Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lots of lizards

On the weekend, a typical Perth, blue sky, sunny day, we went four wheel driving with a number of friends.  At one point, in the middle of the track was a large ‘sleepy Joe’, also known as a bob tail skink or blue tongue lizard. So we stopped to get it off the track before it was run over.  Of course everyone came to see why we’d stopped so suddenly.  With so many people around the lizard, it couldn’t be convinced to move in the right direction, so my husband picked it up to take it off the track.  As expected, the lizard wasn’t particularly happy about being handled, opened its mouth threateningly and showed that wonderful, distinctive blue tongue. 

Say "Argggh"

Further along on our expedition I noticed something move behind one of the cars as they were trying to pull up off the main track.  I was out of the vehicle in a flash, camera in hand, so I could photograph a beautiful goanna with golden stripes on its belly.  Being one of Australia’s faster lizards, it didn’t hang around for long, raced off and ducked under a rock ledge.  My husband, who followed, stepped onto a large sheet of stone that rocked back and forth. Worrying that he might have crushed some wildlife under the rock, he lifted it, only to discover an amazing barking gecko.  Handling it gently, we checked that it hadn’t been hurt.  It hadn’t. It was photographed and released it.
Seeing these three completely different lizards was a great experience, especially as some of our friends were new to Australia and hadn’t seen anything like this before.  I particularly loved seeing the leaf gecko as I’d not seen one of these in the wild before, and geckos would have to be one of my favourite creatures. It just shows what you can see when you take the time to look around you when in the bush. Australia has lots of amazing lizards.

Barking Gecko

Friday, October 29, 2010

To spray, or not to spray, that is the dilemma

Its spring and my roses are covered in aphids. They’re destroying the new shoots, sucking the sap, withering the rosebuds.  I love my roses. I love having huge bouquets in the lounge and on the dining table with their perfume filling the house. If I want my roses I must eliminate the aphids.  I must spray.
I went outside to “kill the little suckers”. Instead I ended up watching them – and all the other little insects.  Couldn’t help myself.  I noticed black ants forming a trail up the rose plants to milk the aphids of their sweet excretions.  I noticed brightly coloured lady birds and their larvae voraciously eating the aphids.  I noticed green caterpillars eating holes through the middle of the rose buds (now I want to kill them too – but then I wouldn’t get the pretty butterflies) and a variety of tiny wasps buzzing around picking out prey. Now if I spray I will kill more than just aphids.  To spray or not to spray – that is my dilemma.
I think I’ll just go and shoot them with the camera.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cemetery, Place for Renewed Life

My husband and I stopped off at the old Toodyay Cemetery trying to find more information about long dead relatives and photograph any of their headstones we could locate.  In the process I came across an old, very weathered, cracked, wooden headstone with, what I thought, was an unusual creature perhaps beetle on it.  So with my desire to share all amazing creatures, I raced off to grab my husband to check out what I’d found, and to see if he could identify it. 
When we returned I noticed its shape had changed.  It wasn’t a beetle at all.  It took some time to work out that it was a butterfly newly emerged from its chrysalis and we were getting the rare opportunity of watching it expand its wings ready for its first flight. We watched and were awe-struck with this amazing process.
We find it quite ironic that a beautiful ‘new life’ emerged from a place of the dead.
….Oh, and I still haven’t been able to identify what type of butterfly it is. So if anyone can help it would be appreciated.

Butterfly New Life 2

Butterfly New Life 8


Isn’t it wonderful how children have a natural fascination with the creatures in our world, even the slimy ones? 
My nephew, who is autistic and my daughter have always loved to find quiet nooks in the garden to relax and de-stress.  They spend hours examining leaves, flowers and ‘creatures’.  They use all their senses – smelling the perfume of the flowers and crushing scented leaves; listening to the sound of insects and the creak of the trees; feeling the different textures, feeling insects, caterpillars and slugs crawl over their hands, looking closely at all the tiny elements and colour that make up a backyard garden; talking and singing quietly to themselves the whole time.  I deliberate plant gardens with as much variety as possible, both for the children and to provide a home for insects, lizards, birds and frogs and any other creature that finds its way in.
Recently the kids went outside to play in the sandpit only to discover it still contained the sandpit toys, but had been emptied of sand.  In amongst all the toys were slugs – lots of slugs.  Instead of being upset they sat in the empty sandpit letting the slugs glide over their hands for hours. Feeding them blades of grass, being fascinated by the slug’s mouth and how the optic and sensory tentacles retracted when touched.  Yes, they had to wash all the slime from their hands when they came inside, but they had fun.  They were peaceful.  They giggled.  They were gentle.  They enjoyed an amazing creature that we usually just try and eliminate from our gardens.

For an interesting look at how leopard slugs reproduce view the following video from the BBC wildlife show and hosted by Sir David Attenborough.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Wandering

I thought I’d start my first blog by talking about the wonderful 'butterflies' photo I’ve used as the backdrop for by blog. I love the contrasting colours with the brilliant blue Perth sky, the white of the grass tree flowers and the orange and black of the Monarch (Wanderer) Butterfly. The photo was actually taken by my 15 year old son (used with permission) when we went for a bush walk in the hills region of Perth.  
We stepped out into a clearing, with lots of wildflowers and grass trees in flower, nearly treading on the masses of butterflies.  They were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many butterflies in one place or anything so pretty before.  I raced off and grabbed the rest of our group to ‘come and see’.  This is the kind of nature experience that needs to be shared.