Taking a closer look at insects

At our last meeting we were pleased to present 5 members with  club life membership. Each has been a member for over 40 years which is a very impressive contribution. This was followed by a guest speaker who is also one of our members, Bill Elder.

Bill gave an interesting talk about how his interest in insects began and developed then he moved onto how to identify the main groups. You may see his passion reflected in the carefully curated collections below.

While there is a wealth of information available these days to assist with identification it is worthwhile developing some skills to know some basic features to look for to get started. The tips are:

  • get a hand lens for use in the field
  • a microscope is useful for finer detail
  • take lots of photos close up and from different angles
  • take note of the food plants, insect life stages, colour, behavior, size and what plants you see them on.

The following handouts prepared by Bill, are on the main distinguishing features of the common orders of insects and a list of field guides and other related books.

If you are interested in insects here the link to The Entomological Society of Victoria

 

 

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Putting fungi on the map

This time of year is when fungi are most visible as their fruiting bodies emerge from the soil after rain. Fungi go about their important business of breaking down matter unnoticed, but if they suddenly stop playing their role in our environment we would certainly notice. They are a major nutrient recycler and play a vital role in our ecosystem. Many plants and animals rely on fungi.

Sadly, only about half the fungi in Victoria have been formally described and we don’t really know how widely they are distributed across the state. Not all fungi are common and we don’t know how many should be listed as rare or endangered. So far there is only one, Tea-tree Fingers, in that category. Continue reading

Beachcombing on the Bellarine

Usually we report on the club excursion each month but there isn’t one for the planned trip to the Bellarine Peninsular because it had to be cancelled. Instead here are a few recent photos from the beach at Edwards Point St Leonards. The Sand Snail ‘jelly sausage’ is interesting and I remember seeing them when the club visited in 2012. Here is a link  to some more information about them.

Here is a useful brochure by Parks Victoria if you would like to know some more about what you see on the beach. EXPLORE-ON-YOUR-OWN-Beachcombing

 

One view of trees

Our next meeting is this 7.30pm Friday 1 March at the Federation Uni building on the corner of Gillies and Gregory Street, Wendouree. It is the Annual General Meeting and some members will also show images of trees.

To start us off on the tree theme here are few photos taken from the fire tower on the top on Mt Buninyong. Encouraging to see lots of trees in the landscape. The bottom photo shows the new wind towers that are gradually filling the air space towards Mt Egerton.

Out and About

 

 

Have you ever visited the Loddon Falls Reserve near Glenlyon, the scenery is magnificent and the Manna Gums are huge?

 

 

Another place to visit is the Spargo Creek Mineral Springs off the Daylesford Road. On a visit at Christmas time we noticed twining fringe-lily and podolepis, which we hadn’t noticed there before. Take some bottles as the mineral water is very pleasant.

 

There has been plenty to see out and about lately. On our Facebook page we reported on the sighting of Dianella amoena, Matted Flax-lily at Victoria Park Ballarat, a plants listed as endangered. We have added a link for blog subscribers, on the right hand side of the page about halfway down, if you want to see the latest on our Facebook page.

Dianella amoena

More Enfield Flowers

These photos have been supplied by Emily and relate back to our club excursion to Enfield Forest in November.

We look forward to seeing members and visitors tonight for our last club meeting for this year. Members will be sharing a few of their highlights from this year, 7.30 pm at the Fed Uni Campus on the corner of Gillies St and Gregory St Wendouree.

Beacon Hill

Mt Misery Garden

Surface Point

Among the Enfield Flowers

Over 30 people gathered at Little Hard Hills Hotel, Enfield on Sunday 4 November 2018. Our numbers were swelled by members of the Geelong Field Naturalists Club and visitors who had attended the Stella Bedggood Memorial Lecture on Friday night.

We entered Enfield State Park at Misery Creek Road and traveled to Surface Point picnic area. The walking track passed through an area where the topsoil had been removed during the gold mining period leaving the clay subsoil.

Surface Hill Diggings

Surface Hill Diggings

Broad-leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus dives, Brown Stringybark E. baxteri and Candlebark E. rubida provided the overstorey. Small plants growing here included Slender Speedwell Veronica gracilis, Trailing Goodenia Goodenia lanata, St John’s Wort Hypericum gramineum, Common Rice-flower Pimelea humilis, Grey Parrot-pea Dillwynia cinerascens and Small Rustyhood Pterostylis pusilla. Three short, thick, asparagus-like stems of a Hyacinth Orchid had forced their way through the hard soil making an early start to their summer growing period. Wattles found in the area were Snake Wattle Acacia aculeatissima with developing seed pods, Prickly Moses A. verticillata subsp. ovoidea, Hedge Wattle A. paradoxa and Blackwood A. melanoxylon.

memorial to Chinese miners

memorial to Chinese miners

Beside the dry creek, taller trees of Manna Gum Eucalyptus viminalis, Messmate E. obliqua and Scentbark E. aromaphloia grew, many with hollows. A pair of Striated Pardalotes Pardalotus striatus was observed flying in and out of one small hollow in a Manna Gum, and an Eastern Yellow Robin closely observed the group. Interesting plants in flower were Yam Daisy Microseris walteri, Rough Bedstraw, Galium gaudichaudii, Common Bird-orchid Chiloglottis valida and Austral Indigo Indigofera australis. A new species for the already extensive plant list for Enfield State Park was found budding along the track north of the creek: Austral Bugle Ajuga australis.

By lunch-time, the cloud cover had broken up and we sought shade to enjoy our lunch. Blue Bottle-daisy Lagenophora stipitata was flowering amongst the grass.

After lunch we travelled up Misery Creek Road to Mt Misery Garden. This was declared a reserve area in 1964 in the then state forest following FNCB lobbying led by Stella Bedggood. Many different species were growing along the ridge, including Stella’s namesake, the flowering Enfield Grevillea Grevillea bedggoodiana. Also flowering were Twining Fringe-lily Thysanotus patersonii, Ivy-leaf Violet Viola hederacea, Wattle Mat-rush Lomandra filiformis, Common Trigger-plant Stylidium armeria, Button Everlasting Coronidium scorpioides, Common Apple-berry Billardiera mutabilis, Purple Beard-orchid Calochilus robertsonii and Musky Caladenia Caladenia moschata flowering close to the road. Sully’s keen eyes picked-out Tiger Orchids Diuris sulphurea amongst the peas and Poa tussocks. Two species of Leek Orchid Prasophyllum sp were found but identifying the genus was difficult. Both seem likely to be part of the P. odoratum group given their strong scents. Colourful patches of yellow and orange/ red–flowered Matted Bush-pea Pultenaea pedunculata spread in clumps.

Grevillea bedggoodiana Enfiied Grevillea

Grevillea bedggoodiana Enfiied Grevillea

The final stop for the day was at Beacon (Bald) Hill. We drove to the top of the hill, accessible since the navigation beacon was removed. The area is still slashed regularly, maintaining the hill as an open patch suitable for many small species. Many species of lily, pea, heath, orchid and daisy colourfully covered the hillsides and 100’s of iridescent copper-coloured, blue or green beetles covered the Eucalypt saplings. Field Nats were quickly spread down the slope and were soon on hands and knees examining the finer details of flowers. Species drawing the most attention were the prolific sun-orchids and beard orchids. Rush-leaf Sun-orchid Thelymitra juncifolia and Great Sun-orchid Thelymitra aristata were readily identified but others were more difficult and suspected to be hybrids. The most striking one was a crimson-pink, spotted sun-orchid with thick yellow column tufts spotted by Claire. The same sharp pair of eyes spotted Pale Grass-lily Caesia parvifolia. A low-growing plant that was spread across the site was Dwarf Boronia Boronia nana var. nana with compound leaves of three to five leaflets. Earlier in the day Boronia nana var. hyssopifolia with simple narrow leaves had been seen. Quite a few purple-flowered Heath Milkworts Comesperma ericinum were found, and growing amongst them was the rare find (for Enfield State Park) of a Red Beard-orchid Calochilus paludosus, a first for many of the field-trippers. The last treat was the discovery of a bright pink Tiny Fingers orchid, Caladenia pusilla growing amidst a Common Raspwort Gonocarpus tetragynus as we walked back to the top of the hill.

At the end of the excursion Rod Lowther, Geelong FNC president thanked Emily for leading an interesting excursion and showing the group a diverse range of spring flowering plants. This was the third inter-club visit between Geelong and Ballarat, with the Geelong club already considering options for one next year, a great initiative that increases the range of habitats we can visit and provides the added benefit of local knowledge.

Report by John Gregurke and Emily Noble

Plant list FNCB Enfield field trip Nov 2018

 

A day out at Illabarook

Twelve field naturalists gathered in very light precipitation on the Moonlight-Illabarook Road-side next to the Illabarook Rail Reserve on Sunday October 7. The reserve is a 28 hectare crown land reserve, one of more than 50 managed by Ballarat Environment Network since 2005. It was previously the home of the Illabarook Railway Station and goods shed, remnants of which can still be found across the site.

Running Postman

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Naturalists at Narmbool

Seventeen Field Naturalists were treated to the expansive beauty of Narmbool, a 2000 hectare farmstead operated by Sovereign Hill and located South of Ballarat. Generations of graziers had taken advantage of the fertile pastures, which when enhanced with fertiliser, produced quality wool for sale in foreign markets. With the price of wool not being what it was and the change in management in 2000, the outlook for the sheep became decidedly more culinary than crafty. Being surrounded by prospective chops, loins, racks and shanks it is perhaps fitting that Narmbool is a local Indigenous word meaning ‘fatty liver’. This local foie gras once belonged to possums that gorged on the vegetation of the volcanic soils.

narmbool-1-pond-and-homestead

View of Narmbool Homestead

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Roger’s Nature Year

Everyone looks at nature in a slightly different way and each person has their own particular interests they like to pursue. Roger Thomas, a club member, manager of the Ballarat Environment Network Reserves and writer of the Ballarat Courier Nature Notes, has certain plants and animals that he likes to see during the year.

He presented a fascinating talk to club members in August, that highlighted his ‘favorites’ and the depth of his knowledge. Roger doesn’t usually travel widely and most of these plants and birds may be seen within a 40 km radius of Ballarat. There are common and uncommon species and for some birds it is enough to just hear them to be ticked off the list. Roger’s talk was more than a list, it was interspersed with interesting observations gained over many years. Continue reading