Friday, May 26, 2017

Brown Goshawk courtesy of spangles and angles

Young Brown Goshawk teasing me for couple of weeks launched into view this morning under challenge from territorial Spangled Drongos (chasers lost all interest immediately goshawk flew into tree over road: seems it was then about 10 metres outside their zone).

Near vertical view: an awkward strain handholding lens at this angle.

Managed to back away and support lens against side of tree for better shot.

Also in same area of the Townsville Common at the time, young Australian Hobby. Bit of a morning for raptors. Five other species seen within 500m but not photographed: White-bellied Sea Eagle, Pacific Baza, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Whistling Kite.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Flying start after being grounded by flu

Back on the road after the past 10 days 'flu' by. Just in time this morn to see perched Blue-winged Kookaburra fly down to road through the Town Common. Seems would-be prey got away.

White-bellied Sea Eagle would have larger prey in mind from vantage point overlooking flooded grassland. Bird's view not quite so clear as shown: bit of cloning removed messy foliage.

Forest Kingfisher also looks neater after major pruning by cloning away bits of dead tree. Pity one can't clone flu from the scene. And, yes, had my jab.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Butterfly makes fast flight from Asia via NT

Say hello to one of Australia's latest migrants. Ten years ago the Tawny Coster didn't get a mention in the weighty Butterflies of Australia. In 2010 it had moved south to Singapore. Five years ago it was noticed floating about in the Northern Territory.

Now the species Acraea terpsicore (aka A.violae) can be seen dancing among grasses and weeds in the Townsville Common. Haven't seen any signs of tension among other butterflies. There's a lesson somewhere in there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Budget time brings out the bigmouths

Budget time brings out the bigmouths - and they don't come much bigger than that of Tawny Frogmouth.

Lucky me this week, $75 from my loving Guvmint (Messrs Slomo and Spincrap) and daytime sighting of frogmouth in the open.

So $50 outlaid on The Australian Bird Guide (CSIRO Publishing) flies back speedily, with interest.
And if you're interested, the new guide is pretty good value. Not perfect (what, or who, is?) but weightier in words, art and intent than older rivals. Too weighted toward rarities and distant islands for my liking. Little on nests and noises (where Morecombe shines). Is there to be an app? I don't know. If buying, check print consistency. Variable print pages among early sellers.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Variety in spice of life and dice of death

Variety is the spice of life and here's a peppering of assaults on prey losing their dice with death and timely proving the point. First on the menu, large locust  in the clutches of Pacific Baza today.

Rufous Whistler about to cook caterpillar's goose.

Praying Mantis hooks on to some slow food.

Golden Orb Weaver getting ready for dragonfly roll.
Bonus spider footnote: scientists this week said they had identified 28 silk protein mixes produced by Orb Weavers. Be nice to know how many might be found on above web. And what many others are used for. Get to work, scientists.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Kingfisher kindly gives up sitting on the fence

Came upon Red-backed Kingfisher on the barbed wire topping Townsville Airport's perimeter security fence yesterday. Chatted to bird about need to get into natural surroundings. Three shifts later and we were close, bird on lowish limb, me able to move around freely within eight metres.

Sadly, no stepladder to hand, so bird retained upper hand in negotiations about me getting to eye level. Not unusual behaviour from the species (more at home on the other side of the Great Dividing Range) but resident Forests and Sacreds have no time for what they see as naive trustingness.

Young pale morph Brown Falcon recently moved into the Common close to the fenceline, possibly along with adult pair drawn to newly slashed and mown airfield grasslands. Snatched quick images of bird taking off from tree.

Nearby, distant young Australian Hobby shows the posture of a bird that won't allow closer approach. Turning away and pretending an interest in anything other than the target may sometimes allay the suspicions. Not too often, and not in this case.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Male butterflies know how to seal the deal

Timed things just right to see female Cairns Birdwing emerge from pupa attached to Aristolochia in the Common.

All clear 20 seconds later and waiting for wings to dry.

Several males came by, didn't locate her. After about an hour somewhat tatty gent found her and mating began almost immediately.

Another frayed male arrived, tried to horn in. Too late!

The mating pair stayed together for rest of the day. No sign of either next morning. The lengthy after-mating period gives a mating plug inserted by the male time to harden.

Female Red-bodied Swallowtails receive an even larger mating plug, most plugs staying in place for their 2-3 months of life.

Wouldn't work so well for most animals, included Homo sap. But with butterflies there is a duct for entry of sperm and, via internal canal, an oviduct for exit of eggs.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Neat home, but Sac Spiders lack scientific address

Sac Spider? Why are you showing us another Sac Spider? We don't like spiders very much.

I know, but look at this. About 6cm x 4cm, robust, roomy, rainproof. Built by female Sac Spider to house herself and many tiny young. Juniors will stay safely inside after leaving her egg sac and emerge as third instars (growing out of two exoskeletons) .

Some will grow on to survive as adults - often tucked neatly inside leaves carefully stuck together,
from which they'll emerge to hunt at night.

So what? Common spider. Common behaviour. Commonplace at the Common and elsewhere. Well, Cheiracanthium spp have problems. "Identification ... is impossible as no modern taxonomic treatment exists," (A Guide to the Spiders of Australia). Long-legged, Slender; descriptives only.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Striated Pardalote brings out the Common touch

Hey, you guys, I've just seen a Striated Pardalote. First I've seen in the Common. Gave it my best shot at mimicry. And it came right down to have a squizz. Great, eh?

Sounds super. I'm on my way. Do they taste good?

That's not fair! I'm closer than you. And hungrier.

Never mind those vultures. I've tasted nothing but air for days. Bring it on.

What's the big deal? I'm prettier by far. And it's such a squinchy little thing too!

Pah! Who gives a fig for noisy little lerpers.

Can they do tricks like this? No? Thought not.

With friends like these...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Hairy, scary things dwell on the web

Fair warning: hairy, scary things dwell on the web here today. Leaping right in with Jumping Spider. Sneaky wee blighter mimics Green Ants, right down to smell, so it can associate with ants and steal larvae. The ants obviously lack facial recognition technology.

Garden Orb-weaving Leaf-curling Spider doesn't look so fearsome sitting in middle of web. But let's see things from the male perspective: small blob (circled black, top left). Imagine coming home late after a feral night out and getting a biff from a missus so much larger. Worse, of course, to be the main course by being too slow after a quickie.

Sharing almost the same patch is another weaver, longer, but considerably slimmer, which A Guide to the Spiders of Australia leads me to identify as a Tear-drop Spider. So resolutely does it present the under view I've never in several weeks seen this spider's back.

Which is definitely not the case with Grey Huntsman, probably the scariest common hairy encounter for archnaphobes. It will change nothing, but no spider ever struck me as going out of its way to terrify Miss Muffet. Aversion therapy, anyone?