Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sharing the space

In our outdoor dining area, there's one seat that we call 'rat patrol'. That's the best spot from which to observe the neighbourhood rat dashing about the garden. We always make sure first-timer guests don't get the 'rat patrol' seat. But before we learned this lesson, it was funny to see the looks on people's faces – usually they just freeze stiff – when they saw the rat. There's a local supermarket nearby, plus several restaurants, so we think the rats come from there. We've never had them in the house, just the garden. Fortunately there's plenty of other wildlife dropping by, and I thought I'd post about some of them here.

This gal is here all the time. The photo was taken today. This is a native honeyeater, a little wattlebird. Another, much bigger, wattlebird, the red wattlebird, also visits often, and they're all here for the nectar of this Grevillea 'Superb', which is in flower all-year-round. It's a remarkable shrub, and an important food source for the wattlebirds. (They get their name 'wattle', by the way, from a floppy piece of flesh, called a wattle, which hangs from their cheek, not from the wattle tree itself.)

Good defensive tactics here from the St Andrews Cross spider. Weave some bold zigzag patterns to visually extend your legs and make yourself look bigger. Must work, because it remains relatively out in the open most of the time.

Praying mantises are never in short supply. As I don't use pesticides they are free to roam where they please, so too the bees who have been madly pollinating my broad bean crops for me this week.

I'm not exactly sure who this is, other than to guess that it's a jewel beetle. Apparently the Sydney area has hundreds of species of jewel beetles, so it's a reasonable guess.

Speaking of bees (earlier on) I recently got a few more than I had bargained for. This swarm suddenly appeared one afternoon on an Ivory Curl street tree (Buckinghamia celsissima) and that was definitely the event of the day for our street. They stayed overnight, and then, around 10 the next morning, took off as a swarm (which sounded remarkably like a low flying aircraft), bearing 120°, altitude 40 feet, speed 10 knots. Never seen them again since. Hope they found a new home, but glad it wasn't in my backyard.

And as I'm not really sure whether that's a jewel beetle in the photo above, I haven't got the foggiest idea who these little people are, but close up they definitely look like mini ladybirds. Every one of my flannel flowers had its own retinue of several of these little people, presumably feeding on the pollen. As flannel flowers are natives I presume these 'ladybirds' are too.

That's it for photos, but there's a fascinating gaggle of other creatures sharing my backyard. Lizards range in size from the ubiquitous tiny skinks up to handsome bluetongue lizards which have visited but are a rarity.

Spiders aplenty in summer, lots of orb-weavers and St Andrews cross in particular. Fortunately no poisonous funnel webs and I've only seen one poisonous red-back in the 17 years I've been here.

Birds aplenty visit, as we have two birdbaths which are cleaned every day. We do get some of the usual inner-city feral birds (eg, sparrows, mynahs, starlings, blackbirds, pigeons, doves) but fortunately not many.

We get far more of natives visiting for some reason: little wattlebirds, red wattlebirds, rainbow lorikeets, blue wrens, willy wagtails, magpies, black-faced cuckoo shrikes, New Holland honeyeaters, cockatoos and, occasionally, the beautiful little spotted pardalote, which was a total surprise (and delight) when it first appeared. I think a photo of a spotted pardalote in my backyard is up there in holy grail territory! One of these days, lord....

Of all the things which attract birds, it's the clean fresh water in the birdbaths. We provide such a reliable supply of it, especially when it's really needed over summer, that I think all the local birds think of our place as the local pub, cafe and wash house.


Beetle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beetle said...

Love your blog! It is almost like I have been there!
The beetle you have named as a Jewel Beetle is in fact a Fiddler Beetle. Maybe he is a new member of the Gnome Band.

greengardener said...

These pictures of your wildlife visitors are fantastic – it sounds like your have a rich variety of species for such a relatively built-up area, no doubt because you have created a wonderful haven for them to live in or visit. This alone is worth growing a garden for!