Saturday, 24 April 2010

Butterfly flutter by

I explored the rock garden on Friday, once again glorious Autumn weather.  Having experienced all four seasons in Canberra now (I arrived here from the UK at the end of winter last August) I can say that this is definitely my favourite time of year. Beautifully cloudless sunny days, warm but not hot, gentle breezes, flowers blooming, plenty of birds and butterflies, glorious.  My least favourite season had to be spring, in the UK I would love spring, but here there is so much pollen in the air at that time of year I got chronic hayfever and nosebleeds!!  In any season though, getting out into the gardens is likely to be the highlight of my day, whatever the weather. 

Walking up the path to the upper level of the rock garden I came across a stunning Grevillea at the side of the path, absolutely teeming with bees.  I couldn't find a label, so unfortunately can't say which variety it is, but if you are in the rock garden you will easily find it as it is a very large bush. 

At the top there was a fairly bare sunny area, with lots of strawflowers or everlasting daisies, Bracteantha bracteata where dozens of Australian painted ladies Vanessa kershawi were fluttering from plant to plant.  My camera seems to do quite well taking pictures of butterflies and I love butterflies, so here are some of the many photos I took:
Another interesting thing I saw today was this seedpod on the Braidwood Waratah Telopea mongaensis.  The waratah is another iconic Australian flower, blooming spectacularly in spring. 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A good day for birds and Banksia

Banksia is a fascinating plant.  Almost endemic to Australia, there are 76 species found all around the perimeter of this vast country.  However, species you find in the East you don't find in the West, and vice versus.  You can find banksia bushes everywhere in the gardens and many of them are flowering at the moment.  The most incredible thing about them though is that they actually propagate by fire.  Most species of these plants need the heat of fire to open their seed follicles! 

Recently I've noticed a lot of New Holland Honeyeaters Phylidonyris novaehollandiae in the garden, which seem to have quite newly arrived (I haven't seen them before).  According to wikipedia, it was the first bird to be scientifically described in Australia. They love to feed on the Banksia nectar.  I tried to get a photo of one as they were feeding on a Silver Banksia Banksia marginata, incidentally the only species of Banksia that occurs naturally in the Canberra region.  However, like the Eastern Spinebill, they are quick movers so a bit elusive, although they are not shy at all and don't seem to worry about me trying to take their picture.  A couple of 'headless' pictures below!

Finally he moved to a tree branch where I had a clear shot,  it was against the light but at least he has a head!

Other species of Banksia were equally favoured by the honeyeaters, I got some nice shots of Hairpin Banksia Banksia spinulosa and another one I  forgot to look at the label on... will update with a name the next time I visit!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Lambertia and the elusive Eastern Spinebill

The gardens really are alive with so many beautiful flowers at the moment, particularly ones that produce nectar, like this lovely Lambertia inermis
The first picture shows the flower in bloom, the second is yet to open, caught in a ray of sunlight.  I sat on a bench nearby for quite a while, as a little Eastern Spinebill  Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris was flitting from flower to flower, feasting on the nectar.  Could I get a good shot of him? No!! Im determined to get a good picture of one of these one day, but sadly, my attempts this time were no better than my last attempt.  A very kind person might call the first picture an 'action shot'?! 
I took a look again at the hole in the Eucalyptus tree that the romantic Galah's were investigating the other day and I can confirm, they are nesting!  One of them was busy moving in and out of the hole, disappearing for some time completely within the tree, while the other was having a snooze.  Wonder which was male and which was female?!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Galahs, a love story

Tap tap, tap tap... I looked up from my old favourite lunchspot today to see a Galah  Eolophus roseicapillus enthusiastically pecking away at a Eucalyptus tree nearby. 
After a few minutes he flew up into the tree, so I investigated a bit closer and saw he was pecking at a hole - perhaps a potential nest hole - Galahs (and many other cockatoos) like to nest in holes in trees. 
Looking up to where the Galah had flown I saw he had a mate!
Little by little they edged closer to each other...
 until they had a little kiss!
and another...

and another!
I believe the male is on the right of the picture and the female the left, as in this last shot you can make out the colour of their irises - males have brown and females have red!  It was amazing to see these two lovebirds together.  In fact, Galahs will usually mate for life (and they live for a long time, up to 80 years as pets, though nearer 30 in the wild, according to ).  If their mate dies, they have been known to get depression!  When I was first told what these cute little birds are called I was told that Aussie slang calls someone a 'silly Galah' if they are being a bit daft, but I think these birds are anything but silly, they are true romantics!  I will be sure to keep an eye on that hole in the tree to see if there will be the pitter-patter of little Galah feet in a few weeks time!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Summer into autumn

I was amazed to read the other day that the Botanic Gardens contain 1/3 of all native Australian plants!  With that being something like 78,000 plants I think it may be a while before this blog runs out of material...
Summer is still hanging on in the garden, another warm day brought out plenty of bees and butterflies.  I got a couple of nice shots of a bee on Leptospermum squarrosum and a beautiful Yellow Admiral butterfly Vanessa itea on a lovely white flower that I haven't been able to identify.

A few signs of Autumn are around, although not as obvious as they would be back home in the UK (the majority of trees being Eucalyptus, and Eucalyptus being evergreen!).  I came across some glorious orange berries on this native White Holly bush Auranticarpa rhombifolia and the autumnal Banksia 'Giant Candles' that made it clear winter is on its way. 

Thursday, 1 April 2010

A BBQ, Grevillea and a demonic looking bird

Today it was Thursday BBQ at CSIRO Entomology, but it was also the first chance Id had this week to take my camera along to the gardens - having had a couple of wet days at the start of the week I hadn't brought it along.  The weather was glorious, so I was torn between being a social entomologist (a rare thing!) and going on my usual wanders.  So, I decided to do both!  First, beer and BBQ...
...second, a quick sprint around with my camera to see what I could see!   There were plenty of Crimson Rosellas Platycercus elegans about, quite a bit of argy bargy seemed to be going on, though it isn't breeding season so I'm not sure why!
I stayed quite close to the CSIRO gate as I was short on time, but good fortune led me to wander amongst the Grevilleas, many of which are beginning to flower beautifully (apparently winter to early spring would be the peak flowering period).  The Grevilleas are intricate formations of delicate clustered flowers growing on shrubs, very popular in Australian gardens.  According to the excellent Botanical garden facts on the genus, "Grevillea is named after Charles Francis Greville who was one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1804. There are over 300 species in the genus, most of which are endemic to Australia but a few species occur in Papua New Guinea and islands to Australia's north".

Here is Grevillea vestita a very delicate white variety and an interesting hybrid Grevillea called Sid Reynolds:

I also spotted a couple of lovely flowers without labels, the yellow ones in the Grevillea section and the other in the Teleopea section - neither of which belong there I don't think?!

Having now read the ANBG weekly update on what is in flower, I've deduced that the yellow flower is probably Acacia subulata.

As I was leaving, a little flock of Choughs Corcorax melanorhamphos were hanging around the gate - they are lively little fellows, although boldly coming right up to glare at me with their red demonic eyes it was hard to get a good picture. Although sinister looking they are really quite inquisitive friendly chaps:
but they do look demonic!