The World of Fabulous Fungi

 

The focus of this article is on the beneficial Fungi found in the bushlands, forests and other landscapes.

Please remember that most Fungi can be toxic and some edible Fungi can have look-a likes, this requires caution and professional identification.

I see Fungi as the quiet achievers, the angels of the environment; going about, doing good, bringing about homeostasis into the earth.  Fungi possess such a uniqueness and status in the plant kingdom that should be applauded; actually they should receive a standing ovation!

At the base level of the food chain, they are vital for the health of the vegetation around them.  Without Fungi all life is seriously affected.

Some facts about Fungi

  1. They are important recyclers for our planet; important for all life at all levels.
  2. They have chitin in their cell walls rather than cellulose. Chitin is the substance insects and crustaceans use to make their exoskeleton.
  3. They do not have chlorophyll, so they cannot synthesis their own food from the sun’s energy. Fungi must rely on dead or living matter to survive.
  4. Fungi reproduce by spores and not seeds. On germinating, the spore gives rise to  cells called hyphae, when two hyphae unite, they start to grow and form the mycelium.  The mycelium consists of a mass of hyphae which weaves throughout the soil, feeding on waste and rotting matter within the soil.
  5. The mycelium gives rise to the fruiting body, which exposes and identifies the fungi present. For example mushrooms.
  6. All ecosystems depend on the effective workings of the beneficial Fungi.
  7. Fungi are the invisible framework of all ecosystems. They have the important role of breaking dead or living organic matter into safe, reusable nutrients; sterilising, fertilising and stabilising.  This makes them healers of the land.
  8. They support plants to thrive; by giving them increased drought intolerance and disease resistance.
  9. Fungi are placed in three categories, observed by their feeding habits:
  • Symbiosis
  • Saprophytism
  • Parasitism

Symbiosis

A good example of this is when we see the Fungi fruit linked to a living plant, such as a tree. In this symbiosis relationship, the fungi entwines it’s delicate network of the many hyphae’s around the plants roots, called mycorrhiza’s. This mycorrhizal connection is how they feed and support one another.   The Fungi feeds by extracting sugars and in return the Fungi supply the plant with nutrients, like phosphorous and water.   This is vital for both the plant and the Fungi’s survival and health.

Studies have shown that this symbiotic relationship has demonstrated that plants grow ten times healthier.

Saprophytism

These Fungi are mainly seen on things like rotting logs, branches, leaf litter including animal waste.  They play the role of primary decomposes of the various organic matter, including other waste; returning healthy nutrients back into the soil.

The Fungi can be seen on lawns, even away from other plants; feeding on waste and toxins, enriching and healing the soil.  They do this by spreading and radiating their long filamentous threads under the ground as they search for food.  This process enables the nearby plants to have access to the new enriched soil.

There are specially categorised Fungi in this group, ‘special agents’ that have the potential to breakdown numerous types of waste, like paper, plastic and even some petroleum products into safe, clean nutrient soil.  Wow!

Parasitism Fungi

They too are important in the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem.  They can be seen on sick or mature trees, eating into the heart wood and making tree hollows, by rotting that one section.  There would be a number of animals that would not be able to survive if these hollows were not made.

Lack of tree hollows is known to threaten a number of animal species survival rates, providing habitat for birds, possums, reptiles and other marsupials.

More interesting facts

At present there are over 249,000 species of Fungi in Australia.

To date there are approximately 70 bio-luminescent mushrooms on the Earth.

Despite their abundance and the huge importance they are to the planet and our very existence, Fungi are the most poorly studied organism.

Conclusion

Without Fungi all life would be seriously affected.  No Fungi, means there would be no plant life, no animal life, no oxygen, no food, no humans.

There is a small poem I saw once, I don’t know who wrote it, but it said;

‘The sky, a tree, and man will survive, if man understands the tree.’

This could be said about the Fungi.

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well.

Emily the book is available from Amazon and Angus and Robertson

By M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

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Common Ghost Crab (Ocypode Cordimanus)

Australia has six known species, of Ghost crabs.

These little crabs are so good at camouflaging with the sand, thus their name, making it difficult to see them during the day, if for whatever reason, they happen to leave their burrow.

Ghost crabs are found on open sandy beaches, where they live in their immaculate burrows, (some known to be more than 4 feet), near the intertidal zone, in the dry sand. They are nocturnal and remain in their burrows to keep cool during the day and warm during the winter.

They can hold oxygen in their air sacs for about six weeks, handy when you hide and live under the sand.

During the night, Ghost crabs, fix and repair their burrow and feed on a variety of plant and animal debris that has been washed ashore.  These omnivores can even catch insects in mid-air; due to their 360 degree vision, that allows them to see in any direction.

Ghost crabs breathe through gills, which they keep moist at all times, by various methods, such as taking the moisture out of damp sand.

An interesting thing to do whilst relaxing on a quiet beach is to listen for the Ghost crabs, very distinct, bubbling sounds! They use their gill chambers to produce bubbly sounds.

The female Ghost crab incubates 1000’s of eggs inside her flap, and once matured, these eggs become marine larvae.  Mum releases her offspring into the sea, where they remain for about two months before returning back to the shore.

Did you know that the Ghost crab’s burrows are regarded as valuable ecological indicators for quickly assessing the impact of human disturbance on beach habitats?  And, they can travel across the sand up to 10 to 15km/hr.  Yes, they are fast movers, and that is why they are so hard to catch.  Isn’t it interesting that their generic name is ocypode, which in Greek means, fast -foot.

I remember one day while I was drying off after a swim, I decided to read and relax, I saw movement in the corner of my eye, and I spied a tiny Ghost crab, well camouflaged with the sand, right next to a small burrow. I went to pick it up and it quickly fled into its hole. I started digging but there was no way in this dry sand that I could find it.  The crab had dug down so deep; apparently, they can construct long pathed tunnels, to who knows where… hence another reason for the name, Ghost crab.

Of course, afterward I realised I should not have dug into his home, all that work would have been destroyed.  I vowed not to do that again.  We need to be sensitive to the ecosystem that in some environments are quite sensitive, the softer our footprint is, in the natural environment,  the better for us all; flora, fauna, marine life, and us humans.

By M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

References: PDF Brazilian Journal of Oceanography 57(2):149-152 / Coastal Habitat Awareness Program –OCCI / Ghost crab a tool for rapid assessment of human impacts on exposed sandy beaches. ELSEVIER. Biological Conservation. F.Barros 97 (2001) 399-404 / Personal observations.

 

 

 

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Magpie-Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Also known as mudlark, Murray magpie and Peewee.

One of the most fascinating attractions of these Magpie-Larks, and something I enjoy the most, is to listen to them sing.

They sing in duet, each partner sings their notes about a second apart, one sings, ‘peewee’ and the other responds with, ‘wit’. This singing makes it difficult to know there are two birds singing, tricky.

Other interesting points 

  • When other birds enter their territory, they will stand side by side and sing out their melody (keep away).
  • Known to have a partner for life.
  • Diet is carnivorous, consisting of a variety of small creatures, e.g. insects, spiders, worms and lizards. See them as a natural insecticide, helping to reduce the numbers of unnecessary bugs.
  • Peewee’s find their food by walking through fine soft patches of ground/grass areas.
  • They build a very interesting nest, made out of mud, and lined with fine bits of grass matter.
  • Peewee’s have up to 5 chicks with an Incubation time of 18 days, and the young fledglings are ready to leave the nest within 3 weeks.

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well.

Emily the book is available from Amazon and other online stores.

by M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

 

Wikipeadia, BirdLife International (2012), Backyard buddies, Personal observations

 

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Australia’s most loved crab – the Soldier Crab

Australian Soldier Crab (Mictyris Longicarpus)

soldier crab 255They feed on detritus, any small organisms, such as diatoms, gastropod eggs or nematodes that are found in the sand, leaving rounded pellets of discarded sand behind them. They start to  feed within fifteen minutes of emerging from their sand holes… feeding may last from one to two and a half hours,  then they aggregate into armies, with the largest at the front.

Soldier crabs are mainly seen at low tide before the crabs dig into the sand to wait till the next tide. Much of their time is spend buried in the sand and only emerging to the surface a few hours before low tide, some stay submerged for the entire tidal cycle.

The number of crabs which can emerge at a time is influenced by temperature, wind and rainfall, with the different sexes responding differently. For example, one day, nearly all the males emerge for the day, then the next day, there will be a mixture of male and female crabs.

Upon emergence, the crab performs ‘the most aerobic grooming performance’… ‘In less than a second the crab falls onto its back, to remove any sand, then flips upright again in a half a somersault.’

They live in sandy estuaries, beaches and intertidal mangroves, where massive groups of crabs seem to emerge from nowhere all at the same time.

By M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

References Wikipedia & personal observations.

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The Golden Orb Weaver Spider (Nephila.sp)

 

This spider is one of the largest spiders in Australia, it is well known for its very large well engineered, perfectly designed, beautiful golden web.  Sometimes over a metre in length this web can be found between trees or shrubs.

The chemistry of the web is interesting … said to be flexible, yet, stronger than steel.

These unique spiders help keep the insect population under control and in a very environmentally friendly way. Bringing awareness to their useful resourcefulness is valuable. An example of this is, relocating an orb spider to a pest ridden citrus tree this  can be a gardener’s best friend. The spider has been known to keep pest numbers controlled, keeping the tree healthier, chemical free.

They are not known to be aggressive, however, if threatened they have been known to bite. Please don’t kill them, just relocate them.

The Golden Orb Weaver spider has a security system, to give protection from birds and will even be hospitable to smaller spiders, which in turn pay their accommodation by cleaning up any debris from the web.

One of the spiders predators are the wasp, who will pretend to be caught in the web, deceiving the Golden Orb spider; a very sad end to a most talented spider.

M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

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Holiday Birds

The Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel

Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel male c

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well. It is amazing how the more I share, about these subjects; the more I learn, the more my passion grows.

One day, as I sat in my garden, sipping on my tea and watching the nature that surrounded me, a male Koel, which I had noticed for a few years, jumped onto my blueberry bush and ever so gently ate three of my choicest berries. When he had had his fill, he jumped onto the edge of the bird bath to have a drink, and that’s when he saw me, and that’s when I took his photo.

Two weeks later, I saw, and managed to take a photo of the female Koel; this experience made me curious to know more about these striking birds and about some of their amazing character traits!

 female koel c

Here are some of my interesting facts; I thought might be nice to share.

The Koel is a member of the cuckoo family, it is also known as the rain bird or storm bird, as its call is usually more prevalent before or during a stormy weather.

The male has glossy black feathers and red eyes, where the female has glossy brown upperparts, heavily spotted with white, and a black crown. The upper parts of her body are generally buff-cream with numerous fine black bars, she has dark eyes; very pretty.

The young resemble the adult female.

Behaviour

 Like I said above they have some amazing traits, being migratory birds they fly into Australia from their northern winter homes, New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly the Philippines to breed in late September and October.

What they do then, is find a ready-made nest, then lay one single egg in the nest and leave.  Once the egg is hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest.  The chicks then becomes very vocal and demanding, cheeping constantly, while the foster parents, who are usually natives, and smaller in size, desperately search for food.

These foster parents are usually the Red Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbirds, Large Honey Eaters, Maggie-Lark and the Fig Bird.

Numbers of the Koel are increasing due to the abundant increase of their host.  During the breeding season they are found in Northern & Eastern Australia, South to Nowra, New South Wales, and tend to leave southern Australia around March.

The Koel adult is usually a shy bird; they can be heard more than seen.

Habitat

They are found in tall forests, woodlands, plantations and seen also in suburban gardens.

Diet

They love their fruit meal, for example, berries, with a special preference for figs, taken directly from the tree.

I think they like grapes and they definitely like my blueberries.  I have a fig tree too, now I know who has been nibbling on these.

It is lovely having a garden that can be a haven for birds, and small animals. I always have the birdbath filled with water especially ready for the hot days; I never use chemicals like herbicides, pesticides or weed killers in my garden, it will only affect these beautiful animals that visit, and the environment, not good for them or me.

If you would like to read my book ‘Emily’, which is a story about Emily’s journey of love, it showcases the Australian beach and bush, and good clean concepts of relationships. It is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Angus and Robertson/Bookworld, and other online stores.  It is available in paperback and ebook, so you can enjoy this beautiful story.

Love and Appreciate the Gift of Nature

By Margaret Ann Loveday ND  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife.  Lover of Nature)

References:

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Wikipedia

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Nature is Full of Miracles

Margaret Ann Loveday ND – Sunday, June 07, 2015

Dolphins are beautiful, social, extraordinarily intelligent and altruistic animals

dolpin 1

Today there are many recorded activities of dolphins with humans, dogs and even cats.  They are curious animals and quick to work you out , to see if you are friendly, worth playing with or are in need of being rescued, for example,  drowning.

They like to play or play-fight with each other, making bubble rings which they form in the water, or playing with seaweed.

Dolphins have several highly developed forms of communication, one in particular is the signature whistle, which allows other individuals to recognise them.

In my book ‘Emily’, a dolphin called Zoe and Emily have amazing interactions and communication together.

dolphin2

Above is a picture of a dog that was rescued by a dolphin, it is a true story written by Taewood, in February 2011.  This dog had been missing at sea in Florida US for fifteen hours, this beautiful dolphin came to the rescue…love saves the day!

 

 

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The Koala

 

Thank you Sam, for sending me your  post all about Koalas.

In my book ‘Emily’, the main characters own and operate a Wildlife Park, it is a wonderful way to showcase some of our Australian native animals and bring awareness to the environment.  Happy environment equals happy native animals which equals happy people!

Scientific name: Phascolarctidae

The Aboriginal word, ‘Koala’ means ‘no water’.

Koala 1

 1). Koala activity

They are well known for spending most of there lives asleep in trees, for up to 18-20 hours a day.  It has been rumored in the past that this is because koalas become intoxicated from the eucalyptus leaves.  However koalas sleep so much due to their low energy diet.

The few hours they spend awake are used for eating, socialising, moving about and grooming themselves.  Koalas are nocturnal, waking in the cool of night; therefore they use less energy and sweat less saving valuable liquid.

When the koala decides to move trees it descends the tree climbing down backwards.  Once it is at the desired tree it leaps from the ground, clinging onto the tree with its sharp claws then hops up the tree.  Koalas are vulnerable when on the ground, exposing themselves to predators.

Koalas can bee seen balling up in winter to keep warm and the Joeys like to snuggle with their mother.  In the heat of summer they dangle their arms and legs over the branch they are on, to cool down.

2). The Koala’s body

The mouth of the koala is ideal for the consumption of leaves.  First the koala uses its large nose that has a finely tuned sense of smell to choose leaves to eat.

Then with the front teeth, the incisors, it snips the leaves off.  The sharp molars at the back of the mouth chop up the leaves rather than mulch them.  There is a space between the front and back teeth, the ‘diastema,’ improving the koala’s ability to shuffle the leaves around in its mouth.

It has been noticed that in colder parts of Australia the koalas are marginally bigger.  This is because they have extra body fat, to keep them warm in cooler conditions.

The Koala’s paws are a bit like our hands, they have five digits, however, they have two claws that are positioned like our thumbs.  Their two thumbs face the opposite direction to their fingers allowing them to grasp branches better.  Their back paws have no claw on their largest toe and two of the claws are joined together like a comb in which they brush themselves.

Koala’s fur is thick and soft, keeping them snug in cold weather and cool in the heat of summer.  The fur is resistant to water allowing rain to run off and not soak in.  The thick, soft fur on their bottom also makes for a more comfortable sit, on the solid branches they dwell on.

The colour of fur is individual for each koala. It can fluctuate from light grey to brown and all the shades in between.  Usually there is white fur on the inner body: the front, chest, arms, legs, ears and mouth.  Male koalas have scent glands in their chest that colour the surrounding fur brown.  The fur on koala’s bottoms is mottled with white, breaking up the colour, which helps to conceal them.

Koala 2

 3). More interesting facts

  • Koala’s are native to Australia
  • The average weight of a koala is around 9 kilograms but they can weigh up to 14 kilograms (Adult).
  • There lifespan is about 13-18 years (In the wild)
  • A baby koala is called a Joey.
  • Its closest living relatives are the wombats.
  • Koalas are marsupials, meaning the females give birth to semi-developed young and have pouches.
  • Koalas are one of the few mammals that solely eat eucalyptus leaves.
  • Eucalyptus is toxic to humans and many animals because it cannot be digested. However, koala’s have a very special gut that measure’s about two metres long and is high with super micro organisms that are capable of detoxifying the toxicity of the leaves.
  • The koala is not actually a bear.
  • Koalas obtain 90% of the liquids they need from their diet of eucalyptus leaves and only drink in special circumstances such as a drought or when
  • They are excellent swimmers and can cross rivers if needed, in order to escape g. heavy flooding.

4). Diet

  • Koalas are herbivores and their diet is a well rounded one, because they only like to eat eucalyptus leaves, of specific species, however, Koalas like to vary their diet just a little and have even been seen eating wattle and tea tree.
  • Each day they eat about ½ kg of fresh leaves.
  • They are set in their eating choices which are mainly eucalypt leaves, but sometimes, they do, and very rarely eat non-eucalypts leaves.  (This is when they have been spotted gathering together, eating and sleeping in non-eucalypts).
  • The type of eucalyptus a koala eats depends on what species grow in the area they live.  For example: Around NSW, in particular, the Sydney areas, the Koala is attracted to the leaves of the Red Gums and Mahoganies are there favourites. Depending upon which state, as in the Northern areas, the Koala favours the Tallowwood and Forest Red Gum and in the west Koalas prefer the River Red Gum and Ribbon Gum.
  • Koalas choose areas to live that have up to three favourite species of eucalypts and eat from them often.
  • Sometimes they are found enjoying other trees, such as; Acacia trees, She-oak, Paperbark trees, they use these trees for sleeping, resting and to use as shelter during the day, heatwaves and harsh weather like storms.
  • Koalas are very particular when selecting eucalyptus leaves to eat.  There are over 600 species of eucalyptus in Australia and koalas only eat 40-50 species.
  • In spring koalas love feasting on the new growth but settle for the mature leaves the rest of the year.
  • Koalas have a diet that does not give them very much energy.  To help with this they digest food very slowly, which helps to draw out every bit of energy from their food.

5). Where do Koalas live?

Koalas can be found from Queensland and New South Wales to Victoria and South Australia.  Koalas live in tall eucalyptus forests and low eucalyptus woodlands.

Koalas prefer to live individually, until mating season.  Each koala selects a group of trees to become their ‘home range’.  The home range contains all that the koala needs to survive.  Within the home range there are trees classified into two groups, food trees and home range trees.  Food trees are eucalypts that the koalas favour and eat from regularly, and home range trees are the markers of the boundaries to the home range.  Koalas avoid venturing outside of their ‘home range’ and usually stay within this perimeter most of their lives, while their young population goes forth and find their own home range.

The territory of a koala is determined by the amount of eucalyptus trees and the quality of them.  The home range of each individual koala over laps other koala’s home range trees allowing for contact with others.  Koalas can easily identify each home range.  It has been noted by researchers that a koala’s home range must contain at least one and up to three of their preferred species of eucalyptus or they will abandon the area.

Koalas are very picky so they usually live in areas with good conditions to grow healthy eucalypts, which means sufficient rain and suitable soil.  Areas with poor soil will often be avoided as the eucalyptus leaves are much more potent due to the conditions.

koala 3

 6)Breeding and raising of the young

From September to March is mating season.  During this period the koalas become livelier and the males can be heard bellowing loudly.  Females are of breeding age at three or four years of age.  Depending on the health, environment quality and other circumstances koalas will have one Joey a year.  Otherwise they can have a Joey every two or three years.  Over the lifetime of a female koala she gives birth to around 5 or 6.

Female koalas only conceive one baby every pregnancy and from conception to birth it is only 34 to 36 days.  When the Joey is born it is approximately 2 centimeters long (size of a broad bean), pink, hairless, blind and weighs less than a large paper clip.  It is totally at the mercy of the mother having no ears, sight or fur.  Amazingly the Joey crawls from its mother’s womb to the pouch on its own seeming to know where to go.  Although it has only just been born it has a keen sense of smell, strong limbs and claws as well as a fine sense of touch.

While in the pouch it suckles the mother’s teat and fills the mouth so it stays connected to its food source.  The mother uses the muscles at the top of the pouch to close it.  The Joey drinks only milk from its mother for about 7 months while developing.

After 22 to 30 weeks the Joey is introduced to paps, which are the leaves that the mother has eaten and partly digested. It is thought that pap comes from an opening in between the small and large intestines.   At first the Joey eats the pap from the pouch, but as the Joey starts to grow in size, it is then capable of crawling out from the pouch to eat from the top of its mother’s belly.  Eventually the young koala climbs onto the back of its mother and eats the eucalyptus leaves for itself.

As the Joey grows older and can no longer crawl inside the pouch the teat elongates and reaches outside the pouch.  The young koala stays with the mother while the milk supply continues.  The teat goes back to normal size when there is a new Joey so the cycle can continue.  If the mother does not reproduce that year the Joey will stay with the mother and continue to supplement its diet with milk for longer allowing it better hope of living when it leaves.

The koala mother and her young enjoy a very close relationship. She happily carries her offspring around until it is old enough to be independent.

By Sam (Carer/Caring for Wildlife and Loving Nature)

sam wildlife carer

Emily is available from www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409, Angus and Robertson/Bookworld and other online stores in Paperback and Ebook

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Why are Eucalyptus Trees Magnificent?

Margaret Loveday – Monday, June 08, 2015

My passion is to entwine the ‘Threads of Love’ throughout my book series and this comes also, in the form of Love for the environment and to bring awareness of the beauty and uniqueness of the Australian Bush and its flora and fauna.

In my book ‘Emily’ I have written about Green Coastal Wildlife Park, which is a fictitious Park that showcases all the elements and philosophies that I believe would help to achieve the love and respect that nature deserves. It is an ideal ‘Natural Wonderland’, a compilation of places I have visited and enjoyed.

I would like to contribute to this awareness, by sharing on this magnificent Australian species of trees, called Eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus (Gum) trees

The Eucalyptus Trees are unique and very special trees; they are beautiful and can be found in almost every part of Australia. There are about 700 species and only 15 species of these were introduced to other countries.

The Two Characteristics of the Eucalyptus Trees:       

  1. The unique floral display is like no other tree, and
  2. The fruits (or gum nuts), that each tree produces.

These two characteristics are what makes them easy to recognise, and sets them apart.

The Flowers

Their flowers are not petals, but a ‘showy’ of numerous fluffy stamens, that come in a kaleidoscope of many colours, for example, here are some of the different colours of the flowers found around Australia:-

  • Western Australia – yellow, green, pale yellow or red orange tightly clustered flowers.
  • Queensland – red, orange or pink
  • South Australia – red, white, pale yellow
  • New South Wales – pink, white, dark pink / purplish
  • Northern Territory – scarlet flowers and others are stunning orange with bright yellow tipped stamens (look like a flame), orange.
  • Victoria – white
  • Eastern ranges to coast of mainland Australia – masses of white showy flowers
  • Sandy coastal, swampy south west corner of Australia – red
  • Tasmania – white

Eucalyptus sideroxylon

All the stamens are enclosed in a cap, composed of the fused sepals, hence the woody fruits called gum nuts.

Nearly all Eucalyptus trees are evergreen, different shades of green/blue/white in colour. Some tropical species lose their leaves at the end of the dry season, others Eucalyptus leaves are covered with oil glands, which helps to prevents water loss.

Eucalyptus Tree Identification

Due to the many different varieties ofs Eucalyptus trees, identification has been made easier and this is now done by observing the bark of the trees. This process has allowed them to be placed into five simple bark categories.

A). Bark Identification

  1. Stringybark: – consists of strands which can be pulled off in long pieces. Usually it is thick with a spongy texture. (Stands of thick long pieces – spongy)
  2. Ribbon:- where the bark comes of in thin long pieces but still loosely attached in some places. They can be long ribbons, firmer or twisted. (Long loosely ribbons)
  3. Ironbark: – is hard, rough and deeply furrowed. It is soaked with dried sap exuded by the tree which gives it a dark red or even black colour. (Hard, rough soaked sap)
  4. Tessellated:- bark is broken up into many distinctive flakes. These flakes are like cork and can flake off. (many cork like flakes)
  5. Box:- has shorter fibre’s (Short fibre’s)

Spotted Gum ForestB) Having them divided into only three main groups, helps to know what areas /locations they are found.

Three Main Groups for Location Identification

  1. Forest trees
  2. Woodland trees
  3. Mallee trees

The introduction of Eucalyptus trees into other countries

Following the Captain Cook expedition in 1770, and Sir Joseph Banks a botanist, was the driving force that subsequently started the introduction of the Eucalyptus trees to the world. Today these magnificent trees can be found in countries such as; California, Brazil, Spain, Morocco, Uganda and Israel.

The interest was due to the many valuable uses these trees provide and the importance they have economically, such as:

Being one of the fastest growing sources of wood, saw milling, pulp, charcoal, timber for building homes, bridges, furniture, musical instruments, firewood, essential oils (therapeutically), essential oils (cleaning products), essential oils (used as a natural insecticide), paper, tissue, mulch, fertiliser, dyes and more.

In Israel

These trees were recognised for their fast growth, as an evergreen tree, providing shade for smaller trees and because of the large clusters of flowers that blossom almost all year round. This added bonus has made the bees and the bee keepers very happy, producing larger quantities’ of honey for longer periods during the year.

The Eucalyptus Camaldulensis, imported from Australia was used as an aid to dry out swamps; this significantly reduced the amount of mosquitoes, thus reducing risk of malaria.

Fire

Eucalypts are well adapted for periodic fires; in fact most species are dependent on them for the spread and regeneration. They grow back very quickly. However, Alpine Ash and Mountain Ash only grow back from seeds.

Frost

Most Eucalypts are not frost tolerant, but species like the, Snowy gums, Eucalyptus paucilflora, is capable of withstanding cold, snow and frost about, -20 degrees

snow gum

Branch Dropping

Eucalyptus trees have a habit of dropping entire branches as they grow. That’s why when you visit a Eucalypt forest you see the ground littered with dead branches.  They say that some species of gum trees drop branches un-expectantly, known as “summer branch drop”, such as the River Red gums. It has been noticed to occur mostly during droughts, when trees shed whole branches to save water. Some of these branches weigh a lot, due to the high density and high resin content. Therefore, it is best not to camp under a large Eucalypt.

The Ghost gum, Eucalyptus papuana, sometimes called the ‘widow maker’, named thus because of the high number of workers killed by the falling branches, as they sat or camped underneath them. Note, these branches and even very large ones, can be shed at any time so be mindful, in particular during the summer months.

The magnificent Red Gums, trunks and branches change from orange in summer and lighter orange/pinkish grey in the winter. In December these trees are adorned with bunches of white flowers. When I see them in great numbers up high on a mountain or fly over them, it looks like snow, absolutely brilliant.

Kino

The sap which exudes from any break in the bark is called kino. This is the trees normal reaction to mechanical damage, it oozes, like the tree is bleeding and it usually is bright red in colour. Some species ooze large amounts from their wounds, but with the air and sun exposure the sap hardens.

Kino is used in different ways, for example, having a natural defense mechanism it protects the wood from ship worm and borers, and the tannin, has been used for dyeing fabrics.

Other interesting facts about the Eucalyptus trees

  • On warm days, in Eucalyptus forests sometimes you can see a bluish smog-like haze, it is the volatile oils (compounds known as terpinoids), that the leaves emit, hence the name Blue Mountains, in Australia.
  • Several Eucalypts species are among the tallest trees in the world, namely the E. Regnans, the Australian ‘Mountain Ash’ and the tallest named Centurion is over 327 feet tall, (approximately 100m).
  • The Ghost gum’s leaves were used by Aboriginals to catch fish; the leaves contain a substance that stuns the fish.
  • Didgeridoos, known as an important wind instrument, were made by tree trucks that usually were hollowed out by termites.
  • They oxygenate the air.
  • Are useful homes for many beneficial insects and other wildlife such the koala and the many varieties of birds.
  • And for us to respect, admire and enjoy.

Laughing Kookaburra

Love and Appreciate the Miracle and the Gift of Nature

     By Margaret Ann Loveday ND  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife.  Lover of Nature)

References: Brooker.I.,Kleining,D. (1996) Eucalyptus, An illustrated guide  to identification, Reed Books, Port Melbourne.; Brooker.M.I.H.;Kleining,D.A.(2006). Field Guide to the Eucalyptus. Melbourne;Bloomings.3rd edition.;Wikipedia’Eucalyptus.;Eucalyptus camaldulensis in wildflowers of Israel, E.Aloni & M.Livne.;Brooker.M.I.H.;Kleining,D.A.(2006). Field Guide to the Eucalyptus. Melbourne;Bloomings.3rd edition.;Wikipedia’List of Eucalyptus’.

         You are welcome to enjoy reading ‘Emily’, available in ebook and paperback   www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409   or other online stores

   For Australian online store try Angus and Robertson/Bookworld

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The White-Bellied Sea Eagle

In my book ‘Emily’, the concept of ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, was a perfect way of high-lighting environmental issues and subtly bringing awareness that love is an important aspect when it comes to our natural environment. This extends to respecting and embracing our natural flora and fauna that we need to protect.

Our wildlife depends on us to maintaining  the health of the environment,  and the balance of all this is  important to all our futures.  

The White-Bellied Sea Eagle also known as the White Breasted Sea Eagle.(Haliaeetus leucogaster)

                                                  They are protected by law

CCCCwhitebellied sea eagle- upcloseI call them our precious majestic bird

Short description

  • The female is slightly larger than the male, and can measure up to 90 cm long with a wingspan of up to 2.2 m and weigh 4.5 kg.
  • The call is a loud goose-like honking, especially during the breeding season.
  • A young white bellied sea eagle in its first year is predominately brown. This brown colour then starts to diminish by gradually being infiltrated with white until in reaches adulthood by the 4th or 5th year.
  • This species breeds from around the 6th year onward.
  • Their life span is around 30 years.

Their Home and Nest

  • The nest is their castle, signifying power, authority. It clearly marks their chosen territory, in other words, they are politely making it clear, ‘keep away from my property, house and family!’
  • They usually choose tall trees, often used as a perch to survey the surrounding area, near water with some forest cover. It is here where they build their nest, usually sited in the fork of large trees (mostly in sheltered eucalyptus trees), overlooking bodies of water.
  • Cliffs are also suitable nesting sites.
  • The nest is a large deep bowl constructed of sticks, branches and lined with materials like grass, green leaves (believed to be for hygiene purposes) or seaweed.
  • Yearly renovations result in nest getting gradually bigger, old nests can become enormous, some measure up to 4.5 m (14 feet) deep and 1.5 m (8 feet) wide. Now that’s pretty big!
  • A breeding pair knows their own roles to partake through the process, the male becomes more active, having fun by spending 3 to 6 weeks building or renovating the nest before his mate starts to lay her eggs.

CCCCsea eagles nest

 

 

CCCCCwhite-bellied sea eagle2nest

Breeding

  • Normally two eggs are laid and they are incubated over 6 weeks before hatching.
  • Initially the male brings food and the female feeds the chicks, both parents feed the chicks as they grow larger.
  • Hatching is 40 to 44 days and nestling 65 to 70 days. It has been recorded that fledglings are fed for about 3 months, after this, they can remain around the parents’ territory for up to 6 months or until the following breeding season.

Diet (Feeding is carnivorous)

  • They usually hunt and consume a wide variety of animal prey, mainly aquatic animals, such as; fish, eels, porcupine fish (deadly to humans), water rats, turtles and sea snakes. Other animals they are know to eat, is the blue tongue lizard, and some birds.
  • Eagles often catch a fish by flying low over the water and grasping it in its talons.  On sunny days it flies directly into the sun or at right angles to it, so it doesn’t cast a shadow over the water and so, sneak up on its prey.
  • They are skilled hunter’s, and if they are desperate for food, they can attack prey up to the size of a swan, and even eat sea gulls.
  • They also feed on carrion such as dead sheep, birds and fish found along the waterline.

CCCCeagle getting fish    CCCCCsea eagle taking off fish

Interesting facts  

Much of the white-bellied sea eagle’s behaviour, particularly breeding, is not well known.

  • Nests are a territorial marker and it is used for breeding, feeding, protecting the family, protection from any intruder(s), a sleeping and surveillance platform.
  • Eagles have one mate for life, however if one dies it quickly seeks a new mate.
  • Courtship is for life and it increases during the spring.
  • Eagles are often seen perched high in a tree, or soaring over waterways and adjacent land.
  • Eagle’s like to breed and hunts near water, because their main diet consists of fish.
  • The male’s honking call is higher-pitched, more rapid and is among the loudest and furthest –carrying of all the Australian bird calls.
  • Some nest sites are continuously occupied for many years, (e.g. 50 yrs).
  • They are found in higher numbers where there is little or no human impact or interference.
  • Estuaries are a favourable habitat.
  • DDT was once a widely used pesticide in agriculture and was found to have a negative affect on wildlife, particularly egg thinning and subsequent breakage.

The eagle is revered by indigenous people in many parts of Australia, and is the subject of various folk tales throughout Australia.

The white bellied sea eagle was and is important to different tribes of indigenous people across Australia.

Examples from Wikipedia:

  • The guardian animal of the Wreck Bay aboriginal community, it is also the official emblem of the Booderee National Park, and
  • Botanic Gardens in the Jervis Bay Territory.
  • A local Sydney name was gulbi, and the bird was the totem of Colebee, the late 18th Century indigenous leader of the Cadigal people.
  • The Mak Mak people of the floodplains to the SW of Darwin in Northern Territory, who recognise its connection with ‘good country’.  It is their totem and integrally connected to their land..
  • The Umbrawarra George Nature Park was a Dreaming site of the bird, in this area known as Kuna-ngarrk-ngarrk.
  • It was symbolic to the Tasmanian indigenous people – Nairanaa was the name used there.
  • Known as Manulab to the people of Nissan Island, the bird is considered special and killing is forbidden. Its calls at night and it is said to foretell danger, and seeing a group of calling eagles flying overhead is a sign that someone has died.
  • Local Malay folk talk tales tell of the bird screaming to warn the shellfish of the turning tides, and a local name burung hama siput translates as ‘salave of the shellfish’.
  • Maharashtra coast, their name is kakan and its call is said to indicate the presence of fish in the sea.

Love  Nature

Love our environment and look after it, let us keep our footprints as light as possible in this planet we call home.  

Another reason why I have written ‘Emily’, and placed the characters, in an Australian beach/bush setting, was to bring notice to the beauty of the nature that surrounds us all, to love nature is to care for it, even in the simple things we all do everyday.  Like reducing chemicals on our garden and changing our washing powder, all these small actions when we get together is a huge action towards a better environment and that in turn protects our own health, everyone around us, our pets and native animals.  Margaret Ann Loveday

www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409

References: (BirdLife International 2005e; del Hoyp et al.1994  / Oslen, P. 1995 / Marchant & Higgins 1993 / Clunie 1994 ) / National Parks and Wildlife / Wikipedia)

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