Wamboin Community Association

Nature Notes

by Jo Walker

Jo's articles usually appear in The Whisper on the month following the date of the article.

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The welcome rainfall of more than 50 mm towards the end of the month has spruced up the vegetation. And, with a bit more dampness forecast, it‘s likely we‘ll have a green landscape for Christmas.

Black Wattle trees (Acacia mearnsii) have been flowering along Sutton Road and, slightly later, into Wamboin. They are flowering so well this year that two trees I planted near the creek are mostly hidden in a cloud of cream flowers. This is a strange wattle, as it starts producing seed-pods from the previous year‘s flowering when in bud for the next season. The trees have produced more than the usual crop of seed-pods this year, but there won‘t be many left to ripen as the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos evidently find the green fruit delicious. The Gang-gangs feed on developing wattle seed-pods too sometimes. Another planted tree, the red-flowered Eucalyptus leucoxylon, is providing a feast too at present, with Noisy Friarbirds and a host of Red Wattlebirds squabbling over the nectar-filled blossoms.

But, it wasn‘t a good month for all of the birds. A pair of Magpies built a substantial nest in a large eucalypt near the house and were sitting on their eggs or guarding the nest for about a week. Then they were gone, after a few cursory inspections of the nest one day before it was abandoned. There are several Currawongs around and, recently, the occasional Raven has turned up, so I suppose one of them took the eggs.

The golden flowers of the Sticky Everlasting Daisy (Xerochrysum viscosum) are brightening up our roadsides, looking especially attractive where they are growing amongst the taller white-flowering Cauliflower Bushes (Cassinia longifolia). Unfortunately, seasons that are good for our native plants also favour some of the prevalent introduced weeds. This year, Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) has come up everywhere. One of its common names is Pink Stars. It‘s an attractive little plant with heads of bright pink flowers – but it‘s not one of ours and I‘m spending hours pulling it out right now before it flowers. The hours of stooping and pulling have had one advantage though. I‘ve found several patches of Polygala japonica in damp grassland areas after not having seen it for several years. It grows almost hidden amongst the grasses and has tiny purple flowers. It is in the same family (Polygalaceae) as the twining blue-flowered creeper, Comesperma volubile, which also grows here, and, at the moment, is covered in small green seed-pods.

One of the Eastern Grey Kangaroos here seems to have adopted a joey. Her own joey was one of the first to leave the pouch this year, and was already semi-independent. Then her mother appeared one morning with a small, paler furred joey peering out of the pouch. One of the other does, one of her sisters in fact, seems to have lost her joey. So it looks as if it might have been rescued by its aunt. Wamboin is full of interesting happenings!


A few centimetres of rain at the end of the month is keeping the grass green, and some of the Wallaby Grasses (Austrodanthonia spp.) are beginning to flower.

Interestingly, two of the grassland plants that often appear in large numbers are not doing so this spring. Early Nancies (Wurmbea dioica) were rather sparsely scattered, and the Billy Buttons (Craspedia variabilis) that are flowering at present are few in number and have smaller than usual flower-heads. Buttercups (Ranunculus lappaceus), on the other hand, seem to be having a good year, with eye-catching displays of glossy golden flowers.

Some of the heath plants have been putting on a good show too. Brachyloma daphnoides, the Daphne Heath, is a common plant in this area. This compact little shrub, usually about 60 cm tall, is covered in pale cream tubular flowers right now. The flowers are preceded by prominent pink buds.

Just about all of the local pea plants have flowered spectacularly this year. The mauve flowers of Indigofera australis (Australian Indigo) were crowded along the stems of every plant a few weeks ago. The tall Bitter Pea (Daviesia mimosoides) is waving its long stems covered in yellow and brown scented flowers. And the small Silky Parrot Peas (Dillwynia sericea) are contributing splashes of colour with their yellow and orange flowers. But, perhaps the most prolifically flowering pea this year is Pultenaea microphylla. These low-growing little shrubs are covered in bright orange flowers, completely hiding the foliage in some cases. They form a low, orange understorey under the trees on the high side of Sutton Road – there are also quite a few on the northern side of Norton Road at the top of the hill leading down to Sutton Road.

The local birds are still busy building nests. Another pair of Spotted Pardalotes are building a nest in the bank of my creek. Blue Wrens have a nest in a dense shrub further along the creek. And a pair of Magpies have just built a nest in the big Scribbly Gum near the house. A few days ago, I saw one of the Magpies lying on the verandah and thought it may have flown into one of the windows and injured itself. It was lying flat on its stomach with its wings stretched out either side, its head resting on the boards and its feather fluffed up. But, when I went out to investigate, it got up, shuffled its feathers, and flew off —probably a bit miffed, as I‘d obviously disturbed its sunbathing!

There are plenty of frogs calling from the dam, but no frog spawn has appeared yet. There seem to be a lot more yabbies in the dam than previously and they are making the water a bit muddy in places. A small pond below my dam always has always had clear water and a range of water-plants growing in it, but right now it is full of sloppy mud and large yabby holes, and some of the plants have died. But, that‘s nature – it changes things all the time.


Our piece of the countryside has had an interesting start to spring. The month began with pleasant warm days, leading up to the hottest September day for 30 years (27 degrees)—followed by a cold windy day including hail showers. But who would want boring predictable weather, anyway!

The local wattles have put on a magnificent display this year, especially the Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and Redstem Wattle (A. rubida) which have brightened up the hillsides with large patches of yellow.

The little white and maroon flowers of Early Nancy (Wurbea dioica) are blooming, but not in the abundance of last year. Most of our local plants seem to have good and not so good years when it comes to flowering, depending on the previous year‘s temperatures, rainfall and probably several additional factors. The buttercups (Ranunculus lappaceus) are having a good year though, with a scattering of golden flowers already appearing amongst the grasses.

An interesting find on my place was another Comesperma volubile climbing through a shrub at the top of the hill and in full flower. This is the second one to appear here, the seed probably brought in by birds. It is a very delicate creeper, but can produce a tangle of slender stems as it clambers through the foliage of other plants. Right now, it is covered in small bright blue flowers. The closely related Heath Milkwort, C. ericinum, is also sometimes found in this area (and there is a substantial population at Brooks Hill Reserve near Bungendore). It is a rather rigid, upright small shrub with striking pinkish mauve flowers.

Another interesting discovery was a patch of Nodding Greenhood Orchids (Pterostylis nutans) growing on a steep and somewhat shaded hillside at Bywong. This species flowers from winter into spring, bearing green and whitish flowers with sometimes a tinge of rusty brown on the tips of the petals.

The birds are all busy nesting or rearing young at present. A pair of Spotted Pardalotes have built a nest in the vertical creek bank just above my dam. These small birds, only about 10 cm tall, are very colourful. The male has black wings, back and crown densely covered in distinct white spots. These, with a bright yellow throat and reddish rump, make it an attractive and unmistakeable little bird. The female lacks the yellow throat, but is otherwise just as colourful. These small birds build a long narrow tunnel into steep banks and construct a nest in the chamber they excavate at the end of the tunnel. The related Eastern Striated Pardalotes usually nest in a hollow tree branch.

Lizards are getting active again, too, often pausing in their journeys to soak up some warmth on a sunny stretch of road. I moved a Bearded Dragon off a local road a few days ago, but most of the death-defying lizards are slow-moving Shinglebacks. The local Shinglebacks are a uniform blackish colour, but further west and into South Australia (where I had a recent trip) they are mottled with brown and cream scales.


Although we‘ve had some very white frosty mornings this month, the days are becoming pleasantly warm and spring-like. We‘ll probably get a few more cold or wet days before spring really arrives, but the wattles are beginning to flower, the frogs are croaking in the dam and the birds are singing and calling and generally acting as if it‘s almost nesting time again.

The local echidnas seem to have been active all winter judging by the number of times they have excavated large holes in the meat ant nests. Wolf Spiders are already active too. These are the large spiders seen sitting at the entrance of holes in the ground waiting for some careless food item to wander past. They make a circular lid constructed of silken web and soil which covers the hole‘s entrance during winter, but these spiders also must sense that spring is imminent, as I‘ve seen several in or near their homes during the last week.

And, this morning, a tiny Grass Skink dashed across a sun-warmed patch of rocky ground. It was very small, probably one that emerged from its egg in autumn. These little lizards lay up to five whitish leathery eggs, buried in shallow soil. The young usually hatch in February or March, fully formed and able to move rapidly away as soon as they burst out of their egg case.

Some of the grasses are beginning to put out a bit of new growth, and the tiny Schoenus apogon plants that came up on any patch of moist bare ground during the rains last spring seem to be perennial plants as they have survived the winter. They are small rush-plants, usually not much more than 10 cm tall here, with fine, bright green leaves that take on an orange tinge during winter.

The Grey Butcher-birds have been noisy recently—pleasantly so, though, as they have a melodious call. They seem to keep to their own territory—there is a family of them across the road from here and another in the forest reserve at the top of Poppet Hill. I saw one recently sitting on a fence at the southern end of Sutton Road, watching intently something in the grass below. It flew down suddenly and effortlessly grabbed its meal—a lizard or large insect, I think—and carried it back to the fence in its beak.

Early in the month, we had a day or two of gale-force winds. There seemed to be no birds brave enough to take to the air in such difficult conditions. But the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos weren‘t going to miss their evening feed here. They came in, a few at a time, expertly swooping and diving and travelling at breakneck speed, successfully battling the furious wind. It was a magnificent sight. They do cause a lot of damage around the place (nobody who lives elsewhere than Wamboin, Bywong or similar areas will quite believe these lovely birds can remove lead chimney flashing), but can be forgiven after a spectacular aerobatic display like that!


Another month with very little rain – and some really white frosts. But there is still plenty of grass growing for the kangaroos, and the buds on the Silver Wattles (Acacia dealbata) are beginning to show a tinge of yellow. Acacia genistifolia (Early Wattle) has already had a display of pale cream flowers for some time now, and the cream flowers of the Urn Heath (Melichrus urceolatus) and the taller heath plant, Styphelia triflora, are still providing nectar for the honeyeaters.

Some plants seem not to have noticed the winter. The Hoary Sunray (Leucochrysum albicans) is still producing papery white flowers and the tall pea-bush (Dillwynia sieberi, formerly D. juniperina) has a scatter of yellow flowers adorning its prickly foliage.

Three patches of a native waterlily (Ottelia ovatifolia) appeared on the surface of the dam this year. This plant has eye-catching three-petalled white flowers with maroon centres, and, as one plant had ten large buds on it, I was looking forward to its flowering. Unfortunately, the buds are a tasty food item for birds that come to the dam. The Pacific Black Ducks are regular visitors and the probable culprits – but it‘s nice to have them around.

The gale-force winds last week didn‘t do as much damage as they could have done. Last month, on a windy day, a large Eucalyptus goniocalyx (Bundy) across the creek lost three huge branches. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are already busy gouging out the rotten wood to form nesting hollows.

The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos paid one of their regular visits yesterday. Sometimes only a dozen or so drop off at my place while the others continue on to surrounding properties, but this time fifty or more spent the day here. They had a great time on the Hakea salicifolia plants, munching chunks out of the woody fruit to reach the hidden seed – and managed to do quite a bit of pruning too.

I‘ve seen two bushflies this month – unusual as they are usually gone by the end of May. Although we had another white frost this morning, the temperature reached 16 degrees yesterday and seems set to do almost the same today. Feels almost like spring!


April has been a dry month so far, although the grass is still green and a few grasses are still flowering.

Although not much is flowering at present, the Urn Heath (Melichrus urceolatus) and Styphelia triflora, the taller heath plant with equally pungent leaves, are both covered in creamy-white flowers. Both plants produce a lot of nectar, a welcome winter food source for Honeyeaters.

There are several patches of Little Dumpy Orchids (Diplodium truncatum) displaying their green and white striped hoods, some already turning a rusty colour with age. A more delicate little orchid, Parson‘s Bands (Eriochilus cucullatus) has also made an appearance.

The little band of Red-browed Finches has built up to a small flock, not surprising considering the amount of nesting they carried out here. I was watching one of these attractive little birds near the shadehouse a few days ago feeding on some grass seeds. The bird clasped the base of the grass stem in its beak then slid its beak to the top of the stem, catching all the seed as it went.

A few days ago, there were two Speckled Warblers scratching around in the leaf litter under some tall stringybark trees. I‘d seen a single one recently, but it was encouraging to see a pair of them. I hadn‘t seen them for almost two years and was afraid they had succumbed to predation by the odd fox that passes through—they are rather vulnerable as they nest under tussocks or other low-growing vegetation. Two other birds that visited after a long absence were the local pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles, one noticeably smaller than the other. They flew over quite low, dived on and chased by angry Magpies and Currawongs, and one seemed to have something clutched in its talons.

A recent interesting but tragic find was a Dusky Antechinus (one of the marsupial mice) which had tried to get a drink out of a bucket and had slipped in and drowned. They are very different to introduced pest rodents. This one, a male, was about 10 cm long with a tail of similar length (the females are slightly smaller). The fur was short, very soft and dark brown, and the head was triangular, wide above the eyes and tapering to a thin delicate nose. Years ago, a Dunnart turned up here too. That little marsupial mouse has pale grey fur grading to a white chest and stomach and larger eyes and ears than the Antechinus. It‘s good to see these little animals are still sharing Wamboin with us.


The continuous rain is keeping the countryside still green. Some of the grasses are still flowering and seeding, especially the Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides). An amazing number of seedlings of both local and planted species are germinating here -- lots of little wattles and eucalypts, Trigger Plants (Stylidium graminifolium), several peas and at least one heath plant. And that‘s just the locals! Seedlings of planted Grevilleas, Mint Bushes, Pomaderris and Hop Bushes are also making an appearance. Unfortunately, so too are some weeds – near the house, they are probably a product of the bird seed, but further afield bird droppings are contributing briars, blackberries and nightshade plants. Weeding is becoming a constant job.

After years of seeing only one or two sporadically, a little flock of Red-browed Finches (about ten) has returned. Just as I was getting ready to remove two or three large briar bushes near the house, these little birds have built two nests in them! A Willie Wagtail has also turned up again after a long absence. And, another bird not seen for a while arrived in a mixed group of birds a few days ago – the not very common Speckled Warbler. I could see one clearly, but there may have been a pair of them. The Brown Goshawk made another hurried appearance last week, flying over with a lizard hanging from its beak.

On the subject of lizards, there was a beautiful Bearded Dragon lying on Norton Road one day recently. It seemed to be only slightly injured, so I picked it up and took it home, but a car had driven over the front of its skull and it died a short time later. It was probably a very old lizard, the biggest one of that species I‘ve seen, with mostly grey scales on its head and body but orange-yellow colouring on its legs and tail – a magnificent animal.

There are a lot of spiders around this year, and walking between bushes too often results in webs across my glasses or a spider hitching a ride. There was a huge female Wolf Spider in a mouse-sized hole near the shadehouse recently. Every day, she brought her large grey egg-sac (15 or more millimetres across) up to the entrance of the hole and held it where the sun‘s warmth could reach it. With such care, the tiny spiderlings soon hatched, and, after she‘d carried them around on her back for a few days looking like a strange furry creature, they left their safe place to lead a life of their own. Scorpions are breeding at present, too. Twice recently, I‘ve moved a rock and found a large female scorpion with about a dozen soft-bodied, white young on her back.

Since all of the rain that‘s fallen, the natural world has livened up immensely, and any time spent outside turns up all sorts of wondrous activities above, on or under the surface of the earth.


All the rain we‘ve had over the last two months has made for a green summer and lots of new growth on the local trees and shrubs. We were only on the edge of the downpour that resulted in the flooding of Queanbeyan, but the Wamboin creeks must have increased the volume of the Yass River with their flows. A few days after water had poured over the floodway of my dam, I noticed something large and yellowish lying amongst the sedges in a washout. It turned out to be a large (and, unfortunately, freshly dead) Golden Perch. How did it get there? Well, twenty-five years ago, soon after I purchased my piece of land, fifty Golden Perch fingerlings went into the dam (after a journey from a fishery at Narranderra to Queanbeyan railway station). There was a huge storm during the next week, and I assumed they‘d all been washed into neighbouring dams as, over the years, there were no sightings of any of these fish. So, what a surprise to find a 3 kg specimen after all that time. My creek runs under Poppet Road, through several properties, then does a north turn under Norton Road and continues on to the Yass River. I wonder if anyone else found an unexpected fish?

The cream trunks of the Scribbly Gums (Eucalyptus rossii) are noticeable in the landscape at the moment as they are shedding most or all of their bark this year, even the very old trees – possibly because of the growth they have experienced after the welcome rainfall. This moisture doesn‘t seem to have helped the Red Stringybarks (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) some of which are still dying back – this has been happening for some years now in the local area with the drought being blamed for their condition, but perhaps there is something else causing the problem.

The Native Cherry or Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) is living up to its name this year, with several trees at my place bearing a good crop of tasty orange and red fruit. Crimson Rosellas amongst the foliage suggested that they were a source of a snack for the birds as well as me.

The various honeyeaters had a good time this summer, with many of their favourite shrubs flowering profusely. They seem to be rather territorially aggressive birds, with Eastern Spinebills, White-eared Honeyeaters and Red Wattle-birds spending a lot of time chasing each other away from a plentiful food source. The Red Wattle-birds continue to build their fragile stick nests in exposed positions. Surprisingly, they manage to rear more than replacement levels of young, although one pair of birds who built their nest in clear sight of every creature lost their eggs recently—probably to a watchful Currawong.

Lots of day-flying, black and white moths (with orange and black banded bodies) have been fluttering around near (and sometimes inside) the house for most of the last month. These are Nyctemera amica, and their spiky, dark-coloured caterpillars have been feeding in their hundreds on Senecio quadridentatus, one of the native Fireweeds, sometimes to the point of complete defoliation. At present, there are almost as many Common Brown butterflies (Heteronympha merope), often rising in a fluttering cloud from the shade of a bush where they shelter in the heat of the day.

A profusely-flowering white Kunzea ambigua, planted in my driveway, attracted swarms of flies and beetles. The flowers, heavily laden with nectar, are honey-scented, a perfume noticeable at some distance. One morning, there were more than a dozen Fiddler Beetles (Eupoecile australasiae) feeding there. These are large scarab beetles, dark brown and shiny with curved bright yellow markings on their wing cases and thorax, a striking sight..

With so many birds nesting and trees fruiting, it‘s odd to realize there is a noticeable auditory absence in our area. Not one Koel has been heard calling during this cuckoo‘s usual visiting season, at least not on this side of Wamboin.



Spring continues to be beyond any expectations we've held for a long while. The rains continued into November, and, because the temperatures have been so mild, the local plants have had a relatively long flowering season.

In the damper areas, the Buttercups, Bulbine Lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) and Billy Buttons (Craspedia variabilis) have almost finished flowering now, and their place is being taken by yellow Scaly Buttons (Leptorhynchos squamatus) and the golden, star-shaped flowers of the little Hypoxis hygrometrica.

On the drier slopes, the white flowers of Prickly Starwort (Stellaria pungens) are more noticeable than they have been for some years. These flowers are somewhat daisy-like, but this little plant, which can sucker over a wide area, is actually in the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). And, of course, the real daisies are coming into their own right now—most spectacularly the Sticky Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum), their golden papery flowers adorning long stretches of the roadways around Wamboin. Over the past twenty years, these and other daisy species have proliferated in the region, probably because daisies are more drought-tolerant than many other plants.

There have been plenty of orchids in evidence too. I counted over seventy Tiger Orchids (Diuris sulphurea) amongst the Red-anther Wallaby-grass tussocks on my place, and Musky Caps (Stegostyla moschata), named for the musky scent of the flowers, is growing in the forest just over the fence. Two Needle-point Rustyhoods (Oligochaetochilus aciculiformis) made an appearance, and several pale blue Slender Sun Orchids (Thelymitra pauciflora) flowered in wet seepage areas after many years of absence.

The birds are all still busy feeding nestlings and fledglings. Although I haven‘t seen their nest, the White-eared Honeyeaters are disappearing into the bushes near the creek with beakfuls of insects, so presumably they have young ones there. Four Ravens recently came searching for food in front of the house—a pair of adults with two extremely vociferous young ones begging for food. The Pied Currawong population seems to have increased lately, not a good thing for the lizards and other small creatures—one bird flew past me under the carport a few days ago with the limp body of a small lizard clamped firmly in its beak. Currawongs have a habit of regurgitating large pellets of undigested food, usually full of a variety of seed. At present, they consist mainly of the green skins and woody seed of the Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis). There were 74 seed in one pellet, so there might be a few small forests around in the near future!

Years ago, there were several Red-browed Finches here. They nested, reared their young very successfully, and the population grew to over twenty birds. Then one day, they all took off and didn't return. But, last week, a pair of these attractive little birds were feeding in the garden. I've seen them once or twice since, so hope they start the process again and produce another little flock.


With the weather warming up and still more rain falling, the countryside is looking positively lush and better than we’ve seen it for many years now.

Some of the more moisture-loving plants are in their element this spring. The little white and maroon Early Nancies (Wurmbea dioica) grew too thickly in some places to walk between them, and some were almost twice their usual height. Most of them have finished flowering now and are carrying sturdy seed capsules. I’ve always had a few Yam Daisies (Microseris lanceolata) making an appearance on my place in spring, but , this year, there are forty or more in soakage areas at the top of the hill. And the swaying heads of the Billy Buttons (Craspedia variabilis) are huge this year too. Strangely, the tiny succulent Australian Stonecrop (Crassula sieberana) which most often grows in dry rocky places is also enjoying the rain and taking over any bare ground. Another plant filling the spaces between the grasses is Hydrocotyle laxiflora – this one is ground-hugging, with round, scalloped leaves and globose heads of yellowish-green flowers. A patch of it can look quite attractive, but it has one drawback. The strong scent of the flowers is similar to a pig-stye long overdue for a clean-out!

White flowers always stand out in the landscape, and the Hoary Sunrays (Leucochrysum albicans) growing along Denley Drive and increasing their range along Weeroona Drive are a picture this year. I’ve naturalized them on my place and have several extensive populations. Something is nipping off some of the flowers at the moment – the cockatoos and rosellas possibly, but Shingleback Lizards like to ingest flowers too and might be amongst the culprits. Cream Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) are also displaying their tall, cylindrical flowerheads of tiny creamy-white flowers.

Some of the birds are still nesting. The baby magpies in their nest high in a stringybark tree along the creek are keeping their parents busy searching for food. One pair of Red Wattlebirds already have fledgelings following them around through the grevillea bushes while another pair is still feeding nestlings nearby. Brown Thornbills and White-browed Scrubwrens are also flying around with beaks full of insects to their well-hidden nests. A few days ago, an aggressive group of Noisy Miners were harassing a White-faced Heron in a tree down by the dam, until the poor bird flapped off to find another roost. I’ve seen Miners attacking Herons before – possibly mistaking them for raptors.

During winter, there were two groups of Imperial White (Delias harpalyce) caterpillars feeding on mistletoes here. These later pupated on the silken mats they had spun over the leaves. Some pupae retained an orange colour, although most of them turned black. I thought this might have been a sign that some of them had died, but recently butterflies have been emerging from pupae of both colours. They are beautiful butterflies, with patterns of black and white on the upper surface of their wings and patches of red, yellow, black and white on the under-surface. They hang for several hours after emerging, expanding and drying their wings.

A bit more rain fell this morning, and now the sun is shining on the kangaroos resting on the hillside and watching the grass grow.


Good rainfall continued into September with almost 60 mm in my rain gauge so far this month. Not quite as welcome was the day of gale-force winds at the beginning of September that brought down three large eucalypt trees on my place—all well away from the house fortunately!

The expanses of bright green grass are now liberally dotted with the white and maroon flowers of Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica), and the swaying golden heads of the Billy Buttons (Craspedia variabilis) are just appearing. And, of course, the wattles are still producing splashes of colour on the hillsides and along the roads.

The local birds are frenetically building nests or feeding their young. A few weeks ago, there were two ‘roos basking in the sunshine on the slope across the creek. They were soon joined by a White-eared Honeyeater which proceeded to divest them of some of their fur for a nest. It landed on their backs, grabbed a tuft of fur in its beak and rose, flapping its wings furiously, until the soft fur came loose. It was flying back and forth to its nest with its booty for nearly half an hour. The ‘roos occasionally reached round with a vague swipe of the paw, but seemed pretty unconcerned with the bird’s actions.

The Magpies built their nest, as they have done for many years, in one of the old Red Stringybark trees along the creek. Sadly, one of the adults was lying dead under the tree just as the nestlings were starting to call for food. Fortunately, the other adult stayed around and continued to rear them. The pair of Red Wattle-birds whose territory covers the grevilleas and mistletoes at the top of the hill have built their usual rather flimsy nest high in a large grevillea there. Up along the creek, a pair of White-browed Scrub-wrens built a well-hidden domed nest in a dense clump of Carex appressa. This was in an area where the water rushed down a while later in one of the heavier downpours we were experiencing at the time – but the little birds had chosen well with a site just above the water-line. Just above the dam on my place there is a deep section of gully – last week I saw a little Spotted Pardalote disappearing into the shadows with a beak full of bark fibre. These attractive small birds build their nests in a tunnel, up to 60 cm long, excavated in the banks of creeks or in cliff faces.

The lizards have been out and about for a while now – some of them tempting fate by sunning themselves on the local roads. I removed a Bearded Dragon from a Wamboin road a few days ago – it had obviously risked its life before, as it had a rather short stubby tail rather than the long tapering one it should have been sporting. Shinglebacks are lumbering around, Jacky Lizards darting along fallen logs and Grass Skinks searching avidly for the odd insect, but the Cunningham’s Skinks are yet to make an appearance on their family log.

Recently, a short burrow was excavated close to one of the house walls over a period of several nights. I thought at first it was probably a rabbit, but there were no droppings. Then, one morning, the hole had been filled and the soil neatly tamped down. A mystery so far – hopefully, something interesting will eventuate.

Lastly, one of those Wamboin moments that stay in the memory. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have been spending some time in the afternoons carefully demolishing the wattle tree in front of the house, leaving a carpet of wattle flowers on short stems. Sometimes the kangaroos will pick them up and nibble the flowers. A few days ago, at dusk, I walked round the corner of the house and surprised five half-grown ‘roos there. They know me so didn’t take off – but stood there, bolt upright, each clutching a bunch of golden wattle blossom as if they were about to present me with their bouquets. What a lovely picture!


After all that beautiful rain this month, over 50mm here, the dam is full, the creek is still trickling and springs and soakage areas on the hillsides are keeping the ground soggy. In a shallow valley at the top of the hill on my place, the water seeps down long after the rain is over, forming small puddles between the grass tussocks. At present, many of these look like miniature paddy-fields with minute green whiskers growing in them – possibly grass, but there are a lot of Onion Orchids (Microtis parviflora) putting up leaves nearby and the tiny seedlings may be their offspring developing from last year’s seeds..

Although we are still getting heavy winter frosts some mornings, some of the birds are getting a bit territorial, and, in the first week of July, one of the magpies was flying up along the creek with a beak full of large twigs!

Over the last few years, I have occasionally seen Satin Bowerbirds here – usually one or two females. But recently, there were two females feeding just down from the house, then another – and then the handsome, glossy blue-black male joined them and they foraged around for some time. Although they are fruit-eating birds, they will also feed on insects. This group was digging into the grasses and herbaceous plants, possibly for insects although they also seemed to be pulling off and swallowing some of the leaves.

The honeyeaters – Red Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills and White-eared Honeyeaters – are all busy feeding on the few winter-flowering plants. The White-eared Honeyeater seems to prefer Grevillea flowers, while the other two spend a lot of time feeding on the cream flowers of the prickly little Urn Heath, Melichrus urceolatus. Brachyloma daphnoides, another heath, is still in bud but very attractive with distinctive pink flower-buds.

While I was cutting up some dead Silver Wattles recently, I found about 40 ladybirds of two different species, sheltering under a loose piece of bark. Years ago, it was a common event to find many different insects and spiders under bark, but during the drought these got fewer and fewer – probably making life difficult for tree creepers and sittellas. So it was good to see the ladybirds (they were carefully removed to a safe new shelter).

Another insect surprise was a group of large bristly, reddish caterpillars feeding on Amyema pendulum, one of the local mistletoes. These were the larvae of the Imperial White Butterfly (Delias harpalyce). A few have disappeared since then, possibly eaten by birds, but the remaining caterpillars are spinning a fine film of silk over the leaves and stems of the mistletoe prior to pupating. The pupae are suspended on the silk film until mature. The butterflies all emerge at the same time and hang there for a few hours until their wings have expanded and dried, a fleetingly beautiful sight I look forward to.


The last week of May has brought us more rain than the rest of the month, 23 mm so far in my rain gauge and it’s raining gently this morning. The landscape is still green and so far there have only been one or two light frosts. There has been a good germination of grasses over the last month or two – tiny threads of bright green are beginning to cover patches of bare earth in damper areas. It seems that the grass seeds need soils to stay moist for a while before they germinate, as the shallow soils that dry out quickly after rain are still devoid of seedlings.

The Little Dumpy Orchids (Diplodium truncatum) have just about finished flowering, the best display in a long time. These little greenhood orchids can survive years without flowering, their presence indicated only by patches of green rosettes growing flat to the ground. The rains earlier this year must have fallen at just the right time, and, for the first time in over 15 years, they have flowered abundantly, their large white and green hoods appeared in dense groups - a beautiful sight after such a long absence.

The Gang Gang parrots have been much in evidence recently, noticeable by their loud, creaking calls. After that flush of flowers on the Red Stringybarks (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) that brought in the Lorikeets two months ago, a lot of seed capsules are forming and these seem to be one of the favourite foods of the Gang Gangs. The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are still paying an occasional visit, tearing chunks of wood out of the wattles in search of grubs. A less acceptable activity of these large birds is their habit of collecting pine cones in Kowen Forest and carrying them into Wamboin to tear to pieces in search of the seeds – some of which drop to the ground to produce unwanted pine trees.

Some 20 years ago when I first came to live here, there was a permanent family of White-winged Choughs who used to feed near the house. The family grew and divided into two amicable groups, but a third, very aggressive group came in and caused disturbance for a while until all three groups left. Since then, a few have occasionally turned up, but, yesterday, a large flock of seventeen birds, followed soon after by another ten, flew over from a neighbour’s property. Nice to see a healthy, thriving flock still around. A few of the Noisy Miner flock, which until now has commanded a territory at one corner of my land (noisily mobbing any intruder, including snakes) have decided on change of location and have been feeding on the slope below the house for several days. Although they are honey-eaters, they also feed on insects and have spend considerable time turning over rocks with their beaks to find a tasty snack.

A pair of Rose Robins made their appearance this month amongst the shrubbery under the stand of Candlebark trees (Eucalyptus rubida) along the creek. They are birds of moist gullies and they are usually seen in the wetter forests, but seem to spend time in this area during autumn or winter.

The rain is still falling, and a group of Galahs are hanging upside down from a long tree branch close by, screeching and with their wing flapping, enjoying and making the most of a wet day.


A little more rain at the beginning of the month has kept the landscape green and the grass growing. Most noticeable is the Redleg Grass growing along many of the local roadsides at present, the tall reddish stems topped with elongated dark seed heads.

The ground is still damp enough to support the growth of quite a few different fungi. This year, I haven’t seen the large brown fungi that often emerge from the ground near eucalypt trees, but several sizeable ones came up at a friend’s place on Cooper Road. This fungus, Phlebopus marginatus, is one of the largest Australian fungi, the flattish brown caps often growing to almost a metre across, supported by wide, robust stems. They are in the group of fleshy-spore fungi – the underside of the cap consists of dense spongy material rather than the gills more commonly seen on toadstools.

Last month, I mentioned some small green parrots, seen at a distance, and made a guess that they might have been Swift Parrots. Denise Hales contacted me and said they’d been at her place and looked like Rainbow Lorikeets, not a bird I thought we’d ever see in Wamboin. Later, a small flock of the birds visited one of the still-flowering stringybark trees on my place, but moved on before I could get a good look at them. Denise rang several times, while I was elsewhere, to say they were still turning up at her place. Finally, we synchronised our activities, and I left my dinner one evening to hurry up the road to view the elusive birds. They sat in one of Denise’s trees at only a few metres distance, lit up by the setting sun. And, yes! They were Rainbow Lorikeets! They are still in the area, but the flowers of the Red Stringybarks (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) are past their main flush, so these attractive little birds will probably soon move on. A few Dusky Wood-swallows have been flying around over the last few weeks too, probably migrating through the area to a warmer place for winter.

Last year, at about this time, I found two tiny Horned Midge Orchids (Corunastylis cornuta) on my place. Although they are less than 10 cm tall and very well camouflaged, I managed to find the group again recently, only this time there were four tiny flower stems. The six or seven minute flowers are yellowish green and maroon with the dorsal sepal turned back to resemble a pair of horns. A surprise orchid find was a group of five tall Greenhood Orchids growing up through a Joycea pallida (Red-anther Wallaby Grass) tussock. They appeared to be Diplodium decurvum, but these are supposed to prefer moister sites than the north-facing dry slope on which they were growing.

There are quite a few Wood White butterflies (Delias aganippe) flying around at the moment. There were four inspecting a Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) tree near the house this morning, probably looking for a place to lay their eggs – their larvae feed on this plant, but also on several species of mistletoes. There are also some Small Grass Yellows (Eurema smilax) flitting about near the Sennas, their preferred larval food-plant.

Although we’re already through the first month of autumn, there is still a lot of activity around the place – and, yesterday, the earliest of the new season’s kangaroo joeys peeped out of its mother’s pouch and had its first look at the world.


What an amazing transformation since last month. When I wrote the Notes in January, the hot, dry and windy weather had parched the landscape to a depressing extent. And then the rains came – a storm in the first week of February and then several days of sustained rainfall during the next week, 125 mm in all at my place. The grasses grew with incredible speed, and, within a few days, the countryside underwent a green transformation. What a wonderful way to end the summer!

Although I hadn’t noticed field mushrooms here for several years, the recent combination of moisture and warm days must have been just right for them. Several large circles have come up so far. There are similar, but poisonous, fungi in this area, so I don’t include home-grown mushrooms on the menu. In addition to the ground fungi, there is also a large white plate fungus protruding from high on the trunk of an old Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) along the creek.

This year, some of the Stringybarks are flowering profusely, and the flowers are full of nectar. A group of these trees grow not far from my house, and, a few evenings ago, the air was heavy with the scent of honey. I haven’t noticed many native insects on the flowers, but the honey-bees have certainly found them. The honeyeaters, too. The White-eared Honeyeaters were getting very excited, calling loudly to each other as they flew from tree to tree. They were sharing the feast with Eastern Spinebills, Red Wattlebirds and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. This abundance of food may have brought in other visitors too. While I was collecting the newspaper a few mornings ago, two small flocks of small green parrots passed me and flew rapidly up the road. They were moving at such speed that it was impossible to get a good look at them, but I think they were probably Swift Parrots. I hadn’t seen them here before, but they are nomadic and move around seeking areas where eucalypts are flowering.

Apart from the Stringybarks, not much else is flowering at present except for the little Native St. John’s Wort (Hypericum gramineum) and Cassinia quinquefaria, one of the daisy bushes. The pyramid-shaped clusters of silky greenish cream flowers of the Cassinia are also strongly honey-scented, although this seems to vary a bit from plant to plant. During the recent drier years, these and other species of Cassinia have proliferated and provide a favoured habitat for some of the smaller birds, particularly the little Superb Blue Wrens and White-browed Scrub-wrens.

Standing by the edge of the dam recently, watching a turtle surface, I knocked a large piece of bark from a small Candlebark tree and was surprised to find a group of five Peron’s Tree-frogs clinging to the smooth stem. The frogs seem to be surviving well in spite of the drought, judging by the number of different frog calls emanating from the dam after the recent rain.

Eastern Water Skinks (Eulamprus quoyii) inhabit the coast and coastal ranges, so we don’t see them here. But they’re not too far away. Some friends and I had an intriguing interaction with one when we were walking in Monga National Park, east of Braidwood, recently. We’d sat down on some fallen tree trunks for lunch when a Water Skink darted out from under a log and sat watching us. Although they eat tadpoles, beetles and other insects, and probably any other small thing that moves, they include native berries and fruits in their diet. We didn’t have any of these, but flipped a few pieces of banana the lizard’s direction and it pounced on and swallowed them. When someone stood up, it dashed onto the log and picked up some crumbs and chewed them. And, as we were leaving, the Water Skink dropped to the ground, picked up a piece of cooked chicken that had dropped out of a sandwich and took off with it. A chance meeting that gave us – and probably the lizard – a day to remember!


A hot, windy month with hardly a drop of rain is not a good start to the year. The last few days of temperatures well above thirty degrees has bleached the landscape. In fact, the last two months have been marked by the absence of events that usually occur at this time of the year.

One of the most noticeable of these was the lack of seed produced by many of the local plants this year. Local Pomaderris shrubs, especially Pomaderris angustifolia, usually produce masses of seed, and Crimson Rosellas often spend hours nibbling the seed from the small capsules. This year, the capsules simply dried up and fell off without producing seed. The Burgan bushes (Kunzea ericoides) usually hold their white flowers for several weeks and are abuzz with flies and beetles. But, this year, two or three extremely hot days shrivelled the flowers almost as soon as they appeared. Even the wattles and pea plants produced few viable seed.

There also seemed to be little action on the butterfly front. I did see a couple of Wood Whites (Delias aganippe) flitting around the Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) looking for an egg-laying site. But, although there were plenty of male Common Browns (Heteronympha merope merope) flying around a few weeks ago, I saw only one female butterfly of this species. Usually, there are plenty of caterpillars of the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa kershawi) on the Senecio quadridentatus, the Grey Fireweed that occasionally occurs in weed-like quantities. This year, there seemed to be very few of these caterpillars, and even those disappeared very quickly – probably snapped up by hungry birds.

On a more positive note, there are plenty of little Superb Blue Wrens and White-browed Scrub-wrens around, twittering and mobbing in the thick vegetation along the creek. Several Red Wattle-birds have built nests here this year (rather fragile, untidy structures) and have reared some young birds. I haven’t seen (or heard) any baby galahs though, and only two Crimson Rosella juveniles have appeared on the scene.

The Cunningham’s Skink family, whose home is a large old Yellow Box log along the creek, is increasing. It’s sometimes possible to see six or seven of these robust lizards basking on their log or peeping from a hole, and, a few days ago, there were two very small additions to the family. Cunningham’s Skinks are about 30 cm long, dark brown to blackish in colour with lighter spots or patterns and a rim of white around the eyes. The top side of the tail is markedly spiny. They give birth to live young.

A few evenings ago, I was gazing out of the window at dusk when a medium-sized brown raptor (possibly a Brown Goshawk) swooped down and caught a young rabbit feeding unwarily on the hillside. Rabbits seem to be the one food source that is possibly on the increase this year.


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