Two weeks ago I took advantage of a free day to visit the Town Common for the first time since the very hot (but not very wet) Wet season and I’m now taking advantage of an unseasonably wet day to post some of the photos I took there.
I walked in from the Pallarenda car-park, around the wetland loop and then up the Many Peaks track for the wonderful views from the top. I continued half an hour further along the track, down from the hill-crest and through a large vine thicket, before returning the way I came. I heard lots of birds at the very beginning of the walk but they didn’t pose for me so the insects are the stars of my gallery. Continue reading “Town Common in June”
Here are some of the insects I saw on the Town Common yesterday – far more numerous than the birds I talked about in my previous post, although I have to say that wasn’t entirely a Good Thing (more on that later).
Of these, the first two are always abundant on the Common and the next three are nearly as common. All five are about the same size. The next three are all smaller. They are also common but are trickier to identify because close relations in each genus look so much alike (which is why I have just said “Eurema sp. [species]” and so on). The last one is the odd one out, belonging to a different family (Lycaenidae) and being much rarer.
One of my reasons for posting these three photos as a set is that they happen to show all three species feeding on the same kind of flower, the Tridax Daisy.
Lycaenidae (Blues) are usually quite small but this one is bigger than most, about the same size as the Grass Yellow.
I did also see many other small butterflies and moths but they were impossible to keep track of.
Standing water always means dragonflies and they were as numerous as the butterflies. Once again, I couldn’t begin to identify all of them and I’m just posting a couple who posed nicely for me.
And the rest
Add together the numbers of butterflies and dragonflies and you might be close to the total number of grasshoppers; add together the grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies and you might be close to the total number of mosquitoes – or that’s what it felt like! The Common is not a place to visit without repellent in the Wet season.
Most of the mozzies were the little standard-model grey-black types but one, seen below attempting to drill through my pants leg, was special enough for a photo.
She (males don’t suck blood) was about twice the average size – perhaps not as big as the magnificent Metallic Mosquito, but close.
My oddest discovery of the trip was this:
Pandanus leaves are spiked along the edges but this one – and others on the same plant – seemed to have pairs of supernumerary spines coming from the lower face of the leaf. A closer look revealed that each pair of ‘spines’ was a pair of wings attached to plant hoppers (Derbidae, Hemiptera), each of which was attached to the leaf via its proboscis (properly called a ‘stylet‘) and earnestly sucking sap from a vein.
Yesterday afternoon’s beautiful weather persuaded me to leave my useful-but-tedious work for an hour or two to ride to Aplin’s Weir, leave the bike under a tree and walk upstream between the bike path and the water (still on the Mundingburra side of the river). It’s quite a wide, rich zone in that stretch of Ross River’s parkland, with a broad backwater, swampy areas and an unmade walking track under mature trees – a bit of everything for the local wildlife and (therefore) for a casual naturalist/photographer like myself. I came home relaxed and with a good haul of photos. I have started with an insect so I will continue with invertebrates before getting to the birds.
These gorgeous purple dragonflies, Rhyothemis princeps, were abundant in sunlit spots along the path, and I saw quite a few smaller blue dragonflies as well as damselfllies like the one at the top of the page.
Butterflies were also abundant. Smaller species like this Orange Bush Brown (“Bush Brown” is a family name; there is also a “Dingy Bush Brown”) and the bright Grass Yellows (Eurema species) were flitting about at shin height, with Crows (Euploea) and others at head height and above. I walked through one large aggregation of Blue Tigers (Tirumala hamata) over-wintering in the kind of moist, shady area they like, and was reminded of a similar group of Crows I found on the Town Common at this time of year in 2012 – see this photo on Flickr. There were far more than I caught in my photo, by the way – they were scattered over a few square metres.
This cranefly is not the species I’m most familiar with, the Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma australasiae) but one of the other 700-odd (!) species in the family Tipulidae. It’s just a little larger than the Tiger Cranefly, meaning it has a body length of about 15mm and a leg span of perhaps 60 – 80 mm. I didn’t see as many birds as I had expected but enjoyed watching the Jacana foraging on the backwater. I have not zoomed in on it in the photo below because I wanted to show just how mucky its preferred habitat can be: near-stagnant water full of rotting lilies and other plants, algae and all sorts of things we would generally not want to wade around in or (if we had feet like a jacana) on. It’s full of highly nutritious food, though, and that counts for a lot.
Other birds sighted on the walk were a Brown Honeyeater, a Pied Cormorant on the river, Welcome Swallows hunting over the water and a Forest Kingfisher looking for a late-afernoon snack:
I’ve written about dragonflies and the Palmetum before so I won’t say much here except that a visit in October 2013 resulted in these photos of three more species. I don’t know how many there are altogether; I’m up to about ten definitely identified and a lot more that I’m not sure of.
Australia has only half as many species of dragonflies and damselflies (closely related but mostly smaller) as it does of butterflies – about 320 – but dragonflies are harder to identify from photographs since the only conclusive method is to check the pattern of veins in the wings. However, size and colour can sometimes be enough and this Brisbane Insects page identifies many of our local species on that basis.