Sunday, 19 December 2010

Name that butterfly!

Recently I have seen some very beautiful butterflies around CSIRO so I thought I go and see if I could spot some in the gardens.  There are plenty of LBBs (little brown butterflies!) around - particularly this 'Common Brown' one, Heteronympha merope.  The first picture is the female, the second the male, interesting that the female is more striking than the male, in nature it generally tends to be the other way round!

I aslo saw this butterfly, it is a white butterfly but appeared greenish when closing its wings against the light.  It behaved in a very interesting way, moving quickly then hovering like a hummingbird next to the flowers rather than landing on them to get the nectar.  I can't identify it from a quick scan of the web, any ideas anyone?!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A wet week in the garden

Well, as many parts of Australia will be far too aware, this has been a very wet week.  Fortunately I was able to get to the gardens one day and found that the birds were loving all the water!  Here are some colourful Eastern Rosellas Platycercus eximius having a great time in the little pool.  First one had a good shake, then the other, then they both did, so they ended up looking very dishevelled!


I manged to get a nice shot of a Crimson Rosella who was watching the antics nearby but preferring to stay dry.  I also managed a picture of an Eastern Spinebill, though sadly its a little out of focus or it would have come close to a decent picture of one of these birds that I always have trouble capturing as they move so fast!

Finally, at long last I also managed to get a shot of a Gang-gang Cockatoo Callocephalon fimbriatum for this blog!  I heard the familiar creaking call and spied one in a tree, however it is a female or perhaps a juvenile (it looks rather young and scraggly in the first photo), apparently young birds are similar to the adult female, with young males differing by having a red crown and forehead and a shorter, less twisted red crest. So, a little disappointing its not a male but I will keep an ear out and hopefully one day I will get a picture of one in the gardens on here for you (though before long they might be heading back up to higher altitudes - they are more common in Canberra in winter). 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Colourful Callistemon

I had a look at the schools and colleges photo competition display in the gardens the other day, there are some very nice pictures in there, worth a look.  One of the categories was the subject of 'colour' - well there is plenty of that in the gardens at the moment!  I have been impressed lately by the Callistemon (Bottlebrush) in the gardens, they are all flowering beautifully and there are so many different shades of red, pink yellow and white. 

This photo is taken near the CSIRO gate, the red Callistemon is called 'Firebrand' and the pink one is Callistemon polandii called 'Peak Downs'.

  Here are some more very pretty ones from around the gardens, the first is Callistemon pearsonii.  The last with the butterfly (sorry, I'm not sure which - it wouldn't open its wings!) is not on a Callistemon but a Melaleuca - Melaleuca Sieberi these two genus are hard to tell apart.   Indeed, I have read on wikipedia that Callistemon is now placed in the genus Melaleuca.

These little beetles are interesting too - there have been swarms of them around the Melaleuca in the last few days, I guess they are some sort of pollen beetle in pollen heaven with all these beautiful flowers, unfortunately I'm not - I'm just sneezing my head off with hayfever!  

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bowerbirds - love-making in the love nest!

Well, today I really had a 'David Attenborough' moment in the garden.  Perhaps the Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus has become comfortable with me having my lunch nearby and coming to inspect his bower.  Or maybe he isn't as shy as he has been making out!  Anyhow, after waiting around near the bower for a while and taking some photos of the beautiful Bottlebrush flowers nearby (which I will save for another post) I sensed a little activity around the bower... sure enough, there was a female Satin Bowerbird sitting in the bower!
The male was nearby and he came closer, beginning an amazing ritual.  He made some fantastic whirring and chirping noises as he hopped about a little then stood still, fanning out his tail.  He paraded in this way very slowly around the bower, watched by the female, who occasionally lowered herself, looked around at him and inspected the bower.  A couple of times she left the bower and he re-arranged a few of the blue bottle-tops, all the while making some elaborate calls and with a very 'macho' stance!  In fact, perhaps I will name him 'Austin Bowerbird'!

Now, for the very exciting part - I captured these moments of Bowerbird passion on video!!  So I can share this amazing spectacle with you all.  In this first video you can see and hear the elaborate dance the male makes.  He then stood still and posed for a while making some quieter noises. 

The female then wandered off for a bit, so Austin Bowerbird decided perhaps he needed to make a few adjustments to the love-nest: he re-arranged a few of the blue bottle tops and then hopped off towards the female with one - perhaps a gift for her?

Finally, the moment of passion arrived! 

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Bowerbird's Bower

Yesterday I went to the gardens for lunch without my camera and I'd never been more frustrated at not having it with me... I had found the Satin Bowerbird's Ptilonorhynchus violaceus bower! I first discovered the mature male Satin Bowerbird in the gardens over a month ago now, and managed to get a picture of him for this blog in early October.  So I rushed back to the gardens as soon as I could at lunchtime today and took some pictures of this amazing structure.  It is about a foot (30cm) high and is a little hidden within some bushes.  The range of blue objects he has found to decorate it are amazing, all the same shade of blue too!  You can see a close up of a peg below.  There was also a couple of pretty yellow flowers I think he might have also put there.  Incredible.

I wonder what the Satin Bowerbird would have used before blue plastic was invented?
In my rush to get to the gardens I hadn't really noted what the weather was looking like and as soon as I had taken the pictures of the bower the heavens opened.  Its been so wet in Canberra recently, though now its heating up its starting to feel more like tropical than English rain, but there is plenty of it!  So I made a dash for a shelter nearby and ate my lunch there, amusing myself by taking pictures of raindrops falling on the shelter and on some leaves. 

Once the rain stopped I carried on wandering in the gardens.  The water dragons appeared again after the rain and nearby I noticed the huge Gymea Lily Doryanthes excelsa is starting to flower, it will be spectacular in a few days or so when it is in full bloom.  I also noticed there seems to be a new trail through the gardens that must alter weekly, called the 'In flower this week walk', what a great idea!

There was a little sign about the Aboriginal use of the Gymea flower next to it in the garden: The Gymea flowering stem grows up to 4 metres high, but it was roasted and eaten when it is only about 0.5 metres high and as thick as a man's arm.  The roots were also roasted and made into a sort of cake.  The name 'Gymea' comes from the Wodi Wodi tribe of the Illawarrra district near Sydney.  

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tango in the gardens

There is a great event on at the Gardens on Sunday, a Tango concert with some Argentinian musicians and youth music in Canberra: More details here

My partner Edd and I are Tango dancers, but unfortunately we won't be able to go to this event as I will be dancing Flamenco - we have a great Flamenco artist coming to Canberra to give some workshops, Paloma Gomez, an unmissable opportunity.

If you are curious about the beautiful music of Tango and this most romantic of dances do go along and see what its all about!  Here is a picture of Edd and I dancing (taken in Sydney earlier in the year).  I love this picture as it captures some of the romance and mystery of Tango:

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Dragons are back - but no sign of the Gang-gangs

On Wednesday the garden was full of Gang-gang cockatoos Callocephalon fimbriatum - I could hear them everywhere and saw about 10 of them.  I even saw a pair doing a sort of mating dance, where they gave each other little pecks.  Of course, when I went back on Friday with my camera there wasn't one to be seen, so I still haven't got a picture of one for my blog!  They seemed to have been replaced by Crimson Rosellas - and love was in the air for these too.  The Pryor tree has a pair nesting in a hole, I got a very cute picture of one peeking out, I thought I saw a little one beside her too at one point, but I might have imagined it!

To make up for the lack of Gang-gangs I was pleased to find plenty of Water Dragons back in the gardens, the last time I saw one to take a picture of for this blog was for my second blog post, back in March! I saw a small one too - it looks like its a baby dragon. 

 After seeing so many Waratahs last weekend at Mount Tomah I remembered the picture I took earlier in the year (April) of a Braidwood Waratah seedpod (Telopea mongaensis).  I found the plant again and it was bursting into bloom, some seedpods are still clinging on though you can just see in the first picture. 
 I found a couple more pretty flowers I'd not seen before too, a beautiful Orchid Telychiton tarberi at the entrance to the Rainforest, which is an epiphyte (attaches itself to the trunk of trees).  This appears to be referred to commonly as 'king orchid' which I can see why, its quite spectacular. 

I also found this beautiful purple flower in the Grevillea/Hakea section, it looks more like a Hakea to me but I couldn't find a label on it. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

ANBG 40th Anniversary - celebrations this week

This week the Australian National Botanic Gardens is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  On Sunday numerous events will be held in the gardens. In conjunction with this event, the herbarium will have an Open Day this Sunday from 10-4 with guided tours on the hour.  The ANBG will be displaying some of their botanical collections and research.  There will be a shuttle bus between the herbarium and numerous sites within the gardens.

Sunday 24 October – 10am – 4pm
40th Anniversary Open Day and Garden Party   

Full program here (pdf)
·            Main stage Live music and entertainment from 10 – 4pm
·            Children activities from 10am – 4pm
·            The Friends of the Garden cake cutting to at 11am
·            High Tea party in the Eucalypts Lawn
·            Botanic fashion parade and fascinator competition 
·            Continuous garden bus shuttles/tours
·            Behind the scene tours  10- 4pm
·            Market stalls, fashion parade and fascinator competition.
·            666 ABC Canberra Outside Broadcast – with Greg and Willow 10- 12  

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

An adventure at magical Mount Tomah

Mount Tomah is Australia's Mountain Garden, located 1000m above sea level in the northern Blue Mountains.  We were over that way at the weekend so thought we should pay it a visit - it was a glorious sunny spring day (though the day before had been snow flurries!).  Well, it was simply magical.  A small wedding was taking place there that day (you can just make out the bridal party in one of the landscape pictures below) and the whole place was just alive with millions of spring flowers: Waratahs, Rhododendrons and even bluebells! There were some exotic plants there too, such as the beautiful 'magic flower' or 'sacred-flower-of-the-incas'.  All around was the distinctive sound of the Whip-bird and Kookaburra in the trees as the odd lizard scuttled amongst the rocks.  The air was fresh but the sun was warm.  From a viewpoint in the Gondwana woodland we could see Sydney in the distance, a world away. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Bowerbirds and an empty nest

An empty nest!  The baby Red Wattlebirds I've been visiting for the past couple of weeks have now flown the nest.  I was amazed at how quickly they had grown up and felt a small sense of loss, my babies are out in the big wide world!  However, I didn't have to look very far to find them both, sitting in nearby bushes waiting for their parents to come and feed them.  One of them was trying some short flights from branch to branch, climbing higher into a tree, whilst the other was happy just to sit and wait in a bush.  I bet the active one was the bigger one in the nest that was always reaching higher for food!

If I'd had a little longer this lunchtime I might have got a shot of the parents feeding these little ones, I tried a couple of times but missed the moment, they are very quick!  I guess before another week is passed they might be fending for themselves. 

I ate lunch close to where I'd first seen the male Satin Bowerbird and after I'd finished I caught a glimpse of him chasing a female through the trees.  I followed them around for a bit, then saw him sitting in a tree - once again he was proving elusive...
...However, I managed to sneak up behind him as he made off towards the female and got a couple of good pictures.  One cheeky young Crimson Rosella sidled up next to him which was quite amusing (I know it is a young Rosella as there is still a lot of green on his wings - when he is an adult this changes to blue).  On my next adventure I will try and find the Satin Bowerbird's 'bower' - here is a link to a flickr gallery of what this might look like.  I like the description from a comment on there of what a bower is: 'they aren't nests. They are dance floors, discos, if you like, for picking up girls!'  So, more like a 'love nest'! The Satin Bowerbird has a fancy for all things blue to decorate his bower.  I've heard that in Canberra milk bottle tops used to be blue, but they had to change the colour as the Bowerbirds were stealing them!

 Just as I was leaving the gardens I couldn't resist trying to get a shot of a cute little breeding male Superb Fairy-wren who was hopping along the path - for once it was quite successful.   He has a few bird rings on his feet so seems he has been part of a survey at some point.  A number of studies of fairy-wrens have been conducted in these gardens by the ANU, some details of this work can be found on Professor Cockburn's webpage at the school of Botany and Zoology.