The Green Thing

This arrived in my email a few days ago (thanks, Margaret!) and I think it’s worth sharing:

In the line at the supermarket, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

She was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the factory to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.

But they didn’t have the green thing back in that customer’s day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s nappies Continue reading “The Green Thing”

Brown honeyeater

Brown Honeyeater in bottlebrush tree
Brown Honeyeater in bottlebrush tree

We have a lot of birds in our garden, attracted by the constant supply of flowering plants and the tangles of shrubby plants to hide in. Hibiscuses provide both, year round, but the bottlebrush is also a great refuge for shy little birds like this Brown Honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta (Meliphagidae), and we have a resident population.

I find the birds harder to photograph than the insects, because they are warier. A longer lens would help, and I have just borrowed a 55 – 250 mm zoom to see how much better it is. Expert bird photographers like Ian Montgomery would rarely use anything as short as 250 mm, of course (‘Start with a 400,’ he told me when I raised the question once, if I remember correctly), but I’ll work my way up gradually.

Not so wild life

Butterfly, Mycalesis terminus, on fruit cake
Not so wild

I went bush yesterday, up to Hervey’s Range about half an hour north-west of Townsville where the wildlife is abundant and varied. It was my first visit since just after cyclone Yasi at the beginning of February, and I was pleased by how much the area had recovered: everything looks green again.

Butterflies were everywhere. The bright yellow Eurema were the most obvious but I also spotted Clearwings, Glasswings, Crows and several other species besides the one in my picture, Mycalesis terminus (a close relation of the Dingy one here).

This individual was either pathetically stupid or ridiculously trusting. After flitting around us and our afternoon tea table it settled happily on a piece of fruit cake for a good meal:

Close up of Mycalesis terminus on fruit cake
Mycalesis terminus enjoying afternoon tea

This, of course, was while we were sitting there chatting and enjoying a cup of coffee in the late afternoon sunshine.

Eventually one of us decided that the cake was (after all) ours, and gently removed our lepidopteran friend from it. Did he fly off in panic? Not at all. He just sat on the table until we gave him a little piece just for himself:

Mycalesis terminus on fruit cake
Mycalesis terminus

Two climate warnings

Expert panels in Stockholm and Canberra recently issued major statements on climate within a few days of each other. Here are the essentials of both, with links to more detail.

Nobel Laureates Speak Out

Seventeen Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm published a remarkable memorandum asking for “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change”. The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene, where humanity has become the main driver of global change. Continue reading “Two climate warnings”

Mummy long-legs

Daddy long-legs spider with hatchlings
Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings

I have known ‘Daddy long-legs’ spiders as long as I can remember. They are small-bodied and long-legged, and they make themselves at home in similar locations to the House spider I wrote about recently. I have had a close-up view of their family life over the last week or two: the group in my photo are in residence under a shelf just 30 cm above and behind my computer screen. I look up – and there they are. All the time. Doing almost nothing, as far as I can see.

I first noticed the babies on May 7 – two weeks ago – and they have stayed beside their mother ever since. They have gradually spread out, especially in the last few days, but many are still within 20 cm of her. What look like skeletons in the lower picture are not, so far as I know, signs of infanticide. Spiders moult their skins (really external skeletons, ‘exoskeletons’) as they grow and I’m pretty sure that we are seeing cast off exoskeletons. The first picture was taken on May 9, the second on May 15.

For more about the family, check out their page on, a wonderful new Aussie spider site.

Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings
Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings