Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brown tree frog (Litoria ewingi)

The Brown tree frog (Litoria ewingii) is found throughout Tasmania. I see them frequently at Black Sugarloaf, usually in the garden, but sometimes in the bathroom.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A female raspy cricket

I found this female raspy cricket in the car a few months ago. Her sword-shaped ovipositor at the tip of the abdomen is used to insert eggs into the tissue of plant stems or leaves. Raspy crickets belong to the family Gryllacrididae. There is one described species in Tasmania, Kinemania ambulans, and two undescribed species. Microscopic examination is require to determine the species.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Colour in the forest

One of the most colourful members of the forest bird community in Tasmania is the Spotted Pardalote, a bird that spends almost all its time in the eucalypt canopy foraging for psyllid insects and an associated exudate called lerp. This tiny bird nests in hollows it excavates in the ground.
A colony of the bright yellow Dermocybe canaria appears in the same place every year.

Russula sp.
I find many different Russula species near home. Most are large and distinctly coloured in reds or purples.

Billardiera longiflora (purple appleberry) is one of three purple coloured fruits in the forest. The plant is one of only a few climbing plants in Tasmania and although the fruits look succulent and hang from the plants throughout the colder months, no birds or other animals are known to eat them.

Leocarpus fragilis

Although these yellow structures resemble eggs or seeds they are in fact the spore producing fruit of a slime mould. They were covering a dead fern frond and I know from previous experience that I needed to take the photograph immediately. If I'd left it for a few hours this ephemeral fruit would be gone.

Campanella olivaceonigra

This is a delicate fungus I usually see on the dead fronds of cutting grass (Gahnia grandis). This morning I found it on a eucalypt stick. Its upper side, the visible surface, is a dirty blackish colour, but the underside is pure white and beautifully patterned between the gills.
Amanita xanthocephala
This is a common and distinctive fungus that grows in the drier parts of the forest. It is a native Amanita and similar to, but smaller than the European fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

raspy cricket and weevil

raspy cricket (Family: Gryllacrididae)


red and black spider

Cutting grass (Gahnia grandis)

Some plants in the forest seem particularly important for a range of species. The seeds of a large sedge that grows in wetter areas, the aptly named cutting grass (Gahnia grandis), form an important part of the diet of Olive Whistlers and Grey Currawongs.

Last weekend a large raspy cricket (Family: Grillacrididae) spent most of the day in the seed head of a cutting grass and this morning I spotted a weevil also in the seed head, but of a different plant. Last week there was a tiny red and black spider on one of the strap-like leaves.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Native currant (Coprosma quadrifida)

Pellet containing seeds and insect remains
Grey currawongs are year round residents at Black Sugarloaf but unlike some of the smaller birds they are usually extremely cautious and difficult to approach.

During the past few weeks one (sometimes two) currawongs have come very close to the house to feed on the fruits of a native currant (Coprosma quadrifida). In late summer they spend much time searching for insects and invertebrates under the shedding bark of the eucalypts.

I often find large regurgitated pellets whose contents give some indication of the birds' diet. In winter the pellets are packed with seeds, whereas in summer they contain insect remains, mainly of beetles and european wasps.

Grey Currawongs used to be considered an endemic species and during my childhood we knew them as Cinking Currawongs, a wonderful name as it so aptly described their song. They are now considered the same species as the mainland Grey Currawongs. As well as their familiar "clink, clink" call the birds have a series of other notes including an owlish howl that I've only ever heard at dawn.