Dolly portrait


The notion that a fly could be pretty may strike some folk as bizarre, but some Diptera are beautifully coloured and quite graceful. This one posed for me on the lip of a bromeliad leaf.

It’s a Long-legged Fly (Dolichopodidae), one of dozens – probably hundreds – in our garden. Most of them feature metallic greens, golds and bronzes, and it’s only when you look very closely that you notice the silver-grey of the muscular thorax.

They are very small (around 5mm) but are fierce predators in their minuscule world, making a living by taking very small flying insects.

Dry-season butterflies in Townsville

Cairns Birdwing
Male Cairns Birdwing

I don’t like to brag, but we have so many Cairns Birdwings in our garden that I rarely bother pointing a camera at them. When one poses as beautifully as this, however, and I happen to have a camera in my hand, I do take advantage of the opportunity.

At the moment we have at least two semi-resident male birdwings spending their time chasing each other away from the Aristolochia vines while hoping a female will turn up. They may not have too long to wait, since we do see females as often as males.

Also around the garden in this unusually damp ‘dry’ season: Common Eggfly (male and female), Chocolate Soldiers, Grass Yellows, Skippers,  Plumbago BluesLemon Migrants and Crows (links will take you to older posts and photos). I think that’s about all, other than the solitary Lurcher which popped out of the shrubbery yesterday. It may be the same individual we found at the end of July, since this one is clearly no longer young.

Lurcher butterfly
Australian Lurcher on sacred bamboo

A centipede visits


We rarely see centipedes but found one in the house last night, scuttling around on the slate floor downstairs. We trapped it, photographed it in its plastic jail cell, and released it into the garden where it belongs.

Arthropods (insects, spiders, crabs and their kin) are invertebrates with segmented bodies, jointed limbs and a chitinous exoskeleton. Centipedes are arthropods but not insects: they belong in the subphylum Myriapoda which includes:
Chilopoda – centipedes
Diplopoda – millipedes
Pauropoda – sister group to millipedes
Symphyla – resemble centipedes

The Australian Museum has a reasonably good overview of the Myriapoda here.

Wikipedia notes that, “Centipedes are known to be highly venomous, and often inject paralyzing venom,” and (less seriously), “Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs, ranging from 30 to 354. Centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs. Therefore, no centipede has exactly 100 legs.” (For something even less serious, try The Centipede’s Dilemma.)

Our visitor belongs in Scolopendromorpha, variously known as ‘tropical’ or ‘giant’ centipedes (because they are both). Ours was no giant but was a respectworthy 80 mm or so.

The centipede’s head

Here is another of our own centipedes (same family and probably same species), and here is the biggest I’ve seen around Townsville.

Blue-winged kookaburra poses for the camera

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra and Blue-faced Honeyeater

We hear Blue-winged Kookaburras (Dacelo leachii) more often than we see them but this one spent an hour or more in our garden a few weeks ago and I enjoyed waiting for her different poses. (This photo doesn’t tell us she’s female but other views do: females’ tail feathers are red-brown while males’ are bright blue.)

With no more ado, then …

Blue-winged Kookaburra:
Blue-winged Kookaburra: formal portrait
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra: the evil eye
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra: punk styling