Friday, 16 November 2012

Backyard cutie

After the rather creepy mole cricket a few days ago, we were excited to find a much cuter creature in our garden tonight, a Ring-tail Possum Pseudocheirus pereginus. We often see them around, along with the bigger Brushtails, they like to do a tight-rope act along the wires across the street.  With the flash of the camera it shows this one is a beautiful red colour, I had no idea they were so red - we only ever see them in the dark!  We have a tiny back garden (about 4x10 metres), half of which is Myrtle bush, so its fantastic the wildlife don't think its too small and appreciate our trees.

A couple of years ago we rescued a baby ring-tail, when it's mother had abandoned it and the Magpies were attacking it.  We wrapped it in a towel, cuddled it to keep it warm and took it to the local vet surgery.  We hope it survived ok.  Cats and dogs are a big threat to these cute little things, as are the usual cars and habitat clearance, particularly as ring-tail possums live exclusively in trees and haven't adapted themselves to live more closely with humans (i.e. invading roof spaces!) like the Brush-tail.

Me holding the baby ring-tail we rescued in Sydney, May 2010

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Backyard beastie

This morning I saw an incredible insect crawling across the patio as I was eating my breakfast.  I had never seen anything like it!  It was huge, around 5cm long with rather vicious looking barbs on its rear a bit like an earwig and huge forelegs.  If you click on the photos below they will enlarge (unfortunately my camera wouldn't focus well for a decent close-up, the batteries were low).

After searching through various websites including the CSIRO ANIC 'What Bug is That' we found what it is: A mole cricket Gryllotalpa spp. There is a lot of very interesting information about them on the Brisbane Insects website.  They burrow underground from where they can be heard making loud mating calls.  This solves a long standing mystery for me: ever since we moved to Australia, particularly after it rains, I have heard very loud insect noises coming from the grass or even from under the pavement, but there is never anything there.  I even thought it might be a frog in the drains.  In fact, it was one of these!  If you click the image below you can hear its call (recording downloaded from the Brisbane Insects website, where they have an interesting analysis of the sound waves and explain how the mole cricket makes this noise).  We are also wondering if these mole crickets have been giving us some large mystery bare patches in our lawn, as I have read that they eat turf!

A little more searching around the Internet on these interesting bugs and I also found out that in some countries they are eaten.  Yes, eaten!  They are called 'Kamaru', and this blog about Filipino food describes how they are a delicacy in the Philippines.  Apparently 'they go very well with a cold beer.  They are crispy on the outside, moist in the middle...' Our backyard beastie is quite safe though, as I am a vegetarian.