Wednesday, the 20th May, was officially named World Bee Day, honouring the importance of bees and other pollinators in the world’s ecosystems.
Bee Day is a recent Slovenian initiative, reflecting the great love of bee-keeping in that country. Its focus is almost entirely on the honey bee, even though honey bees comprise just 7 out of the 16,000 or so species of bees worldwide. This is a typical European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), photographed in the Sydney Botanic Gardens:
Since COVID-19 isolation began, more and more people are walking in the areas I usually visit, often with dogs in tow. One result is that the birdlife is also practising isolation from human-infested areas! I was pleased therefore when a small bird put his (size 24) foot down on a tree trunk close to me in Lane Cove National Park this week:
So far this blog has been light on flowers. However today is the second Sunday in May, which is Mothers’ Day in Australia. As this is a traditional day for giving flowers, I thought now would be a good time to remedy my omission.
These photos aren’t of local (New South Wales) flowers, however. They were all taken on one day nine years ago at two spots near Kalbarri in Western Australia. Neither location was your typical flowering meadow; this was one of them, on the Murchison River.
I’m not familiar with most of these WA flowers, so I’ll let the photos speak from themselves, with just a brief afterword.
Just before the COVID shutters came down in March, I was walking in the Burrewarra Point reserve at Guerilla Bay when I saw a black cockatoo. It flew into some nearby undergrowth, but flew off before I could get a clear view of it. I then followed in the same direction and before long I saw what looked like an orange flare in a casuarina tree.
Lately I’ve wondered whether the phrase “pollinator count” sends pollinators scurrying for a leaf to hide under. Last week, on several formal ‘pollinator counts’, I saw very few bees. For example, one count yielded only a blue-banded bee, a teddy bear bee, and a few honey bees. Another, no bees at all.
It was a different story on informal walks this week (though pollinator numbers were still smaller than they had been in summer). For example, a few days ago I saw a stand of Salvia flowers (Salvia leucantha?) in Waverton Bowling Club being visited by a variety of bees. First, this Teddy Bear Bee came in to land on a flower:
A few days ago to celebrate my recovery from a foot infection, I took a walk—an approved outing for socially distanced exercise, of course, where I just happened to be carrying a camera. This was also the week of the Autumn Wild Pollinator count so I wanted to make a couple of observations as well.
First stop was a Hibbertia plant where in the past I always saw bees. Now, alas, there were none. A Coastal Rosemary a few metres away was still half-dead from the drought, so again I saw no bees. Then I noticed another Hibbertia with just a few flowers on it, and yes! A bee! One bee after ten minutes of walking.
When I first saw this Blue-Banded Bee, she was grooming pollen granules out of her fur. Here, she is cleaning the underside of her left wing.
Driving south on the Princes Highway five kilometres past Mogo on the NSW south coast, I noticed a blue lay-by sign that said: Waldrons Swamp Rest Area - 5kms.
Waldron is a family name, so on a whim I pulled into the rest area to see what the swamp had to offer. At first I couldn’t see any wildlife activity, and then I spotted some Eastern Spinebills flitting around bottlebrush trees near the main road. This male was one of them:
Two weeks ago I posted photos of Topknot pigeons, including some in a fig-tree at Jerrara Dam near Kiama. On that same walk at the Dam, I saw this female Bowerbird perched near another fig-tree. The light was good, allowing her remarkable eye colouring to show clearly.
Broulee Island Nature Reserve is a rocky hillock about 500 metres across, connected to the mainland by a sandy isthmus. I visited it briefly during my trip to the South Coast two weeks ago. As I was standing on a rocky stretch of shore photographing some thornbills on the nearby hillside, I noticed this big black bird behind me with something in its beak.
These pigeons have been the bane of my life lately—I could never get close to one even though they flap round regularly in Sydney in summer—but I find them fascinating: they look so exotically eccentric. A topknot pigeon is a conventional grey pigeon except that it has a red beak and eyes, and a forward grey crest like a bulbous forehead as well as a trailing red/brown ponytail crest. Here’s what one looks like: