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  (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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Wattle Day in Australia

Wattle Day is celebrated on the first of September

Wattle trees are in abundance by the first day of spring, throughout Australia, in the bush, in gardens, on the side of the road.  The much loved Wattle tree has a time of splendour, showing off, its green and yellow or golden glow.  Wattle is the national floral emblem. It was eventually decided that we should have a ‘Wattle Day’, on the 1st September, the beginning of spring.

  • Through history’s pages Wattle has been held in high esteem, but for the first Australians, ‘the original land owners’, they considered a number of species of Wattle to be sacred. It was an important source of food, fuel and medicine.  They would grind the pods to make bread; known to consist of protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats; the bark was used for skin irritations, and the wood was used for making certain wood-crafts, like utensils and boomerangs.
  • On the 17th Anniversary of the discovery of Tasmania, Hobart celebrated on the 19th November, 1838, with sprigs of Silver Wattle blossoms.
  • Later in 1899 a ‘Wattle Club’, in Victoria, headed by Mr A J Campbell, a field naturalist; decided on their second year, to do a bush-walk on the first day of spring.
  • However, the first official ‘Wattle Day’ was celebrated in 1910 in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and in 1915, the National Wattle Day League, was established to organise the official celebration.
  • Gaining more significance during WWI as Wattle sprigs and Wattle badges were sold to raise money for the war effort by organisations like the Red Cross. Wattle became a commemorative symbol to remember the men and women who fought for our freedom in war.
  • It is also, I believe a symbol of the Australian nation and its people; the Aussie way, character, new life, common purpose, mateship, hope, working together towards a better future, courage, generosity, good humour and prosperity.
  • Wattle is on the Australian Coat of Arms, as our National floral emblem, and it was planted along the Remembrance Drive, 320 kilometres of highway from Sydney to Canberra, as a memorial to the Australian war heroes.
  • We see the essence of Wattle in the green and gold of our Australian athletes, and sports teams in their green and gold uniforms, the ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ flag, and anytime when Aussie’s wear their green and gold to show support to fellow Australians.
  • Only a small percentage of the community these days celebrate Wattle Day, though it is coming into a revival again. It is not only a wonderful way to celebrate spring; it represents all that we hold most dear as Australians.  Why not wear a sprig of Wattle, or dress in the green and gold, enjoy a walk in the bush and take in some wattle splendour, make a Wattle seed cake and have morning tea, but above all, take a moment to reflect and be thankful for all we have in this beautiful country we call home.

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  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature, Author)

 

References: Personal, Wikipeadia, and www.wattleday.asn.au

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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  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

 

Wikipeadia, BirdLife International (2012), Backyard buddies, 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  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

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