We’ve been spending a lot of time in our gumboots exploring the vegetation around the ponds to see what Dragonflies and Damselflies we can observe and hopefully photograph. They are fascinating insects to watch and at this time of the year there is a lot happening. Some of the Damselflies are so small they can easily be overlooked while some of the larger Dragonflies can prove frustrating because they seem to be continually on the move.
Its a wonderful wet season activity and this year has been particularly rewarding although a little challenging at times having to dodge the ‘scattered showers’ that can sometimes become an isolated downpour. I spent quite a while retracing my steps around a pond to find an umbrella I had absent-mindedly hooked over the belt holding my secateurs (I like multi-tasking) but which had dropped into the mud while I was concentrating on a Silver Wisp (Agriocnemis argentea). Raincoats would be more practical in one sense but they are just too uncomfortable to wear – the humidity is around 90% and when the sun does come out ….. well I don’t think I need to explain further.
It is hard to give a sense of perspective but this damselfly is very small and delicate – Silver Wisp is an apt common name. We suspect that the individual in the photo may be a female or immature male as the mature males are described as being covered in a white pruinescence.
And while I was down at the ponds, Allen was Continue reading
Paddling around on ‘weed patrol’ is not the arduous task it used to be – although it will always be a necessary part of wetland maintenance.
I apologized to a Jacana for disturbing it yet again as I made my way through a carpet of Daintree water lilies while admiring their colours which range from a rich pink through to a violet blue. A movement on the water at the far end of the pond caught my eye and I watched with absolute delight as a pair of Wandering Whistling duck rapidly encouraged their young ducklings to take cover in the sedge. Later in the day I managed a quick photo from a distant vantage point but even then my presence was making the birds nervous so we have left them alone. The photo below is very small but if you click to enlarge then you have a chance of seeing a few of the 13 ducklings I counted.
and there’s more news from the swamp……………. Continue reading
Recently, while cooling off in our natural swimming pond, I noticed a spider on the water’s edge. When I attempted to get close for a better look it ran away on the water and then went under the surface where it remained quite stationary on the tiles for several minutes. I returned to the pool several times with the camera before I managed to get this photo but unfortunately from that angle I couldn’t get a good view of the eye arrangement.
POST UPDATE: click to enlarge photo for clear image of eyes.
Our attempts at identification were unconfirmed until we just happened to have a spider enthusiast visit us a couple of days ago. Although unable to identify the species from the photo Greg was confident that the spider belonged to Dolomedes, a genus in the family Pisauridae, which is the nursery-web or water spider family. The female nursery-web spider carries her egg sac Continue reading
While we are continuing to experience regular rainfall which makes bird observation and any camera work somewhat of a challenge there is lots happening out there.
I’ve spent a bit of time recently in our bird hide which is really quite a comfortable place to be and its fun to sit and experience the rain coming across the water without actually getting wet!
This Saw-shelled Turtle (Elseya latisternum) was enjoying a bit of warmth but then……………
….well this rain is intensifying, might just as well get back in the water!
However, the rain didn’t make any difference to these Green Pygmy-geese (Nettapus pulchellus). I am very fond of these delightful little ducks and very happily watched a trio, busily feeding on seeds and flowers of Water Snowflake (Nymphoides indica) and Bladderwort (Utricularia aurea). The heavy rain made no apparent difference to them as the water droplets just rolled off their backs!
As I was showing my brother David the growth in the vegetation in our newest wetland system he pointed to some ripples coming across the water and we wondered if it might be a snake. The source of the ripples was just out of sight so we both stood quietly watching the movement coming closer Continue reading
Setting the scene with this photo you will have to use your imagination to picture the canoe (slightly muddy from previous weeding excursions) with occupant paddling slowly through the water lilies on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The same morning I had spent some time on the ponds checking for and removing some weeds and Continue reading
During a recent morning walk when I just happened to spend a few minutes in our hide…. I wondered why a pair of Pacific Black Duck took off in hurried flight. As I sat there pondering their sudden departure a pair of Dingoes came into view. I wasn’t quick enough to photograph them together but the other was black with a white blaze on its chest, not an unusual colouring for Dingoes in our area. We know they’re around as we sometimes hear them howling at night but their presence poses a dilemma. We actively discourage pig dogs from hunting on our property as they will chase /hunt anything including our resident Swampy Wallabies, Bandicoots and any ground dwelling birds.
The following morning I took the next photo in which you can see Magpie Geese occupying the same ground as the Dingoes the previous day, there is also a pair of Latham’s Snipe enjoying this same area, (they’ve been there for several weeks now but they are not in the photo!)
We understand that a healthy functioning ecosystem includes predators and although it is sometimes difficult to watch when a particular favourite animal becomes another’s meal we usually follow our policy of non-intervention. The exception to this rule is discouraging the Black Butcherbirds from feeding on our verandah frogs!
We recently watched a BB killing quite a large Green Tree snake which was rather sad as the snake was badly injured when we saw it and it takes quite a while for the Butcherbird to kill it. The BB’s young were waiting for another feed, although they are almost full size they still follow the parents around and beg for food – so I do feel some sympathy for the BB parents.
Back to the dingo dilemma – as our 40 hectares is close to the Dagmar Range of the Greater Daintree National Park as well as having the long frontage on Barratt Creek which is part of the Daintree River system, we feel that our property is only part of the home range of the Dingoes and while we may notice some impact from time to time we will leave them in peace.
More action on the muddy puddle! I heard a guttural croak and saw a Great Egret in hot pursuit of another that had been lucky/smart enough to capture an eel. The pursuer gave up the chase quite quickly but the captor of the eel still took quite a few minutes to kill and swallow its prey. This process mostly seemed to involve a fierce grip on the eel, an occasional shake and a rinse? in the water.
Finally it managed to swallow.
And then it stood still looking, I thought, a bit uncomfortable…….or is it just too easy to anthropomorphize?
Dry conditions continue with only some very light showers to dampen the dust recently. This White-necked Heron has been taking advantage of the drying ponds for some time and seems to share space with a Great Egret quite amicably.
The neck markings on the W-N Heron, which are quite striking in its non-breeding plumage, are just visible from this angle.
We rarely see a female Darter on our wetlands and a second male visiting usually creates considerable angst for our regular male although he is tolerant of Little Pied Cormorant, Egrets, White-faced and White-necked Herons.
This Australasian Darter had just emerged from the water and had given itself a good shake so that its previously saturated feathers appeared almost fluffy. As it made its way up the post to dry off it used its tail for balance and gripped tightly with its webbed feet. The outstretched wings provided more balance assistance as well as some ‘lift’ to help it get to the top of the post where it could dry off more thoroughly.
As the dry weather continues any remaining waterholes will become very popular ….. so we’ll wait and watch with anticipation.
The continuing dry weather this year is allowing some much needed work around the wetlands. Allen has used the blade on the tractor to pull Para grass (Brachiaria mutica) away from the edge of the water. He then went on to form a better drain into Graham’s Pond but work is slow as he has to keep a watch out for Macleay’s Water Snakes (Enhydris polylepis)…….yesterday afternoon he unearthed ten of them. When I walked down with the camera I could only find a couple of very small eels but as I started to walk back a pair of Pacific Baza flew low over my head and landed in some nearby trees.
Even from a distance their profile is unmistakable – I imagine they had come in to see what delicacies the tractor may have been revealing as did a Whistling Kite later on. As I moved around trying to get a better angle of the Baza I heard a ‘cooee’ and there was Allen walking towards me holding a little Macleays. As the poor thing was rather stressed for an immediate portrait I returned to the house with it held lightly in one hand and it gradually started to relax. I took some photos but it was difficult to get the right angle with camera in one hand and snake in the other.
So the snake went into a clean bucket with a little water, some leaves and a rock to hide under. This morning Allen took some better photos of a much cleaner snake, in fact it was glistening in the morning sun!
This is the only species of Enhydris that occurs in Qld and is described as a subaquatic species. It has dorsally placed valvular nostrils – they are just visible in the last photo.
When finally, and I must admit somewhat reluctantly, I returned this lovely creature to the swamp I put it down on the edge of the shallow water. It immediately submerged into the muddy bottom layer and was gone from sight.
I have learnt to admire snakes since living here and have handled pythons on numerous occasions when needing to remove them from chook pens or the proximity of orphaned fruit bats in care. However, this is the first occasion on which I have enjoyed handling a snake and it has been a wonderful experience although there is no doubt that the snake’s small size combined with the knowledge that Macleay’s Water Snakes are not considered dangerous gave me confidence.