseum in leaf litter; photo by Brigitte Stievermann

The next photo shows how the individual flowers are bunched up and uncurl as the orchid grows. It was just one big bunch.

Epipogium roseum 2 Lilifield

The uncurling flowers; photo by Brigitte Stievermann

Epipogium roseum 3 Lilifield

Epipogium roseum, ground orchid, Barker's Vale; photo by Brigitte Stievermann

It has no roots, is sympodial and just comes up from a horizontal fleshy tuber …

Epipogium roseum 4 Lilifield

Photo by Brigitte Stievermann

Many thanks to Brigitte for these photos and for the information.

A hawk moth

This photo of a hawk moth, possibly Coequosa australasiae, was recently sent to me by a friend who lives at the top of the mountain behind me. It really is magnificent, if a little worse for wear.

Coequosa australasiae; photo by Heather Fraser

Spiders attempt a white Christmas

It’s not exactly Christmas, but a blanket of white has covered some parts of dry land in the flooded district of Wagga Wagga in Victoria southern New South Wales [oops, thanks for the correction, Martin – still, it’s not as bad as me situating British Columbia in the USA on another blog]. It’s been reported in New Scientist here that spiders escaping from floodwaters have build massive webs covering entire fields.

It’s a sensible survival response by these spiders in an area that has just recorded its highest rainfall on record. I can’t tell what species they are, but it would be interesting to know. They don’t look like orb-weavers, so maybe they are species that line burrows (now drowned) with silk. The birds must be having a field day, literally.

And remember the words of the song:

Don’t call Wagga Wagga Wagga

Calling Wagga Wagga Wagga is wrong!