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  • Writer's pictureIan

Letter from Istari - Summer 2022-23

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Floods didn't eventuate this summer, thankfully.

The wetland dried up and left a feast for other animals. The Giant Dragonfly was seen again this summer and the katydids and land mullets survived the Big Flood from last year. The wallabies have been very successful with new joeys.

The rambling raspwort is in flower. A stunning red mist along the edge of the wetland. The stick insects exploded in numbers and consumed the tree foliage.

We managed to capture some amazing images of the goannas in action in a new video.


Dryish Summer


The region was bracing itself for more rain after the disaster of last summer and the prospect of another La Niña. December is usually stormy but few storms arrived leaving only 58mm of rain recorded for the month.

The wetland almost dried up in December leaving a pool of water in the deepest parts with the surviving fish providing a meal for a large variety of animals including goannas, snakes, water rats, swamp hens and their chicks.


The rain picked up in January with a number of summer storms, thankfully not severe.

With the storms the wetland refilled, although it still hasn't overflowed for many months.

January was more typical with 159mm of rain falling from some good storms.

As the summer drew to a close the wetland dried once again after only 61.5mm of rain recorded for February, way under the average of 157mm.

Typically for the bush, we are now faced with dry months ahead and a possible El Niño.


Giant Dragonfly

The giant dragonflies (Petalura gigantea) were out and about. These dragonflies are large, the third largest in Australia and one of the largest in the world with an abdomen over 6cm long and wingspan of up to 12.5cm!

They are considered endangered so we are very happy to see them again. They live around wetlands with the adults feeding on insects. The adults only live for a year but the larvae can live, mainly underground, for up to ten years before becoming adults.


Cane Toads


Unfortunately the cane toads are back this summer. Our neighbour found a very large toad in the bush near a dam. It was a female so they were lucky to have caught it. We haven't heard males calling this close so we suspect it hopped a ride. It was 552g!



We euthanised it by putting it in the fridge for 48 hours then into the freezer, following the instructions on this process. As these toads have not been seen in this area until last year they are considered pioneer toads. We contacted the Australian Museum and they want to examine this one so it is still in our freezer waiting to be collected.

Landcare has been proactive in chasing down the toads, coming out in the late afternoon and looking in the dams in the area. The toads continue to be found and as we remove them we can hope for eradication. Thankfully we haven't located any cane toad tadpoles yet.


Wallabies with Joeys


Quite a few of our regular red-necked wallabies have joeys at the moment. At this age they are extremely vulnerable and won't leave their mother's pouch for at least a month.

Over the summer they continue to grow and are now spending time out of their mother's pouch.



Flowering

One of the delightful plants around the edges of wet areas is the Rambling Raspwort (Gonocarpus micranthus ssp ramosissimus) especially when flowering. This herb is erect and around 25-60cm high. At this time of year it flowers producing tiny red flowers which gives the impression of a mist along the wet areas.


Stick Insects


Tessellated Phasmid (Anchiale austrotessulata)

Each year seems to bring a population explosion of some insect species. This summer it is the year of the stick insects - Tessellated Phasmitids.

The females are very large compared to the male. They mated in large numbers after consuming large amounts of foliage from the Swamp Turpentine (Lophostemon suaveolens) trees and wattles stripping the trees and leaving a very open canopy.


Snakes


Summer time means the snakes are out. Carpet pythons and red-bellied black snakes are the most common here.


Carpet Pythons

Carpet pythons (Morelia spilota) feed on small mammals, like mice and rats, or frogs or even eels. They have an amazing ability to climb usually trees but check out this python climbing up a corrugated iron wall. It shows the incredible ability to climb vertically.

This python went up the wall then in through one of the small gaps leading inside the wall and ceiling cavity looking for food.


Red-bellied Black Snake

The Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) is another common snake in this area. They commonly feed on frogs and other small mammals. They will also feed on other young snakes and are reputed to keep brown snake numbers down.

It is a venomous snake but rarely causes a problem. These snakes are shy and will get out of your way if you let them.

The Red-bellied black snake is a beautiful looking snake, shiny black back with a striking red belly. This snake was photographed hunting in a drying wetland. Check out our video above showing the snake at night in the drying wetland.

Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)
Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)

This photo (above), taken by Terry, of the red-bellied black is my favourite for this season.


Stephens Banded Snake
Stephens banded snake
Stephens banded snake

The Stephens banded snake (Hoplocephalus stephensii) is a regular visitor to our chook pen. It is searching for mice not chooks.

It is a medium sized snake up to a metre long and is nocturnal. It can fit through small gaps to get into the main chicken coop. It has clear bands running the length of its body. It can look similar to a young carpet python but unlike the python it is consided highly venomous which can be fatal although there is only one recorded fatality.

They shelter under the bark of dead trees. We discovered one when felling an old dead banksia. We only fell old dead trees when there is a safety issue these days.

The Stephens banded snake is considered vulnerable in NSW mainly due to the loss of habitat.


The Big Flood Survivors


Mountain Katydid

Last year before the Big Flood we showed off a Mountain Katydid which regularly appeared on one of our bush paths. The area went under well over 5 metres of water and we had not see it since. We were worried that the insect had disappeared in the flood waters but we are happy to say that we have found them again nearby.


Spot the katydid in photo on the left. They are hard to see. On the right the same animal shows off its colours hoping to frighten off predators. These animals consume plants that are toxic, taking on the toxicity.


Land Mullet

The land mullet (Bellatorias major) is Australia's largest skink. These reptiles live on the forest floor near our little creek, sheltering in log hollows on the ground.

We have shown photos of these beautiful reptiles previously but we haven't seen them since the Big Flood and were so happy to see them recently, obviously surviving the flood. How they cope with the area being inundated with metres of water we can only speculate, but they have survived. We haven't managed to take any more photos so here are a few from previous sightings.



Australian Goannas


Watch our latest video on Australian Goannas. It is only a couple of minutes but hang out to the end to get the battle of these amazing animals.



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Links

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10414

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