Early on Saturday morning my daughter heard a lot of scuffling going on in the leaves near the back fence and, through her bedroom window, saw two kookaburras locked together in some kind of struggle. After closer examination through binoculars she identified one as a Laughing Kooka and the other as a Blue-winged. The latter, let’s call him Bluey, had more extensive and more vivid blue plumage and also a pale, “scary-looking” eye compared with the Laughing one’s deceptively gentle-looking brown eye.
What she discovered was that Laughing Boy had its beak jammed down the throat of Bluey, which in turn had its own beak firmly clamped down on the intruder, and they were dancing about like that apparently unable, or unwilling, to unlock themselves.
A reader’s recent query grew into an interesting discussion and, with her permission, I have turned it into a blog post as I did with the Kookaburra story a year ago. The photos are hers, as is most of the text; I’ve just edited it lightly for clarity and continuity. My emails are in italics, while my introductory and linking text is formatted (illogically, I know) as quoted text like this.
Pat to Malcolm, 12 April
We live on the banks of the Barron River in Mareeba and I’m pretty sure these wasps are the yellow paper wasp you wrote about and put on line.
The initial nest was in a low lying branch in my front yard and I accidentally hit the branch or nest and out came wasps and I got stung. (I’m allergic, so a bit of a big deal.)
After a few days I noticed a swarm at my front porch, and although not wanting to poison them we had to encourage them to move on, and mostly they did. One tiny nest remained and my husband will remove it this evening.
But this morning on the big eucalyptus tree in our back area toward the river, the swarm looks like it is in the thousands, and building very different sort of ‘nests’ down the trunk of the white tree, a vertical row of individual pieces protruding off the tree. It doesn’t look like the usual nest but the nest in the bunya tree in our front yard (at least I think it’s a bunya – super straight, very tall and with cones) might be the same kind except that it’s about 50 feet up on the bunya.
In the face of the ongoing, horrific and completely unprecedented devastation of wildlife and habitat across our country please consider making a donation to the wonderful wildlife carers and rescuers desperately trying to help those animals that have survived. Many will have severe injuries and all will find their familiar territory transformed to an alien landscape without shelter, food or water.
Below is a list of some of the Wildlife Care and Rescue groups dealing with this crisis in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.
If anyone has information for Western Australian groups covering the fire-affected areas (I believe mostly in the SE of the state at present) please let WQ know. Or indeed any other organisations in particular need or which you can vouch for – this list can be added to. It is only a small selection – but we are truly in uncharted territory and these groups need your now more than ever before. THANK YOU!! Continue reading “Helping Our Wildlife In Crisis”
Between the floods and the resumption of regular service on Green Path we received an email via the Contact page. The observations in it were so good that I asked permission to publish it, and here’s the result. I have used italics for my words to keep them separate; apart from that, I’ve done just a tiny bit of editing for consistency and brevity, and added links where appropriate.
My name is Ray and my wife (Judy) and I are retired and live in Annandale, backed onto the creek that runs from the Army base under the A1 and the “Richard I Bong” Bridge on Macarthur Drive. Got your email address from the Green Path website and you seemed quite experienced in birdlife. Thought you might be able to enlighten us – if you have time.
We have been visited lately by four Blue-winged and one Laughing Kookaburras (see pics attached).
Do you have black weaver ants on your property? If so, there is an entomologist eager to hear from you. Dr Mike Downes, who wrote this (first ever!) guest post for Green Path, has been studying them since 2009 and would like to hear from anyone who has these ants nesting in vegetation on their property. Here’s what he has to say about them:
Like green tree ants, black weaver ants, Polyrhachis australis, use silk from their larvae to bind leaves together forming a nest, most often in trees and shrubs but sometimes in artificial locations such as buckets or gaps in wall cladding. There are some excellent images on the internet of black weaver ants and their nests, including several on the Flickr photostream of Green Path’s author, Malcolm Tattersall. Here’s an example:
The worker ants are shiny jet black, about half a centimetre long or longer, and forage singly. They only march in trails when relocating their nest. The nests range from about the size of a golf ball to as large as a pawpaw. The majority of nests have pale grey to charcoal-coloured, gritty walls constructed of plant and mineral debris bound together with silk. Occasionally, however, the nests are creamy-white and floppy, without much debris. In those cases, the ants are using an excess of spider silk instead of their own larval silk.
Disturbing the nest will usually result in a defensive outpouring of workers, but their bites are mild at most, barely noticeable compared with those of green ants. Also in contrast with green ants which have a single ‘royal’ nest and many outposts, black weaver ants have one or more queens in every nest, and lots of males too, especially between September and December.