There is no common thread through my images of the last week. This post starts with insect wings, then heads into an old quarry before ending with cranky observations about dog poo. Not the most wildlife focused week of my year!
Veins up close
A telephoto lens is a good option for large active insects such as butterflies and dragonflies, which tend to fly away if you try to get close with a macro lens.
Butterfly photographs are all about the amazing colours and patterns of the iridescent wing scales.
The solid wings of butterflies and moths are somewhat unusual in the insect world. Most insect wings are constructed of translucent panels over a rigid framework of veins. The complex patterning of veins is most obvious in larger species such as cicadas. This Black Prince was one of thousands in song on a warm Kurnell day.
Dragonflies are another group of large insects with highly distinctive wing patterns. If you stand quietly by the water it soon becomes obvious that some individuals keep returning to the same perch after chasing away rivals or dashing after prey. You can often creep to get within a metre or so of such perches, usually a branch or rock close to the water’s edge.
The ubiquitous bushflies of the Sydney summer are far blander looking than many of their larger relatives. One medium sized species around Sydney has a brilliant yellow head. They often rest on cleared ground such as walking tracks.
Another commonly encountered group of flies are the March Flies. The trick to photographing these bloodsuckers is to grab a shot before their painful bite. The window of opportunity is no more than 5 seconds after landing, so you need to be prepared!
Quarry in recovery
Much of the blue metal used in NSW railways and road construction comes from Kiama. The Bumbo latite (a form of volcanic basalt) on Bombo headland was quarried from the 1880’s until the 1980s, when the headland was opened to recreational access. Now public open space, the floor of the former quarry is ringed by latite columns. The exposed columns are coloured orange by oxidation and the growth of lichen. The original dark grey of the latite can be seen in the more recently quarried sections and along the shore where the surface is scoured clean by wave action.
The hard rock quarry is slowly transforming into habitats for local wildlife. The columns are used by seabirds such as cormorants, the high vertical walls making them safe perches from waves and predators. They offer vantage points and nesting opportunities for the local Nankeen Kestrels, which sit scanning the quarry floor for skinks, insects and mice.
Soils fallen from the slopes above have allowed grasses, shrubs and even trees to take hold around the edges of the quarry floor. These newly established habitats are occupied by Splendid and Variegated Wrens and Red Whiskered Bulbul, a bird introduced to Australia more than a century ago but rarely seen in significant numbers.
The impermeable rock traps rainwater which has created a number of small wetlands. Reeds and Reed Warblers have colonised the wetlands. The warbler’s strident calls are mostly heard rather than seen, although they can be coaxed to the edge of the vegetation with a softly ‘squeak’.
The former quarry remains a stark landscape most notable for its striking geology. It is also a place to see wildlife to taking advantage of novel habitats. It will be fascinating to watch that colonisation process as it continues into the future.
Disappearance of the poo fairies
As a regular walker in public lands I am delighted by the changing attitudes of dog owners to their animal’s waste. It has become normal practice for owners to take along a plastic bag to collect their furry companion’s steaming piles. This is a great outcome for native wildlife as many species naturally avoid sites marked by predators. The removal of dog wastes also reduces the potential for parasites and diseases to be transferred to wild animals.
All good, but there seems to be an inexplicable breakdown somewhere between the collection and disposal of Fido’s doings. A minority of dog owners are under the impression that their bags don’t need to be placed in a bin, and should instead be hung on a fence or tree like some very disappointing variety of Christmas decoration. I can only imagine that they expect them to be collected by that most rarely seen species of Sydney wildlife, the Poo Fairy. Judging from the number of plastic coated biohazards around our beaches and fire trails Poo Fairies must be in serious decline, and may even be extinct. An ecological tragedy perhaps, but one easily overcome by a touch of civil responsibility. No pictures to accompany this gripe!