Saturday, 6 August 2011

Goodbye beautiful garden

All good things must come to an end, and its time for me to leave Canberra and move on.  I am sad to leave Canberra and very sad to leave the Botanic Garden where I have had so much fun exploring and taking photos.  We will be staying in Australia - we are moving to Brisbane, to start an exciting new life in the sub-tropics!  I hope I can continue my nature blogging in some form from there - watch this space...
Thanks to the people who have taken an interest in my blog and all the lovely comments.  Taking an idea from Red's Australia blog, here is a round-up of three of my most memorable posts from the past  year and a half...
My most popular post
Bowerbirds lovemaking in the lovenest
 My most viewed post by far is my 'David Attenborough' moment where I captured the Bowerbirds lovemaking in their love-nest.  I spent many lunchtimes seeking out Mr. Bowerbird and watching quietly as he chugged and whirred his way around the bower.  My video camera skills are very amateur without a tripod but what an amazing thing to see and I was so excited to share it on my blog.  

My most beautiful post
Lovestruck Galahs
I think my most beautiful story is the Galah love story post.  I looked up one day and two Galahs were kissing and cuddling on a branch above me, they really were so sweet.  I got some great pictures of them as they gave each other little pecks and cooed.  Extremely cute.

My personal favourite post
A Brush-tail Possum in the red spotlight
I waited a year to go on the 'Twilight Adventure' in the Botanic Garden last August, and I wasn't disappointed.  It was such a privilege to go into the gardens at night, there is so much to see in the bush after dark!  The best moment was a close encounter with a Tawny Frogmouth, such a strange night bird.  I also discovered many more Kangaroos are in the gardens than I thought, and caught a glimpse of a Sugar Glider.

These are just a few memorable moments, others include watching the baby Wattle birds grow, a soldier beetle mating frenzy, cute bathing parrots and the challenge and reward of trying to photograph many fast moving little birds like the Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater and Spotted Pardalote!  Watching the seasons change in the garden and the wonderful colours and aromas of the beautiful flowers (at least, those that don't give me hayfever) has been fantastic.  I was really chuffed that my Cicada photo was a finalist in the ABC 'summer bugs' competition, and I recently discovered that this blog featured as 'website of the month' in a recent issue of the ABC Gardening Australia Magazine!  Such a wonderful two years, thank you ANBG, I will miss you.

Rosellas growing up

I love the Crimson Rosellas Platycercus elegans, they are cheeky, colourful parrots who make the sweetest little chirps, like a squeeky toy.  There are always plenty in the gardens.  At the moment Ive noticed a number of young ones who are making the transition to adulthood, so their feathers are changing from green to red. According to Birds in Backyards, "Young Crimson Rosellas have the characteristic blue cheeks, but the remainder of the body plumage is green-olive to yellowish olive (occasionally red in some areas). The young bird gradually attains the adult plumage over a period of 15 months."  I got some nice shots of a young one in this 'puberty' stage, as well as a beautiful fully fledged adult male.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Science week coming up!

Science week is coming up and that means the Twilight Adventure will be back at the Botanic Gardens, horay!  I had a great time on the adventure last year , so sign up early or you will miss out.  Details of bookings for this years Twilight Adventure are on the ANBG website here, along with a range of other Science Week activities.

Here is a shot I took on my adventure last year of a Tawny Frogmouth, there are lots of other pictures on my blog post.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

On the right side of winter

The evenings are starting to get a little lighter again and now I feel we are on the right side of winter, spring is on its way.  There are some little signs in the garden, like the frisky male superb fairy wrens Malurus cyaneus darting everywhere and the thousands of star-like buds on the wattle (Acacia spp.) trees, just waiting to burst into bloom (and to give me hayfever!).

There are plenty of winter flowers out in the garden too, including many Banksia and this lovely flower, it is some sort of Grevillea (I couldn't find a label - it was just outside the main entrance to the gardens).

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Strange fruit

I came across a couple of weird and wonderful fruits in the garden today, both of which would have been eaten by aboriginal people.   The first was the Burrawang (also the name of a village near Robertson in the Southern Highlands of NSW), Macrozamia spp.  An amazing thing about the Burrawang, which is native to the NSW East Coast, is that it is poisonous!  It is incredible how, over thousands of years, aboriginal people worked out how they could eat such plants.  According to the sign by the plant in the gardens, the Burrawang can be eaten after cooking the seed, breaking it up and then soaking it for up to three weeks in running water!! 

Near the Burrawang was another fruit, that looks a little like jelly babies, growing on the Brown Pine tree Podocarpus elatus, or Illawara Plum.  Nothing like a pine tree that I'm familiar with, originating in the rainforest.  According to the sign in the garden it is 'sweet but mucilaginous'.  As I didn't know what mucilaginous meant I decided not to try one! 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A devil in the mountains

On my first ever post on this blog I came across the beautiful 'Mountain Devil' Lambertia Formosa in the gardens, so I was really excited to find a 'real-life' wild mountain devil in the Blue Mountains near Sydney when we visited recently!  I really felt I'd learnt so much from my lunchtime wanderings to instantly recognize this fantastic flower.   

We love the Blue Mountains and have visited several times, there is something magical about the landscape and the timeless villages there, with always a warm welcome at one of the splendid B&Bs.  Autumn is really a wonderful time to be there.  We walked the National Pass at Wentworth 'one of Australia's finest bushwalks', which is quite a long walk and a little steep in places, the website here has a lovely video on to give you an impression of its beauty.  We crossed some waterfalls in full flow and passed many lookouts with wonderful views.  All the time it was so peaceful, just the sound of a lyrebird calling from down in the valley and of course, plenty of Rosellas and Cockatoos.  Here are some more pictures of the flora and landscape I took on this trip - I know its a little diversion from the Botanic Gardens but to see the flowers of the gardens in the landscape of the mountains is truly wonderful, the Banksia were flowering as you can see below (see also my post on the nearby Mount Tomah Botanic garden for more mountains flora!).  I'd love to know what the really pretty pink/purple flower is?  Also the pink bell-like flowers too.  Many plants are rare that are found in the Blue Mountains (some more info here), with many unique species found nowhere else in the world.  

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sex and Death

I think its testament to how much there is to see in the gardens that it has been a year before I have posted about the glasshouse.  Since October last year there has been an exhibition on 'Sex and Death' - a fascinating collection of orchids and carnivorous plants, both exotic and native.  I took these pictures a few weeks ago, so I'm not sure if these flowers will still be there.  I was disappointed I had missed seeing Grammatophyllum papuanum in flower - the world's largest orchid, which occupies a whole corner of the glasshouse.  The plant was collected from Papua New Guinea in the 1980s and it is a very tricky plant to keep in cultivation, so the botanic garden was thrilled when it flowered twice in recent years.
The glasshouse has a lot of plants and facts crammed into its modest space, including some interesting facts about the humble Banana Musa paradisiaca, translated from the original arabic name 'Tree of Paradise'!  Bananas are in fact giant herbs that grow from underground rhizomes.  There are more than 100 varieties of banana grown around the world, in Australia there are 4 native species M.  paradisiaca, M. banksii, M. fitzalanii and M. hillii.  
I also learnt that some plants, including most orchids, are potentially immortal!  Although flowers, leaves, stems and roots will die of old age, the plant will keep on growing unless killed by disease, accident or are eaten.

Another interesting fact is that not all carnivorous plants are carnivorous, some are vegetarian!  Nepenthes ampullaria is one such vegetarian found in lowland SE Asian and New Guinea, which catches leaves and debris in its open pitcher on the forest floor.  There were plenty of the carnivorous variety in the glasshouse too though, including this Venus flytrap dionaea muscipula and carnivorous pitcher plant:

Friday, 18 March 2011

A whole year in the gardens

Today my blog is 1 year old!  Which means I've now recorded a whole cycle of life in the gardens on this blog.  I've learnt so much about the bush by writing this and taking photos.  I feel very lucky I've been able to spend so many lunchtimes in these wonderful gardens.  Here is where I had lunch today on the Eucalypt lawn - I had a few lunch buddies too, a Pied Currawong Strepera graculina sat watching in a tree nearby (possibly female as it is more grey underneath) and the Kangaroos were out in force, munching away on more than just the grass!

Friday, 11 March 2011

A soldier mating frenzy

Its been far too long since I last posted.  In that time all the bark has been falling off the Eucalyptus trees as we are nearing the end of summer, so that they are now all quite naked. 
Apparently the process of bark shedding is accelerated after rain, as the bark softens and peels more easily.  Today was a wet day in the gardens - I love wet days.  The gardens are always quiet on those days (without people), but very much alive, I feel certain the birds all come out to play after the rain.  Today there were lots of little birds flitting around near the garden gate and I managed to get a picture of two fast movers I've not managed to capture before, a pretty little Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus and a Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa, which has a very acrobatic flight.   
As I was taking a photo of some striking Eucalyptus on the Eucalypt Lawn, I noticed that where the bark was peeling from the tree lots of beetles had gathered.  Looking closely I saw they were all coupled up, it was a beetle orgy!  These are Green Soldier Beetles Chauliognathus sp., also known as Plague Solider Beetles - they are known to gather together in large numbers for the purpose of breeding.  Some amusing stories I found on the web - one report that in February 2009 a school in the Blue Mountains closed its library when so many beetles were found over the walls.  The Australian Museum writes that although the beetles may gather in huge numbers on plants they are far more interested in mating than eating, so don't pose much threat as a pest!
So, where the old bark peels off the Eucalyptus trees the beetles gather to create new life, the circle of life goes on.