The Avon in Autumn.

Gale force winds abated overnight giving rise to a pleasant Autumn day, ideal for a trip into the bush. Mount Angus Creek, an Avon tributary was the first stop, tall forest on the south side of the ridge, Mountain Grey Gum, huge Blue Oliveberry trees, Christmas Bush, Prickly Currant, Hazel Pomaderris, ferns on the shaded creek flats, and much more. Birds though were very quiet, Grey Fantail and a distant carolling Grey Butcherbird. Back along the track to the creek junction and the scene changed, Dusky Woodswallows, Golden Whistlers, Yellow-tufted and White-naped Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosellas, Spotted Pardalotes, and Scarlet Robin to name some. Only one photo in the camera, fungal growth in a rare moist area in the creek bed, it’s remaining dry.

fungus

Away from the creek and on to the first stop on the river, Scarlet Robins seen at three more locations along the way. Dragonflies rather scarce, with the autumn species the Common Shutwing most numerous, with a few Southern Vicetails and the odd unidentified flying individual.

common shutwing


southern vicetail

Across the river a water dragon was taking it easy in the sunshine, a long reach for the 200.

water dragon

The common frog in this waterway is the Rocky River Frog, Litoria lesueuri, and we found one cooling off in some weedy green water.

rocky river frog

Butterflies were flitting, browns, but refusing to land for us. Green Slantface Grasshoppers were more approachable and this one cooperated nicely, gradually moving up the rock until it was in the perfect position for its portrait.

slantface grasshopper

Robber or Assassin Flies were zooming, and when one landed we could see that it had prey. After a considerable chase from perch to perch the camera finally caught it at close range in good light, the prey was a European wasp.

robber fly

The second river spot used to be my best Odonata location, but after several big floods it has completely changed, with dragons and damsels virtually non existent. Normally, after a flood in this river populations recover in two or three years when larvae numbers build up again, but here it hasn’t happened. In fact the whole stretch of river is not what it was, the huge floods scour the river bed and must wash the larvae far downstream. Perhaps sections of the bed change and become unsuitable habitat for the range of species I used to see in numbers. However the butterflies were landing, and the camera caught the smaller of the two browns, the Spotted Brown, Heteronympha paradelpha paradelpha.

spotted brown


spotted brown

And, away from the river we actually found a dragonfly, a species I hadn’t encountered on the river previously, a tattered-winged female Unicorn Darner, Austroaeschna unicornis.

unicorn darner

That was a surprise, but an even bigger one happened shortly after a Brown Goshawk had cruised up river, a White-bellied Sea Eagle also flew upstream, a wonderful sighting. On then to the third spot, a beautiful wide and deep stretch of the river. Again odes were scarce, a Blue Skimmer was noted and another large species eluded us. Then, a darkish damselfly landed briefly, giving time for a couple of shots before it flitted. At the time of writing the jury of still out on this one, it is a female probably in the wiretail group.

damselfly

Robber flies were very numerous here, the species flying at the moment is a quite noticeable bronze colour when seen in the sunlight. The prey this one has seems to be a longish beetle of some kind, the elytra or hardened fore-wings can be seen projecting on both sides.

robber fly

The Avon River and its catchment is a gem of Gippsland, geologically interesting, with a wealth of flora and fauna, long may it remain in its natural state.

Click images to enlarge.

Along river and creek #2.

The morrow dawned as predicted, calm and sunny, so it was back to the creek. Still a little cool for odes to be flying so the first pictures taken were of the cranesbill, beauty in a small package.

cranesbill


cranesbill


cranesbill

Chicory, Cichorium intybus is a plant in the Asteraceae or daisy family. It was widely grown from 1860 to 1960, mainly at Phillip and French Islands, the roots were dried and ground to be added to coffee. It is widely naturalised, common at Bellbird Corner, and is even appearing at home, possibly from seed carried back on the vehicle tyres, or carried in on the westerly wind, who knows…. The flowers seen in close up are quite beautiful, and are attractive to bees.

chicory


chicory

Impatient for dragonflies I started to walk through the long grass, checking the shrubs to try to find individuals still roosting. Sure enough one flew, I followed it and saw it disappear behind a blackwood. Edging carefully around I saw it, perched once more, obviously the air was still too cool for it to start hunting. Shots were taken with flash and natural light, this image is the latter, of a very nice female Unicorn Darner, Austroaeschna unicornis. I like the way she has her left leg wrapped around the phyllode.

unicorn darner

Then, at another blackwood I found something interesting that I’d not encountered before. A wood boring caterpillar had two entrances to its tunnel, one on either side of the base of a branch. Both openings were closed in the usual manner with covers of silk, frass, and droppings, but the intriguing feature was the attached phyllodes that were partially eaten. This is the behaviour of timber moths in the Xyloryctidae family, they leave their residential tunnels at night to collect phyllodes which they secure with silk to the tunnel entrances to be eaten later. My information comes from Ian McMillan’s authoritative site. What a clever little grub!

tunnel


tunnel

With the air temperature warming up dragonflies were at last on the move, while far above a Wedge-tailed Eagle was soaring on a thermal. With the fluting of a Grey Thrush in my ears I stalked those wary insects waiting for them to briefly land, and nailed two, another Unicorn Darner, this time a male, and one of those ubiquitous Tau Emeralds, quite a dark individual. This seems to be common at this late stage of the season, they may lose their freshness of colour as they age. Just a theory.

unicorn darner


tau emerald

It all goes to show you don’t have to travel far to find things of interest.

Click to enlarge.

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