Today I set out in the morning with Seamus Doherty to do a walk in Belair National Park for a hike and to make some observations before the rain set in. For those not from Adelaide, Belair is in the Adelaide hills around 25 minutes from Adelaide City center. The park adjacent is adjacent the hills suburbs of Glenalta, Hawthorndene and Belair. The Park has a number of walking tracks and a diverse range of habitats with various playing fields and recreation facilities set throughout the bush land.
We spent some time along the Echo track going through the Echo Tunnel and spying a golden whistler before the rain started and we decided to call it quits. We were fortunate to make a number of observations for the city nature challenge on the way back, and stopped to talk to several people who asked about the challenge – maybe new recruits?
At the end of the day despite the rain, it looks like we had some good engagement with a whopping 2,338 observations uploaded comprising of 636 species from 108 users. What a great start to the City Nature Challenge by Adelaide!
Earlier this month I made a suggestion that the 26th of April should be Australian moth night as part of the CNC event. Its one of those things that I thought would always be interesting to do, but just never had time to ever give it a go. However, I think we have all inadvertently set a month trap before, be that at a BBQ, out camping or just leaving the front light on while out for the night.
Well finally this week I teamed up with Seamus Doherty and set out to the Measly lookout along the Mireen Track to see what we could find in a more natural area (practicing social distancing of course). We didn’t really know what to expect, but we hoped that by positioning ourselves away from any nearby light pollution, we would have a better chance of success. The evening got off to a great start when we first stumbled upon a bird we both did not recognise, In hindsight, I think it was a Crescent Honeyeater (Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus). Unfortunately however, I was tasked with photographing the individual so we will never know what it was for sure.
We continued our walk along Mireen track when we heard a sudden rustling in the bushes. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a wandering Short-beaked Echidna(Tachyglossus aculeatus). However, once again I had no luck with the iconic Instagram shot. I prefer not to disturb these lovely little creatures so I made my observation and we moved on. A short while later, we finally set up each our own individual moth traps and rigged up our lights in a manner the would make MacGyver proud just before the sun had set.
Not a lot of activity was happening so we decided to stop watching the sheets for a bit and begun looking around. The first thing we noticed was the huge number of shining eyes on the ground! On closer inspection, we found many spiders were coming out of their burrows and scurrying across the path. We also found some wonderful ants and beetles as well just wandering around.
After a while, we begun to notice a number of moths and other small invertebrates appear on the sheets. Seamus Doherty had a large hand held torch pointed directly at a white sheet (1.5 x 1.5 m). Unfortunately, it was made of polyester which is apparently less effective than cotton. Luckily, I had a cotton blend white bed sheet with me, and a very bright LED lamp. This appeared to be the most effective setup.
We had a number of moths come and rest on the sheets throughout the night and the photography was challenging but rewarding and I thought it would be nice to share some of our findings with you.
On the way back to the car, we were also fortunate enough to see a number of other animals including a kangaroo, a sleeping koala and a family of ring tail possums!
All in all, the night was a pretty good success for our first try. We encourage everyone to give it a shot, be that a trap set out in your backyard, in your local park, or out in the Adelaide hills, you’re bound to find something great to photograph!
But knowledge and data is also gold. It’s gold to researchers and we can help them find it. April 24 – 27 is the international City Nature Challenge and during this time people will be asked to collect data via photographs uploaded to iNaturalist. Images uploaded will be identified and collated.
In the Greater Adelaide region there are over 100 species of gum trees (as well as numerous hybrids and cultivars). Eucalypts or gum trees are drawn from three genera – Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus (the largest of the three genera).
Eucalyptus and Corymbia have a bud cap, operculum, which is lacking in the flowers of the Angophora. The difference between Eucalyptus and Corymbia appears to be more subtle.
Alternate in most species* (opposite leaves in some species)
Alternate in many species* (opposite leaves in some species)
Mainly yes* (but not all species)
Mainly no* (but some, about 12.5% will have corymb)
^Image Jim Barrow
*As is the case with so many plant descriptions there will always be exceptions, but the chart above reflects the distinguishing features for the majority of the species in each genus.
Within each genus, other features will help to narrow down the identification. Features such as the type of bark, the tree shape, the leaf arrangement, the flowers and buds all help.
To ensure that we are able to identify to species level, it often necessary to take multiple photographs. This tends to be the case with our gum trees. The type of photographs to take are given in the following list
The whole tree
In some of the crowded forested areas, it may be difficult to see the whole of the tree but the habitat will be of help
The bark can vary considerably and is a useful identifier
If there are obvious different types of leaf, photograph them
Flowers or buds
As flowers/buds could be high up in the tree, check the leaf litter for them
It might be helpful to show the small flower stems
Gum nuts (Fruiting body), look for the fallen fruits in the leaf litter surrounding the tree.
Try and photograph that which looks typical
a cluttered background can make identification difficult
So get out there fossicking, you never know what nuggets you may find. Perhaps something rare.
Oh, and there is gold in the gum leaves in Kalgoorlie.
Examples of Photographsfor Identification
Examples of Poor Images
Thank you to Dean Nicolle for his assistance with this article.
TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CITY NATURE CHALLENGE, APRIL 24-27, 2020
Fifth annual challenge offers an opportunity for people to connect with nature and participate in a collective scientific effort, while safely navigating public health challenges;results will be announced on May 4.
“Join the biggest Bioblitz in Australian history and it’s happening in YOUR backyard.”
Redland City QLD, City of Greater Geelong VIC, Greater Sydney NSW and Greater Adelaide SA together form City Nature Challenge Australia (30th March 2020) – As citizen science (also known as community science) initiatives increase in popularity, this year’s fifth annual City Nature Challenge(CNC) is set to take place in cities throughout the world. The global event, co-organised by San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, calls on current and aspiring citizen scientists, nature and science fans, and people of all ages and backgrounds toobserve and submit pictures of wild plants, animals, and fungi using the free mobile app iNaturalist. From Friday, April 24 to Monday, April 27, participants can upload their observations to the app, with identifications happening from Tuesday, April 28 to Sunday, May 3. Final results will be announced on Monday, May 4 (USA time).
In response to shifting public health recommendations related to COVID-19, this year’s City Nature Challenge will no longer be a competition. Instead, participants are encouraged to embrace the collaborative aspect of sharing observations online with a digital community, and celebrate the healing power of nature safely, with social distancing, as they document their local biodiversity to the best of their ability within new public safety parameters. It is imperative that participants closely follow federal and local public health guidelines as they are updated in real-time in response to COVID-19. For detailed information about how the City Nature Challenge is adapting to COVID-19, visit citynaturechallenge.org/COVID19.
During such uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to foster a sense of community, and the City Nature Challenge allows participants to do just that. For both budding and veteran citizen scientists, participating is easy:
Find wildlife! It can be any wild plant, animal, fungi, slime mould, or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses!) found in your neighborhood, home, backyard, or even through your windows. You might be surprised by how many insects thrive in the nooks and crannies around you.
If you’re not able to take photos of wildlife, focus your efforts on identifying species documented in your area—even those documented before the City Nature Challenge! A great way to make this a safe community event is to host a virtual identification party between April 28 – May 3.
Nature exists in every city, and one of the best ways to study it is by connecting scientists and the community through citizen science. As global human populations become increasingly concentrated in cities, it’s more important than ever to document urban biodiversity and help ensure the future of plants and wildlife. Large pools of data built through iNaturalist, natural history museums, and science organisations help authorities make informed conservation decisions that allow humans to coexist sustainably with the plants and animals in their neighborhoods.
After launching the first-ever City Nature Challenge in 2016, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences are hosting their fifth—and most collaborative—effort. The inaugural challenge invited participants from Los Angeles and San Francisco to observe and submit pictures of wildlife they encountered using iNaturalist. By the end of that inaugural weekend, over 1,000 participants submitted more than 20,000 observations of nature to iNaturalist.
Last year, the City Nature Challenge tallied more than 950,000 observations made by over 35,000 people in over 150 participating cities. Scientists can’t be everywhere at once, so without community observations, they’d miss some incredible finds.
During the 2019 City Nature Challenge, participants in Miami spotted a swallow-tailed kite dropping an iguana in mid-air. In Bolivia, citizen scientists spotted an Andean condor—the largest flying bird in the world—circling high over their heads. And in Hong Kong, participants photographed the fluke of an endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. Over 1,100 endangered, endemic, or data deficient species were recorded during the 2019 City Nature Challenge! This influx of information gives scientists, educators, urban planners, and policymakers insight into the biodiversity of urban locales throughout the world.
In 2020 Australia will be participating for the first time. Four cities are participating:
Redland City, QLD
Greater Geelong, VIC
Greater Sydney, NSW
Greater Adelaide, SA
Due to COVID-19, what started as four cities in four states competing against each other in a friendly rivalry has changed into the four cities asking everyone in Australia to practice social distancing and BioBlitz their own backyard, balcony and indoor living spaces. Citizen scientists are then asked to upload their pictures using the iNaturalist app or via the iNaturalist.org website. As an added bonus Sunday the 26th of April has been designated as an Australia-wide Moth Night. More information is available here.
Could this potentially be the biggest backyard bioblitz in Australian history?
We are certain to see some European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) in the City Nature Challenge 2020. This species was introduced to the continent in around 1822 for honey production by the early settlers . However, there are now many feral colonies of European Honey Bees are present throughout the continent. I myself came across one last week in a tree in a North Adelaide Park. This is not news to most of you, but did you know there are a number of other introduced species and around 1, 650 native bee species in Australia! That is astonishing number! How many will be recorded in Australia during the City Nature Challenge 2020.
Of all the bees in southern Australia One of the favorite native bees at least in South Australia is the Blue Banded Bee (Amegillacingulata). What may surprise you is that there are around 40 different species of Genus Amegilla in Australia, so “the Blue banded Bee” is in fact a number of different species. The Genus Amegilla is very diverse, it is divided to several groups or sub-genera with three occurring in Australia each containing a number of species Asarapoda (25 species), Notomegilla (2 species), and Zonamegilla (13 species). Many similar species are confused with the common Blue Banded Bee, Amegillacingulata, this interesting species is more interesting that it first appears.
One of the favorite native bees at least in South Australia is the Blue Banded Bee.
There are also many other interesting species of large flashy bees in Australia including the Chequered Cuckoo Bee, Thyreus caeruleopunctatus and the Golden-haired Mortar Bee, Amegilla bombiformis. There are also a number of smaller bees that we sometimes overlook, while its getting cooler in the south we may still get some nice observations in the warmer climates of Redlands.
A common mistake that is made when looking for native bees is confusing hover flies (Family Syrphidae) for a Bee! I often see on the questions on social media asking if they are bees. A easy way to check is hover flies have only two wings as they are members of the order Diptera (two wings). So if you are looking for something to do do while practicing socially distancing, take a walk outside and look past those honey bees, you may be surprised at what you discover.
For those that can’t wait for the City Nature Challenge (24-27th April) for to do some citizen science, the Autumn Wild Pollinator Count will be held Sunday 12 April and runs until the following Sunday 19 April. This great citizen science project runs twice a year with observation being made in the Australian spring and autumn.
further reading “Creating a Haven for Native Bees” is bigger, better, buzzier! contact Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Many people would not think of looking for orchids in autumn, but in the Greater Adelaide region we have three orchid species flowering at this time of the year, with many winter orchids not far behind. By late April, one of South Australia’s most attractive autumn orchid, the Fringed Hare Orchid, Leporella fimbriata will be in the middle of its flowering time.
This enchanting orchid is easily identified by its reddish-purple-green flower with its two upright petals and broad fringed labellum giving it a ballerina like appearance (or is it looking like a hold up?). It grows up to 25 cm tall on a slender stem with 2 (or sometimes 3 flowers). A feature of autumn orchids is the appearance of the leaf toward the end of flowering and after flowering. The leaf is an attractive grey green with a distinctive red stripe. Ovate in shape it hugs the ground.
This orchid is primarily found in woodland, heath or scrub and most often found growing in sandy or sandy loam soil. However, at higher elevations, it can be found on gravelly soil ridges.
Leporella fimbriata is a fascinating species as it has a strange reproductive strategy – the pollinator is an ant! This is unique as ants are rarely pollinators. There have been various theories proposed as to why they are not pollinators but none have been confirmed.
So how does it come about? The pollination strategy used by L. fimbriata is that of pseudo-copulation. The orchid produces pheromones (scent) with which to attract its pollinator. In this instance the pollinator is the hapless winged male of Myrmecia urens (Bull Ant) thinking it has found a virgin queen ant to mate with.
Because the timing has to be right – the emergence of the ant and the opening of the flower – it is an event that has not always been observed even though both species are relatively common. This unusual strategy was only discovered in 1979 due to the work of Bob Bates, orchidologist and citizen scientist. In 1984 researchers confirmed this discovery.
Who knows what other information citizen scientists can discover about the relationship between these two species, or for that matter the relationship between other flowers and their pollinators. There is so much still to be discovered.
The City Nature Challenge is a fantastic opportunity to collect valuable data by taking photographs of both the orchid and ant and then upload it to iNaturalist.
At the same time, keep your eyes peeled for any other orchids that may be starting to emerge.
Thank you Lyn Edwards for supplying the image of the orchid and pollinator.
Lets make April 26th moth night around Australia. With all the drought and fires this summer it has definitely taken a toll on the insect population. You can check how they’re going by setting a trap (sounds bad but it’s harmless). The trap simply consists of a white sheet and bright light. There is no touching or keeping of the insects – just observe and take pictures, then shut the lights off and they will fly free. Your pictures are then uploaded to iNaturalist.
The best thing about Moth Night is that anyone can join in from around Australia – you don’t need to be in a official ‘City Nature Challenge’ area.
What you will need:
A white sheet (preferably cotton – synthetic materials tend not to glow under black light the same way).
A bright light (Black lights if you have it otherwise a white light will work well),
Clamp or method to a hold light
tripod, chair or similar to attach light,
An outdoor space open to the moths.
To start with you will need to hang the sheet – we suggest using the good old Hills Hoist or on a rope between two trees or similar. Clamp the light in front of the sheet facing an open area as this will broadcast further away and attract more moths. Turn off any other nearby lights, turn on the light near the white sheet and wait for the moths to arrive.
Aim for clear pictures of the moths. Preferred single shots of as many as you can however if you can get picture of the wings and the antennae you will be doing really well. Why antennae? Because there are some night flying butterflies too and they generally have delicate antennae with a clubbed end. Moths, on the other hand, generally (but not always) have feathery antennae.
Don’t forget to upload all of your sightings to iNaturalist. Check the location and identify as best you can. If you are unsure then leave it at the highest taxon (Lepidoptera) and someone will help you identify them. Moth hunting can commence once the sun sets (dusk). Remember to adjust your geoprivacy settings to “obscured” as you don’t want everyone to know where you live!
DO: Leave the light turned on for as long as you can. This is because different species of moths will come out at different times of the night.
Dont: Leave the light on ALL night because the birds will eat the moths at dawn (sun rise).
Please join in the fun. We would love to see what is in your area. It also helps us understand which host plants to grow. You can do it as many times as you like. But most of all, enjoy it! Kids love it too. Its fun to see them all on the sheets.
Happy Moth Night!
Some of the moths you might see…..
(c) Jackie Beer
Thank you, Jackie Beer for the use of your pictures and providing direction on the content and the idea for the moth night.
Last week, I was at Mylor Conservation Park orchid hunting but as we were walking along the track, lots of butterflies rose up and went before us. The thing was that I couldn’t see where they had been resting but suddenly they were there flying ahead of us. This happened time and time again. I would have liked to have gotten a photograph but I never knew when there would be a mass uprising.
So, what had I learnt about photographing creatures – walk slowly so as to not disturb them. Once spotted, photograph, take a careful step closer, photograph and repeat until one got a better picture. There was just one problem. I was walking slowly – orchid hunting demands that. Despite that, I still could not see them until they were in the air. I could not get close to them.
Forgetting the orchids (what sacrilege), I had to find out where were these butterflies hiding.
So, what do I do? Well, I watched one to see where it landed, took note of the landing area and then used the zoom on my camera (Panasonic DMC TZ80) to see if I could spot it and eventually I did see it; amongst the leaf litter.
The butterfly, it would have been the same distance away from me as Robert was from me in the first photograph.
It was well and truly camouflaged, as the following picture show.
Later I was able to get a very nice picture of one that was too busy sunning herself to be hiding.
So, by carefully watching and patience I was able to obtain a photograph that I could upload to iNaturalist. Also, I learnt something new about butterfly behaviour. And I am more prepared for the CNC Greater Adelaide 2020.
Oh, and the orchid I was hunting …
… it too, is close to the ground and may be found hiding in the leaf litter, but it doesn’t fly off when approached!
The City Nature Challenge: Greater Adelaide held our second official public engagement event on the 7th of March at the Willunga Environment Center Inc. The ‘training sessions’ went well, with an enthusiastic audience and a number of new faces.
I kicked off our talks by providing an introduction and background on the City Nature challenge and an introduction to the iNaturalist platform. We also covered a number of tips for new users:
Following the talks, we had an informal chat with participants where they asked questions about the platform, the challenge and some general citizen science networking. Following the event, I assisted Karen from the EcoClassroom at the local Tatachilla Lutheran College set up an iNaturalist project to assist in the environmental education program. I will keenly follow this project as I think it has great potential to become a valuable teaching aide.
Following the event, Seamus (@seamusdoherty814634304), Larissa and I (@stephenfricker) had planned on going for a nature walk nearby. Fortunately for us, a number of local attendees suggested that we go down to the Wirra Creek as some re-vegetation had been undertaken. This ended up being a fantastic spot with plenty of wasps, mayflies and other invertebrates around. Check out some of our observations from the day here. I made a number of observations myself, although there were a few that got away!
It was great to see such enthusiasm and I am looking forward to working with all of you to make the City Nature Challenge in Adelaide a great hit! Remember to save the date, and if you would like one of us to give a talk to your group please contact us below!
Week 2:The Common Brown Butterfly (Heteronympha merope)
All 5 Families of Butterflies are represented in South Australia. The Skippers & Darts (Hesperiidae), the Gossamer-winged (Lycaenidae), the Whites & Yellows (Pieridae), the Swallowtails (Papilionidae), and the Brush-footed (Nymphalidae). Within the Brush-footed Family we find one of Greater Adelaide’s most numerous Butterflies, the Heteronympha merope, unsurprisingly named the Common Brown.
The adult Butterflies begin appearing in mid-spring. The sexes are strongly dimorphic. The males, orange/brown with black stripes, fly until February. These can be mistaken at times for the smaller Common Xenica (Geitoneura klugii) as they have similar patterns. The females, more orange/yellow with black patches and soft yellow spots, aestivate during the hot Summer. They emerge in early Autumn to begin egg development and laying. The peak laying occurs during March, however the females can still be found in April, although often with faded colours and tattered wings.
They can be found throughout the Greater Adelaide region and are common in the Adelaide Hills, although historically more so. The females can be found feeding on flowers from early Autumn and can occur in large numbers on roadsides feeding on the introduced Sweet Scabious (Sixalix atropurpurea) flowers. The are well camouflaged when resting, particularly when their wings are folded up, and are quite timid and will take to the air often before you can get within a few meters. The best chance of capturing a photo of these is to follow the movement of one that has taken flight, observe where it lands and sneak up on it. This may take a few attempts.
According to the IUCN Red List, the Common Brown’s conservation status is currently of least concern, however in the Greater Adelaide region due to habitat decline, particularly the native grasslands that the caterpillars feed on, its numbers are not what they used to be.
On iNaturalist the Common Brown is currently the most observed Butterfly in the Greater Adelaide region with 188 observations, 36 of which were recorded in April and all were female.
Evidence suggests that a warming climate is leading to earlier emergence of this species of Butterfly. Help to collect valuable data on presence and flight times by taking a photo and uploading it to iNaturalist during the City Nature Challenge.