SCORPIONS: Steve W has sighted a Forest Scorpion on the main path today, 08.01.18., asking whether they’re common on Mt Rogers. I’m sure they’re there and part of a healthy ecosystem but seeing them on the path would be unusual I’d say. They’d be hidden away under rocks where it’s damper and near their invertebrate prey.
SNAKES: Lynn, Rod and Steve D have each reported sightings of large Brown Snakes since the weather turned spring to summer. It seems as though there’s a resident Brown at or near the Summit but also that the snakes seek water and rodents in gardens adjacent to Mt Rogers. Other people have “walked here for years and never seen a snake”. We all need to “be prepared” for sightings of these normally shy creatures and ready to retreat. Snakes are protected of course as are other native animals and plants.
SIGN: As I was clipping feral grasses around the now-engraved MT ROGERS sign at the Wickens Place, Fraser carpark a walker asked where the Frogmouths were now.
The fledglings we watched from the ‘Tween Tanks Track” have dispersed by now. Roy reported seeing two chicks in the Schwarz Place, Flynn trees quite recently. Their family and neighbours were equally delighted as they’d all wondered, without any sightings, whether this season had been unsuccessful for “their” pair. Clearly there’s been a variation in local nesting times this sprummer.
SUPERBS, SBB’s & SCC’s: The Superb Parrots seem to be spreading through the suburbs a bit by now. They’re after wattle seed-pods and unharvested fruit. It was mid-Flynn’s turn to host a screech of Cockatoos this morning as they left their roost for the day’s foraging. Satin Bowerbirds have already been reported enjoying garden’s fruit.
PASSPORTS: Several regular walkers including Margaret and Chris have turned the Nature Play CBR Passports into explorations with the under-12’s. The passport-sized booklets offer Missions for families going in search of organisms, natural objects and experiences in reserves, special places and their own backyards. Send and email to email@example.com if you’d like her to send you passports to being observant whilst outdoors. The Nature Play website also has a suite of downloadable lists of outdoor things to do for each age group.
TWO REGULAR WALKERS have had dangerous and extremely distressing encounters with an on-leash German Shepherd recently. This may be the same dog that attacked Hoot some months ago. In each incident the handlers were unable to adequately restrain the dog. Perhaps they were walking the dog for someone else. These unprovoked attacks were reported to the rangers via firstname.lastname@example.org/. If witnesses could also report what they’ve seen to that same e-address it will help the rangers analyse the occurrences of these ACT-wide incidents.
SPRAYING: Steve D continues his back-pack spraying efforts against golden-yellow St Johns Wort throughout the reserve. The plants are in flower and thanks to the rainfall pattern there are thousands of smaller plants needing the Starane treatment. The infestation is repeated throughout the region’s reserves and open spaces.
EASILY SIDE-TRACKED…..BY BUTTERFLIES & WATTLES: After the 41 degree heat of 7th January I went to the Mt Rogers Fraser carpark to cut the grasses around the new MT ROGERS sign engraved on a boulder. It was already warm and humid though we’d had ineffective showers with yesterday’s cool-change-that-wasn’t. I also sheared round about six yellow ‘button’ daisy, Chrysocephalum apiculatum plants and a few Stipa grasses in the hope that TCCS brush-cutters would ignore that area.
Nearby two Cootamundra Wattle were being visited by many small butterflies. My brain registered ‘Grass Blues’ until other observations kicked in…these were darker and larger than Grass Blues and why would grass habitat butterflies be obsessed with wattle trees?
Once home and with Suzi Bond’s 2016 Field Guide to the Butterflies of the A.C.T* to hand I concluded the butterflies were Stencilled Hairstreaks, Jalmenus ictinus. Both Suzi Bond and Michael Braby give Ictinus Blue as an alternative name in their respective Field Guides.
Between conversations that explained my latest eccentricity to bemused Mt-Rogers-regulars early-walking their dogs to beat the heat, I took a few photos with the compact Canon.
The butterflies have a projection on their wing margins near pronounced orange and black spots.
Two of the butterflies were in copulating mode. Another was very still and stationary for some time, preparing to lay eggs perhaps? Most of the butterflies approached and seemingly searched the trees landing only briefly. When they did land their wings were open for a split second showing iridescent patches on the grey-brown wings.
There’s a large ant nest near the trees with meat ants active. I realised there were meat ants on the trees’ branches. This triggered memories of wattle-ant-insect larvae associations, symbiosis and interdependence.
Both Field Guides mention Stencilled Hairstreaks’ associations with Meat ants. *“...colonies can only establish on larval food plants located near Meat Ant nests……The [butterflies’] larvae feed during the day either singly or communally. The larval attendant ants are Meat Ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus).” The Imperial Hairstreak is similar to the Stencilled Hairstreak but small black ants attend the Imperial Hairstreaks’ larvae.
I should have thought to also look for larvae – caterpillars in the trees. Both butterfly species rely on wattle species as larval food plants. Are there larvae on the Hickory Wattles, Acacia implexa, currently in flower? Are these beautiful, approximately 3.5 cm butterflies, threatened by the authorities’ penchant for having wattles removed as ‘fire hazard’ vegetation?
And so much for the reputation of Cootamundra Wattles, Acacia baileyana as a native pest-plant species. Here was further evidence of Mt Rogers’ population of Cootamundra wattles being a vital habitat species at all stages of life despite invasiveness when the seeds are stimulated into mass germination.
Rosemary Blemings 08.01.18.