Some Moths of Winter.

Moths species have their flight times, some may only fly for two or three months, while others may be about throughout the year. Mothing in the winter months can be very slow, but some that do come to the light can be a bit special and under represented in collections, due to long cold hours at the light being not the most attractive option compared with the warm fireside.
However, a calm warm day provided the impetus and in the dusk the rig was set up opposite a privately owned bush paddock that had been checked out with a friend a couple of weeks previously.
Old unburnt bush is the most suitable to sample in order to get an understanding of the range of moths peculiar to that particular habitat, and this bush had not been burnt for at least fifty years. With the current regime of burning in the forested areas it is becoming quite difficult to find bush like this on public land, an area has often barely recovered from a previous burn before it is put to the torch once again.
The powers that be seem to give scant attention to the plight of threatened plants, birds, mammals, or reptiles, let alone the invertebrate populations that are an intrinsic part of the web of life of our bushland. Given the scale and frequency of burning at the present time, those populations may never recover to their original numbers and diversity, another chapter in the sad story of extinctions and species in jeopardy in the Australian natural world since European settlement. The irony is that among the millions of of invertebrates incinerated in a fire lit in the name of fuel reduction, many are larvae of moth species whose job in life is the recycling of dry leaf litter on the forest floor. With that said, back to the night’s mothing.
As is often the case, after firing up the generator and light the first half hour produced only a few mosquitoes, but gradually moths began to arrive. Among the earliest was a Notodontid, Sorama bicolor, the first of several, this is a male showing the diagnostic pectinate antennae.

sorama

Moths often choose to land on the back of the sheet away from the bright light, so it pays to check frequently, and on this occasion two good ones took up residence side by side. Both are Geometrids in the Ennominae sub-family, the first is a very nice Nisista notodontaria, the second is Neoteristis paraphanes. Earlier records showed the latter only extending east as far as Tyers, but its range probably extends to the border with NSW where it also occurs.
(MH, Moths of Victoria Vol.5)

nisista


neoteristis

July is the first main flight month for Amphiclasta lygaea, and several came to the light. On this night many moths were reluctant to land on the sheet, preferring the surrounding ground and occasionally nearby shrubs. This is a male photographed with difficulty from a teetering stepladder steadied by my friend.

amphiclasta

At present being studied by PM for the Moths of Victoria project is the genus Praxis in the Catocalinae sub-family of the Noctuids. Two species came in on this night, pictured below, I was advised to just call them Praxis ssp. as there is still work to be done.

praxis


praxis

The Crest-moths, Paralaea species are also in the Ennominae sub-family, and two species came to the light, P. porphyrinaria and possibly P. sarcodes.

paralaea


paralaea

And to finish, another Nisista, a very dark N. serrata that also preferred to perch on the ground.

nisista

All moths photographed from four hours at the sheet can be seen here, a pleasing result for a winter session thanks to that unburnt bush. I wonder what the warmer months will bring….

Click to enlarge.

Out And About.

A rare calm sunny winter day demanded an outing and Lake Wellington was calling. On arrival at Marlay Landing the lake surface had just a slight ripple, the breakwater piles held Crested Terns and a Great Egret, the snags towards the point were covered with Little Black Cormorants, and a lone pelican was fishing next to the boat ramp. In another life, winter with its frosty mornings was the season to go fishing for Yellow-eye Mullet that gather in very large numbers in the waterways of the Gippsland Lakes. I didn’t have that in mind when I started photographing, but a little later the penny dropped. The birds were busy preening, but gradually the odd tern flew out into the lake, and the cormorants began to stream out in the direction of the Avon and Perry Rivers.
Great Egrets can be quite wary, so I photographed this one from the parked car, even then it only gave me time for two shots before it flew.

great egret


great egret

The terns were completely unconcerned about the photographer setting up a tripod and pointing a long lens at them, several were sporting leg bands like the one on the left.

terns


tern

Little Black Cormorants can be seen in huge numbers on the lakes, but on thinking back I can’t remember seeing so many at this location. Perhaps I just wasn’t there at the right time.

cormorants


cormorants

Well out in the lake small flocks of Grey and Chestnut Teal were cruising.

teal


teal

And, while photographing them, I noticed another distant bird diving and reappearing at intervals. A look through the glasses revealed a Darter, the range was extreme but a shot was taken.

darter

Then shortly later the diving stopped and the bird remained on the surface, another shot gave the reason, it had captured a large Yellow-eye Mullet, and that was when I understood the reason for the large number of cormorants.

darter

There is a White-bellied Sea Eagle’s nest adjacent to the lake that needed checking, but not before snapping a Grey Butcherbird hungrily scanning the ground from its vantage point on a power line.

butcherbird

The nest is a long distance away from the road, but viewed through the long lens looked to be in good shape, and a short distance away the adult pair were perched in a dead tree, all boding well for the next breeding event.

eagle nest


sea eagles

Following a tip from Ross, Lake Guyatt was the final destination to see the Freckled Ducks and Cattle Egrets, a swamphen enjoying the sun also got into the act. In all, a good day out.

lake guyatt


swamphen

Click images to enlarge.

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