Bottlebrush and birds

Our red bottlebrush (Callistemon) has joined the mango (now just about finished), paperbark, poplar gum and macadamia in bursting into flower. It is far smaller than the first three, although still three or four metres high, and the flowers are attractive to the birds as well as to us.

Lorikeet amongst bottlebrush flowers
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) amongst bottlebrush flowers
Lorikeet feeding on bottlebrush
I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks?

I have seen Friarbirds feeding on the blossom, too, and a few insects – native bees, for instance.

Zodiac moth on the poplar gum

large dark moth on gum blossom
Zodiac moth, Alcides metaurus, high in our poplar gum

Birds aren’t the only creatures attracted to the abundant blossom of our poplar gum. As well as the Rainbow Lorikeets, Friarbirds, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and White-gaped Honeyeaters we have flying foxes at night and, naturally, insects during the day. This moth is a special visitor: I haven’t seen one, let alone photographed one, in my garden before although I have seen them occasionally around Cairns.

Zodiac moths, Alcides metaurus, are more common in rainforest than in our drier country.  They are (obviously) a day-flying species, and belong to the Uraniidae family, Swallowtail moths. They are as large as some of our Swallowtail butterflies – Ulysses or Orchard, for instance – at about 100mm. (If they weren’t, I couldn’t have managed a decent photo from ground level, even with my telephoto lens.)

Zodiac moth underside, with black and white bars
Zodiac moth underside
Zodiac moth feeding
Zodiac moth feeding


Pop(u)lar Gum in blossom

Our huge Poplar Gum (Eucalyptus platyphylla) has, as predicted, burst into flower – suddenly and exuberantly. The trigger seems to have been the few millimetres of gentle rain which arrived on Sunday, since by Monday the whole tree looked like this:

creamy gum blossom
Poplar gum blossom

It has become enormously popular with the Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) in consequence. They have abandoned the paperbark (they had nearly stripped it, anyway) and dozens of them at a time are feeding in the canopy.

Rainbow Lorikeet in the Poplar Gum
Rainbow Lorikeet in the Poplar Gum
two lorikeets arguing
Two lorikeets disputing over the flowers

Anyone standing beneath the tree is showered with the caps off the flower buds, and with fragments of twigs, leaves and flowers.

The birds keep up a screeching racket which bursts out even louder when they squabble, as they often do.

With all that, they are (as I said last week) very difficult to see. They have an amazing knack of vanishing into the leaves. When you watch for a while, you can see most of the ‘why’ and ‘how’: they have to walk around on the small branches and reach out through the leaves to the flowers, because the flower stems are not strong enough to take their weight.

Lorikeet with head showing through leaves
Now you see it …

Their colours are surprisingly good camouflage, too, as the bright blue head becomes sky in sunlight and grey branch in shadow, while the green and yellow become leaves.

How much of the bird can you see in the small picture here? Click on it for a larger version and look again.


Self-sown, but none the worse for that

golden wattle blossom and foliage
An unanticipated pleasure

This is the wattle I was on my way to photograph when the crash-landing cuckoo interrupted proceedings. It is a self-sown tree just inside the front fence which somehow avoided the weeder’s grasp long enough to be allowed remain and grow – slightly sideways – and thrive. We don’t know its lineage (and would welcome expert advice) but any tree that can put on displays like this is truly welcome.

wattle tree in flower
Reaching for the sun