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My Patch

 

                     

                      ENHS members have many stories to tell about their observations of nature.

                      'My Patch' is a forum where these stories can be shared with others and will be                    

                      published both in the newsletter and on the website. Photos are welcome.

                      Please send your contributions to mypatch@enhs.org.au

 

 

                     Thanks to John Gordon who suggested the name and Trevor King who designed the logo.

 

 

 

The magpie and the wood duck

There is an old nursery rhyme about the Grand Old Duke of York who had ten thousand men, and:

                        “he marched them up to the top of the hill,

                        and he marched them down again”, and so on.

But, you might say, “what has this to do with natural history”?

Well, this is about twelve or fifteen Australian Wood Ducks and an Australian Magpie, not on a hill, but on one of the Moruya Showground fields on 27 June 2012. A line of fat, waddling wood ducks had, for some reason, attracted the attention of a magpie, who flapped and dived above them. The magpie succeeded in herding the line of ducks first one way, then he turned them around and herded them back to where they started. This happened two or three times. The wildly flapping magpie had such trouble keeping the line intact, as the ducks kept trying to break ranks. But for a while he was completely in charge. It reminded me at once of the rhyme about the Duke of York.

Eventually it all completely collapsed, with ducks flapping and squarking and waddling off in all directions. They finally regrouped and marched off in a huff in their usual line formation, while the magpie resumed its perch in a nearby tree, maybe waiting for the next line of unsuspecting wood ducks, and so blight their day too.  John Liney

 

Home-loving antechinus

In late September 2012 the first sign of an antechinus in my kitchen was a few long, thin droppings (different from those of mice which are smaller blobs). Several nights later, I was woken at 3am by scratching sounds under my bed. Next night the scratchings came from the other side of the room and a pattern developed. I would thump on the floor for silence and for several days no noises.

One day, I opened a rarely-used kitchen drawer. Under a crumpled paper napkin was an empty nest lined with layers of coloured napkins within a plastic picnic mug. I had a problem. Over the next couple of days I found a jelly-bean or two lying on the floor. (A bowl of them sits beside my husband’s bed.) The next night more gnawing and finally I heard sounds coming from the small chest of drawers by my bed. I switched on the light, rapidly opened each drawer and had a glimpse of an antechinus as it disappeared. However it had left behind a sticky pink jelly-bean! How did this small marsupial carry that sweet from the bowl to the drawer? In its pouch? And if so, why?

Antechinus eat insects. I’d been hoping it was keeping down ants or even cockroaches, but jelly-beans? Within days I caught and released two antechinus with an Elliot Trap. Another died in the trap. I am hoping I’ve now removed the whole family!  Judy Thomson 

 

 

 

 

   

   A hungry echidna

    Ever wondered what those holes in the crocs shoes are for????? To allow your local echidna to lick your toes!  Helen Ransom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      Moth eaters

         A Peron's Tree Frog and a Huntsmand spider search the web of a Black House Spider for some food.  Helen Ransom

 

 

 

 

The spider and the moth

The Sydney Huntsman spider (Holconia immanis: immanis = enormous) mostly lives in the bush, but now and then may venture into our houses. Because of its hinged legs and flattened body shape, it can fit into the most amazingly small crevices and cracks, so often one can live in a small space in a house, with the home owner being quite unaware, until uncovering a large dark grey spider from behind a curtain or where a closed door fits against the jamb. This spider is mostly nocturnal, but occasionally moves out during the day when a substantial insect meal appears. It can move very fast, mostly catching its prey by surprise.

Large moths, too, sometimes inadvertently enter an open door at dusk, and flutter about inside for several days. Such a large moth, a Southern Old Lady Moth (Dasypodia selenophora) came into our house a week or so ago. This moth was coppery brown with a darker spot and some wavy lines on the upper side of the forewing as well as a darker spot on the underside. It was about 5cm across, so it would have had quite a significant body size.

One morning I idly glanced up towards the ceiling and saw a large spider on top of what appeared to be a moth. Sure enough, it was a Hunstman, munching on the body of the poor unfortunate moth that had been fluttering about. After ten minutes or so, the spider had finished his/her (probably her, because the spider was really quite big) breakfast, dropping the wings and legs on to the floor below. 

The first photograph shows the spider enjoying the meal. It looks as if the picture is out of focus, but at first the moth struggled so mightily, and the spider was munching so vigorously, and that she (the spider) was covered in a cloud of coppery moth scales. The second photo was taken just after she had finished – she looks exhausted and stuffed full and as if she would not need to eat for quite some time. What a breakfast!  Jenny Liney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Bay

Hemmed in by the ocean, national park and Mount Dromedary, Mystery Bay is a spectacular place to live. There are so many breathing, flying, swimming and growing things within easy walking distance. It is bliss for any nature enthusiast.

I am a relatively new recruit to the role of serious bird watcher and while I am not into the list-making part of all of that, I freely admit to seriously enjoy looking out for birds. This all started when Mandy Anderson, fellow Mystery Bay inhabitant, arrived with her bird savvy enthusiasm and introduced me to the wonders of looking at the world through a decent pair of binoculars.

It was incredible to suddenly be aware of the common visitors to my garden. Before this enlightening moment, (apart from the usual stand outs of the parrots, kookas and maggies,) most were all lumped together into, “that small brownish bird in the tree there” category. Since my conversion, the garden has sprouted six birdbaths, and the lawn is slowly being removed bit by bit and replaced with bird- and animal-attracting plants and ponds. Every day I am visited by whipbird, thornbills, fantails, grey shrike-thrush and a golden whistler or three. A yellow robin looks out for bugs as I rake the paths. Pardalotes call, mistletoe birds nest in the tree near the door. The patch of bush behind my place is a bowerbird haven, and amazingly I have two types of wren on hand and seven different types of honeyeater hanging out near the grevillea and bottlebrush. I know three adorable types of frog that live within earshot and a series of five reptiles slither in and around at times, some on the lookout for the frogs and others for the bush rat that has tracks through the undergrowth and helpfully eats weeds for me. At night recently I have heard boobook and powerful owls call. I now realise I have three ringtail dreys, and I am regularly visited by Swampy the wallaby and Longnose the lawn-aerating bandicoot.  All the shore birds are five minutes’ walk away and a minute up the hill takes me to a view of the mountain, paddocks and six type of raptor hunting in the distance or above.

I love the changing seasons and the delights of each in a new way now. The whale brigade is ending, but yesterday the raucous sound of channel-billed cuckoo announced their arrival to all currawong and magpie nest sites. I am listening out for the first Dollarbird of the season, a bird I saw for the first time ever last year. I am 54 years old so that old biblical verse, “I was blind but now I see”, feels true for me. So when I hear that funny chuckle, kek, kek, kek, kek!  I will grab my binoculars and call straight back, KEK, KEK, KEK, because it is such fun to be alive, living in Mystery Bay – so much to see and appreciate. Ann Christiansen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A story of a not so wise frog

‘A froggy would a-wooing go, gaily in the drain’

Situation:

  • Jenny Liney
  • A Pobblebonk or Eastern Banjo frog  (We prefer the name Pobblebonk)
  • a very wet back yard

During the recent ‘big wet’ period, all the side and back yard drains in our house block filled to overflowing.  This meant that most of our backyard resembled a shallow lake.

‘This is great’ croaked a lady (presumably) Pobblebonk frog who was calling from one of the side drain sumps.  ‘Just the time for some high jinks in this nice full waterhole.’   And that is where she laid her bubble of eggs.  Job done, and off went the lady Pobblebonk, very pleased with herself.

Alas, it was not a very good site after all, as the built up water drained off very quickly, leaving the eggs stuck on to a stone.  Fortunately, Jenny noticed the bubbly, jelly egg mass, and rescued it just in time before it dried out completely.  She put the egg mass into a little pond in our yard that holds water. 

We can only hope for a happy ending, but unless we hear a Pobblebonk bonking in one of our ponds, we will never know.

My apologies to Kenneth Grahame and ‘The Wind in the Willows’ for the title of this little piece.  John Liney