The joy of sprinklers

The Dry Season continues, and the birds are more and more grateful for our bird baths and lawn sprinklers – well, they seem to be, but who knows what’s going on in their little minds? All we can say for sure is that they come to fly through the spray or sit where the water is falling.

Spangled Drongo on mock orange
Sprinkled Spangled Drongo
spangled drongo on mock orange
Paradise

Yesterday’s visitors included the Drongo and Little Friarbird shown here, a Blue-faced Honeyeater or two, and a White-gaped Honeyeater.

As for the Dry Season, we’ve had about 5 mm in the last four and a half months and, as I said in a comment to Townsville’s 2019 winter, we’re now well below average for the time of year since median totals for October and November are 13 and 29 mm respectively. The Dry, in fact, is a visitor which has out-stayed its welcome.

friarbird on mock orange
Little Friarbird grabbing a snack

Mock Orange bounty

Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is popular with nectar-feeding insects when it bursts into flower, as ours did recently.

Green Scarab beetle on Mock Orange flowers
Green Scarab on Mock Orange flowers

The gorgeous green scarab above, which I wrote about earlier this month, is one of a group known as Flower Beetles or Flower Chafers (Cetoniinae) which are nectar feeders as adults; most of them are quite big and heavy, but they fly well. The Brown Flower Beetle (Glycyphana stolata) below is half the size of the green one, at 12 – 15 mm long.

Brown Flower Beetles on Mock Orange
Brown Flower Beetles
Carpenter Bee feeding on Mock Orange flowers
Carpenter Bee feeding on nectar

Not a very good photo, I’m afraid, but our Great Carpenter Bees deserve a mention. This one is a female and it’s in the Koptortosoma sub-genus of Xylocopa (I’m not going to hazard a guess at which species since they are all rather similar). They are often called “Bumblebees”  (an understandable mistake when you look at a photo) but the real bumblebee is an exotic, not a native, and doesn’t live in our area.

European honeybees also visited for the nectar but surprisingly few butterflies seemed to care for it. The resident spiders don’t want the nectar themselves, of course, but are very happy to lurk beneath leaves for those who do. This Lynx (Oxyopes sp.) has caught an unidentified wasp or bee.

Lynx spider with wasp prey
Lynx with wasp prey

Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is an understandably common shrub in Townsville gardens, growing well with little water and scenting the air with its flowers. It is popular with birds when its flowers become fruits, but therein lies a problem: the birds deposit the seeds far and wide and they grow wild. The shrub is an invasive pest in NSW and Queensland and is better avoided by home gardeners. (We acquired two well-grown specimens and one smaller one with the house and haven’t removed them – yet! – but we uproot seedlings on sight.)

Grow Me Instead recommends a few good alternatives, beginning with an almost-seedless cultivated variety and a Native Mock Orange (Murraya ovatifoliolata) which is a local species if we don’t define “local” too narrowly, since it occurs naturally in “the drier rainforests of northern Queensland.”

Dollarbird

Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Dollarbird

The Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) is the latest addition to my list of species seen in or from my (new) Mundingburra garden. This was one of two perched on power-lines across the street this morning; we had seen them on similar vantage points closer to Ross River in the last week or two, so we weren’t surprised when they came to us.

I wrote about the species five years ago after photographing one near Ross Dam, and all I have to add now is that the prolonged dry spell (5 mm of rain in four months, and still waiting) probably drew them into the suburb via the Ross River parkland corridor.

The burrowing wasp

We’ve had a couple of big mounds of mulch in our garden since the stump-grinding people did some work for us almost a year ago. “Leave us some mulch,” I said, and they did.

We have gradually spread it around and dug it in, but we’ve had a surprising amount of help from little friends – mostly big fat white grubs which are scarab larvae.

A big black wasp has been keen to help, too.

Flower Wasp
Wasp digging into the mulch

Continue reading “The burrowing wasp”

Very hungry caterpillars

Madonna Lily
Bud and flowers (some moth-eaten) of a Madonna Lily

We have quite a few pots of Madonna Lilies (aka Peace Lilies, Spathiphyllum spp.) around the house; they do well until they are eaten, which happens with some regularity. Looking down into a pot yesterday, I saw a couple of the usual suspects lying on the dirt as though they were sleeping off their gluttony.

Continue reading “Very hungry caterpillars”