Readers’ wildlife photos

May 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

Send in your photos, folks. We’re doing this feature after my Parisian hiatus, but I always need photos, and in fact we’re running low.  Please follow the instructions on the sidebar (or link), “How to send me wildlife photos.” Thanks in advance.

Today’s batch comes from reader Rodney Graetz in Canberra. His narrative and captions are indented, and you can click on his photos to enlarge them.

A Backyard in Autumn

It is Autumn here in Canberra Australia with warm 25°- 30° C (81°F) temperatures in addition to many months of good (La Nina) rainfall, our backyard is humming.  Here are a few examples of the activity.

Life at work.  We do not feed birds; we do cultivate flowers to attract birds and insects.  This flower is a Paper Daisy (Xerochrysum species) native to the arid outback.  We chose it for the beauty of its colour and shape and (successfully) predicted that it might also attract insects, even though daisies are not big producers of nectar.  If you search this photo, you will find six very different insect species, all foraging in separate parts of the one flower.  Life: busy at work.

Look at me, look at me!  A light-hearted comment on the strategy of sexual dimorphism – the separate colouring and body shape of male and female organisms and the competition for mating opportunities.  Here is the male Orchard Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aegeus) – I think.

This is the female of the species – I think.  She has the wider wingspan with very different wing shape and colouring.  Both sexes were happily and simultaneously feeding on the nectar-rich flowers of ‘Butterfly Bush’ (Buddleia sp.), but no display or mating behaviour was noticed.

The body shape of a praying mantis appears too frail for an ambush predator, but obviously, they are successful.  Here a slightly battle-worn, thin (starving?) individual; note the tattered antennae.  It was still very aware, reacting to my presence metres away shooting with zoom lens.  I suspect that the costuming of several of the more bizarre characters in the Star Wars movies, such as Admiral Ackbar, was based on the head shape of a praying mantis.

The ambush predator in action – note the long antennae folded carefully away from the struggle.  This mantis – not the same individual as above – hung itself on the underside of a leaf and captured an unsuspecting, daylight-flying Grape Vine Moth.  This moth species is a chubby, relatively heavy prey item and it was its vigorous fluttering struggle that I noticed.  I was impressed that the mantis was able to continue to hold it while hanging from the leaf.  How to stop the fluttering of the heavy moth?

Simple – first, disconnect the control centre.

A familiar fungus (Amanita muscaria), about 3 days old, in the front lawn.  Originally a Northern Hemisphere species, now spread world-wide, travelling as a component of the root system mycorrhiza of introduced trees, such as Quercus rubra (Red Oak), a street tree whose scattered, woody leaves are obvious in the photo.  I like its symmetrical shape and colour, along with the mystery of its rapid appearance, followed by slow decay, and disappearance.  I know it is toxic, but not lethally so, while a close relative, Amanita phalloides (‘Death Cap’), growing just a few streets away, is super-lethal, as two visiting Chinese Chefs recently demonstrated.

A young female (Doe) Eastern Grey Kangaroo  [Macropus giganteus], likely less than 3 years old, and her independent young (Joey), both on alert to my presence.  This not my backyard – though I have found kangaroos there – but in a nearby (300 metre) nature reserve.  Note the focussed orientation of ears, which can rotate about 90°.  By her height, this is likely her first joey, which by its size, she can no longer carry in her pouch (marsupium).  If you look at her lower abdomen, you can see her pouch is gaping open, indicating that the joey is still suckling.  This is one example of why Canberra is called the ‘Bush Capital’.

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Beautiful photos! I love that Paper Daisy. It must be wonderful to look outside and see kangaroos.

  2. Very enjoyable! In the first picture, the boldly marked beetle is the aptly named tumbling flower beetle. Just one touch and it will fold up and drop from the flower.

  3. Lovely photos. Isn’t the Amanita muscaria psychedelic? I thought it was the one the reindeer eat and people eat the reindeer urine to get high. Could be an urban myth. I love paper daisies, and yes, have noticed how well they attract insects; I had no idea they were native to the outback. Very cool!

  4. Cool. I’m just experiencing my first Autumn in Canberra after moving from Brisbane. It really is lovely. While I’ve lived in Scotland and seen this kind of change before, my wife is just blown away at how picture-book it all looks.

  5. It’s a bit late in the day, as I haven’t been able to read here for a week or so, but in case you come by for the comments, wanted to tell you that I enjoyed photos and narration enormously.

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