Monday, 15 August 2016

Wildflowers in Memoriam

Now that spring is in the air and the wildflower season is closely approaching, it seems a fitting time to remember a member who won't be with us this spring. She loved wildflowers, and birds and even bugs, and we will miss her terribly. The name is withheld at the request of the family, but here are a few of her pictures to remember her by. (Editor's note - I've had to guess at the identity of some, so any errors of identification are my fault.)
Banksia spinulosa - Golden Candlestick

Blue Forester Moth Pollanisus apicalis 

Bulbine bulbosa - Bulbine Lily, Wild Onion, Golden Lily, Leek Lily, Yellow Onion Weed or Native Leek

Hovea acutifolia - Purple pea bush

Melastoma malabathricum - Native Lasiandra, Blue tongue

Patersonia sericea - Native Iris

Pterostylis sp. - Greenhood Orchid

Scarlet Jezebel Butterfly Delias argenthona

Grevillea insignia - Wax Grevillea 

Xerochrysun bracteatum - Golden everlasting or Paper daisy

Golden Wattle

Saturday, 16 July 2016


This year's Annual General Meeting took place at the Muir's beautiful hillside home above Mary's Creek and was preceded by forays into Mary's Creek State Forest in an area that was once home to diverse stands of forest, but is now largely covered by Hoop Pine plantations. Rainforest remnants remain, especially along Mary's Creek which has several popular swimming holes. Of particular interest among the surviving natives was a member of the unusual family Monimiaceae, Large-leaved Wilkiea (Wilkiea macrophylla) with its elongate rather holly-like leaves.

Large-leaved Wilkiea. D. Walter.
Members of the Monimiaceae like Large-leaved Wilkiea, its cousin Veiny Wilkiea (W. huegeliana) and Tetra Beech (formerly Tetrasynandra but now Steganthera laxiflora) are the larval hosts of what is probably Australia's most colourful skipper, the Regent Skipper (Euschemon rafflesia). Unfortunately we didn't see any of these close relatives of the butterflies, but members may remember when this species was honoured on a 4c postage stamp in the early 1980's.

Lemon Pittosporum (Pittosporum revolutum) in fruit. B. Hughes.

Quinine Bush (Petalostigma pubescens in the Picrodendraceae) in fruit. B. Hughes.

Alas, the logging roads in Mary's Creek forest have been heavily invaded by weeds. The margins of the roads are densely clothed with Lantana and Chinese Bur and the tree-killing Cat's Claw Creeper
(formerly Macfadyena but now Dolichandra unguis-cati) is running rampant.

Once a Hoop Pine now a trellis for a Cat's Claw. 
L. Muir.
Cat's Claw Creeper. L. Muir

The Mary's Creek forest reserve is badly effected by this invasive creeper. Introduced as a garden specimen from the American tropics, like many once cherished garden flowers, this has escaped and had a disastrous effect on the natural environment. Cat's Claw Creeper is a restricted invasive plant under the Bio-security Act. The photos to the left shows the matrix of runners on a Hoop Pine tree with the resulting death of the tree.

After rigorous testing, the Leaf-mining Jewel Beetle (Hylaeogena jureceki) and the Cat's Claw Lacebug (Carvalhotingis visenda), originally from the weed's native range, have been released in Australia in the hope of achieving some level of biological control. We were delighted to discover that the lacebug seems to have developed a good population on the basal leaves of the Mary's Creek Cat's Claw and we hope it will help reduce this infestation.
Cat's Claw Lacebug (Carvalhotingis visenda) damage to Cat's Claw leaves in Mary's Creek State Forest. L. Muir.

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is another tree-smothering climbing vine that is invading the edge at the forest reserve, and also restricted under the Bio-security Act. The fruit is an inflated capsule and releases three black seeds when ripe.The clusters of small white flowers did't appear to be attractive to any bees or other insects.  

Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum). L. Muir.

Not all lianas are weeds and although they sometimes bring down a tree, native lianas are both less damaging to the environment and much more beneficial to wildlife. Monkey Rope Vine (Parsonia straminea) is one such native that thrives in the rich soils of the Mary Valley. The dried seed pods visible here are the result of flowering which occurs from Spring to Summer. A excellent nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies, bees, beetles and other insects, the leaves are a food source for the larvae of the Common Crow Butterfly (Euploea core).

Monkey Rope Vine (Parsonia straminea). L. Muir.

We saw no Common Crows, but another member of the butterfly family Nymphalidae, the Wanderer or Monarch was fairly common. Although these butterflies were not native in Australia until they flew-in in the 1870's (probably on a storm front from New Caledonia) and discovered our overabundance of weedy cotton bush and milkweed, the natural hosts they had been following across the Pacific.  See for more details.

Monarch or Wanderer Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) resting on a Lantana bush. L. Muir.

Although most Australians seem to have come to terms with the Wanderer, some native insects are less welcome. Among my least favourite are the Small Brown Paper Wasps (Ropalidia revolutionalis) with the finger-like nest that drip from branches, sign posts, hanging pots and rarely used door knobs. The nests and their attendants are often so innocuous that one never realises they are there until one's stumbling around arouses their nest-defending instincts. Far harder to miss are the sometimes gigantic paper nests of the Yellow-brown Paper Wasp (Ropalidia romandi). We encountered one such nest high overhead and out of harm's way in a Hoop Pine on the Mary's Creek trip. 
Large Yellow-brown Paper Wasp nest in Hoop Pine. D. Walter.

Ropalidia romandi up close - the paper shell protects tiers of combs in which the wasp grubs are reared. L. Muir.
The early birders encountered much less threatening wildlife in their trip around Mary's Creek forest including a Koala in a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) and an exhausted (well, dead actually) male antichinus. The fatal sexual excesses of the antichinus are well known and presumably the strategy is successful as these small insectivores are fairly common in many areas and about 15 species have been described in Australia and New Guinea.

High in a Spotter Gum  enjoying the morning sun, I could think of a more comfortable position. L. Muir

Spent male antichinus. Where's the smile?

A female Golden Whistler or a young Eastern Yellow Robin? L. Muir.

Mary's Creek forest and the Muir's garden both contributed to an above average birding day with highlights including an Eastern Spinebill, Dusky Woodswallows, a Jacky Winter and Variegated Fairy Wrens.

Dusky Woodswallows. B. Doak.

Eastern Spinebill in action. B. Doak.

Variegated Fairy-wren (female 13-14 cm) - slight blue tinge on the tail, the multi coloured  male  would't play the photo game. L. Muir.

White-necked Heron (75-105 cm tall), a regular at the Muir's lily pond. L. Muir. 

Dusky Honeyeater (12-15 cm) common in the Muir's garden. L. Muir.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (45-50 cm) nice against a clear blue sky. L. Muir.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Annual General Meeting - moved to 3 July 2016

Due to the BoM prediction of heavy rain and potential flooding, this year's AGM is being postponed from this Sunday 19 June for two weeks until Sunday 3 July 2016. See you there at the Muir's then (6:30 for the birders - but check in case of a change).

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Visit to Greendale

A  mystery hyacinth orchid Dipodium sp. (Photo: B. Hughes)
On Sunday 17 April 2016 the Gympie and District Field Naturalists Club had the great fortune to visit Diane Kewin's Greendale nestled between Glastonbury Creek and Brooyar State Forest. The Kewins were the original settlers in the area and, while some of the scrub was cleared for farming, large tracts of vine scrub and open woodland remain almost as they were in the 1800s. Diane's father entered Greendale into the Nature Refuge Program to help insure that this area of significant biological interest is conserved.
Corymbia tessallaris looking very tessellated  (Photo: B. Hughes)
A survey by Marc Russell in 2007 identified almost 200 species of plants on Greendale and with Ric Sizer on hand to explain this botanical diversity, even the birds were given relatively short shrift. Gympie Nats in tow, Ric strode through the meadows of Kangaroo Grass and along the cattle trails to the various botanical wonders. My personal favourite was the Python Tree (formerly Austromyrtus but now Gossia bidwillii) with its smoothly patterned, twisting, trunk that takes little to imagine as a giant python. Bizarrely, the trunk reflects heat and is actually cold to the touch. Other trees of interest included Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia confertifolia), Moreton Bay Ash (Corymbia tessellaris) with its checkerboard bark, the important koala food Gum-topped Box (Eucalyptus molluccana) and Giant Ironwood (Choricarpia subargentea).
A bunyip striding through the Kanagroo Grass?  (Photo: B. Hughes)
About 45 species of birds were recorded on the trip, but apparently everyone was so interested in the plants, that no appropriate pictures were taken. There were lots of butterflies too and Ric Sizer is learning his lepidopteran host plants and helpfully pointed out several. One of the most common butterflies was the Orange Ringlet whose larvae feed on grasses, especially Kangaroo Grass. Wanderers, Glasswings, Evening Browns, grass yellows, and some white migrants also fluttered by for our entertainment. However the most interesting lepidopteran was a small 'tiger moth', so called because they are often brightly coloured to warn birds they taste very bad and to look elsewhere for a meal.
Asura cf cervicallis a Spotted Lichen Moth (Photo: DEWalter)
I think this is a Spotted Lichen Moth, so called because its caterpillars feed on lichens and it is spotted, but there are many species of Asura with similar variations on the orange and black theme and also many other small day-flying tiger moths that are similarly patterned. Such convergences in appearance among species of butterflies and tiger moths is common enough to have its own scientific term: Müllerian mimicry. It is thought that natural selection by predators (probably primarily birds in this case) tends to enforce a kind of conformity on appearances so that once a bird has learned to leave anything orange and black alone, the colourful flutters all benefit.
Staff Vine (Celastrus australis) we reckon (Photo: B. Hughes)
When a scientist isn't sure of an identification, there are several ways to communicate this. The least embarrassing is to be vague. Those of you who know your butterflies know that there are a host of similar looking grass yellows and pale migrants, but those of you who don't might just think I was being sloppy with my capitals above (current usage has been trending towards capitalising common names for all plants and animals). At the other extreme is to just admit that you don't know. So, for the mystery hyacinth orchid at the top of this post there are two competing hypotheses: Dipodium punctatum and D. roseum. Since none of us is entirely sure, the genetics of orchids is likely complex, and none of us are orchidologists (or even botanists), we are just calling it 'sp.' (for species). I am an entomologist, though, and I think it is likely that the tiger moth is an Asura but I'm not sure of cervicallis, so I've inserted a 'cf' before the species name. That's an abbreviation of conferre a Latin word that lets other entomologist know that I'm not betting the house on it.
Callicarpa pedunculata Velvet Leaf (Photo: B. Hughes)

Thursday, 18 February 2016

2016 First Outing: Six Mile Creek / Lake Macdonald

Australian Pelican preening. Lake Macdonald. L. Muir.
On Sunday 19 January the Gympie & District Field Naturalists had their first outing of 2016 to the 6 Mile Creek headwaters now graced by Lake Macdonald, the Noosa Botanic Gardens, and a number of pleasant trails through revegetated and regrowth areas with a mostly rainforest ambiance. The weather tended to cool and a bit misty, but was pleasant for walking. As usual the birders started early and the combination of water and forest habitats contributed to the 73 species that were identified by the end of the day.
Fledging Channel-billed Cuckoo harassing its Magpie parents. G. Elphinstone.
Highlights, at least for your correspondent, included my first Spectacled Monarch and Whiskered Tern, and the rarely seen Comb-crested Jacana and Black-winged Stilt. Alas, I miss the Varied Triller and Latham's Snipe, which would have been nice additions to my embryonic life list, but I managed to enjoy good views of many of the other birds on display, even the Magpie Geese.
Magpie Geese on Lake Macdonald. L. Muir.
Farmers and graziers tend not to be appreciative of Magpie Geese, but for a naturalist they are a fascinating animal. The only living member of their family, the Anseranatidae, Magpie Geese may be more closely related to the South American Screamers (Anhimidae), three living species with partially webbed feet that inhabit grassy and marshy areas, than to ducks, geese and swans (Anatidae). Australasian Darters (aka Anhinga, Snakebird) were also on display, representing another unusual family of water birds that are thought to be closely related to the shags (cormorants).
Anhinga drying out while turtle and a pair of Wood Ducks go about their business. DEWalter.
A turtle with many names Emydura macquarii. L. Muir.
Much more than birds were available for out edification including a Short-necked Turtle. Also called Maquarie Turtle, Brisbane River Turtle, Cooper Creek Turtle, Fraser Island Turtle and more. This species has the largest distribution of the three species of Emydura known from Queensland. The taxonomy of the genus seems to be in a state of flux at the moment, and several subspecies are currently recognised by many turtle taxonomists, but in Steve Wilson's recent A Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland 2nd Edition (2015), this specimens seems to be the nominate subspecies.
Native Raspberry (Rubus mollucanus), Worba Trail. L. Muir.
A pleasant surprise on the Worba Trail was a profusion of Native Raspberries bearing ripe fruit. The berries were pleasantly sweet and at the upper end of palatability for bush tucker. Several rainforest trees were also in fruit or in bloom with many assiduously attended by a variety of honeyeaters and Emerald and Rose-crowned Fruit Doves. A female Reagent Bowerbird also put in an appearance. The understory also had its delights.
A Scrambling Lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum) Worba Trail. DEWalter.
Flax Lily Dianella caerulea in fruit. L. Muir.
Although not the best day for butterflies, a few did float or dart by and a variety of dragonflies were able to bask in the few rays of sun and flutter around. The most striking was the Graphic Flutterer (Rhyothemis graphiptera) of patterned wings and descriptive flight. Its close relative, the Yellow-striped Flutterer (Rhyothemis phyllis) was also on view.
Yellow-striped Flutterer (Rhyothemis phyllis)

Thursday, 26 November 2015


The early birders arrived at Wahpunga School Park. This was the site of a state school from 1910 that closed in 1967, one of many small schools around the Kin Kin district. Many of our members may remember school arbor days and today we witnessed the happy result of many years of tree plantings.
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove enjoying Small Leaf Figs
The Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and many other birds enjoyed the ripe fruit of the Small Leaf Fig (Ficus obliqua). This fruit dove is often heard with its slow 'woop-whoo' call becoming faster to again fade away as it calls from the high canopy of the rainforest. These birds were also working the Small Leaf Figs at Sheppersons Park not far away on Wahpunga Creek. Another fig tree bearing fruit was the Hairy Fig (Ficus hispida), with a small number of fruit on the trunk and old branches. Not to be confused with the cluster Fig (Ficus racemosa), which also bears fruit in large number on the trunk.

Kin Kin Creek flows beside the school park and also provided good birding with the most noted bird being a Rufous Fantail: always darting and low down in the canopy and very difficult to photograph. A short drive around to Sheppersons Park also provided good birding with many of our old favourites, like the Eastern Yellow Robin and the Red-browed Finch, which have been present in numbers this year.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Red-browed Finch (also Firetail)
The Millaa Millaa Vine (Elaeagus triflora) was in full fruit. This rambling climber was growing in abundance adjacent to the forest canopy in areas where light was available. It has small four-petaled perfumed flowers followed by an edible fruit as shown in the photo. A taste indicated the fruit was generally sweet but slightly astringent. No birds were seen feasting on the ripe fruit: the Small Leaf Fig appeared a better choice. The caterpillars of the Indigo Flash Butterfly (Rapala varuna) are reported to feed on the flower buds and flowers.
Millaa Millaa Vine (Elaeagus triflora) in fruit
After morning tea the group traveled to the Doggrell Tree Protection Area, Como Forestry Reserve, Kin Kin to view the old growth stand of Gympie Messmate (Eucalyptus cloeziana) at the southernmost point in its natural distribution. The original Doggrell tree was named after Reg Doggrell, a forest ranger from Gympie. He was instrumental in preserving this area. Our life members Peter and Bruce reflected on the time about 40 years when the club visited the tree. The tree had a boardwalk around the base with a protection fence. This has all long been dismantled with no identification of where the tree once stood. It was claimed it took 15 people with linked arms to reach around the base of the tree. Reportedly, the Doggrell Tree was over 60m tall and had a girth of almost 7m (Parks Australia).

Lunch was taken on the shores of Lake Cootharaba at Elanda Point. A very strong easterly wind made conditions were very pleasant. Unfortunately the weather declined, so most members headed home soon after lunch.

"Home Bug Gardner" Dave will now be administering this club blog site. "Coolnat" Lionel hopes to provide postings relating to birding with bird photos in the future and we all should give him a round of applause for his unstinting efforts to keep the blog going in the past. Thanks Lionel!