Monday, 31 December 2018

Farewell to 2018!

Continuing my tradition of recent years, to mark the changeover of years I've selected just one photo from each month of 2018. As ever I don't make any pretences to photographic excellence, but have chosen the pictures because of their associations, and in most cases because they are ones I've not previously used this year in a blog posting. 

It's been another good year for us, including a couple of weeks camping in national parks in north-eastern New South Wales and a trip to Brazil, featuring the Atlantic forests and the superb Pantanal. Both these trips feature here, unsurprisingly, but most of the following pictures were in fact taken in and around Canberra, including a couple in our back yard.

Grey-headed Fruit Bat Pteropus poliocephalus, mother and baby, Commonwealth Park, Canberra.
This big fruit bat is found along the east coast of Australia, south of the tropics. In recent years a colony has
established itself every summer in Commonwealth Park by Lake Burley Griffin, usually a place busy with
people and events. This large youngster would not let its mother relax, constantly wriggling and
exploring its surrounds - including, as here, sticking its tongue into her eye or ear!
Pacific (sometimes called Australian) Koel Eudynamys orientalis chick being fed by its foster parent,
a Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata, very near our home in suburban Duffy.
The wattlebird is a large honeyeater, but is dwarfed by the voracious chick. The koel is a big cuckoo
which breeds in northern and eastern Australia and winters in eastern Indonesia and New Guinea and
associated islands. It has begun to breed in Canberra over the last decade or so, aided by a warming world
and the naivety of Red Wattlebirds, which have moved north up the coast and only encountered
koels in the Sydney area during the 1970s.

Orb Web (or Orb-weaving) Spiders Eriphora sp., Black Mountain Nature Reserve, Canberra.
He's the little one, and he seems to have persuaded her to let him get close enough for success.
However he must now make a choice. If he maintains contact with her for more than about 5 seconds
his chance of impregnating her improves; however it almost guarantees that she will eat him.
Tricky.... (I was actually on an excursion to learn more about butterflies, so didn't see how this ended.)

Coachwood rainforest Ceratopetalum apetalum, Family Cunoniaceae, Washpool NP, north-eastern New South Wales.
This beautiful 59,000 hectare park in the wet ranges is part of the
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.
It includes major tracts of warm temperate rainforest such as this, which were saved by vigorous community responses
in the 1970s to proposals to log much of the area; it was gazetted in 1982. We greatly enjoyed our stay there.

Carpet Python Morelia spilota, Nightcap NP, north-eastern New South Wales.
This magnificent snake shared our campsite at Nightcap - we noticed it dozing, and digesting,
on the grass down-slope of our tent when we returned from a walk. The bulge to the left of its head
marks the last resting place of its lunch, quite likely a wallaby or bandicoot.
(This did not stop it from later snapping up an incautious mouse which ventured too close that evening!)
This is a common python in much of Australia outside the western deserts (though it has declined in the south-east).
Male Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus, outside our Canberra bedroom window.
From my study I heard it tapping on the window as it flew repeatedly to it to retrieve minute insects.
These are common birds, but tiny (less than 10cm long) and often among foliage, so it was a treat to
be able to watch it from such close range.
Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus, National Botanic Gardens, Canberra.
July was a fairly quiet month for photographs for me, but I'm happy to feature this little nocturnal insect hunter
catching some morning sun in the mouth of its hollow in a Western Scribbly Gum Eucalyptus rossii.Not much more than 20xm long, it is found throughout Australia and in southern New Guinea, where there are
another 8 species, all rainforest dwellers. (There is also one each in the Moluccas and New Caledonia.)

Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra.
It is always a thrill to watch this astonishing egg-laying mammal in the wild, lying on the surface
between rolling dives to hunt worms, shrimps and insect larvae on the bottom, using remarkable
sensors which can detect the electrical impulses associated with their muscular contractions.
Often shy and hard to watch, there are some areas where they are accustomed to people and seemingly
largely oblivious of us; the fenced Sanctuary at Tidbinbilla is such a place.

Giant Anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla, Pousada Aguapé, southern Pantanal, western Brazil.
This is an animal I have wanted to see since discovering it via a David Attenborough black and white
movie at school a very long time ago... Ancient South Americans with no relations anywhere else, they
come from the same stock as sloths and armadillos. In the Pantanal, a vast area of woodlands, grasslands
and ephemeral wetlands on the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, they live alongside cattle
on some of the properties which own and manage the land. Pousada Aguapé is notable among these.
One of the year's major highlights for me.

Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis, Cuiabá River, northern Pantanal.
It was hard to decide between this spectacular animal and a Jaguar for October, but I featured a Jaguar
last year in the equivalent posting - and, perhaps surprisingly, there are far fewer Giant Otters than
Jaguars left in the wild. I have been lucky enough to see the huge otters (up to 1.8m long and weighing as much
as 35kg) in the Amazon basin of both Ecuador and Peru, but have never had such an extended view of one out of water.
As a result I had never been able to admire the beautifully adapted flattened tail.
There were Jaguars around, and she was very alert and nervous, but not of us.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater Caligavis chrysops on bottlebrush Callistemon sp., in our suburban back yard in Canberra.
This is a very common migratory honeyeater locally, but most of them continue through the suburbs and up into
the mountains for summer; it had been some years since I've recorded one in our yard. This one however - joined
later by a couple of colleagues - found the bottlebrushes in flower and stayed to enjoy them for a couple of weeks
until they'd finished. We in turn enjoyed its activities from our balcony every evening.
Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera, Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, Canberra.
There are several races of Sittella right acrosss Australia, so variable that for a long time they were described as
separate species; now only one is recognised, plus one in New Guinea, the only members of their family.
Highly sociable, they extract insects from bark crevices with the upturned bill, working down the trunk
then flying as a flock to the next tree. I've found them very hard to photograph in the past - they are never still -
so I was delighted to finally catch this one, and showing its beautiful and characteristic orange wing bars.
So, that's one version at least of my year. Perhaps I've prompted you to muse too on your year's natural history highlights - that can be a very satisfying process. 

Thank you reading this, and for reading during the year if you're a 'regular' reader - I greatly appreciate that. May 2019 bring you lots of natural pleasures and surprises, and I look forward to sharing some with you. 

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Roman said...

Thank you for your interesting and informative posts throughout 2018, I am looking forward to reading 2019's. With very best wishes for the New Year, Roman

Ian Fraser said...

Roman, thank you so much for these kind words. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone out there, so it’s very much appreciated when I get some feeback. I hope your 2019 starts well, and continues so throughout!

Flabmeister said...

What Roman said.

One small question. Why Western Scribbly Gum? Is it in reference to the Great Dividing Range?

Susan said...

A lovely overview. Thank you.

Hooded Robin said...

Hi Ian
Thanks for these 12 great photos. I’ve just been amongst lots of loudly calling yellow honey eaters in Thredbo. In the valley are they snowgums that have the pale yellow flowers on which the honey eaters are feeding?

Ian Fraser said...

Hi Robin and thanks for this. I'm guessing you meant to type Yellow-faced Honeyeaters? Lovely place at this time of year (well maybe not Thredbo per se, but surrounds anyway). At that altitude the eucs are nearly all Snow Gums, with some dark-barked Black Sallees in boggier sites.

Ian Fraser said...

Sorry Martin, I meant to reply to yours when we got home - but that was too serious a memory challenge it seems.... I use Western for E rossii, which grows across the SW slopes, to distinguish it from the couple of coastal-hinterland Scribblies (eg sclerophylla, racemosa). I don't think I invented it, but it's not widely used otherwise.