Tag Archives: Nature

Communities dig in on National Tree Day

NATIONAL Tree Day made a triumphant return on July 31, with events all around the country hosted by a multitude of groups.
In Manningham and Nillumbik, Councils used the opportunity to include the community in some of their more ambitious planting projects at Ruffey Lake and Challenger Reserve, respectively.

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In Diamond Creek, nearly 1,200 indigenous trees and shrubs were planted.
Nillumbik Mayor Cr Frances Eyre thanked the community for “coming out and getting muddy”.
She said the planting will help to improve water quality while strengthening the habitat value of the wetland.

“A shout-out to the wonderful volunteers from Rotary Club of Eltham and Diamond Creek Men’s Shed who helped make the morning a success,” Cr Eyre said.

Wayne Green, Cub Scout Leader for 2nd Eltham Sea Scouts, attended the Nillumbik event and provided the Bulletin with this report:

“Tree Planting Day was awesome today at the Challenger Street Wetlands.
Tim and Helen and others from the Council, you were amazing.
Thanks, Men’s Shed, for putting on a great BBQ at the end and Rotary, for pointing the way.
In attendance were a ton of amazing councillors competing to plant the most number of plants.
This whole shebang started in 2003 with a $180,000 grant and is reaping huge benefits for all of us.
My family and I love this — and Scouting and Guiding also really appreciate it.
What is not to like?
Free food.
Great weather.
Interesting conversation and sore muscles.
Walking home, my 17-year-old son hugged me and said, ‘Dad, I love doing stuff with you like this’.
He is a great kid, and I am a proud dad, having the opportunity to have such free fun provided by the Council and so many great community groups.
As Helen pointed out, today’s planting will help save lizards, butterflies and small birds like wrens.
Oh, and a very big thank you to Edendale Farm.
The native plants are amazing.”

Manningham Mayor Cr Michelle Kleinert, Deputy Mayor Deirdre Diamante and Cr Anna Chen

At Ruffey Lake Park, over 400 people attended the event to help Council reach their planting target of 1,200 seedlings along the Ruffey Lake corridor, achieving their goal in under two hours.
Manningham Mayor Cr Michelle Kleinert said this year’s event exceeded their expectations.

We normally see around 200 people at this event.
“We were blown away by the turnout and thank every community member who came along to join the fun,” she said.

Council hosts the annual event, providing all volunteers with the necessary tools, equipment and plants.
Council also thanked the Rotary Club of Doncaster, who provided a free sausage sizzle.

“It’s a very wholesome event.
“It feels good to give back, get outside and be hands-on in the dirt!
“I think that’s why we always see such a diverse crowd; it’s an event that everyone can enjoy,” said Cr Kleinert.

The season of insects, moths and fungi

PERHAPS MY favourite cyclic event of the naturalist calendar was the mass emergence of the rain moths.

It was usually an April phenomenon after the late summer storms had swept across the city and began to break the drought of summer.

Mists returned to the river valley and the steadier rainfall of March and April would refresh the earth and kick start the ecological processes that had laid dormant over Summer.

It was then that the rain moths would appear at an outside light that had been left on.

Hundreds of them, in a display of dazzling diversity.

There were heliotrope moths, twin emeralds, Clara’s satin moths, geometrids, white satin moths, granny’s cloak moths and many, many species, big and small that I could not put a name to.

The mass emergence of the rain moths provided a guaranteed food supply, a rich source of protein for the local birds essential for their late winter breeding cycle.

This critical food resource would give them an advantage over the spring/ summer migrating birds coming to the Yarra Valley.

Sometimes there would be the huge wattle goat moths that were as big as small birds.

Moths, whose caterpillars would chew their way through black wattle trees before entering the ground to emerge when the rains softened the earth enough for them to dig their way out.

Sometimes there would be great numbers of Bogong moths that would be blown off course on their trek to the mountains of the Great Divide where they historically were gathered and eaten by the local First Nations Peoples.

However, I haven’t experienced the rain moth emergence now since 2010, the year the Millennium drought broke.

Before that I recorded it in 1997, the year the Millennium Drought begun.

Twice in over 22 years instead of something that was an every-year event.

The drop in rainfall across the Yarra Valley has curtailed these critical ecological events.

It is not just moth numbers that are reduced, it is across the whole spectrum of insects.

The fall in insect presence gets mentioned in Field Naturalist Club newsletters.

People notice their car windows don’t get covered in insects on long summer drives.

Entomologists worry about it.

The fall in average rainfall that we are experiencing is also affecting the prevalence of fungi which — like the rain moths — would generally begin showing on mass around April in the old rainfall patterns.

Fungi are important to all life on many levels.

The majority of plants require a mycorrhizal relationship with fungi by which the fungi facilitate plant growth by breaking down nutrients in the soil and making them available to plants.

They influence the well-being of human populations on a large scale because they are part of the nutrient cycle in ecosystems.

They naturally produce antibiotics to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, limiting their competition in the natural environment.

Important antibiotics for human use can also be isolated from fungi.

When we talk of biodiversity, the numbers of species are dominated by insects and fungi.

Of all the known species in the world, vertebrates have 2 per cent of the species, plants 11 per cent, insects and invertebrates 43 per cent and fungi 44 per cent of the total species.

Species diversity is one of the greatest stabilizing influences on our planet.

A diverse ecosystem is a stable ecosystem.

The protection of biodiversity is one of the three core objectives of the Australian National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Future.

Conserving biodiversity is vital for maintaining our quality of life and our standard of living in the long term.

“So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to disappear, humanity would not last more than a few months.

Most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would crash to extinction about the same time.

Next would go the bulk of flowering plants and with them the physical structure of most forests and other terrestrial habitats of the world. The land surface would literally rot.”

—Wilson-The Diversity of Life

It’s a jungle in the garden

Caught in the act

IT WAS JUST on dusk.

The male blue banded bees were erratically flying near the stems where they usually roost.

They should have begun to settle by now.

Only one or two had settled near the end of a stem that seemed to have an unusual bit of bright green foliage further down the stem.

This foliage was swaying and it was not from the wind.

I realised I was seeing an adult false garden mantis, usually enchanting to me, but this one was preying on one of my male blue banded bees.

Was I ever torn!

Should I take photos and let nature take its course, or save my special bees?

Perhaps as a compromise I took a quick photo then gently grasped the mantis and removed it from the area to discourage it from becoming a serial bee killer.

I felt a bit guilty that I caused it to drop the bee in its grasp which was already dead.

I guess a mantis has to eat too.

Philosophically, I might think that near the end of the season for blue banded bees most of the females may already have mated.

So perhaps one could say that the males had served their life purpose and that feeding a mantis could be their last remaining service.

Just two days ago I was marvelling at the lovely sight of the roosting blue banded bees.

I photographed them quickly before the sun touched them with a magic wake up call.

They were like a string of precious beads to me.

I had seen scattered ones earlier in the season but on this day I counted 17.

Each used its yellow jaws to clasp an arching dried stem where it would spend the night.

Their wings and hair on their bodies appeared undamaged so I assumed they had recently emerged from their nests.

Near the same spot last season, I first watched males jostling for the best roosting position in my garden.

That year I never counted more than nine.

I believe the population is growing as my pollinator garden develops.

Females must be nesting nearby but so far I have searched for their nesting burrows in vain.

If anyone in the greater Warrandyte region has discovered the female blue banded bees’ nests on their patch, please tell me.

My first leaf-cutting bee

Before I leave the topic of native bees I want to announce I have at least one leaf-cutting bee species in my garden.

This one is almost as large and its buzz is nearly as loud as the blue banded bees.

It is unlikely to use my bee posts where, closely related, the resin bees are quite at home.

I now search the broad-leaf plants in my garden for the perfect circle these bees cut out to line the cells of their nests.

Of course this may be occurring in my neighbours’ gardens.

Rose bushes, not found in my garden are a favourite.

However, they must have used indigenous plants in the past.

So far, my photos of them aren’t good enough for the Diary.

Finding the nests and getting better photos are my next challenge.

Caught in the act number two

“What is this very colourful bug on my eucalyptus tree?”

I’m often asked this time of year.

Hearing, “It is yellow-orange with blue diamonds on its back”, I suspect a juvenile of the aptly named eucalyptus tip wilter bug, amorbus species, as seen in my photo.

The adult in the next photo is larger with impressive looking hind legs but a rather drab brown by comparison.

Many are in my garden but little harm has been done.

Yellow-spotted epicoma moth

These notodontid moth caterpillars are very hairy and may be processionary as they move from one place to another.

Their hairs can cause a painful allergic reaction in people.

The larvae feed on the foliage of casuarina, eucalyptus, leptospermum and melaleuca species.

They are dark grey and hairy, but the head capsule is white with red sides bordered with black.

Pupation takes place in a sparse elliptical cocoon amongst the leaves or leaf litter of the food plant.

Some of the irritating hairs are attached to the pupal case.

The adults are frequently seen in summer to early autumn around Melbourne.

The month ahead

Until we have good rain, remember to leave drinking water at ground level for a range of small animals as well as keeping the birdbaths clean and full.

Honey bees may also visit but native bees get the liquid they need from nectar.

March is still a good month to watch for interesting insects including butterflies.

Let us know what you observe in your area.

Nature: our wonderful wildlife

WARRANDYTE ABOUNDS with opportunities to enjoy natural landscapes and wild animals, birds and reptiles up close.

Although sometimes people would prefer the reptiles to be a little more at arms length!

The natural beauty of our lovely town and its environment is probably the reason a lot of people move to and live here, happily, for a very long time.

It seems fairly obvious, but certainly researchers are in agreement that being connected to and exposed to natural environments has a very positive effect on our mental and physical health, for a whole variety of reasons.

In fact, the research has shown that even just looking at pictures of nature on a regular basis can reduce stress and improve quality of life.

Enter the Warrandyte Nature Facebook page

People love being in and capturing their special experiences of nature, and then sharing those experiences with others.

The Warrandyte Nature page is a vehicle for that purpose.

It’s also a great way to find out about parts of Warrandyte you might never have know existed! Get on it.

The Diary has limited space in the print edition, so for the web find attached a bumper gallery of the images we received for this month’s Nature column.

If you like the selection of photos and would like to see more, please visit the Warrandyte Nature Groups Facebook page by clicking here.

 

Marsupials

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Birds

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Landscapes & the micro world

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