Just behind the tiny Uniting Church at Glen Alice in the Capertee valley is a patch of trees, mostly eucalypts. Here, a Little Friarbird (Philomen citreogularis), with its distinctive blue patches below its eyes, flies in to check for insects. It quickly spots something and pounces.
Heron Number One was awake early, with neatly sleeked feathers. It seemed aware that it was nearing high tide, because it ignored a nearby gull and headed straight into the stormwater outlet in Ball’s Head Bay. It must have known that the tidal peak reaching the drain would allow fish inside to search for food.
After staying in several garden-free English B&Bs, it was delightful to arrive at Mimosa Lodge in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, where there was a half-acre of garden AND sunshine. I could hear a number of birds as we pulled in. However, when I went outside after unpacking, I discovered that much of the wildlife activity was coming from insects in the flower bed next to the breakfast terrace, and in the nearby flowering trees.
The first thing I noticed was the darker coloration of many of the honey bees. I concluded that these must be British Black Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera).
Last Tuesday I went to an excellent talk on Powerful Owls, by Dr Beth Mott and Ronwyn North. I remembered afterwards that I’d not posted anything about my own owl sighting last year.
I had been walking along a path in a neighbouring suburb where I’d been told to watch out for an owl. A little way along I noticed a woman with a camera (who later turned out to be Ronwyn North!) intently observing something. I didn’t want to spook whatever it was, so I approached slowly. A Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) was in the trees. A long-held ambition of mine had just been realised.
In Weymouth, England, I saw this plump little wren performing to all who were prepared to listen.
“ ….. “
(“Ready when you are, maestro?”)
Recently I was walking past the Shore school basketball courts when my attention was caught by a particularly shrill chorus of noisy miner abuse occurring in a small tree. I investigated, and as I moved around the tree, a small owl gradually became visible behind the noisy miners. It was a Southern Boobook owl (Ninox boobook).
I hadn’t been for a walk westwards from our house for a while, so I set out on Wednesday not expecting much. Turns out I saw quite a lot. First, was this young Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) with a centipede in its beak. I sighted it near the bowling club, but it ignored me, being busy warbling at its parents and getting warbled back. Magpie warbling has a lovely liquid sound, so I listened until it was interrupted by other birds.
If you ever see something glinting on a flower, look more closely – it might be a Neon Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus nitidulus). It’s hard to capture its appearance in a photograph, even with a bit of post-processing. In reality, the effect in direct sunlight is more like a small string of electric-blue neon lights, as its name suggests.
We’ve had many more blue-banded bees and teddy-bear bees visiting our garden this year, mostly lured by the flowers on our rosemary bush. It was perhaps inevitable that the bees would be followed by some of their nest parasites, two of which I have never previously seen in our garden. The visits began with this Domino Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus lugubris), which I first saw on our tea-tree (Leptospermum) when it was in full bloom:
My recent story of masked bees (http://wildnsydney.com/fibs_blog/a-masked-bees-nest) began on flowers of the bloodwood Corymbia ficifolia, also called the Albany redgum. These small trees hailing from Western Australia are perhaps the most spectacular of the many eucalypts with abundant and beautiful flower displays.
This season’s display is pretty well finished now, but at its peak it attracts considerable attention from a variety of wildlife. This is primarily because of the copious amounts of nectar held in each flower’s cuplike base. Here, a honey bee and a spotted flower chafer beetle have been joined by a rainbow lorikeet. The lorikeet laps nectar and pollen with its specially adapted brush tongue: