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Of This and That.

A welcome arrival in the mail this week from Andrew Isles was the highly anticipated new Field Guide to Spiders of Australia, by Robert Whyte and Greg Anderson.

In the world of invertebrates there can surely be no more fascinating class of creatures than spiders. One can never cease to marvel at the sight of an orb weaver constructing its web. At this time of year the early morning light highlights these intricate and beautiful creations suspended from any suitable support.

Orb webs to capture prey are only part of the story though, with other spiders casting nets, swinging a sticky bolas, or hunting with speed or by jumping to capture a meal. This new field guide illustrates our Australian spiders with over 1300 photographs and descriptive text that is second to none. Being a moth person, this was a gem of information gleaned from my first skim through, concerning the Bird Dropping Spider, Celaenia excavata. It  is the first spider I remember, common in our suburban garden in the early 1940s but unseen for many years in our Gippsland native garden, and I quote, “The large female seems to exist solely on a diet of male moths, mimicking the pheromones of female moths to attract them.” This book is a must have for any natural history enthusiast, highly recommended.

Winter flowering plants are beginning to come into flower in the garden, Hakea lissocarpha, the pink form, and the Heyfield double wax, Philotheca verrucosa.

Under the eucalypts many examples of the Horse Dung Fungus, Pisolithus arhizus have appeared this year.

Two Grey Shrike-thrushes are resident and one has become very confiding, whistling to attract my attention and coming right to my feet for some crumbs of cheese.

For the second time over the last few years a dead rabbit in the paddock has attracted a pair of Whistling Kites. These were harder to photograph than on the first occasion, being in longer grass and extremely wary.

A very dark Grey Fantail, possibly of the Tasmanian race was present for a couple of days before moving on, it is pictured enjoying a cold bath although you wouldn’t think so judging by its expression in the second picture…..

Click to enlarge.




From here and there.

The native garden in autumn is still colourful with some very nice plants in flower, for example this crowea which we believe is Cane’s hybrid.

One of our newest grevilleas used to be known as Grevillea thelemanniana var. preissii, but has been raised to specific rank, Grevillea preissii, with two sub species,  preissii, and glabrilimba. The garden plant is the latter, and is coming into flower for the first time with beautiful pendent clusters of delicate red flowers.

Kunzea baxteri is also flowering, providing a source of nectar for the honeyeaters. New Holland honeyeaters are very vigilant and at the first hint of danger their alarm calls fill the air. At the time this one was keeping an eye out for bullying Red Wattlebirds.

On occasion though there can be a greater threat. The Australian Hobby, a speedy hunter is occasionally seen locally, slicing through the air during daylight hours, but they like to hunt at dusk. Just before dark a bird was seen in silhouette perched high on the television antenna, and the shape invited closer attention than just a casual glance. Inspection through binoculars prompted another trip inside for the camera with zoom lens and speedlight mounted, which resulted in this picture of an Australian Hobby. The bird was quite relaxed, and blood visible on a talon indicates that it had recently killed and eaten.

With the onset of  colder weather spiders are harder to find. This jumping spider has now disappeared after living for a time in its retreat silked between two leaves of the Sydney Waratah.

While waiting for moths to come to the sheet, a wander in the bush with a torch can be productive. This tiny orb-weaver was the only spider seen in late May and it made an interesting photographic subject. The web, built between two Golden Wattle phyllodes is only about 60 mm top to bottom, and the spider is about 3 mm. It was extremely difficult to photograph and this image is a composite of three shots using flash and torch light for separate exposures.

The spider.

On another branch, probably an assassin bug species.

Back at the moth sheet, encountered and photographed for the first time a lanternfly.

And finally, a lacewing species.

Click images to enlarge.

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