Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Sunday, 20th November, 2016. Mudlo National Park & the Property of Tony Perrett, Kilkivan.

Parched country near Kilkivan

Leader: Berry Doak. 

Our outing started with a visit to Mudlo National Park for a walk and morning tea. There were thirty-six in our group, including three new members and three guests. The park and surrounding district is badly in need of some good rain. The creek is completely dry but a walk along the bush track yielded some interesting birds. There was a Rose-crowned Fruit Dove spotted sitting quietly on a branch and a White-eared Monarch calling but eluding being spotted by most of the group. A cuckoo appeared to be following us as we walked along the track. While there was discussion about which cuckoo it was, the distinctive eye ring and pale feet seemed to confirm it was a Fan-tailed Cuckoo. A flowering Giant Blood Vine spotted near the track aroused quite a deal of interest.  A Brown Falcon and a beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater were seen as we travelled to Tony’s property. 
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove. Photo by Vincent

This excursion provided an interesting contrast to the two previous excursions to properties on the upper reaches of the Mary River. The property straddles the edges of two catchments; the Mary River catchment to the east and the Burnett catchment to the north and west. Because the property is further west there is less rainfall and this is reflected in the vegetation types. The country is more open with Casuarinas lining the seasonal creeks. Tony led the way to an area where there are patches of scrub along the watercourse as it leads into the higher country. Clinging to some of the callistemon trees along the creek were Dockrillia liguiformis orchids, commonly called tongue orchids.

Gympie Nats under the giant fig on the hilltop. Photo B. Hughes
After exploring the creek, the group made its way to some large fig trees on the top of a hill where we settled down for lunch. Tony explained some of his management practices for the property and how he stocks according to the season. It is evident he has a strong focus on weed control and is proud of the fact that there is no Giant Rat’s Tail Grass or Cats Claw.  Each year Tony and his family walk the creeks on the property to control weeds that may wash down when the creeks flow.  Some flowering Batwing Coral Trees, Erythrina vespertilio, were interesting. While there are few leaves and the tree has an untidy appearance, the flowers are bright and colourful.
Batwing Coral Tree being visualised (Photo B. Hughes) and result
The outing proved to be very enjoyable for me. Apart from exploring a different type of environment, sharing the day with members who have a great knowledge of the flora and fauna enriches the experience.

A Lace Monitor treed in Mudlo National Park
Editorial addendum: As well as a reasonably good cache of bird sightings, we also had a record butterfly day with 15 species recorded, all but one  (the Evening Brown) observed on Tony’s Perret’s property, especially along the well maintained and weed-free creek:
Large Grass Yellow - its caterpillars feed on cassias, sennas, and other legumes
Swallowtails: Orchard Swallowtail, Checkered Swallowtail

Whites & Yellows: Large Grass Yellow, Caper White, Yellow Albatross, Lemon Migrant

Nymphs & Satyrs: Wanderer, Lesser Wanderer, Common Crow, Blue Tiger, Meadow Argus, Australian Painted Lady, Glasswing, Evening Brown

Blues: Small Pea Blue
Evening Brown looking like another dead leaf on the forest floor

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Visit to King property, Aherns Road, Conondale, 18.09.2016 by Annette

A damp, but still pleasant vista in the Conodales
Light showers to very occasional heavy downpour, did not deter some intrepid individuals and early morning birders of the G & D.F.N on their monthly day out. The venue: the Conondale property of Mary and John King had the added attraction of rainforest liqueur tasting. Morning tea (including liqueurs and a sampling of Mary and John’s bush tucker flavoured cheese cake) was enjoyed on the spacious elevated verandah which afforded excellent views of the local bird population. Two male leaden flycatchers interrupted our scheduled monthly meeting with a spirited territorial display of aggression, closely watched an attendant female.

Good birding and good food and liqueurs and out of the rain!

An interesting and informative talk by John introduced us to the history of his work with bush tucker and rainforest liqueurs in particular. The place of bush tucker in our natural environment was highlighted and our lack of appreciation, generally, for this resource is of concern to him. The Indigenous connection to bush tucker is apparent in the use of Aboriginal names for various liqueurs:- Gidneywallum liqueur -  Podocarpus elatus (Brown Plum Pine). John emphasised his use of indigenous herbs and flavours in his recipes for everyday meals and discussed how he uses fruit and flowers in his liqueur preparation. Practitioners of Chinese medicine use the bark of Acronychia oblongifolia (White Aspen) in their herbal pharmaceuticals. 

A hand axe left behind by an earlier inhabitant of the property

A walk into the rainforest challenged our climbing and dodging skills as lawyer vines attacked us from all directions. The new growth and shape of an Argyrodendron sp. Kin Kin (Rusty tulip oak) caught our attention.  Dockrilla linguiformis (Tongue, Tick Orchid), Dendrobium speciosum (King Orchid) and Callerya megasperma (Native Wisteria) had put on special floral displays.

A Tongue Orchid flourishing
Purple and white flowers of the Native Wisteria dotted the trails

A walk back to the house along the bank of the Mary River, finished off the day’s activities, a river many of us were convinced was flowing in the wrong direction.

Rasp Fern Doodia aspera in the understory

Mary and John are happy to welcome visitors to their property for a tasting of their liqueurs. They can be contacted via their web site www.rainforestliqueurs.com.au

Wasp Moth - probably Eressa angustipenna - flying by day as do many tiger moths

Monday, 15 August 2016

Wildflowers in Memoriam

Now that spring is in the air and the wildflower season is closely approaching, it seems a fitting time to remember a member who won't be with us this spring. She loved wildflowers, and birds and even bugs, and we will miss her terribly. The name is withheld at the request of the family, but here are a few of her pictures to remember her by. (Editor's note - I've had to guess at the identity of some, so any errors of identification are my fault.)
Banksia spinulosa - Golden Candlestick

Blue Forester Moth Pollanisus apicalis 

Bulbine bulbosa - Bulbine Lily, Wild Onion, Golden Lily, Leek Lily, Yellow Onion Weed or Native Leek

Hovea acutifolia - Purple pea bush

Melastoma malabathricum - Native Lasiandra, Blue tongue

Patersonia sericea - Native Iris

Pterostylis sp. - Greenhood Orchid

Scarlet Jezebel Butterfly Delias argenthona

Grevillea insignia - Wax Grevillea 

Xerochrysun bracteatum - Golden everlasting or Paper daisy

Golden Wattle

Saturday, 16 July 2016


This year's Annual General Meeting took place at the Muir's beautiful hillside home above Mary's Creek and was preceded by forays into Mary's Creek State Forest in an area that was once home to diverse stands of forest, but is now largely covered by Hoop Pine plantations. Rainforest remnants remain, especially along Mary's Creek which has several popular swimming holes. Of particular interest among the surviving natives was a member of the unusual family Monimiaceae, Large-leaved Wilkiea (Wilkiea macrophylla) with its elongate rather holly-like leaves.

Large-leaved Wilkiea. D. Walter.
Members of the Monimiaceae like Large-leaved Wilkiea, its cousin Veiny Wilkiea (W. huegeliana) and Tetra Beech (formerly Tetrasynandra but now Steganthera laxiflora) are the larval hosts of what is probably Australia's most colourful skipper, the Regent Skipper (Euschemon rafflesia). Unfortunately we didn't see any of these close relatives of the butterflies, but members may remember when this species was honoured on a 4c postage stamp in the early 1980's.

Lemon Pittosporum (Pittosporum revolutum) in fruit. B. Hughes.

Quinine Bush (Petalostigma pubescens in the Picrodendraceae) in fruit. B. Hughes.

Alas, the logging roads in Mary's Creek forest have been heavily invaded by weeds. The margins of the roads are densely clothed with Lantana and Chinese Bur and the tree-killing Cat's Claw Creeper
(formerly Macfadyena but now Dolichandra unguis-cati) is running rampant.

Once a Hoop Pine now a trellis for a Cat's Claw. 
L. Muir.
Cat's Claw Creeper. L. Muir

The Mary's Creek forest reserve is badly effected by this invasive creeper. Introduced as a garden specimen from the American tropics, like many once cherished garden flowers, this has escaped and had a disastrous effect on the natural environment. Cat's Claw Creeper is a restricted invasive plant under the Bio-security Act. The photos to the left shows the matrix of runners on a Hoop Pine tree with the resulting death of the tree.

After rigorous testing, the Leaf-mining Jewel Beetle (Hylaeogena jureceki) and the Cat's Claw Lacebug (Carvalhotingis visenda), originally from the weed's native range, have been released in Australia in the hope of achieving some level of biological control. We were delighted to discover that the lacebug seems to have developed a good population on the basal leaves of the Mary's Creek Cat's Claw and we hope it will help reduce this infestation.
Cat's Claw Lacebug (Carvalhotingis visenda) damage to Cat's Claw leaves in Mary's Creek State Forest. L. Muir.

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is another tree-smothering climbing vine that is invading the edge at the forest reserve, and also restricted under the Bio-security Act. The fruit is an inflated capsule and releases three black seeds when ripe.The clusters of small white flowers did't appear to be attractive to any bees or other insects.  

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum). L. Muir.

Not all lianas are weeds and although they sometimes bring down a tree, native lianas are both less damaging to the environment and much more beneficial to wildlife. Monkey Rope Vine (Parsonia straminea) is one such native that thrives in the rich soils of the Mary Valley. The dried seed pods visible here are the result of flowering which occurs from Spring to Summer. A excellent nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies, bees, beetles and other insects, the leaves are a food source for the larvae of the Common Crow Butterfly (Euploea core).

Monkey Rope Vine (Parsonia straminea). L. Muir.

We saw no Common Crows, but another member of the butterfly family Nymphalidae, the Wanderer or Monarch was fairly common. Although these butterflies were not native in Australia until they flew-in in the 1870's (probably on a storm front from New Caledonia) and discovered our overabundance of weedy cotton bush and milkweed, the natural hosts they had been following across the Pacific.  See http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/flying-weeds:-how-the-monarch-butterfly-colonised-australia/6768228 for more details.

Monarch or Wanderer Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) resting on a Lantana bush. L. Muir.

Although most Australians seem to have come to terms with the Wanderer, some native insects are less welcome. Among my least favourite are the Small Brown Paper Wasps (Ropalidia revolutionalis) with the finger-like nest that drip from branches, sign posts, hanging pots and rarely used door knobs. The nests and their attendants are often so innocuous that one never realises they are there until one's stumbling around arouses their nest-defending instincts. Far harder to miss are the sometimes gigantic paper nests of the Yellow-brown Paper Wasp (Ropalidia romandi). We encountered one such nest high overhead and out of harm's way in a Hoop Pine on the Mary's Creek trip. 
Large Yellow-brown Paper Wasp nest in Hoop Pine. D. Walter.

Ropalidia romandi up close - the paper shell protects tiers of combs in which the wasp grubs are reared. L. Muir.
The early birders encountered much less threatening wildlife in their trip around Mary's Creek forest including a Koala in a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) and an exhausted (well, dead actually) male antichinus. The fatal sexual excesses of the antichinus are well known and presumably the strategy is successful as these small insectivores are fairly common in many areas and about 15 species have been described in Australia and New Guinea.

High in a Spotter Gum  enjoying the morning sun, I could think of a more comfortable position. L. Muir

Spent male antichinus. Where's the smile?

A female Golden Whistler or a young Eastern Yellow Robin? L. Muir.

Mary's Creek forest and the Muir's garden both contributed to an above average birding day with highlights including an Eastern Spinebill, Dusky Woodswallows, a Jacky Winter and Variegated Fairy Wrens.

Dusky Woodswallows. B. Doak.

Eastern Spinebill in action. B. Doak.

Variegated Fairy-wren (female 13-14 cm) - slight blue tinge on the tail, the multi coloured  male  would't play the photo game. L. Muir.

White-necked Heron (75-105 cm tall), a regular at the Muir's lily pond. L. Muir. 

Dusky Honeyeater (12-15 cm) common in the Muir's garden. L. Muir.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (45-50 cm) nice against a clear blue sky. L. Muir.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Annual General Meeting - moved to 3 July 2016

Due to the BoM prediction of heavy rain and potential flooding, this year's AGM is being postponed from this Sunday 19 June for two weeks until Sunday 3 July 2016. See you there at the Muir's then (6:30 for the birders - but check in case of a change).

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Visit to Greendale

A  mystery hyacinth orchid Dipodium sp. (Photo: B. Hughes)
On Sunday 17 April 2016 the Gympie and District Field Naturalists Club had the great fortune to visit Diane Kewin's Greendale nestled between Glastonbury Creek and Brooyar State Forest. The Kewins were the original settlers in the area and, while some of the scrub was cleared for farming, large tracts of vine scrub and open woodland remain almost as they were in the 1800s. Diane's father entered Greendale into the Nature Refuge Program to help insure that this area of significant biological interest is conserved.
Corymbia tessallaris looking very tessellated  (Photo: B. Hughes)
A survey by Marc Russell in 2007 identified almost 200 species of plants on Greendale and with Ric Sizer on hand to explain this botanical diversity, even the birds were given relatively short shrift. Gympie Nats in tow, Ric strode through the meadows of Kangaroo Grass and along the cattle trails to the various botanical wonders. My personal favourite was the Python Tree (formerly Austromyrtus but now Gossia bidwillii) with its smoothly patterned, twisting, trunk that takes little to imagine as a giant python. Bizarrely, the trunk reflects heat and is actually cold to the touch. Other trees of interest included Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia confertifolia), Moreton Bay Ash (Corymbia tessellaris) with its checkerboard bark, the important koala food Gum-topped Box (Eucalyptus molluccana) and Giant Ironwood (Choricarpia subargentea).
A bunyip striding through the Kanagroo Grass?  (Photo: B. Hughes)
About 45 species of birds were recorded on the trip, but apparently everyone was so interested in the plants, that no appropriate pictures were taken. There were lots of butterflies too and Ric Sizer is learning his lepidopteran host plants and helpfully pointed out several. One of the most common butterflies was the Orange Ringlet whose larvae feed on grasses, especially Kangaroo Grass. Wanderers, Glasswings, Evening Browns, grass yellows, and some white migrants also fluttered by for our entertainment. However the most interesting lepidopteran was a small 'tiger moth', so called because they are often brightly coloured to warn birds they taste very bad and to look elsewhere for a meal.
Asura cf cervicallis a Spotted Lichen Moth (Photo: DEWalter)
I think this is a Spotted Lichen Moth, so called because its caterpillars feed on lichens and it is spotted, but there are many species of Asura with similar variations on the orange and black theme and also many other small day-flying tiger moths that are similarly patterned. Such convergences in appearance among species of butterflies and tiger moths is common enough to have its own scientific term: Müllerian mimicry. It is thought that natural selection by predators (probably primarily birds in this case) tends to enforce a kind of conformity on appearances so that once a bird has learned to leave anything orange and black alone, the colourful flutters all benefit.
Staff Vine (Celastrus australis) we reckon (Photo: B. Hughes)
When a scientist isn't sure of an identification, there are several ways to communicate this. The least embarrassing is to be vague. Those of you who know your butterflies know that there are a host of similar looking grass yellows and pale migrants, but those of you who don't might just think I was being sloppy with my capitals above (current usage has been trending towards capitalising common names for all plants and animals). At the other extreme is to just admit that you don't know. So, for the mystery hyacinth orchid at the top of this post there are two competing hypotheses: Dipodium punctatum and D. roseum. Since none of us is entirely sure, the genetics of orchids is likely complex, and none of us are orchidologists (or even botanists), we are just calling it 'sp.' (for species). I am an entomologist, though, and I think it is likely that the tiger moth is an Asura but I'm not sure of cervicallis, so I've inserted a 'cf' before the species name. That's an abbreviation of conferre a Latin word that lets other entomologist know that I'm not betting the house on it.
Callicarpa pedunculata Velvet Leaf (Photo: B. Hughes)