Monday, 16 August 2010

A twilight adventure

I have been waiting a year for this evening.  Once a year the botanic garden opens the gates at night to a handful of lucky visitors as part of National Science Week.  Last year I was unlucky and didn't sign up in time, so this year I put my name down and my partner Edd's good and early!  Although today was a bit wet and windy, by this evening the sky had cleared and the stars were out.  It was cold, probably close to zero, but we had wrapped up warm and were armed with torches.  We split into groups of 8, we were with a guide called Will.  As we set off along the rainforest walk it really felt like an adventure. 
The plants made fantastic shapes in the spotlight.  Here an ancient species, Bunya Pine Araucaria bidwillii is lit dramatically from below.   Will, our guide, pointed this out as a special tree, of the genus Araucaria.  The 'nuts' are edible and valued by aboriginal people.  Another ancient species, the famous Wollemi pine Wollemia nobilis, is glowing in the spotlight below.
Next came the highlight of the evening.  we were wandering past the Acacias towards the Eucalypt lawn when one of the group were startled by a large bird sitting right by the path.  The bird flew up into a tree and there he sat for us to watch him for a while. It was a nocturnal bird I hadn't seen in the wild before and I was very excited to see one as it is such a very unique being - the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoidesWill switched to a red spotlight so as not to bother the bird too much and I was able to get some lovely shots. 

 The Tawny Frogmouth is a nocturnal bird, but it is not an owl.  You can see why it is called a frogmouth, it has a strange frog-like beak you can make out quite well in the first picture. 

After that we came across a little mob of Kangaroos on the Eucalypt Lawn.  A couple of them were mothers with little joeys in their pouches.  I had no idea there were so many Kangaroos in the gardens, Ive only ever seen one or two at a time so I thought that was all of them!
We carried on through the gardens, looking at plenty of acacia which are coming into flower - it won't be long before the gardens are ablaze with their yellow blooms.  The moon looked down on us as we passed under Eucaplytus trees, we learnt how to tell where South is from the Southern Cross, tasted some native plums, smelt some Lemon Myrtle leaves and all the while we were trying to spot the elusive little Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps which are extremely cute little things we were really hoping to see. 

By this time it was getting late and so we headed towards our hot chocolate and biscuits.  Just before we arrived we spied a Brush-tailed Possum Trichosurus vulpecula up above!  With the red spotlight it was possible to get a nice picture without the red eyes I usually get with my flash. 

So, did we see an elusive Sugar Glider?  Yes, we did!! We heard a noise just before we went for our hot chocolates and a sharp-eyed member of our group spotted him.  We couldn't get close enough for a picture as he was high in a tree, he looked like a tiny possum from a distance.  Here is a link to an image someone else has taken of one of these cute little things, though maybe it is an image from the USA, as I believe you can keep them as pets over there (certainly not in Australia).  I was so happy to see all the creatures I had hoped to see tonight, it was really worth a year to wait, I just wish they ran these events more often.  There are two more tours on this week, so if you are free on Thursday or Friday evening sign up!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Baby Kookaburra!

Before I even made to the gardens today I took a look out of my office window and saw this lovely little Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae sitting in the trees close by.  I think he might be a baby, he is so fluffy!  Although not technically in the gardens I couldn't resist posting a few of the nice shots I took, it was great having him at eye-level (my office is on the 1st floor)!

There have been 3 Kookaburras flying about lately, they seemed to be getting quite territorial as they have been 'laughing' a lot!  In the last picture you can see some of the yellow of the Acacia that is starting to bloom in the background.  A quick trip to the gardens after that, I spied a little female Superb fairy-wren so tried (and failed) to get a good picture - the best effort is below as she was stretching up and looking towards me! 
A really stunning flower I hadn't seen before was in bloom and was attracting lots of New Holland Honeyeaters to feed on the nectar.  It is Calothamnus rupestris in the family Myrtaceae, or 'Mouse Ears' as it is commonly known! According to the link above, it is endemic to Western Australia in a relatively small region around Perth.