Red-legged pademelon

We see red-necked pademelons (Thylogale thetis), usually alone but sometimes two or three together, in our backyard in early morning and twilight. They are very shy and bolt at the slightest disturbance. The joeys are tiny and very cute.

Up on the mountain, there’s a wallaby I haven’t seen and have now only seen it vicariously. It’s the red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica). Unfortunately, it was dead when neighbour Jacki found it on her property. Note the darker neck which is one way to distinguish it from the red-necked pademelon. This one had no marks on it, so may have died from natural causes – old age, ticks, internal parasites.

It is a threatened species. The Office of Environment and Heritage website says:

  • Inhabits forest with a dense understorey and ground cover, including rainforest, moist eucalypt forest and vine scrub.
  • Wet gullies with dense, shrubby ground cover provide shelter from predators.
  • In NSW, rarely found outside forested habitat.
  • They disperse from dense shelter areas to feed from late afternoon to early morning, favouring native grasses and herbs on the edge of the forest.
  • Also known to feed on fruits, young seedling leaves and stems, fungi and ferns.

(Photos by Jacki Cooper.)

Wikipedia  says:

The red-legged pademelon behaviour varies in different circumstances. They show least activity in the hours around midday and midnight. Late afternoon, evening and early morning they can be seen grazing on open grassland near the rainforest edges but quickly retreat into the forest if disturbed. They are generally solitary but may group together at night while feeding on grasslands. They feed at equal distances apart and are under the control of one dominant pademelon that controls their feeding area and sets their feeding distance. They communicate by vocalizations and thumping their heels on the ground. They use several vocalizations in social behaviour. In hostile interactions and if a female rejects a male during courtship, a harsh rasping sound is uttered. Soft clucking sounds are made by the courting male; similar sounds are made when a mother is calling her young.

… When the animal is resting, it sits on the base of its tail whilst placing the rest of it between the hind legs. The animal then leans back against a rock or sapling. As it falls asleep, its head leans forward to rest on the tail or on the ground beside it.

…. The main  predators of the Thylogale stigmatica are dingos, tiger quolls, amethystine pythons and domestic dogs.

Finding a corpse at least shows they are still around. Thanks to Jacki for bringing it to my attention.

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Sometimes the spider wins

I often see a wasp in summer, dragging around a spider larger than itself, whose legs it has have ripped off the spider’s paralysed body. The wasp places the body in its egg chamber, all nice and fresh for the wasp’s larvae to eat when they hatch. Horror movie stuff, but that’s Nature sometimes. She doesn’t have human morality.

But occasionally it’s the other way around. I found this struggle on my umbrella yesterday.

Huntsman eats wasp; the spider is Holconia immanis, ID courtesy of Samii Lawson, Amateur Entomology Australia Facebook group

The huntsman was about 3 cm from tip of cephalothorax to tip of abdomen – a medium size for our subtropical species. They are great at keeping cockroaches in the house down, too.

This spider would have been fast to catch the wasp, and it is a fast hunter, but perhaps it was inspired by the thought of all its paralysed brethren.

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Are we having fun(gi) yet?

What a week! Or at least the last few days. Thankfully the water has drained out of Lismore and the authorities are inspecting to give the all-clear for businesses to start the big clean-up. The mud on the roads and in the buildings is full of toxic c**p (some literally), so care must be taken. Photos on Facebook show water up to a metre from the awnings in shops along the main streets – pubs, the bookshop, cafes, op shops, all of them.

Lismore is a ‘flood town’. It was historically sited at the bottom of a bowl that several rivers drain into before they head to the coast. River was the only way to travel and to trade back then before the great forests were cut down and roads built, so Lismore grew and grew on that same spot. The residents have had to cope with floods from the city’s birth and they know how to prepare and what to do. But this came up so fast and was one of the bigger ones on record (not so big as the one in 1954 or the 1974 one which Andrew remembers as he was 10 and living at Ballina at the time). The levee (built in 2005) has done a great job of protecting the CBD, and it would have been so much worse if it hadn’t been there (although it would have flooded gradually rather than in a rush as it did this time). But even it was overtopped by the massive amount of water flowing down the river. People will pull together and help each other. It’ll all take time.

We had 80 mL in the first 24 hours and then 247.5 mL in the second 24 hours – the biggest one-day reading we’ve had in the 15 years we’ve been here (previous record was 173 in February 2004). Our neighbours at the top of the range behind us had 305 mL to our 247. In the downpour, water started coming under the walls and over the floor of the studio, so we spent the next 90 minutes slooshing water out and removing sodden rugs. At least it wasn’t in the middle of the night. (The studio is badly sited and in really bad downpours water comes out of the neighbouring slope and onto the concrete gutters on the ground, but the drain outlet isn’t big enough to take it away quickly enough.)

Our house lights are out of action because of water getting in the bathroom roof and contacting the light circuit there, and there’s water damage to one outer wall of the bathroom, but we still have power, unlike some people. Good job the builder who is currently renovating our place will be here Tuesday (if he’s not patching up his own place).

Murwillumbah (an hour north by road) is in worse shape – the equipment failed after measuring 6.2 metres river height, bigger than the formerly biggest recorded one in 1954, which was only 6.05. Their sewerage system has stopped working and all the roads in and out of Mur’bah are cut off. Lismore’s top was 11.57 metres.

You can see some photos of events in Lismore here. If you are on Facebook, you can see videos and photos from residents, the Lismore SES and especially Rotorwing Helicopter services.

On the plus side, fungi fanatics are anticipating great finds. The previous weekend we went to the Queensland Herbarium at Mt Coot-Tha Botanic Gardens for a fungi exhibition and associated art display. I managed to meet some folks from the Facebook group, SEQ Fungi, and they are as keen as mustard. I can certainly see the attraction. I’ll post about that next time.

In the meantime, here’s a few shots of a Scleroderma puffball over a few days last week in the backyard before it all went to rain.

 

 

And totally empty after the rain …

We had a few refugees after the rain – no idea where Ms Sqwarky came from. She’s moved on now …

Valanga irregularis, ID courtesy Bruce Turnbull, Amateur Entomology Australia FB page

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Big Scrub Landcare fungal foray (Part 2)

This is the second part of my fungi photos from the Nightcap National Park foray last weekend. Part 1 is here.

These beauties …

… come from these ‘babies’ …

Underside of the fungus in the previous photo

Phillipsia subpurpurea

Phillipsia subpurpurea underside

 

A yellow mycelium (the main part of fungus through which nutrients are absorbed) growing on a rotting log

Catherine searching out fungi

 

Non-fungi finds

Slime mould

Another slime mould

The giant panda snail (Hedleyella falconeri) is Australia’s largest land snail and (surprise, surprise) eats fungi.

Hedleyella falconeri

Hedleyella falconeri underside

Vine aerial roots

What the Big Scrub might have looked like, before it was cut down

 

Keep an eye out for another fungal foray later in the year, thanks to Big Scrub Landcare. Thanks to Steve and Catherine for a sterling guiding effort.

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Big Scrub Landcare fungal foray (part 1)

Local photographer Steve Axford has recently sprung into the international limelight with his time-lapse videos of fungi, shown on David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth II – Jungles”. And splendid they are, too. Steve started photographing fungi about 10 years ago, and has set up a spare shower at his home for the videoing. As he himself said, he is not a scientist but, of course, works with many. I recently went on a fungi-finding walk with him and fellow film-maker Catherine Marciniak, organised by Big Scrub Landcare.

The site was the Nightcap National Park, Gibbergunyah Range Road, Whian Whian, just before you get to Rocky Creek Dam. I’d never been to this treasure of the Big Scrub landscape before. It’d be a good place for birdwatching, too – just don’t take 20 people with you, as on this foray. If you tip-toe through the fungi, you’ll see more birds.

We took the Big Scrub Loop, an easy walk with occasional slight inclines. It was soon clear that fallen trees had the most fungi – one might have many examples of many different species. As you know, the things we call fungi are actually the fruiting bodies of the actual fungus, which is often not so visible.

Steve takes several shots at different focal lengths, afterwards blending them together to form the final shot. If necessary, he’ll use something like a white business card to reflect light onto a fungus.

Steve shooting a fungus on a fallen log

The photo he took above is on the Fungi Fetish Facebook page. This is a citizen science site where anyone can post a photo and get help with ID. Another Facebook site for fungi in our area (northern NSW) is SEQ Fungi.

According to Steve, fungal lifestyles can be categorised into three types:

  1. saprophytic (living on dead or decaying organic matter) – the most likely in rainforests;
  2. mycorrhizal (the symbiotic association between fungi and the root systems of plants) – many plants don’t have this association (see this website for a list); and
  3. parasitic (using the live tissues of various organisms for food) – an example is tinea on human feet. A rare and tragic example is the death last year of a New Zealand woman infected after inhaling a wood-decay fungus.

Steve gives us the basics

Rainforests are generally able to provide fungi with enough nutrients via the saprophytic route, but some rainforest trees do have mycorrhizal associations if they need more nutrients. In contrast, eucalypts and acacias all have mycorrhizal associations, being in relatively poor soils.

Other places that fungi live, and where you might not expect (I certainly didn’t), are in marine and freshwater environments (even in ocean depths) and in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The latter are thought to use melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy they can use, in an analogous way to photosynthesis which uses visible light (a form of radiation) to generate usable chemical energy. How cool is that? Or hot, depending how you like your radiation.

Steve does not encourage the eating of fungi as it’s hard to tell if they are toxic. Some Australian fungi look like some in Europe, but DNA testing has shown that they are entirely different species.

Mark Dunphy of Firewheel Nursery (left) and Steve tracking down an ID

It was embarassing to be with one of the world’s foremost fungi photographers and not having even RTFM (google that if you don’t know what it means) of my own small camera – hence, apologies for the slight blurring in some of my photos. I’ve included them anyway as you can see some structure, and even some fungi ID books have one or two blurry photos. The only book presently available specifically for our area is Australian Subtropical Fungi. I’ve used this and any ID mistakes are mine (corrections are welcomed). If there’s no ID, I haven’t been able to recognise a photo in a book yet (IDs welcome).

Parasola (formerly Coprinus) plicatilis; Japanese parasol

Cymatoderma elegans; leathery goblets

Filoboletus manipularis

Microporous xanthropus (turkey tail)

Auricularia cornea – top; this is regarded as a jelly fungus

Auricularia cornea – underside

Jelly fungus

Club fungus

I’m already planning to go back to the Nightcap, camera in hand but having first RTFM. Now, where is that scrub itch ointment?

More in Part 2

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Barker’s Vale fungi

Barker’s Vale is about 20 km north of me. Thanks to Brigitte who has let me use her photographs. I’ll not attempt to ID them – this is just a photographic record that they exist at her place. I haven’t got my head around the fungi enough yet, but I’m going on Steve Axford‘s fungal foray on Saturday so should pick up some tips. (Steve lives not too far away and specialises in photographing fungi. His luminous fungi are shown in the latest David Attenborough series.)

 

 

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The peregrinating spider

Prue and I went to Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens, whose trees and shrubs have grown tremendously since I first went there.

While sauntering along its mossy paths, a movement caught my eye. It was a very fast-moving, colourful little spider. Its name, Nicodamus peregrinus, is pretty descriptive of its wandering habit.

nicodamus-peregrinus_2

nicodamus-peregrinus_1

nicodamus-peregrinus_9Forgive the slight blur – this critter was moving fast. I’d never seen one before, despite it being very common in southern and eastern Australia. Here’s a sharp shot by someone else.

nicodamas-peregrinus_poyt448-peter-woodard

Nicodamas peregrinus; photo by Poyt448 Peter Woodard, Wikimedia Commons

It’s apparently not poisonous despite the bright colouration, so maybe it’s developed a mimicry of, say, a redback spider to scare off would-be predators.

A sunbeam highlighted (literally) a hanging web.

hanging-spider-web

A pair of eastern yellow robins (Eopsaltria australis) caught worms …

Easter yellow robins

Eastern yellow robins

Garden skinks (Lampropholis delicata) were all over the place …

Lampropholis delicata

Garden skink, Lampropholis delicata

Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens is definitely worth a visit. It makes for a pleasant amble through lots of vegetation types, both native and exotic. In fact, a good place to peregrinate.

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