Readers’ wildlife photos

January 20, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today Mark Sturtevant is back with some lovely wide-angle photos. Mark’s IDs and comments (links are also his) are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

A specialty area of macrophotography is wide angle macrophotography. Here, a subject can be seen in extreme closeup while its broader surroundings are also in view since the lens is also a wide angle lens. The best-known wide angle macro lens is one made by Laowa, but that lens is rather expensive. But there is a near clone of that lens made by Opteka—the Opteka 15mm f/4) which retails for just over $100. So. . . I bought the Opteka. It took a while to figure out how to get along with it since these kinds of lenses are very challenging, but I can definitely say that this is the most fun lens that I own. Here are some wide angle macro pictures.

This is a ground-level view of my favorite spot to look for aquatic fishing spiders on lily pads. None were here that day. You can see that the depth of focus is pretty amazing when stopped down all the way to f/32 (!):

Views up a tree are always interesting. This lens encourages one to look for unique angles. The picture is focus-stacked from several pictures:

Mushrooms near a forest trail:

But of course, photographing spiders and insects is especially fun (for me). Here is a nursery web spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), which is one of the biggest and scariest spiders around here. I could trust that she would not leave her babies in the web nursery, though, even though the lens is practically touching her:

Black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia):

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus):

European praying mantis (Mantis religiosa). I rather like the solar flares that often turn up in this lens. There is a short lens hood, but it’s pretty useless because the working distance is often just a few millimeters for wide angle macro lenses.

Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera sinensis):

Thanks for looking!

If anyone wishes to learn more about this kind of photography, one cannot do better than watch this delightful review from the great Thomas Shahan. He concentrates mainly on the Laowa wide angle macro lens, but it really is like the Opteka model as far as I am aware.

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 17, 2022 • 8:30 am

Our contributor today is Christopher Starr, a retired Professor of Entomology at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.  His photos span a range of taxa. Christopher’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. (See his first contribution here.) His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

In the early morning, before the sun got hot, I consistently saw bright red velvet mites (Trombiculiidae) walking in the open on a sandy surface.  They were large (about the size of a raisin), soft-bodied and very conspicuous, yet the abundant agamid lizards were not eating them.  Wondering if they were protected by defensive chemicals, I tasted one, and sure enough.  It was so dreadfully bitter that I couldn’t bring myself to try another, so my sample size remains at one.  Ghana.

We are all familiar with mimicry, in which the mimic gains an advantage when the predator mistakes it for something else: a type-1 error.  Those of us with an eye for mimicry sometimes make a type-2 error by mistakenly seeing a deception where there is none.  Coming upon this dried, twisted vine, my reaction was “Aha, a snake camouflaged as a vine.”   Georgia.

The pachyrhychine weevils are a distinctive, extremely hard-bodied group almost entirely restricted to the Philippines and the Pacific islands fringing Taiwan. Pachyrhynchus tobafolius (first photo) is sympatric with an unidentified otiorhychine weevil (second photo), which has the appearance of being one of its mimics.

Although it is highly venomous, the fer-de-lance, Bothrops asper, avoids contact with humans and other large animals.  Note the effective camouflage of this one, which was lying immobile against a backdrop of vegetation. Trinidad.

This male Anolis lizard in the process of shedding his skin ate the old skin as it came loose.  Costa Rica.

Trinidad’s Pitch Lake is analogous to the La Brea Tar Pits in California.  Unlike La Brea, the Pitch Lake has not been mined for fossils, which it very likely contains.  This caiman was trapped in the surface tar and gradually sinking into it, possibly on its way to becoming a fossil.  Trinidad.

JAC: I’ve inserted a 2016 photo of Pitch Lake taken from Wikipedia:

A primary defensive feature is one that operates all the time, while a secondary defensive feature comes into play only when a threat is perceived.  Tortoises present my favorite example of a primary defense enhanced by a secondary defense.  The hard shell is always present, but when the tortoise is threatened it withdraws its head and feet tightly inside the shell. Mexico.

This newly-hatched Gonnatodes gecko was fully active from the moment it broke out of its shell.  Trinidad.

In studying the responses of various orb-weaving spiders to a simulated predatory disturbance, I found that common cross spiderAraneus diadematus, has one that I have not seen in any other. In the early stages of the disturbance, the spider raises its forelegs as if to parry the intruder.  Italy.

In some parts of its range, the large pink-toed tarantula, Avicularia avicularia, is common in rural buildings, including in my house.  I have often seen visitors startled and even fearful when encountering one fo these, but I like having them around. Trinidad.

I have usually found this Hersilia sp. building its web on the surface of tree trunks and sitting in the middle of it, flattened and well camouflaged.  Philippines.

Cnidoscolus urensl is commonly known as “burn bush” or “mala mujer” on account of the highly urticating needles on its leaves, stems and fruits.  Where this plant is very abundant, we found the orb-weaving spider Argiope argentata preferentially basing its web on this plan. St Vincent & the Grenadines.

This Myrmarachne sp. [JAC: note that this is a spider] has the appearance of a specific Batesian mimic of a Crematogaster ant that is abundant in its habitat. Taiwan.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 20, 2021 • 8:30 am

Mark Sturtevant sent me these photos last October, and I’ve been remiss in not posting them. (BTW, readers, how about giving yours truly a gift of photos for the site as a Coynezaa present?)  Mark’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures of arthropods. Well, mostly arthropods.

Deep in a remote forest, a strange but also new kind of moth suddenly dropped onto a leaf in front of me. This is the dark-spotted palthisPalthis angulalis.

Next up is a broad-headed bug nymph (Alydus eurinus). These Hemipterans are seed feeders, but the nymphs are great ant mimics. In keeping with that, they are also very erratic and darty in their movements. Different species resemble different ant models. This one looks like a common species of carpenter ant.

Here is a differential grasshopper nymph, Melanoplus differentialis. Very common and ordinary, although I really like photographing grasshoppers.

The tiny insect shown next is a male minnow mayfly (Callibaetis sp.), with its very weird compound eyes that are thought to be used to look for females. The picture is focus stacked from pictures taken by hand on the dining room table. 

The caterpillar shown next is kind of beautiful, but it is not welcome! This is the larva of the Lymantria dispar, a.k.a. the gypsy moth (although that common name is now being retired, and I have not seen a new name for it). Introduced into this country in the 1800s, it has been slowly migrating westward. I began to see them a couple years ago, and now they are getting obnoxiously common. The reason they are bad news is because gypsy moth caterpillars can become highly numerous at times, and do severe damage to a wide range of hardwood tree species on which they feed. I have more pictures of their different life stages to share later (unfortunately).

Continuing with caterpillars, here is a tiny and rather weird Geometrid larva that is called the horned spanworm (Nematocampa resistaria).

One day I foolishly waded out into a sandy river with the “big camera” to take this rather atmospheric picture of bluet damselflies. Damselflies in this group are tricky to identify, but it looks like a mixed group here. I’ve tentatively identified the three in the middle to be azure blueets (Enallagma aspersum), and the ones on the far left and right as skimming bluets (E. geminatum). There is a tiny squabble going on at far right, where a male skimming bluet has landed behind a mated female azure bluet who is being guarded by her mate. The female is saying “buzz off!” to the cheeky male by beating her wings and arching her abdomen.

The spider shown in the next picture came as a present to be unwrapped. There was this leaf, neatly woven together with silk into a distinct ball. I carry scissors with me, and this was used to carefully cut open the leaf to reveal the darker form of one of our nursery web spiders (Pisaurina mira) with a freshly made egg sac. Not nearly as big as the other species I see around here, which is scary big, but this one had a leg span over two inches. I am holding the leaf in my hand, knowing that she will be very reluctant to run out of her retreat.

I later carefully fastened the leaf deep into a bush so that the budding family was well protected.

And finally, deep in a remote forest, I came across a creepy kind of fungus that is appropriately known as “dead man’s fingers” (Xylaria polymorpha). Every time I see these, I am reminded of a story related to me about some parents who were on a nature hike with their young daughter. They came across this fungus protruding from the ground at the daughters’ feet, and so they excitedly pointed it out and said “Oh, look! Dead man’s fingers!” It did not go over well.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 11, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please; the holidays will soon be on, and nobody will be reading or sending. Thanks!

Today’s photos, a great batch, come from regular Tony Eales from Queensland. His notes are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

A grab bag of rainforest finds.  I’ve been getting seriously addicted to doing night walks in the local rainforest. There’s a lot of different species out compared with the day, and different activities are going on.
Like cicadas emerging from their pupal shells, this one is a Green Grocer (Cyclochila australasiae). One of the favourite photos I’ve ever taken.

I encountered this mantidfly (Ditaxis biseriata) wandering about on a huge tree fallen limb. The ones I’ve found in the rainforest in the day have flown off quickly but this one seemed very interested in my lights.

A lot of sex seems to happen at night as well. Who would have thought that cockroach sex would be so weirdly beautiful? These are in the family Ectobiidae, but more than that I do not know.

There’s a few species I only ever see at night, like this huntsman (Heteropoda hillerae):

And these harvestmen, probably an undescribed Neopantopsalis species:

. . . and these weird crickets in the ‘Cave Weta’ family Macropathinae:

During the day these spiders (Genus Namandia in the family Desidae) stay deep in their messy cobweb retreats in the hollows and forks of trees. But at night they run out and grab anything walking around on the trunk of the trees. This hairy caterpillar’s spines were apparently no defence.

The lower trunks of the trees are full of these prehistoric looking pygmy grasshoppers (Tetrigidae). They are both armoured and camouflaged and difficult to photograph well, but worth the effort. This one is  Vingselina crassa. [JAC: Look at those hoppers!]

Not just invertebrates come out at night but also vertebrates and normally shy frogs are rather easy to approach and photograph at night time. This one is the Dainty Tree Frog, Ranoidea gracilenta, a fairly common frog but one I never tire of photographing.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Tony Eales in Queensland, and they’re lovely pictures of spiders. Tony’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here’s a grab bag of spiders I’ve photographed recently.

Firstly, two Arkys, my favourite spider genus.

Arkys speechleyi. These are relatively common in the right habitat but I haven’t seen this colour form before. The reddish-pink cephalothorax and legs are new to me. I like how it looks like it’s offering me some of its wasp(?) meal.

The other Arkys is A. cornutus, a species I haven’t seen in a few years. They are wonderfully colourful spiders in the 5-6mm range.

I recently found my first Carepalxis sp., a genus I’ve been hoping to encounter for a while. I find their bulbous faces quite mournful. They are rarely encountered spiders, hiding in the day and making a small orb web at night. The genus is present not just in Australia but also South and lower North America.

I also found a nice all-green member of the Araneus circulissparsus species complex. These are some of the prettiest small orb-weavers around. They often have yellow orange and deep red patches that look rather like a sherbet lolly we have called a fruit tingle.
The all-green one:

A more colourful one.

One I see commonly at night in the rainforests is the colourful Copa kabana in the family Corinnidae. The spider was described by Robert Raven in 2015. The genus name Copa already existed and I just think Robert Raven couldn’t resist the joke.

Another rather recently described spider from the family Lamponidae. This is a Gondwanan family with most species endemic to Australia but also found in New Guinea and New Caledonia. Two species have been accidentally introduced into New Zealand from Australia. Most members of this family are specialist spider-hunting spiders. I found this one, Centsymplia glorious, hunting through the moss on a tree trunk in the rainforest. This montotypic genus and species were described in 2000 from a specimen collected at Mt Glorious which it is named for and where I found this one.

I watched some interesting behaviour from this pair of net-casting spiders, Menneus sp. The female, on the left, was trying to hunt but constantly had to put down her net to chase off the amorous male, right. She’d pick the net up again, stretch it out, only to have the male come up and disturb her again.

Lastly, a cute little jumping spider that I encounter in the rainforest fairly regularly. Probably an undescribed member of the genus Tara. And when I say “small”, they are small!

Small spider pulls big empty shell up into a bush to make itself a home, and I haz questions

November 24, 2021 • 1:30 pm

This is one of the most amazing pieces of spider behavior I’ve ever seen (filmed, of course, by the BBC and narrated by Attenborough). You have to watch yourself it as it’s too complex to describe.

There are several questions that arise, and I have no answers:

a.) Does every member of the spider species do this, or is this a behavior evinced by just one individual? (Nobody knows.)

b.) If the latter, how the hell did that spider figure out what to do? If it’s not species-wide, it probably isn’t genetically encoded in the brain, and this behavior would have to be figured out! I don’t think that spiders have that kind of savvy, though they can spin very intricate webs or build trapdoors. Those however, are species-wide evolutionarily derived behaviors.

c.) How does the process of affixing one strand after another to the shell lift it up? The spider isn’t strong enough to haul the shell up, nor does it seem to be using the silk as a pulley, which wouldn’t work anyway

If readers can answer any of these questions, be my guest!

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’m taking a tiny break tomorrow, so although there will be posts, don’t expect many. Enjoy your noms instead!

h/t: Jim

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 22, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m still pleading for photos, so if you have some, and they’re good, please send ’em in. Thanking you in advance. 

Today’s contribution comes from regular Tony Eales, who gets to see all kinds of weird Aussie fauna, including these fearsome-looking spiders. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

As it is springtime and life is abundant right now in this hemisphere, I have been spending a lot of my free time doing night walks in the local substropical rainforest around Mt Mee and Mt Glorious near Brisbane, Australia.

One type of spider that has been attracting my interest of late are members of the Trapdoor and Wishbone spider families, Idiopidae and Anamidae respectively. I feel like most people have a general sense of what trapdoor spiders are like. They are generally tarantula-like spiders that live in burrows, often with a lid.  Wishbone Spiders are similar but do not build lids to their burrows and the first part of their burrow is Y-shaped with a main hole and a concealed escape hole. Both of these families are in the suborder Mygalomorphae, one of the major subdivisions of spiders. Mygalomorphs are generally large, robust and long-lived (two or more decades) spiders with strong downward-pointing fangs, two pairs of book lungs and heavy large bodies relative to their leg length.

Despite looking like an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, most are not dangerous to humans (aside from the funnel-web spider family which are ridiculously toxic), but because of the size and strength of their fangs can, if mishandled, deliver a deep and painful bite that is often capable of piercing fingernails and leather.

The most common trapdoor spider that I encounter, by far, are members of the genus Arbanitis.

At night you can see them sitting at the entrance of their burrows, only retreating when you get within about a foot of them. They are relatively easy to coax out by imitating a bug walking past using a small twig. Arbanitis will rush out and grab the twig and hold it. You gave gently pull back on the twig and the spider will continue to grip it until it is nearly entirely out of its burrow. It reminded me in some ways of playing with a cat using a piece of string.

A small female Arbanitis sp. coaxed almost entirely out using a twig.

Females live their entire lives within a burrow, moving only if erosion causes the burrow to be damaged. Males on the other hand do wander around on humid nights, looking for females to mate with. This is a very dangerous proposition for the males. Firstly, if the humidity is too low, they could literally suffocate as their book lungs dried out. And apart from larger predators and parasites, the females with whom they want to mate are large ravenous killers. Hence, male Arbanitis spiders as well as many other trapdoors have spurs on the first legs. These are used to hold the female fangs at bay while they fertilise the female. You can see these spurs on this male we found wandering the walking track at night.

These spurs are lacking in the rainforest wishbone genus Namea and the spiders of both sexes seem to be less tied to spending all of their time in their burrows. I found this female just wandering about. The genus Namea has a very high degree of endemism in the D’Aguilar Ranges near my home with some 15 species described in a relatively small area. Consulting with knowledgable folk I am informed that the one I found is likely either the relatively common (in the area) Namea gowardae or possibly the rarer Namea gloriosa. As with many of these, it takes microscopic examination of reproductive features to get a species-level ID.

Likewise, the spiny trapdoor spiders in Euoplos show a high degree of local endemism at least around Brisbane and South East Qld where I live. However, it may be that this endemism is widespread and it is only our knowledge of it that is high in SEQ—in no small part, because this is where the busy and science-outreach loving Robert Raven works at the Qld Museum.

In any case, thanks to his and others’ work (detailed here) I can be relatively confident that this massive girl is Euoplos regalis. Photographing her was much more difficult than the Arbanitis. She could likewise be coaxed out using a twig to imitate a walking bug but she played no cat and mouse with the false prey. Watching closely, you could see the trapdoor lift by less than a mm as she became interested in the vibrations. Then, without warning, she burst out of the burrow, enveloping the end of the twig then retreated immediately slamming the lid shut. The whole thing took around a second and left my son and I with elevated heart rates. In any case I was very lucky to time the shot to get a good look at her. This was on the second of three attempts and both the other attempts failed to capture her.

Another trapdoor spider that are relatively common in the area are members of the genus Cataxia.  These too have a lid to their burrows but it is not a hinged door like Euoplos but is more like a tarp that they pull down over their hole. I didn’t get any out-of-burrow shots of this genus. The ones I found were relatively small and were at random orientation to the ground.

It’s also worth noting that while burrow-living Mygalomorph spiders might occur anywhere in Australia, when it comes to the drier areas, most of the burrows you find are not built Mygalomorphs.  Instead, these are built by Araneomorph spiders (aka Typical Spiders) of the Wolf Spider family, Lycosidae. I’ve found it hard to photograph the owners of these burrows as they slam them shut long before I get close enough to photograph them. This one I found open, the owner probably taken by a spider wasp or a bird.

The wolf spiders without lids to their burrows are somewhat easier to approach and I photographed this Hoggicosa sp. on a sand dune in Diamantina National Park. 

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 11, 2021 • 8:00 am

Bring out your photos, please!

Today’s contribution is from Tony Eales from Brisbane. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. I was unable to get rid of the double-spacing and smaller fonts in the text. Be sure to see the Bumpy Rocket Frog!

I’ve been back out west in Bladensburg National Park, Diamantina National Park and areas around Mt Isa and Cloncurry. The land has some awe-inspiring scenery as well as mind numbing emptiness.

It’s also a place where European interference has led to the extinction and near extinction of many vertebrate species. I was privileged to visit the newly purchased recovery area for the (once believed extinct) Night Parrot and talk to the manager there about the problems and pressures they are facing.

Recent rain brought out frogs and insects at night but many of the billboard species are too rare and secretive for me to have photographed. Here’s a few highlights of animals and scenery.

The landscape around the town of Cloncurry is grassy and dotted with termite mounds:

This dry grass has a selective pressure on the arthropod life that lives in it, with many of the spiders and insects being a similar pale yellow or white.

For example, Neosparassus macilentus, Slender Badge Huntsman:

An as yet unidentified member of family Morabidae, AKA Australian Monkey Grasshoppers:

And this Oxyopes attenuatus, Attenuated Lynx Spider:

As I mentioned, recent rain had brought a lot of the area to life. There was abundant bird life at the dam outside Cloncurry.  Ardea intermedia, Intermediate Egret:

Psitteuteles versicolor, Varied Lorikeet:

Crinia deserticola, Desert Froglet:

Limnodynastes tasmaniensis, Spotted Grass Frog:

Litoria inermis, Bumpy Rocket Frog:

One of the big highlights for me was to see my first Great Artesian Basin mound springs. See here for info on these highly endangered and critical habitats

We visited Elizabeth Springs, one of the few in the region that is not extinct. It is home (as are many of these springs) to a handful of unique species and sub-species that are entirely restricted to and dependant on the springs including a species of desert goby found nowhere else Chlamydogobius micropterus.

The habitat itself is under threat from pumping for agriculture and intrusion by feral species such as pigs (which we observed about ten of as we arrived). Nevertheless, as a biodiversity fanboy, it was a great experience to get to visit this remote place in person.

The aquatic weed you see in the foreground is a species of macroalgae, known collectively as Stoneworts, called Nitella tumida. This species is associated with saline groundwater from Great Artesian Basin springs.

The greatest privilege and highlight of the trip was the visit to the (semi-)secret location of the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) recovery reserve purchased by Bush Heritage Australia. They have done a remarkable job of setting up and managing a low-impact conservation research facility (and could always use more donations) on a remote mesa next to the Diamantina National Park.

The threats to the parrot are many, predation from cats and foxes, poaching of eggs and birds by collectors, habitat destruction from stock and an extreme crypticness and remoteness that makes them difficult to study and get a baseline on numbers from which recovery plans can be assessed. There had been no well authenticated sightings between 1912 and 2013, and the bird achieved legendary status among Australian birders with all the big names in birding having their own near-miss sightings.

Between 1990 and 2013 two dead birds (one on the grill of a truck and one that flew into a barbed wire fence at Diamantina National Park) had turned up proving that the bird still existed. The person who produced the first video evidence was the absolute rogue and reputed bird hoaxer John Young. Since then, ornithologists have captured, tagged, filmed and recorded birds in several dispersed locations across the desert areas of Australia.

Pullen Pullen Reserve:

Night Parrot habitat:

JAC: Here’s a photo of a night parrot:

The fence between the reserve and the cattle property from which it was purchased. Recent rain shows both sides as green but the reserve side is all grass and the cattle side is all Australian tumbleweed (Salsola australis) seedlings:

And finally the ubiquitous Horner’s Two-lined Dragon, Lophognathus horneri, a lizard that was in every reserve and motel garden in this part of the outback.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have insect and spider photos from reader Emilio D’Alise. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

All of these were taken in Monument, Colorado, where we maintained multiple flowerbeds with diverse annual and perennial flowers. This allowed for many successful Bug Safaris. Here’s a small sample from one hour worth of ‘hunting’ on a July day of 2015.

Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia): The first fellow (likely a fellow because of the small size, but it could also be a gal) was on an unopened bud of a Stella D’Oro plant, and quickly scampered out of sight. The next specimen was inside one of the flowers and just sat there, posing for me.

Flower Fly or Hoverflies are fairly numerous and it can be a bit of an effort identifying a particular specimen. My guess for the following is Toxomerus insignis, part of a large genus of hoverflies.

Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilla sericata): Despite an apparent color mismatch, the description fits: “light metallic yellow-green or coppery green overall.” I’m not a big fan of houseflies (although they too can be fascinating at the macro level), but the flies I come across in flower gardens are interesting and, dare I say, beautiful.

Ladybugs (Coccinellidae) are varied and widespread, and I’ve yet to be completely sure about identifying individuals. For instance, the first photo looks to me as a Coccinella septempunctata or seven-spot ladybug. The next two photos show it encountering what I think is a Harmonia axyridis or Asian ladybeetle . . . but I could be wrong. I thought they were going to fight, but it looked like one kissed the forehead of the other and then went on its way.

Beetles can be tough to identify (the insects, not the members of the band), as exemplified by this handsome fellow which, despite previous and current efforts, I still can’t identify. I have some candidates, but nothing I’ve seen quite matches it. At best as I can guess, it’s a type of Click Beetle.

Now, this guy (or gal) looks fierce, and, in fact, when I’m near a bug I don’t know, I’m always weary . . . but I needn’t have worried as I’m not a cricket. That’s right; it’s a Steel-blue Cricket Hunter (Chlorion aerarium).

Lastly, swallowtails are some of my favorite butterflies. They can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the Easter and Western Swallowtails, and the Canadian Swallowtail is often misidentified as one of those two . . . but this one was easy; it’s a Two-tailed Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio multicaudata). I first spotted it on the Yarrow, then the daisies, then some other flowers, but it never stopped long enough for me to snap a photo. I followed it from the backyard to the front yard where it gave me exactly two half-second opportunities to snap these two photos.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos are from Tony Eales in Queensland, and are a combination of culture, landscapes, and animals. Tony’s captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I just got back from a short trip to the outback to attend and celebrate the Koa People’s successful struggle for recognition of their continuing native title rights in the Winton area of my state. My job is to assist Aboriginal traditional owner groups in their legal battles to have their native title rights recognised by the Commonwealth of Australia, so it was a good day for us as an organisation as well as the Koa.

I spent some time in Bladensburg National Park on Koa country prior to the hearing and drove out there and back some 1400 km each way so it was a big week. Here are some of the sights.

On the way out, my wife and I passed through the small town of Muttaburra. It was a bit of a detour but is the home of the rather musically named dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus langdoni (seen here in statue form at the Muttaburra discovery centre, holding hands with my wife).

Where we camped in Bladensburg was very dry with little life around but at night the lights attracted a wide variety of beetles, bugs, moths and lacewings including this very beautiful thread-wing lacewing, Austrocroce mira.

At night things came more alive with many wolf spiders, visible by their eye shine, dramatically striped native cockroaches, and large huntsman spiders—to single out a few.

My friend suspects some of the wolf spiders like this one may be Allocosa sp. but the huge diversity of Lycosids in Australia are currently being reviewed and removed from European genera and given new taxonomic labels.

Daytime was the time for birds and when we could appreciate the dramatic landscape.

EmusDromaius novaehollandiae:

White-breasted woodswallows: Artamus leucorynchus:

I watched this immature Grey Shrike-thrushColluricincla harmonica, work hard at removing the cottony thread from a seed by wedging the seed in the fork of a bush and pulling the hair away.

At the few water holes, you could sit and wait for the seed eating birds to come in to drink. Zebra Finches, Taeniopygia guttata, are never far from surface water and could help you survive. If you hear them, you know there must be some water nearby.