Local insects and animals –

I found this little gecko in a bucket… sadly he was dead. I must remember to store my buckets upside down. This poor little reptile probably lived a life of ease in the humpy; hunting spiders and insects, basking in the warmth of the wood heater and hiding from the antechinus who eats the occasional gecko.

My plan was to take some photos and see if I could identify him. That has proven to be harder than it should be. I know he is not an Asian House gecko because he doesn’t have little spikes on his tail, but is he a dark version of the Robust Velvet gecko, or a Velvet gecko? We have both here. He could also be a Wood gecko?

No matter who he was, his family will be missing him. Gecko’s, like crocodiles, look after their young for some time after they hatch. Both parents guard the babies and seem to teach them to hunt on windows and near doors. I feel sad to have inadvertently ended this gecko’s life, especially since he seems to have died of dehydration waiting for me to help him. This will hopefully serve as a trigger to remember to store containers upside down in future.

Local insects and animals – Striped Burrowing Frog

Picture this: it’s a warm Autumn evening, and you’re heading out to check on your chooks before bed. You peek into the water pot and what do you find? A striped burrowing frog! Yes, you read that right – a frog in the chook water. And let me tell you, it was quite the surprise!

Now, you might be wondering how a frog ended up in a chook water in the first place. Well, as it turns out, burrowing frogs are quite skilled at, you guessed it, burrowing. They often dig themselves into the ground to escape the heat and dryness of the Australian climate. But when the ground is too dry, they might seek out alternative sources of water – like your chook water pot!

So, who exactly is this striped burrowing frog? Let’s dive into some interesting facts and biological information.

Firstly, the striped burrowing frog, also known as the southern sandhill frog, is a native Australian species found primarily in southern and eastern Australia. As their name suggests, they are excellent diggers and can burrow up to a meter deep in the ground. They are a small, stocky frog with distinctive stripes along their back and legs, ranging from brown to reddish-brown in color.

One interesting aspect of the striped burrowing frog is its unique breeding behavior. Unlike most frogs, which lay their eggs in water, the striped burrowing frog lays its eggs in burrows it has dug in the ground. The male frog will often guard the burrow and protect the eggs until they hatch, which can take up to six months!

Another interesting fact about the striped burrowing frog is its adaptability. These frogs are able to survive in a wide range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. However, their populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and fragmentation, making them a species of conservation concern.

Now, back to that frog in the chook water. While it might seem like an odd place for a frog to hang out, it’s actually not that uncommon. Many animals, including frogs, will seek out water sources in the Australian landscape, especially during periods of drought. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find frogs in swimming pools, water troughs, and other water sources around your property.

So, what should you do if you find a frog in your chook water? First and foremost, make sure the frog is safely removed and released back into its natural habitat. Frogs can drown in water sources that are too deep or have no means of escape, so it’s important to give them a helping hand.

Additionally, providing alternative sources of water for wildlife around your property can help to reduce the likelihood of animals seeking out your chook water. Try setting up a small pond or bird bath in a shaded area away from your chooks.

In conclusion, while finding a striped burrowing frog in your chook water might seem like an odd occurrence, it’s actually quite normal for these adaptable little creatures. So, the next time you’re checking on your chooks, keep an eye out for any unexpected visitors – you never know who might be taking a dip in the water pot!

Local insects and animals – Corvid family birds

Ah, corvid family birds! These feathery creatures are as fascinating as they are intelligent. Found all over the world, they are known for their cunning and intelligence, and are some of the most impressive birds out there. But today, we’re going to focus on those endemic to northern NSW Australia. Get ready for a fun and informative ride!

First up, let’s start with a quick refresher on what the corvid family actually is. Corvids are a group of birds that includes crows, ravens, magpies, and jays. These birds are highly intelligent and are known for their problem-solving abilities, which is why they are often the subject of many scientific studies.

Now, let’s dive into the corvid family birds found in northern NSW Australia. The first bird that comes to mind is the Australian Raven. These majestic birds are commonly found in urban and rural areas, and are known for their impressive vocalizations. They are also known for their opportunistic feeding habits, and will eat just about anything they can get their beaks on. So, if you’re enjoying a nice picnic in the park, watch out for these sneaky birds!

Next up, we have the Torresian Crow. This bird is endemic to the northern regions of Australia, and is easily recognized by its glossy black feathers and bright blue eyes. These birds are known for their intelligence and are often seen using tools to obtain food. In fact, a recent study found that Torresian Crows are the only non-primate species to make tools in the wild. So, if you ever see one of these birds with a stick in its beak, you know it’s up to something.

Moving on, we have the Australian Magpie. This bird is a common sight in parks and gardens throughout northern NSW, and is known for its striking black and white plumage. Australian Magpies are highly territorial and will defend their nesting areas aggressively, so be careful not to get too close! But despite their aggressive nature, these birds are also incredibly intelligent and have been known to form close relationships with humans who regularly feed them.

Finally, we have the Pied Currawong. This bird is found throughout eastern and southeastern Australia, including northern NSW. It is a large and noisy bird with a distinctive call that can be heard from a distance. Pied Currawongs are known for their opportunistic feeding habits and will eat just about anything, including insects, fruits, and small mammals. These birds are also highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forests to urban areas.

So, there you have it! These are just a few of the corvid family birds found in northern NSW Australia. As you can see, these birds are highly intelligent and adaptable, and are an important part of the local ecosystem. But they’re also a lot of fun to observe and interact with, so if you’re ever in the area, be sure to keep an eye out for these amazing birds. And remember, if you’re having a picnic, keep an eye on your food – those Australian Ravens are sneaky!

Local insects and animals – Superb Fairy Wren

Our Superb Fairy wren couple are nesting, we more commonly know them as Blue wrens in our area though. Our particular group consists of two fully coloured males and a group of females and juvenile males that hang around. One of the females has built herself a lovely little nest in the clump of sedges in the yard and laid a few eggs. We hope to be able to take photos of the whole process from hatching to fledging.

Blue wrens eat insects, a lot of insects. They are constantly hunting through the grass and shrubs for flies and bugs, I am sure they keep our insect numbers in check. They also provide a lovely little pop of colour to the day hopping through the grass on the lawn, but I think my favourite thing to watch is when the males bring a female a bunch of ‘flowers’; they will pick a sprout of something that has a red tinge (if possible), they love beetroot sprouts, and take it in their beaks to shyly offer it to a chosen female. If she takes it, she is receptive to his advances, if she doesn’t take it, he will often take the flowers home to his mate (waste not, want not). They are not the most faithful bird in the world, but they are delightful.

Blue wren nests are built by the females and take the form of a grass woven clump lined with soft materials like feathers and wool. The female lays from three to six eggs in her nest after mating with her partner (and any other male that takes her fancy… secretly), then she sits on the clutch until they hatch leaving only to drink and eat briefly.

Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the babies until they fledge.

Mother wrens will pretend to have a broken wing to try to draw you away from their nest if you approach when the babies are young. We try not to go near the nest at all while the parents are close because it really worries them and causes all sorts of panic, humans are such scary creatures after all.

We will try to get some more photos of babies growing over the coming weeks, if we can catch the nest unattended.

Local insects and animals – Eastern bearded dragon

Recently I happened upon a life or death situation in the middle of the road. An Eastern bearded dragon (a young one of about 20cm long) had made his way into the road to soak up some precious late Winter/ early Spring sunshine and a young Butcher bird had spied him. The Butcher bird had swooped down and began the attack by trying to blind the unfortunate lizard. Luckily for the lizard, a hungry magpie had heard the Butcher birds excited squawks (he was also a young one) and decided to come and take the easy meal away. When I came on the scene I saw a frenzy of black, white and grey feathers with the occasional flash of greyish scales and a tail. I leapt out of the car (after pulling over to the side of the road) and picked up the tiny lizard, to the great confusion, disappointment and disgust of the two birds involved and continued on my way home.

The poor little dragon burrowed into my neck under my chin looking for a safe, warm place to hide all the way home and I felt very protective.

Once he was home, my daughter and I had a look at him and we both thought he had probably lost his eye on that side. So we popped him into a cage near the fire with some warm water and some hot rocks to lie on (well, my daughter did, I just went back to work).

As it turned out, he didn’t lose his eye. The lid was damaged, but the eye underneath was OK. Once he had warmed up a bit, we washed the eye out with warm water and had a really good look at it, he didn’t like it much, but it did allow him to open his eye.

Over the weeks he has recovered quite well. He has had his sore eye washed out daily with clean water and been offered all sorts of yummy food. He eventually decided to start eating live meal worms and has now moved on to spinach leaves and corn. He will be returning to the wild very soon as his eye appears to be healing well.

Local insects and animals – Orchard Swallowtail butterfly

This is the later instar of the caterpillar

We found an alien caterpillar on Sid’s mandarine tree, so of course we took multiple photos and tried to find out just what planet this interesting specimen hails from. We eventually discovered that this is the caterpillar of the Orchard Swallowtail butterfly. These little munchers are identified as a pest because they eat the leaves, flowers and sometimes even fruit of citrus trees. At the moment Sid is coping with the load of life relying on him for sustenance, but we will remove some of them if it looks like he is suffering. Meanwhile, we are watching the different instars of development these caterpillars go through with interest. They begin life as tiny, spiky dots who eat their way up to larger spiky lengths of bad attitude who have a disagreeable colour scheme and shoot two red stinger looking things out at you from their head end if disturbed. Eventually they lose most of the spikes and become a lovely shade of green and silver before spinning a chrysalis and gradually losing their identity to become a butterfly (just like Mum or Dad).

During this adventure I have discovered that both caterpillars and butterflies are very hard to photograph. Most of our captures are blurry or not at a useful angle, please forgive me.

The female Orchard Swallowtail caterpillar, looking a little worn
She is laying an egg in this shot, and looking a bit offended to be on camera too
This is about the second or third instar
Just about ready to pupate
A chrysalis all ready to hatch out in Spring

Local insects and animals – Red backed toadlet

While we were out collecting fire wood, we came across a bright little frog (or more accurately, a toadlet). My daughter found a bright red blob of a frog under a piece of wood on the ground, it was raining at the time which seemed to make the colour even more jewel like. I quickly took him into the humpy and tried to find out what kind of miracle he was. Eventually I decided to take a few photos and return him to his home (before he charged me with kidnaping).

It turns out he is a Red backed toadlet, a fairly common species in our area. I have never seen one before, but I’m glad to have met one now. They are a ground dwelling frog that takes advantage of the damp places in the bush preserved by having bark and debris laying on the ground. They spawn into muddy holes and the tadpoles are washed into puddles or waterways when it rains. They take two months to develop into frogs. Nature is indeed amazing.

These amazing little toadlets are not rare or endangered, but they do deserve to live undisturbed and respected. We will be leaving some damp, mulched areas near the dam in future. Places where these little frogs can lay their eggs uphill from the water and have the rain wash their babies into a water source that will hold for two months. We may get to see more of these little living rubies in the future.

Local insects and animals – Large Mason wasp

This gorgeous girl has been building nests in my craft room. She is a Large Mason wasp or Potter wasp. These chunky insects are native, solitary and non aggressive (just like me). I hear this girl humming to herself all day while she builds her nest, happy in her work. It would be lovely to be able to make a deal with these builders and get them to build our mud house for us.

These wasps catch caterpillars in the garden to seal into their nests and feed their babies. I find this part of their life particularly gruesome as the grubs are alive, but paralyzed when the babies start to eat them (so glad insects don’t grow huge enough to eat us any more). I wondered why all the Cabbage White moth caterpillars had suddenly disappeared, maybe this girl was to blame.

If you see these B52s of the insect world, please leave them be, they may be ridding you of pests you didn’t know you had.

Local insects and animals – Agriophara plagiosema

The Butterfly House website says this is Agriophara plagiosema, an inconspicuous moth species that doesn’t even rate a common name. To me, moths seem to be endlessly surprising and beautiful; they sit in plain sight with their intricate patterns and colours and go largely unnoticed by everybody. There are so many species and variations that each moth really does qualify as an individual based on appearance.

Moths are a useful part of our ecosystem. Moths pollinate many plants, especially night flowering types. They also provide food for birds, lizards and marsupials. I once raised a Muscovy duck on moths and other night insects by turning on an outside light and catching the swarms of insects in a plastic bag (I then popped the duckling inside the bag, providing food for the duck and entertainment for everyone else), that duck became a massive lump called Baby who looked about the size of an average cattle dog.

These days, we leave a small light on outside to attract interesting insects and the geckos and frogs are quick to come and enjoy the bounty. This little beauty is just one example of the diversity around us all the time.

Local insects and animals – Dainty green tree frog

I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful sunset with you. The sky was glowing with orange and pink light, so much so that the air seemed to have an orange tint to it. The evening was just cool enough to be pleasant and the day’s work was done… heaven.

With all the rain we have had over this Summer (so lovely to be able to say that), the frogs are beginning to breed up again. They sing from the dam and yard every night; calling for mates while the puddles last. Every bucket and bowl left out to fill with water is hosting tadpoles of one kind or another.

I found this pretty little frog on the clothesline beside the front door. She is a Dainty Green Tree Frog.

An internet photo for comparison

I love having so many different kinds of frogs around the humpy. It indicates a healthy environment (even if it is messy). We encourage the frogs by leaving containers for them to breed in, placing piles of rocks near the water for adults to hide in and sometimes we feed the tadpoles lettuce and fish food if they are in a smallish container.