Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Froglet Transfer

Stunned and Stiff from Cold
A few days ago I had another go at perverting the natural course of life.

Checking the tubs for anything new to see and talk about, I found a/the froglet lying more than half-dead, it looked like, on top of the vegetation in the second tub, trying to get warm in the fitful sun.

One of the coldest days so far with not much sun happening at all. The second tub is of cast-iron enameled white. The water in it gets pretty cold at the beginning of winter and stays that way until spring.

The other tub is made of fibreglass, I presume, and stays warmer. I had no difficulty taking a couple of handfuls of water and weeds around the little creature and depositing her on the weeds in Tub 1. Where she lay for a few minutes, then scrambled into the water below.

Into the Warmer Tub
As you can see, she is pretty skinny with a couple of ribs showing under her skin and she still has her tail.

I haven't seen her since, but have noticed that a couple of holes are forming in the unrelieved surface of weeds.

Like the breathing holes in sea ice formed by air breathers such as seals and whales. Because a froglet that size is probably at least partially an air breather.

She is already bigger than her sibling-froglets when they left the water for good at the end of January. We'll see what happens.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weeds x and n

Oxalis























Onionweed
Last week I busied myself with weeds. Plants growing in the wrong place. I have a high tolerance for oxalis, and have numbers of clumps through the yard.

It's very pretty against a house stump, for instance, or amongst a clump of violets.

But it was getting a bit ridiculous with the number of clumps in my vege garden, at last count about a dozen.

Onionweed I've never had any patience with. Because it is so similar to garlic chives, it's easy to confuse them. But I never had any success weeding, as in pulling out, either of them.  And you can see why.

Above the thick white roots of the oxalis are a bunch of about forty small bulbs, which fall off when stems are pulled out of the ground. So, the weeder unknowingly starts another clutch every time she/he pulls out stems.

The onionweed works on the same principle except that the little bulbs grow from the bottom of the bigger central bulb. And so that when the central plant is pulled out, any number of little bulbs are left in the ground to start again.

The oxalis is easier to dig out and take up in one piece than the onionweed which loses bulblets as soon as you touch it. In both species, the bulblets are very hard and I'm wondering how they'll rot down. At the moment I've got them all in a bucket of water for rotting.

Time will tell if I made a clean sweep.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Froglet in June

Green Tree Froglet

The sun shone and the perfect shot presented itself. That little frog I told about a few days ago, that I found in the bath with an overgrowth of azolla fern, turns out to be that one himself, a green froglet with a brown stripe from snout to shoulder.

You can just see how very advanced he looks to still have a tail. Quite a large tail too. Tail and body together about 8 centimetres in length.

And I have no idea what species he might be. The only frogs with that kind of marking in the Field Guide to Frogs of Australia are the Peron's Tree Frog and the Green Leaf Frog thought the Peron's is marbled green.

So while this is a sighting, it is not good enough a sighting for identification. Unless someone else has an idea?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Unconnected Shrub

This exotic bush, that I never knew the name of, grew and grew beside my drive for all the twenty five years I've lived in this house. In fact, I brought it with me as a cutting from the flat where I lived previously.

Before I started cutting it back, it had four trunks and more than a dozen suckers busily making new trunks. Two thirds of it had crept into my neighbour's yard and it was beginning to try and encroach onto my drive.

Over the years, I've cut it back dozens of times but this time I decided to get rid of it altogether.
I've already made a couple of huge piles of clippings in the front yard and now must get a bush regenerator in to help me kill the stumps.

What is interesting about all this in relation to biodiversity, is that apart from the sap sucking creature in the second photo, I found absolutely no insect life on the bush.

And this creature doesn't appear to have made any inroads into the leaf that it is on. The leaf still as healthy as any other on the bush.

In other words this shrub is not part of the local wildlife cycle at all. Presumably because its defences are too good.

And while it did flower, I've never seen any insects trying to pollinate it. Or any fruit or berries.

It's quite a good place for a taller tree. In the extreme south of my property, so won't shade my house. It would miss most of the wires. It's between two drives. I'm thinking a caper berry tree attractive to butterflies and birds. We'll see.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Playing God in the Garden

Large Grass Yellow Butterfly
It is of course completely the wrong season for butterflies to be hatching from their chrysalyses. It's cold, wet and windy.

This one was grasping onto that bit of wood for dear life, having been blown from its perch on the end of its pupa while it was drying its wings.

When I picked up the bit of wood from the ground,  the wings were still limp and bent over. It didn't look like there would be a good outcome.

Fortunately the rain had stopped and I was able to find a sheltered spot in the vegetable garden where I wedged the wood chip between a couple of bricks.

As you can see, the wings have dried and hardened and he/she is set to go. A little later the sun came out, briefly and the butterfly was twirled away, like a little dancer, on the then gentle breeze. Maybe it will find a mate and maybe the next generation will stay in stasis for the rest of the winter. That is what is supposed to happen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Still the Ailing Tree Habitat

Unidentified Bug
This is another of the diverse inhabitants on the mandarin stump. Its feelers are too long for a jewel beetle. It has two quite high nubs high up on its carapace. My field guide doesn't give me a clue. I don't even know its family to be able to google it.

If there's any one out there who had come across these little beasties ... and they are little, 15 mm, that's half an inch approx ... drop me a comment?

It must be the season for them because this one was one of four on the same trunk.

Another extremely interesting insect, a kind of wasp I think, turned up the day after I first saw this one.

The only photo I could get is very blurry but I assure you it's the operator's climb up the learning curve trying to catch a moving target.

I thought first that I was watching a large mosquito feeding. Male mosquitoes are sap suckers. And I had an entry for that in the Brisbane Wildlife Guide

Then I noticed that the insect had a couple of white tipped, flexible feelers with which it was feeling all over the bark surface for holes or depressions.

Whenever it found a suitable one, it curled its ovipositor under and forward and (presumably) inserted an egg in the depression.

Seeing a slight resemblance to the orchid dupe wasp, I wonder now whether this one wasn't feeling for caterpillars under the bark, and filling them with her own eggs. And so it was, when I looked it up and followed the links to this one ... a shot from the
http://www.brisbaneinsects.com site, these wasps
parasitise moth eggs.
wpe1.jpg (47673 bytes)
The Banded Feeler Parasite Wasp

And there was me thinking the weather was too cold for much activity!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Critter Friendly Backyard

Critter Friendly Habitat
Critter friendly habitat usually looks something like in this photo. Messy. Long grass. Piles of grass clippings. Palm fronds. Plants allowed to grow where they will. Dead trees left standing, falling when they're done rotting.

Although I do admit that sometime in the near future the foambark tree, the dark green ferny looking one hugging the mandarin skeleton, trying to muscle into the middle of this little stand will have to be cut out. Foambarks (Jagera pseudorhus) grow entirely too large, up to 15 metres, and throw too much shade for a small yard.

In amongst the long grass there are skinks of a couple of different species. Lots of insects.

In the cooked mulch there will be beetle larva, worms, and native cockroaches. On the sheltered side of the mulch pile there usually are a bunch of fungi, often one of the smaller Coprinus (Inkcap) species.

Rainwater collects in the palm frond where bees land butterflies like to drink. In summer I store palm fronds bowl shape down, against mosquitoes.

The green plants, turmeric and nasturtium, support grasshoppers which in their turn support insect eating birds and a praying mantis.

The rotting drying dying mandarin tree skeleton supports three or four different types each of mosses and lichens - the jury is still out on the one which is either a moss or a lichen. Dozens of insects. Skinks under the curling-up bark. At least three different species of fungi. A still unidentified wasp ovipositing her eggs either under the bark, or into caterpillars under the bark.

Butterflies are being hatched on the bushy twigs of the tree trying to survive. An epiphytic fern wanders through the mosses. Vast herds of tiny white insects graze over the bark.

At the foot of the tree, in the mown grass, another species of Coprinus, pops up its fruiting bodies every day slightly warmer than the average.

It's a kind of a jungle!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fish Dying, Caught in Azolla Roots

Dead Fish, Snared in Azolla Roots
The Azolla water fern growing in my two 'frog ponds' (old baths) has grown roots at least 10 centimetres long and in the second bath formed a wall-to-wall carpet. I let that be a while to see what would happen with the water lilies also in there, in relation to the azolla.

In the first bath the azolla seemed not to be able to get such a strong hold. I think because of the greater diversity of plants in there. As well as the locally native water snowflakes (Nymphoides indica), smooth nardoo (Marsilea mutica), common duckweed (Spirodela punctata), ribbon weed (Vallisneria nana) and a thready wort I haven't been able to identify, there's a bit of azolla (Azolla pinata).

So, yesterday was the time to harvest the azolla. I do this fairly regularly. The result? Several dead fish caught in the mat of roots in the second bath. I guess it was an inadvertant way of getting rid of the guppies surplus to my wants.

Plus at least one very large tadpole in the metamorphing stage where they have their back legs and a tail. This one at least 4 centimetres long in the body and probably 2.5 centimetres wide. A giant. Black stripes through the eyes. Too fast to get a pic.

I have been wondering for a while what happened to tadpoles not maturing by the end of the 'season' so this could be the answer. They may overwinter and get an early start.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Coastal Birdwing Vine

Coastal Birdwing Vine
Finally I have a Richmond Birdwing Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) that is actually growing. This one is my third attempt and it seems I hit on the right conditions when I planted it, seen here surrounded by tree barrier against animals climbing fence. This vine is a host to the Richmond birdwing butterfly, a locally endangered species.

When I told my ecologist friend of my trials trying to grow this vine, she told me: a rainforest vine needs to have its head in the sun and its roots in the shade.

There it was. So simple and making so much sense. Finally one of my ideas, insisting on a three metre wire section in my east facing paling fence, has come to some good.

And now I will be able to build on that with more vines. The butterfly that inspired me to start growing butterfly hosts was the four-barred swordtail, a striking medium-sized black and white butterfly that was hill-topping on the Ocean Shores Lookout the same time I was there to check on the then-roadworks.

My ambition is also grow the zig zag vine, (Melodorum leichardtii) which in every article I've read, tells me it can be pruned to stay low. Unfortunately I have not yet tracked down a plant to prune or otherwise.