Well my Aurora alarm went off so I thought I would have another go. It was looking good as online I was seeing some great shots coming in from New Zealand. Looking outside from home it was looking pretty clear so I set off to a spot I had found a few months ago while out looking for Greater Gliders.
It was a good place, high on the top of the divide with a great view of the southern horizon, its only issue was light pollution from Melbourne and quite a bit of cloud but it was worth a go. So I set up and took a few frames but could see nothing, but i decided to wait and see if anything happened. As it turned out I was too late, the Aurora had finished but I steadfastly hung in and changed the plan. I would do some timelapse and listen to the cricket on the radio while I waited. When the last wicket fell and Australia won the first test match against England I called it quits and headed home. You just never know what you will happen doing this job, sometimes nature plays the game and sometimes you just make the best of what you get.
What an exciting and amazing night spotlight walk lead by Brad Blake, Upper Campaspe Landcare Network Threatened Species officer. We found 9 greater gliders on the 1km transect and numerous other possums and birds. It was just an amazing and exciting night as we saw so much. The terrain was very steep and somewhat challenging but the rewards were high. So many possums in the area, ringtails and brushtails. We saw so many it was a really good night for possum spotting. Of course the highlight of the night was the number of Greater Gliders we saw. Some were high up in the canopy but others sat and posed to have their picture taken.
It was so exciting to see the gliders so well.
Finally on the way back to the cars we found a giant (by local standards) Eastern Pobblebonk frog just sitting on the forest floor. There must be rain on the way as it has only just emerged from under the ground so fingers crossed we get some rain in the next few days. They certainly seem to know when it is about to rain.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ear open and see what you can find in your local area at night with the aid of a spotlight.
Tonight we went on a spotlighting survey in the Wombat State forest. Until a couple of months ago I had not seen a Greater Glider in the wild before. But tonight took the cake, 8 Greater Gliders spotted on a single transect. Perfect night for it, a little moon and no wind and given it is the middle of winter here it was not too cold either. I am yet to see one glide but they are quite slow moving and seem not at all fussed by the attention. They are quite happy to sit and watch the humans as they wander around with torches hunting for eye shine to find them.
The Greater Glider is the largest gliding possum in Australia. They range from North Queensland to the Wombat Forest in Victoria and are an endangered species. They are surprisingly large looking but their fur cost is long and think making them look bigger than they actually are. Adults weight up to 1.6 kg in our area. Body length is up to 43cm and the tail is up to 53cm. So the whole package comes in at around one metre for a full sized adult. They eat Eucalyptus leaves like Koalas and are often found in the tops of trees feeding. They need many large hollows in their home ranges as they are slow moving and shift home frequently as they feed from tree to tree.
So pleased to have found such a relatively large population doing well so close to home. The survey we attended was promoted by the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network.
Last Friday night, 20th April I received an Aurora Alert. Given that we are surrounded by trees I went out to the closest spot that gave me an unhindered view of the southern horizon. I could only see a smudge by eye, it was drowned out the glow of Melbourne I thought, but on closer inspection it was there on the right hand side of frame, just below the horizon but the distinct trace of the Aurora Australis. With Mt Macedon to the left and the white glow of Woodend in front of the mountain with the white glow in the woodsmoke. Melbourne lights up the whole left hand sky, the orange glow of Gisborne below the dotted trail of the plane but to the right behind the trees the soft glow of the Aurora Australis. Click the image of a larger view.
The great joy of my job is that Nature is so unpredictable. Its not just us humans that get it wrong but sometimes animals and insects are in the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time too. Robert Burns poem To A Mouse puts it so well. The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
The Koala, these gum leaf munching machines are pretty laid back normally. They tend to be seen napping the days away comfortable in the fork of a tree. Not a lot happens in a average Koala’s day, but then life in the trees can have its moments. The poor male in this weeks clip was trying to nap, as Koala’s do and the sudden arrival of the strong winds certainly took him by surprise. He was suddenly in a forest washing machine, lashed by branches and foliage, even as his limb shook and swayed in the gale. He certainly had a tight grip with those sharp long claws.
I was keen to record the Lunar Eclipse. After all they are not that common and I had great plans for how I was going to show it. Well dense cloud put paid to that, I stayed up ever hopeful, after all if you don’t do the time, you will never get the shots you want. It was freezing cold, windy to boot and oh so much cloud. In the end I admit I gave up at about 3am having not seen the moon for about 4hrs and it had well passed totality. Next time perhaps.
I did get all excited about the ants. If you have never seen Alates swarm it is a pretty amazing process, they erupt into the air from their holes in spectacular fashion, almost as if they were being flushed out of their holes by a leaf blower. I must admit I was pretty excited to see the build up to this happening and had all the gear ready to go. But they came, they tested the air and returned to their holes. Perhaps I will see it happen, I am certainly keeping watch on the ants in the evenings. Fingers crossed.
And then dumb luck, I find a Large Phasmatid, or stick insect. This is one big bug, she is a whopper, 200mm body length, and then all legs. I am trying to identify her but it is not easy. I am certain she is a she, females have short wings and cannot fly. There is no way this girl could fly with the wings she has. I found it really interesting that she only moved when the wind was blowing and the tree moving. In still conditions she just sat still, smart defense, only move when the other sicks are moving. It sure makes it hard to film as she does nothing when the tree is still, not even feeding.
Hope you enjoy this week, remember to subscribe to this blog if you want notification whenever I post. Remember this is a work in progress and I would appreciate any feedback you care to give, lets make this as good a site as we can. Cheers for this week.
Something a little different this week. A Day from Above is a birds eye view of a summers day at my place in the central highlands of Victoria, Australia.
Starting with a misty foggy dawn moving through the heat of the day to sunset the flying camera explores my place and gives you an overview of the surrounding area. Shot over several days to give a representative overview of a typical summers day. From a misty foggy dawn, it soon heats up to the mid 30’s and inside the forest all is still and quiet. Late afternoon it starts to cool then ending after sunset where even in mid summer it can get quite cold in the evenings.
I hope you enjoy the overview of my place in the world and now have a better idea of a sense of place when viewing this clips from week to week.
For those interested, all the material was shot from a DJI Marvic Pro drone in 4k (thanks Micheal). I am a big fan of small drones and while they do have some limitations they are wonderfully able little devices and allow you to fly under the canopy and closer to the ground if you wish.
After much thought I decided to go with no commentary and just let the pictures talk, I hope you like it and let me know what you think.
Apologies for the delay in getting this out. We have had some tech issues that held things up but we are all sorted now.
What an exciting week it has been and it just goes to prove no matter how long you work with wildlife there are always some massive surprises to be had. That the nature world still astounds me is why I so love what I do.
I was so excited to see Snowy the White Laughing Kookaburra, even as I write I am still in awe of coming across such an amazing bird. My initial thought was that Snowy was an Albino. But after some fairly careful research and having a good look at the shots and zooming in on the eyes they look just like adult Kookaburra eyes, in that they are quite dark and they are not pink or light colored. So I think Snowy is not a Albino but has Leucism. Something I had no idea about until I looked into how Snowy is white.
So what is the difference between Albinism and Leucism?
When a bird is a true Albino, a genetic disorder causes the bird to not have the amino acid tyrosinase present in its system and so its body does not produce melanin pigments at all.
In the case of Leucism, the amino acid tyrosinase is present and so are the melanin pigments but in this inherited disorder the deposition of these pigments is blocked and so color is not transferred to the feathers, beak and skin scales in extreme cases.
So leucistic birds always have colored eyes which distinguishes them from albinos, as in the case of Snowy.
I do hope the white Laughing Kookaburra (AKA Snowy) does well and survives. Being such a standout creature will likely make its life hard and logic tells me without camouflage it will be a sitting duck for predators. Snowy lives on private land and without disturbance hopefully will live a long successful life, but only time will tell.
It is worth remembering that every animal is a individual, they all have their own personalities and characteristics. Some have obvious differences, like Snowy but anyone who has owned pets, (dogs, cats, birds or reptiles) knows that each one has its personality and is different and unique in its own way. This blog is a lot about celebrating the animal characters that live and pass though my life here. I look forward to your comments and subscribe to get reminders for every new post.
A white Kookaburra, you just never know what you will find in the natural world, do you.
Well there is only one word to describe last week and that was hot. Summer really is here now in the Central Highlands of Victoria, Australia.
The one thing you can be sure of when you get one of those windy scorching hots days is that you will find next to nothing in the heat of the day. But come late afternoon and evening the creatures start to emerge. Just about the first thing on their mind will be water, so I went down to dam, parked myself and camera and just waited quietly. It was well worth it, lots of things came in to the water but the family of Eastern Grey Kangaroos took the prize this week. They were so thirsty, and just looked at me and the camera on the far bank and went straight down to drink. They drank and drank, until the tiny grey fantail upset them that is. The sudden movement and sound turned their heads triggered the flight response and off they went. I can just imagine all that water sloshing about inside as they hopped, I wonder if it is uncomfortable? That is the sort of stuff that comes into my head while filming, odd isn’t it.
I was also lucky to find an Echidna. We seem to have several here, I have seen two individuals this week, the one I filmed and a much larger one just on dark the other night too. I hope over the next few months we will see some more Echidna antics.
Finally this week I have added a subscribe link on the blog page. So if you want an email for each new post please subscribe and also feel free to make comments too. Until next week.
Here is how I filmed the macro shots in this weeks video in the field. This pretty much is my standard way of doing similar sorts of shoots where it is impossible to move the subjects to a more sheltered location.
The shoot days were pretty breezy and that made filming the macro shots very tricky, even tiny movements end up looking like earthquakes when you are using high levels of magnification. Even just the ants moving were causing problems with the branch bouncing up and down and when the wind blew it was next to impossible to get a steady shot.
The photo shows my setup. I used a heavy lab stand and clamp to steady the branch the caterpillar was sitting on. Initially this disturbed the ants but after a few minutes they settled back down as if nothing had happened. The second tip was to use a rigid white piece of cor-flute board to the windward side of the area I was trying to protect. This left a small pocket of stiller air most of the time and had the added advantage of bouncing some extra fill light back into the scene too. (If you dont want the fill just use a matt back board)
The macro shots used my trusty Canon MP65, it covers the range of 1:1 to 5:1 in macro in one neat lens package. (To explain further, 1:1 to 5:1 refers to magnification, so at 1:1 the image on the camera sensor is the same size as the subject. At 5:1 the image on the sensor is 5x magnified ie larger, that the actual subject. That is how you can see an ant only 3mm long in so much detail.)
The other essential piece of kit is the slide plate between the camera and tripod. The lens does not focus as like a normal lens, you turn the barrel to change magnification (not to focus) and to actually focus you slide the whole camera rig toward and away from the subject. It is fiddly but also very satisfying to see things to small to normally observe.
I hope you like these insights behind the scenes and feel free to ask me any questions you may have and I will do my best to answer them for you.
What caught my attention this week was a lovely symbiotic relationship between caterpillars, pupae, butterflies and the ants that protect them. We are lucky enough to have several colonies of these living here.
The Supermoon on January second also had me out too, how could I resist playing with images of the moon and stars especially on summer evenings. (Ok the truth is it was cold, there were so many mosquitoes they would have eaten me alive except I was all rugged up and covered, but I still really love what I do.)
So this is what this whole project is about, just going out with the camera and filming week to week things here that I find interesting and bringing them to you. I truly hope you find the wonders of nature as amazing as I do.