I'd seen this mud wasp nest on the back verandah for a while - entry open. Then one afternoon, while daisying, I saw something odd - something small struggling along dragging a spider. It was a wasp, black, making for a daisy bush - with some difficulty as the spider was twice its size. The wasp climbed up about 20cm - strong wind-gusts not helping its cause - and wedged the spider in a branchlet fork - then flew off. So I grabbed my camera.
Imagine this: (you'll have to because I didn't have camera handy) Juvenile LW in Buddlejah chirping away to be fed. Magpie on branch above.
Then, in a well-executed pincer movement, one parent from the left, one from the right, dived toward magpie at high speed and knocked it off its perch.
Warm work it seems.
Here's one of the well-protected juveniles after the event.
Ever noticed one of these hanging from a shrub?
A dead leaf, partly rolled into a curl - evidence of spider silk? I have a total of around 200 decorating 5 acacia shrubs in front of the verandah. Let's see what's inside.
The curious site of many honey bees apparently chewing on an acacia shrub called for the camera and further investigation.
Photos revealed the bees were packing it onto their legs, as they would pollen. I needed some expert help, so I contacted SAM and the bee expert got back to me with the news that the bees are collecting propolis - a sticky sap made by the plant that is used as an ingredient in bee glue. It's mixed with saliva and beeswax and used to seal any gaps in the hive, line brood cells and smooth over any rough surfaces. This propolis has significant anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties - humans have known about this since biblical times, apparently, (not this one) and there are various natural medications made from it. Of course bee-keepers would be well aware of its gluey uses, as they have to pry open the lids and frames of the hives that the bees have diligently sealed with bee glue. Well I'll bee.
In yesterday's heat I witnessed the following - both juveniles were chasing parent for food then, close to the ground, one attacked the other, who then laid on its back on the mulch in surrender. The attacker moved away, the other bird stood and was attacked again. It lay on its back for a good minute and I was becoming concerned. As I stood up, it righted itself (to my relief) and I was able to get this photo.
and here's the assailant - you can tell it's hot by the open beak and wings held away from body
Parent bird very hot too, as it looks on -
From a single plant that struggled away and bore raspberry-sized fruit, I now have lush greenery, lots of flowers and large berries, like this one.
Problem - you'll see - and what's the connection between this strawberry, Portugal, Japan and South Korea?
A lovely old pink gum dropped a large branch and took another of its branches out at the same time. Perhaps it is diseased, as it's not far enough into summer for it to be rainfall related. Luckily the damage is only aesthetic.
Sitting on verandah last night I saw a huntsman spider making the most of the light - they have learned that it attracts insects and hang around waiting for food to come to them. This one has grabbed a beetle -
There are over 150 species of huntsman in Australia. Fortunately they're not aggressive - although if you bother a female guarding here eggs she might get a bit grumpy - especially one of the species that don't eat for 3 weeks until the eggs have hatched.
The young LWs are certainly demanding more food since they polished off the two large Callistemons and don't go too far away from the nest tree. Defending the remaining nectar stock is a constant challenge for parents - neighbouring LWs, parrots, New Hollands and the Spinebills all want a piece of the action and while the male is chasing one away another bird is making the most of his absence. He's so busy that he even tolerates the Mallee Ringnecks as long as they stay on the ground eating dandelions. If they venture up into his trees, though, they get chased away.
Here are the latest pictures of babies. To see more, click 'Read more'
If you've followed the acacia bush, caterpillar, Fan-tailed Cuckoo story from the start, then you might be interested to see the net result of it all. The affected shrub I've been showing you is the collection of bare twigs in the foreground - the same plant that was flowering and leaf-covered not so long ago.
On the three plants I counted four live caterpillars - they seem to be sucking on the stems.
As far as I can tell none of them lived to pupate. The cuckoo blue wrens ate a few, but I must admit I'm at a bit of a loss to understand it all - why the Tree Lucerne Moths would lay eggs on such small shrubs when they are destined to starve? Be interested to hear from you on that.
Some nocturnal visitors included this carpenter ant (very painful bite, I can attest).
- and, if you're an arachnophobe, don't follow the this instruction ...