Friday, December 31, 2010

Azola Water Fern

Very boringly though not entirely unexpectedly, it's raining again. Last month, December 2010, we had 583 mm of rain! That is 23 and a half inches for those who think in that measurement. Rainfall for the whole year of 2010 was over two metres. (7 or 8 feet?)

If we feature at all on your news reports, they're probably saying the whole country is under water. Here, on my patch, it's soggy. Since my yard is on a flood plain, with its thousands of years of silt, it gets muddy with the constant addition of water.

Small plants with shallow roots are struggling. They're growing rank and leggy. I'll probably need to replant my second lot of summer vegetables, cucumber and eggplant. Or they won't make it at all this summer.

Azola Water Fern with Raindrops
One thing that consistently looks good in the rain is the azola water fern. A raindrop gathers on the centre of each plant and with even a tiny amount of light reflecting off them, it can be very decorative.

The green tinge on the fronds tells you there hasn't been enough sun. In full sun the plants are brown.

This bath-ful also supports the last few of a batch of striped marsh frog tadpoles which eat the azola roots. After I'm watching for a while, the tadpoles will start nudging the plants tearing off the roots.

Or sometimes you see these little tadpole mouths coming between the plants for a bit of air.

Azola is be a pest in many situations, but I find it very useful for the tadpoles. If I get too much, I'll scoop it out and throw it on the vegetable garden to rot down. Or I'll put a batch of into my worm farm.

What have you got growing?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Butterfly Central

Yesterday, outside for the first time since Christmas Day - due to rain and bronchitis - I had the three thrills in short order. The first being a sunny day, finally, after more than ten days of rain.

Varied Eggfly 
The second, a visit by a varied eggfly butterfly, sitting briefly with its wings outspread on my garden bench - not enough time to get a photo. But trust me, a beautiful sight. Velvety black upper wings splotched with white eggs, each surrounded by a band of deep purple blue. [Photo of it sitting on washing line with closed wings, to give you an idea of the size]

Third, soon after throwing a mango pit and skins into the sweet potato patch for rotting down, these remains were visited by an Evening Brown butterfly.

I had read in the Jordan and Schwencke book, Create More Butterflies, that Evening Browns prefer fruit juice to nectar, but to have it happening right in front of your eyes on your own patch is still a thrill to me. 

Evening Brown Sipping Mango Cocktail
Makes me want to ensure there are always mango skins, just for the Evening Browns. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yellow Migrant Butterfly

This yellow migrant butterfly has been sipping nectar from lime blossoms, its tongue is still rolling back up.

These butterflies, both white and yellow forms, are a common sight in my garden from September on. Though they lay their eggs on native senna as well as the introduced senna, I don't at the moment have a very large native bush growing.

It's my plan to get a half dozen of these plants going though they are proving difficult to get established. So far I have only the one and that one only about a metre tall, not yet big enough for a concentrated onslaught by caterpillars.

For nectar, these butterflies visit most of the plants flowering this month consisting of canna lilies (weed), Paterson's curse (weed); nasturtium, cherry tomatoes, lomandra and various flowering herbs, such as coriander.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Cotton Lace Spider'

Lacey spiderweb.
 This morning discovered at least half a dozen different spiders in the lilly pilly tree. This web one of the most striking. The Wildlife of Greater Brisbane doesn't feature it so perhaps it is local to this area. I'm calling it the Cotton Lace Spider for now. 

I imagine this is the way animals get named, just by someone describing them, and the name being taken on. 

Have you seen this anywhere? The lacy part is about 2.5 cm (1 inch) across.

I'll be interested to find out where else this spider lives.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Striped Marsh Frogs

This morning I checked the rain gauge and that is all I have done in the yard today. The guage is mounted on the fence (dog digging and cat hunting skinks prevention) around my vege garden, approximately eight long paces from the back door. Plenty of time to get muddy feet with the ground completely sloppy under the grass.

Which is the joy of living so close to a river. The land here is, in effect, a flood plain with clay soil. This is the reason I built up my vegetable garden and imported a loamy soil.

Normally, when it is not raining, I do a circle around the yard, camera in hand. This is an old photo of a Striped Marsh Frog trying to hide among the stones 'mulching' a pot plant. This is sometime last month, presumably before it was involved in a spawning event, the result the tadpoles now growing up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Orchard Swallowtail

Orchard Swallowtail
This butterfly very busy with its laying. The cumquat bush is well protected amongst grasses, native lomandra and broad leaf paspalum seed heads overhanging.

The butterfly sways around the bush, alighting the briefest moment to deposit one barely visible egg each time.

Eggs hatch into tiny black and white caterpillars resembling bird droppings, a survival strategy. Later, they turn  green-grey and look spiky. When they are disturbed they shoot a forked filament from their heads that resembles a snake's tongue. Not that I've ever seen that yet. 

What type of butterflies visit your patio, verandah, yard, garden, park, balcony? 

Orchard swallowtails are very versatile and can breed on almost any of the citrus plants. A small cumquat in a pot on your roof or balcony. Let me know how you go. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cicada Hatching

This cicada is hatching rather late in the day. Usually it is done by dawn, and the insect is hiding from its predators in the surrounding shrubbery by the time the sun is up.

Though this photo is from a couple of years ago, I am finding numerous cicada nymph casings on the vertical surfaces around the yard. I don't know enough about them to know what sort is hatching here.

Cicada nymphs live in the ground, often for years, sucking their food from tree roots.

This year we have many more bladder cicadas than I have ever known here in my little area. This species makes a loud ringing sound, starting after dark. I hear them even when it is raining. It can't be because we are having more rain because they live in the ground for more than the couple of years since the drought has broken.

Do you have cicadas where you live?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar


This large caterpillar is chomping into my lime tree, sharing that particular leaf with a leaf miner. For quite a few days I saw no caterpillars in the trees where I'd been with my stink bug removal kit and I was afraid that maybe I had made conditions dangerous for caterpillars.

Removing stink bugs will bring more birds into the trees. More stink bugs means fewer birds. What I have to do I guess is try to get to an ideal stink bug ratio.