26 December, 2010

Beautiful but Vacuous

On Boxing Day we had some friends over for breakfast and had an unexpected visitor dropped in.
He certainly got everyone's attention. Perhaps he was after the young wallaby in the bag behind her but it was getting hot under the roof and he wanted to shift. He had tied his rather fat middle section in a knot and jammed it between the iron and the flashing. It is probably not the same snake as features in http://alanswildlife.blogspot.com/2009/06/ceiling-carpet.html as I think this animal is smaller. Shorter that is; it is certainly fat.

'Beautiful but vacuous' just about sums him up.
All hands action stations! The snake could not be budged despite Andrew and Tony's best efforts. Not forwards, not backwards. I went on the roof and loosened the ridge capping enough to reach in under and try and push him out. No go. Andrew wanted to have a go on the roof. With Andrew holding on to the middle of the snake I was able to feed it backwards, bit by bit into the space and Andrew prevented it from tightening the knot. Once he had the head out he was able to pull the snake through with a bit of shoving from underneath. During all this the snake made no attempt to strike at any of us though it would have had plenty of chances and must have suffered some pain when snagged on sharp iron.
Only when the dog came in close for a sniff did the snake become defensive. See the lovely blue of his mouth. Dog backed off and no harm done. Everyone got to pat or hold the snake before we released it in the back shed.

I wonder if I could fit it with a ring like the Chinese do with cormorants and train it to catch rabbits for my dinner?

I really will have to find a way to seal this gap. Christmas day spent cleaning up from a cyclone and Boxing Day morning spent rescuing the snake. The kids may not even remember this as the operation could not compare with creating their own puppets & play.

25 December, 2010

Christmas Cyclone

Woke early this morning to strong winds. My wife who was in Darwin for Cyclone Tracey 36 years ago does not sleep in such circumstances. I tried to go back to sleep but she woke me to say a cyclone was on the way.

Quickly we picked up the light things on the veranda to bring them inside. I filled a jerry can of water. Little time to prepare but it was only a category 1 and a small system too. It came ashore to the east of us. The eye passed very close but it was not organised by that time and we did not have the dead calm but light flukey winds. Strong winds started up from east of north after dropping when they were westerly. Corn and bananas flattened, lots of leaves stripped and rain horizontal.

Not the Christmas present we wanted, Cyclone Tasha!
. Wonder if the strong winds from the other direction could stand my fruit trees up again?
The small wetland below our house is a lake at the moment. Petersen Creek is running a banker and daming our small stream. The sun came out, sort of, and allowed for a clean up. Not one's usual Christmas clean up.

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/12/25/3101567.htm?section=justin

Flash flooding is expected to inundate far north Queensland after a category one cyclone crossed the coast this morning.

Heavy rain and damaging winds are expected to continue after Cyclone Tasha crossed the coast south of Cairns, near Gordonvale, about 5:15am (AEST).

The cyclone has since been downgraded to a tropical low.

Wind gusts of up to 105 kilometres per hour were recorded off the coast and about 100 millimetres of rain in the space of an hour.

Flash flooding has already trapped a family of three on the roof of their house at Woopen Creek near Babinda, south of Cairns.

Forecaster Clare Richards says areas around Tully have seen falls of about 200 millimetres in the past 24 hours.

Surprise Disguise

If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today there's something there in disguise
This butterfly was taking advantage of the lull after the winds of Cyclone Tasha when it came to grief. Flower spiders turn up when plants flower and lie in wait. In this instance it has caught a small blue butterfly on an exotic Hoya flower. Maria thinks that the abdomen of the spider looks like an evil elf's face.

22 December, 2010

Fairies at the bottom of the garden

Down at the bottom of my garden, where things are a little wild...
.. behind a palm frond of the thorny Wait-a-while ...
.. is the beautiful little nest of a Fairy Gerrygone. The palm has spines on its leaf stems and climbs with nasty recurved hooks. This makes it a tough place for a tree-snake to hang out. The funnel shaped awning on the left helps to restrict the activities of those brood parasites the cuckoos. I think they were successful in this because there is more than one chick in the nest. You can tell by the noise they make.
Here is a bird on its way to the nest.
You can tell that this is the dad because of his moustaches.
Here he is feeding young. Passerines produce their faeces in a little sack which their parents remove from the nest, dropping it well away. This gene would be one I would nominate to be entered into the human genome.

05 December, 2010

Central Australian visit, Plants

Desert Grasstree, Xanthorrhoea thortoni growing on a ridge south of Murputja.
Gum from these plants is used as a glue.
Yellow Thryptmene, bark above and flowers below.

Weeping Wirewood, Acacia coriacea, is a small wattle of the sandy soils with some clay but in northern Australia along river banks can grow into a medium sized tree.
Red-bud Mallee, Eucalyptus pachyphylla. Eucalyptus means well covered and refers to the cap on the bud, which in this case is red, and falls as the flower opens. Mallees are small growing multistemmed trees.
Paper Daisy
Mistletoe, Lysiana sp. It is worth noting that no Australian mistletoe is poisonous. Maria says that the normal rules apply but I keep telling her that is only at Christmas time. Don't be too greedy girl!
Green Birdflower, Crotalaria cunninghamii, also known as rattle pods because the ripe pods rattle when shaken.
Eremophilla wilsii
Eremophila sp
Eremophila latrobei
A forest of Desert Oak, Allocasuarina decaisneana. Young trees grow very upright in columnar fashion until they start to branch. The fruit are large and spiky looking a little like cones but these are true flowering plants.
Another daisy.
Bladder Senna, Swainsonia coloutoides, is closely related to Stuarts Desert Pea.
River Gums in Charles's River. the morning had been grey but the sun came out, budgies and honeyeaters were very active and the skinks came out on the rocks as well.

02 December, 2010

Central Australian visit, animals other than birds

I am seriously explaining that lizards are not a health hazard, and how to handle them. Left to their own devices many of the kids would have stoned any lizard big enough to make a target.
This large female Katydid with her huge ovipositor was living in an Eremophilla at the top of an isolated hill surrounded by flat sandy country. The ovipositor is sticking up between the wings. This happened as she tried to get away from me. At first it protruded from under the hind wings. "The "katydid" is actually a Raspy Cricket, a gryllcridid, Hadrogryllacris sp. There are at least 3 of these large blackish ones and this one is probably undescribed," said Mr Smiley see comments below.
A very handsome and friendly cockroach. This one lived under a rock north of Alice Springs.
Feral Camels are a real problem but fortunately this part of the country does not have donkeys, horses or cattle. This family group were not very worried by our presence.
Camouflage is an important survival strategy and this grasshopper is a great example. Viewed against the rocks they almost disappear.
A highly camouflaged bug. The grains of sand were loosely attached.
A shield bug. Nymphs of this species were quite common on the rocks of the Musgrave Ranges but we only saw a few adults. Interestingly all the animals we saw were on rocks. I wonder what they could be eating.
Probably a Cyclorana frog of some kind. I have more pictures if someone would care to identify it for me. Cyclorana maini Thanks Stewart.
Military Sand Dragons, Ctenophorus isolepis, seem to disappear on certain backgrounds
Having this Netted Dragon, Ctenophorus nuchalis, sit up on a stump was great for viewing and photography.
The Thorny Devil, Moloch horridus, is a slow-moving dragon which feeds exclusively on ants.
On the other hand ctenotus lizards are very fast and hard get get a camera on in the wild. Fortunately for me the sky had only just cleared and this Blue-tailed Finesnout Ctenotus, Ctenotus Calurus, had not yet been able to warm up. This species feeds largely on termites living under and in the spinifex.
This Centralian Bearded Dragon was photographed at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre which has some very good displays. www.reptilecentre.com.au/reptiles.htm
A common gecko near Murputja was the Centralian Dtella, Gehyra montium, and not strictly nocturnal.
The Desert Rainbow Skink, Carlia triacantha, is more an animal of the gravelly soils where there is a build up of leaf litter.
Long-snouted Lashtail, Amphibolurus longirostris, is the same species as I am holding above.