Paper wasps again

Most people don’t like paper wasps because they have such a painful sting but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to dislike them (the wasps, that is, not the people).

I find them interesting because their lifestyle bridges the gap between the social insects, like honey-bees and most ants, and the non-social majority. Paper wasps are technically semi-social, as shown in a chart borrowed from an introductory entomology course.

“Primitively eusocial wasp colonies, such as Polistes, are commonly inherited by dominant workers on the death of a queen,” according to a short but fairly technical article on Scitable about evolutionary advantages (through kin selection) of sociality.

All of which is an introduction to these recent photos, taken on one of the regular Wildlife Queensland walks. The first shows a paper wasp adding to its family home.

Paper wasp Polistes stigma
The wasp with construction material

Continue reading “Paper wasps again”

Wallaman Falls after rain

Wallaman Falls flowing well after rain

My third visit to Wallaman Falls was a day trip with Wildlife Queensland. A full report will appear on their blog in due course but I thought I might quickly share this photo and mention my previous posts – from almost exactly one year ago and two years ago, as it happens. (This is a good time of year for camping and bushwalking, since everything is still quite green after the Wet but the weather is reliably fine and not too hot.)

I have added the spider and insect photos from this trip to my existing Wallaman Falls album on flickr.

Pied Imperial Pigeon on the nest

pied imperial pigeon nest
Pied Imperial Pigeon on its nest in a paperbark tree

The last Wildlife Queensland trip for the year took us further from home than usual, to Zoe Bay on Hinchinbrook Island. It was a lovely day and I’m sure a full report with lots of photos will appear in due course on the WQ Townsville site. (Edit: it’s now here).

All I want to do here is to post a photo of a Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula spilorrhoa, on its nest to complement my earlier posts about them on Green Path.

We met in a small park near the Dungeness boat ramp and spent our waiting time, naturally, birdwatching. This was one of several PIP nests we spotted in a clump of paperbarks there. Each was an untidy, unstable-looking twig platform, easy enough to see once we knew what they looked like – in fact, believing that they were functional nests was harder than seeing them.

In the same clump we also saw a Friarbird on its nest, well camouflaged by virtue of the fact that it was neatly woven out of strips of the tree’s own bark.

friarbird nest
A Friarbird just visible on its nest in the same clump of trees

The other Lorikeet

Green parrot in tree
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Lorikeets are a family of small to medium-sized parrots which have specialised as nectar and pollen feeders – not that they are averse to the odd insect when it comes their way. The species we know best is the Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, common across the Top End, right down the East coast and across to Adelaide, and gorgeously coloured.

Their nearest relations are another species in the same genus, the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus. They are very much the same size, have the same habits (they even feed together sometimes) and have a similar range, being found from Cape York to Melbourne but not across to Adelaide or the Top End.

The individual in my photo is the first I’ve positively identified or photographed so I can say with great confidence that they are not as common around Townsville as the Rainbow Lorikeets but I’m not sure just how uncommon they are. Given their similarities, it would be easy enough to assume (wrongly) that any green parrot high in a flowering paperbark or poplar gum was the familiar Rainbow. I will look more carefully from now on!

I took this photo in Oak Valley, on the first Wildlife Queensland walk of the year. Check the branch blog for a full report on the event and for news of upcoming trips.

Australia does have another four species of lorikeet but they are all smaller and duller than the Rainbow and Scaly-breasted, and only one of them (the Little Lorikeet) is known in our region. Ian Montgomery has a couple of nice photos of them from Paluma on his invaluable site, Birdway.