Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yellow striped flutterer dragonfly

Finally a day without rain -  so far anyway.  Another 45mm of rain yesterday. Brisbane has had the wettest December in 150 years with over 400mm of rain - our average annual rainfall is about 1200mm, so it has been very wet.  I have noticed a few small trees have turned up their "toes" having been inundated for so long,  maybe they will recover, if not they will be replaced with something more suitable.

Whilst having breakfast we noticed this  Yellow striped flutterer dragonfly
(Rhyothemis phyllis) sitting on a spirea plant :

link for the dragonfly :

There seems to be a large variety of dragonflies around Brisbane

Also on the lawn were a couple of Pacific Black ducks (Anas superciliosa)

We see this species around frequently although maybe not as much as the Wood duck  (Chenonetta jubata)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

brush tail possum

Still very wet here - day after day of rain or showers, including overcast and light intermittent rain today, so very little happening in the garden.

This morning whilst checking the vegetable garden we noticed the door into the bush house pushed open and a possum (deceased) stuck underneath.
Poor thing - it must have got into the vegetable garden somehow and got stuck trying to get back out:

Also some yellow fungal growths on a log and a Common crow butterfly that was hanging around  the verandah yesterday:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Common Eggfly butterfly

No activity in the yard for days as it has been raining nearly every day.

Spotted this Common Eggfly butterfly ( Hypolimna bolina) this morning sitting in a Frangipani tree -  it is a female. The males do not have the red spots.

identification from the usual website :

This is one I haven't noticed before but may well have been present and dismissed as  the Australian crow  ( Euploea core).  They are similar with the white markings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ring tailed Possum

Severe thunderstorm here this afternoon - about 20mm of rain and strong winds. One of our medium sized Queensland Kauri trees has fallen over due to the sodden ground and winds. When I went to check further I noticed a possum nest in the lower branches  and the occupant looking a bit dazed by his home falling over :

The ring on the end of the tail is visible giving this species it's common name. Somewhat amusingly to the family, whilst taking these photos he leaped onto my left hand and gave me some nice scratches.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blue tongue lizard and fruit fly netting

Whilst the 50mm rural b polypipe/star picket hoop system works well in that it is adjustable, I thought I would build a permanent frame for the feijoas and keep them trimmed to fit inside.  
Using 90mm pvc storm water pipe,  elbows and T fittings, I constructed ends like this :

After the glue had set well (overnight) the ends were stood up at each end of the feijoas ( we have two - two are needed for cross pollination) and the horizontal pieces were inserted.  These I have only screwed, in case I decide to move a frame in the future.  It now looks like this :

I set the width at 3m as storm water pipe comes in 6m lengths. Height is 2.7m- plenty high enough to be trying to pick fruit.  This type of pipe (pvc)  is really easy to handle - you can make female ends easily using a hot air gun so there is minimal waste.  I have tried to make elbows, as well, but find that not so easy.  I am not sure how well it will function in terms of sag on the horizontal pieces. Time will tell on that and I can always reiforce it on the inside with a length of timber.

Whilst placing the fruitfly netting, I found this Blue tongue lizard  had taken up residence in it, when it had been lying around nearby, prior to being used:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Botany Bay Diamond Weevil

Some more garden wildlife around at present

1 Chrysolopus spectabilis     or  Botany Bay Diamond weevil

This species was the first scientifically described Australian insect. A specimen was collected by Joseph Banks in 1770 and taken back to England. This one was found in the vegetable garden feeding on a rhubarb leaf.

2.Leptotes plinius   or Zebra blue or Plumago Blue butterfly

There were quite a few of this small butterfly hanging around 2 Plumago bushes down the front of the property today.

3. Carpet snake or Reticulated python- about 1.8m long. This was causing the ducks some consternation last night but they are probably too large for it anyway.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas beetle

Noticed a Christmas beetle yesterday in amongst some leaf litter
under one of our large fig trees. There are other varieties around from time to time as well.

It is  an Anoplognathus sp  and belongs to the scarab family. The adults feed on eucalyptus leaves whilst the larvae feed on grass roots.  They have spectacular iridescent colours.

We had a period of very heavy rain yesterday - total for the 24hrs was 90mm. It is very sodden in  the yard again.  Here is a photo of one of the overflowing downpipes :

Friday, December 10, 2010

Common Anthelid moth

The caterpillar from 8/11/10 has hatched.  Metamorphosis is an amazing process how a caterpillar reorganises it's tissues to form a flying insect but understandable when you realise it is simply normal development suspended for awhile. As the egg develops instead of proceeding straight to a flying insect, it hatches and the larvae feeds and grows, before going back into the development process.  In evolutionary terms, this actually makes sense as it reduces food competition between the young and mature of the species.

It looks like it was a common anthelid moth  or  Anthela acuta. 
Whilst it is plain it is still a thing of beauty

Also some of our Christmas decorations including "Woody" - our reindeer.

I'm still busy preparing a presentation on the Paleolithic diet and also I
have another more medical presentation to prepare that requires quite a lot of reading and study.   Thus less blogging for awhile.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Collected another 40+ toads again tonight - gave up when it started to rain and there was still lots more around to be caught and despatched another time.

Saw 4 frog species as well  -apart from a Pobblebonk seen again tonight,
these three were also observed and photographed:

Green tree frog Litoria caerula

Spotted Marsh frog : Limnodynastes tasmaniensis

Dainty tree frog : Litoria gracilenta

The ID of the last two are via this web site and I hope they are correct:

Rain - 85mm yesterday,   30+ so far today -  the ground is very sodden with surface water everywhere. - no wonder it is frog central at present. I am quite pleased to have lots of frogs around on our property. 


Sunday, December 5, 2010


Whilst having a bush walk on Mt Petrie in the koala reserve noticed several glasswing butterflies in one spot in a cleared area under the power lines:

Scientific  name :  Acraea andromacha
Common name : Glasswing or Little greasy

link for more details :

It looks like the host plant is various passiflora species - I'll need to be a bit more selective in removing that from the property as  well.  The butterfly above was quietly resting on a grass stalk and was easily photographed.

Also found in the yard a few days ago was a Common Brown Ringlet butterfly -  this is quite a small species compared with some that are around.

Scientific name is : Hypocysta metirius

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Lots of frogs calling and lots of frog spawn in the frog pond and pond for the mine shute at present with more rain around. Whilst collecting yet more toads again tonight (another 12 for dispatch) picked up this delightful frog:

It is quite a large frog with bulging eyes. As far as I can determine it is a Northern Banjo Frog or Northern Pobblebonk. 

The proper name is:   Limnodynastes terrareginae

The call is like a bonk sound, and I certainly have heard this call at night so maybe this and his mates are the culprits.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scribbly Gum

The gum trees on the property are all shedding their bark -  a uniquely Australian tree occurrence as far as I know.  Some of them look amazing with large strips of bark hanging off at various angles and  piles of bark litter on the ground underneath.

This gum is obviously the Scribbly  - Eucalyptus  racemosa . It grows to about 20m high on sandy loam such as we have here. The trunk is the feature however with multiple tracks of the pupae of the moth Ogmograptis scribula.  On the internet there is only one photo of this moth from the Australian National Botanic Gardens website:

The moth is unremarkable from the photo, but the pupae certainly adds some "colour" to the trunk of this species of gum tree.

35mm of rain yesterday - looks like more showers today as well.
Less posting for the next few months as I have some academic work to prepare.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eurema smilax

Whilst working in the yard noticed this bright yellow butterfly down near the two large rainwater tanks :

Scientific name :   Eurema smilax
Common name :  Small grass yellow butterfly

Top view

Underneath view

The food plants for it are various Cassia  and Senna. I have planted some Senna seeds but I think they have not sprouted,  and otherwise we don't have any of these food plants for this butterfly.  If the seeds don't sprout, I'll need to find some Cassia or Senna sp to plant.  Cassia fistula is considered a weed/pest species in Brisbane and so it will need to be something else.

We also saw this butterfly in Boonah on the weekend -  it seems to be quite common.  The common name really does not do justice to such a lovely butterfly!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Polymeria calycina and Hypoxis pratensis

Two more pretty flowers we saw at  Boonah on our friend's property

Polymeria calycina  (or slender bindweed)

It belongs to the Convolvulaceae family

The other one is called Hypoxis pratensis ( the species is only probably).
It doesn't have a common name:

Both these plants were quite low growing -  the latter about 20cm high at the most.  There were also lots of Yellow Buttons  (Chrysocephalum sp) around as well but I didn't take a photo of those.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly

Today we went to our friend's property at Boonah to collect a trailer load of bush rocks that I want for the bank behind the mine site. They asked us about a few garden problems :

Problem 1 :   Plum tree - lots of fruit - but all stung by Queensland Fruit Fly

Advice :  too late to do anything as the whole crop is infested.  Next year try netting  as soon as pollination has occurred

Problem 2 : Citrus leaves being eaten  by :

Advice :  This is the caterpillar of  the Orchard Swallowtail butterfly :
(Papilio aegeus)


At the time, I was not sure of the associated moth or butterfly but have since emailed them and suggested they leave them be, as there was not too  much leaf damage evident.

They also asked us about some passionfuit not forming fruit - we thought maybe it was a non fruiting variety and another plant that looked like a mineral or nutrient deficiency problem.

After some delicious poppy seed cake and coffee we headed up the back to collect some rocks :

This green tree frog was hiding in a pile of rocks and was carefully tucked away again :

We also checked out a bushy ridge and found some delightful native herbs in flower, that I have still to identify, and also this blue fringed lily:
(Thysanotus tuberosus)

This is the first time  I have noticed this lily - hat tip to a blog reader who sent me a photo of one a couple of weeks ago and made me aware of it. It is a really beautiful flower.  When you look carefully around the Australian bush there are lots of little visual delights to be found, especially after such good rains.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Light Sussex Chickens

After the Garden Club Xmas breakup breakfast today we picked up  the replacement chickens following the fox taking most of our last flock. These birds are from another club member who is moving and is unable to take a rooster to the new place. They are a breed I have never had before, called  a Light Sussex.  They are a much larger bird than the Australorp or Rhode Island Red that we previously had.  We have been assured  the rooster is non aggressive to people but he has some pretty impressive spurs that I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of.

Six new girls

Harold the Rooster

Now to be more careful with anti-fox security!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grey Shrike-thrush

Another bird we hear ,and catch glimpses of, is the Grey Shrike-thrush.
It is a fairly shy bird and I haven't managed a photo so far. It has a delightful song especially early in the day but also throughout the day.

Scientific name :  Colluricincla  harmonica
Common name : Grey Shrike-thrush

It is drab grey bird of similar size to the Oriole. Diet includes insects, spiders, frogs and lizards and maybe fruit and seeds.  It is a difficult bird to get to know as it rapidly decamps whenever  it is approached.  The link to the  song really does not do it justice -  the birds around here are more melodic :

details  of the bird :

It is a lovely bird to hear and have around on the property

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When  my wife and daughter were at the local health food shop they noticed a plant product being touted as a "super food". Being the skeptic that I am, here is my take on it (note that we don't grow it, and it looks like it is a high altitude cold climate plant anyway).

Binomial name : Lepidium meyenii
Common name : Maca,  Peruvian ginseng

Description :   a mat like perennial plant with tuberous roots resembling a radish. The roots are yellow or purple or  a combination of the two. The roots are rich in  sugars, starches, protein (13-16%),  iron and iodine. Taste of the dried roots is reported to be sweet but spicy - boiled it is sweeter than cocoa (which is actually pretty bitter to my palate)

History :  This is another Incan food that was widely grown - there are hundreds of square kilometres of terraces in the  Lake Junin area of north Peru ,that seemed to have been used historically to grow it. This area is very cold and is barren and rocky such that even potatoes don't grow. The roots were dried and stored and used for trade for lower altitude foods.  For the Incans ,and indeed in Peru today, this food is valued as it reputedly enhances fertility in humans and livestock.  There is archeological evidence for it's use dating back to about 1600 B.C.

The free internet book  - Lost crops of the Incas  has a really good chapter on this plant:

Pubmed - search term Lepidium meyenii

Abstract 9 : This was a review of 4 randomised controlled trials. Two trials showed that Maca had a postive effect on sexual dysfunction and libido in healthy menopausal women and men. One trial showed no effect on healthy cyclists!. The last trial reported on showed a positive effect for male erectile dysfunction.  That is an interesting one as I have quite a few male patients looking for help with that!
Abstract 12: Maca  had a bone density increasing effect on ovarectomised rats. This means  it potentially is useful for osteoporosis in oestrogen deficient women
Abstract 22: Maca had a potent blocking effect on an enzyme called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme). This enzyme is blocked medically in patients with hypertension and thus Maca would probably lower blood pressure as well.  No doubt phenolic compounds in the plant would also lower blood sugar and cholesterol, but this was not really reported in this abstract.

There were more studies on Pubmed  as well but those were the ones that I found interesting.

As  regards being a superfood - note that the sites touting this also are selling it, no doubt at a good profit margin. I bet the poor farmers in Peru don't make much out it.  In my opinion, it is ok as a supplement but we have access to other fresh foods such as kale and brocolli and lots of fresh fruit that would be probably better. I certainly would not bother buying it here , but would be interested in trying it, if we ever get to go to Peru. Medically it might be worth trying for the reasons given in abstract 9.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cabbage White butterfly

With  the onset of warmer weather Cabbage White butterflies are common again.

Binomial  name : Pieris rapae
Common name : Cabbage White  or Summer Snowflake  ( cute name for it!)

underneath view
top view

This butterfly is a major pest in our garden and elsewhere when trying to grow brassica type vegetables ( cabbage, broccoli, kale etc). It was accidentally introduced into Australia in about 1929 and quickly spread - a butterfly story replicated by the cane toad. It appeared in Sydney by 1941.   Appearance is basically white with a yellow tinge underneath. The male has one black spot on the wings and the female two. The eggs are laid underneath the leaves of the chosen plant singly and are about 1mm long. When they hatch the caterpillar eats large holes in  the outer leaves before moving into the middle part  with the plant being rendered useless apart for feeding to the chooks.

There are some look alikes - here is an excellent site for butterfly and insect ID that I use a lot :

Control is via Derris dust (Rotenone) applied regularly and after rain and Dipel ( Bacillus thuringiensis). The latter is safe in the aquaponics system whereas Derris dust is toxic to fish.  Bordeaux mixture is supposed to repel the butterfly as is growing Dill as a companion plant. I have used Derris dust and Dipel. Derris dust is easy to use as it comes in a "puff" pack.

My vegetable garden is netted to try and exclude this particular pest but they still manage to get in somehow (usually an open door) and create havoc.

I don't even try to grow brassicas in the warmer months although we still are harvesting Kale leaves regularly and still have some cabbages hanging on that will go to the chooks.


Monday, November 22, 2010


We often see Kookaburras around our property. Often they sit on a branch for awhile studying the ground underneath before swooping down and catching some insect or worm to eat. This one was sitting on a fence post.

The petrea volubilis in flower is also visible , the walkway out to the two large rainwater tanks, and a grevillea behind the Kookaburra as well.
I'm not sure I believe this, but Kookaburras calling in the middle of the day is supposed to be a sign of rain coming.

I collected another 7 toads tonight, 28 yesterday and 32 the night before. That makes 127 so far over 4 nights. Surely I have taken a good chunk of the local population by now.  We had about 5mm of rain last night.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Preserving fruit

We are getting to the end of the peach and nectarine crop and have bottled quite a lot for later use.

The method we use to preserve fruit is fairly simple.  After preparing the fruit, such as trimming off any blemishes and removing the stone,  about a 1/2 cup of sugar is added and the lot boiled for about 5-10 minutes. The preserving jar bottles are heated in the oven whilst the fruit is being prepared and cooked. Lids and rings are sterilised with boiling water - either in another small pot or simply by pouring boiling water over them from the kettle. The cooked fruit is ladled into a jar and when full, boiling water from the kettle is poured on to the point of the jar overflowing.  The lid is then screwed down. As cooling occurs a negative pressure develops inside the jar and this really "pulls down" the lid and a clicking noise indicates good sealing has occurred.

Regarding preserving jars -  we acquired a box full of old Agee jars some time ago from another member of the garden club we belong to. We also use jam jars as they also have a seal on the lids. Yesterday, we purchased some more jars from  a kitchen shop in Brisbane  (a shop  called Taste in Fortitude Valley - what an amazing store!). These jars are Italian made  and the rings and lids of the Agee jars fit them perfectly when we need to reuse them. The old Australian  Fowler vacola jars were also available at another Taste store. Agee rings and lids are available from NZ - when we were over last we found some on a supermarket shelf - but they don't seem to be available in Australian stores.

The bottom picture shows some reused jam jars (original lids) and Agee jars. One jar is not completely filled and will be refrigerated for use in the next few days rather than storing.