What’s around – mid December

Brown Cicada on Frangipani trunk
Cicada, Brown Bunyip

In the last three weeks we have finally had some rain (see previous post for details) and the insects are responding. We have more …

  • Beetles – mostly 12mm long brown beetles, with a few green ‘Christmas beetles’, flying to the house lights at night. Some ladybird-size beetles in the shrubbery too, but no Elephant Beetles yet.
  • Dragonflies, in our garden again; at least 3 species.
  • Mud-dauber wasps and resin bees.
  • Orb-weaver spiders, after a long gap. The Austracantha aren’t back yet but the Silver Orb-weavers are.
  • Mantises – I have seen two hatchings (1) and (2).
  • Cicadas – I have seen three species so far: the Brown Bunyip at left, the one posted here almost a month ago and a green one I didn’t photograph.
Green frog
Small frog

We also have more …

  • Frogs, large and small. The one on this page is about half the length of my little finger, i.e. around the same size as the cicada.
  • Birds, lots of them and very noisy. Their idea of ‘morning’ is 5 a.m. which doesn’t go down very well with us, however much we like them at other times.

Still around:

  • The same butterflies (I guess we’re waiting for them to breed and pupate), a slightly greater number of moths, and a much greater number of mosquitoes (ouch!).
  • House spiders indoors and lynx and jumping spiders outdoors, though not so many flower spiders.

The Wet is here

After last night I am sure the Wet is here. We had a cracker of a thunderstorm in the small hours – say 2.30 to 4.00 – which made us wander round the house closing windows and unplugging computers and so on, and flooded our banana plantation. It overflowed our little rain-gauge, so we must have had more than 60 mm.*

It follows a good storm in the evening of last Sunday (only 10 – 20 mm but a great light-show), 60 mm in three days a week earlier (which cancelled ‘Carols By Candlelight’), and 15 mm in the last week of November, all adding up to more rain than we have had altogether in the previous seven months. In between the downpours we’ve had very hot days, 32 – 35C, and hot nights, going down to 24 – 26C, with constant high humidity.

The only surprise about all this is that it has arrived almost a month later than normal – but the variability of the monsoon’s timing is itself normal, so it’s not a big surprise.

* P.S. The official figure, for the airport, is 92 mm in the 24 hours to 9.00 this morning.

Too many moths!

One down-side of digital photography is that it is so easy to take too many photos. Its consequence, for me at least, is a lot of time spent sorting them and throwing out the not-so-good ones.

I can spend even more time trying to identify insects I have photographed, and moths are a particular problem: there are just so many of them! The introduction to CSIRO’s Australian Moths Online notes that, ‘There are about 22 000 species of Australian moths, of which only half have been described [i.e. scientifically identified] so far.’ For comparison, there are only about 320 species of dragonflies, 420 species of butterflies and about 800 species of birds, making any of them far easier for the average person to identify.

Over the last year I have been photographing moths whenever they came my way but rarely finding time to identify them. They ‘came my way’ in great numbers during the last Wet season, flying to the house lights every evening, and I was almost relieved when numbers dropped during the Dry. ‘At last,’ I thought, ‘time to sort them out!’

But I didn’t find the time, and now the Wet is approaching and the moths returning. Speiredonia mutabilis was special enough to go to some trouble for, but I can see myself getting further and further behind from now on. (If anyone wants a few dozen moth photos to sort, please apply here!) Three recent guests:

brown moth on fingertip
Fingertip moth
brown moth on window frame
Moth on window frame, about 20 mm
amber moth with 'W' markings
'W' moth, about 15 mm

The Wet is on the way

Wisteria blossoms and bracts
Wisteria – the deep purple flowers don’t last long but the bracts still look beautiful without them

It has been a long dry cool winter but things are beginning to change.

A bedroom window looks out towards Mt Stuart and it gives us our first glimpse of the weather every morning. Blue sky? Obvious. Clouds? Ditto. No Mount Stuart? One of us will turn to the other and say, ‘Someone has stolen Mount Stuart!’

It’s an old family joke, going back to the time when one of the children was engrossed in a (very primitive) computer game called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? which entailed solving outrageous crimes all over the world: ‘Someone has stolen the Eiffel Tower’, etc. Back in the real world and the present … if we can’t see Mt Stuart, cloud has come right down over it. That is a wet-season phenomenon and it happened last Sunday for the first time in months. It happened again on Thursday morning just to show it wasn’t an aberration, but we returned to cool dry conditions again this weekend.

The plants are preparing for a change, too. The Macadamia has been flowering, the Poplar Gum has lost its bark and is losing leaves (for the first time since Yasi, incidentally), the native Wisteria is flowering fit to bust, the Callistemon is doing well, etc. Many of our trees here lose their leaves, come into flower and then come into new leaf in a matter of a few weeks around the end of the dry season. Those are traditional autumn and spring changes, of course and ‘ought’ to be six months apart.

As I’ve said before, our seasons align very poorly with European-style spring-summer-autumn-winter. An artist friend of mine researched local Aboriginal season descriptions some years ago. I don’t remember them all but they were (roughly) pre-Wet, Wet, post-Wet growing season, drying-off and cool dry. Much more appropriate!