As a new landcarer, every day is a learning experience for me. Today a group of us got stuck into some weeding down at our local park. It was a chilly morning but we were soon stripping off our layers when the autumn sun broke through the trees. There was so much to see and hear. It was wondrous and fun.
I’ve recently spoken to several park users who have noticed an increase in the number of butterflies and birds since our woodland began its transformation from mowed urban open space to wildlife sanctuary. Today’s high point was when my True Love encountered two native bees that we hadn’t seen before in the park – the blue-banded bee (Amegilla sp.) and the chequered cuckoo bee (Thyreus caeruleopunctatus). Of course, we have blue-banded bees in our own home garden because they love salvia, but I’ve never seen one at the park where thankfully there is no weedy escapee salvia in sight! Awesome. Then to top off the day, the discovery of not one, but two, chequered cuckoo bees was a delightful surprise because neither my TL or I had seen that species before. And they were all together. How cosy! Let’s have a look at them.
The BBBs are solitary bees. The female makes a burrow in soft soil (eg. earth bank) or sometimes soft mortar to lay her eggs (or maybe it is just one egg. I’m not sure). The cuckoo bee parasitises the nest of the BBB. Apparently, it is unusual for the BBBs to roost with cuckoo bees. Anyway, here they are just chilling out together on a a blade of grass as the day warms. I have it on reliable authority (thanks Canberra Nature Mapper experts) that the BBB in this photo is a male.
Bee your kindest self. I must remember that now that I’ve chopped off the less flattering part of this park care story.
What a little cutie. I’m referring to the Australian blue-banded bee. They’re always so welcome in our garden. However, to my horror, I discovered that they have a ferocious bite, especially when it latches on to the delicate skin between your toes. Unlike European bees, our native blue banded bees don’t die after they sting. Technically they don’t sting – they bite, and they can bite multiple times. Honestly, I thought I must have been bitten by a redback spider. It bloody hurt. Not that I have ever been bitten by a redback. I’ve been bitten by a young funnel web spider. Apparently funnel webs are less venomous when they are young, but don’t quote me on that. That bite wasn’t nearly as painful.
Anyway, it must have been horrifying for the little bee as well, finding itself lodged between the toes of some great lump. I ignored the initial discomfort at first but then it started to hurt like hell. I kicked off my sandal to investigate and saw something tumble into the grass. As I hunched down to try to ID it, on the off-chance I might have to call an ambulance, it rose before my eyes from the grass like a chopper from a James Bond movie, buzzing angrily in astonishment. “How dare you!”, it seemed to say. I am pretty deaf but that buzz rang loudly in my ears. No mistaking the message. Poor thing. I was so sorry for it and also very sorry for myself.
It might surprise my readers to learn that I have been writing a lot lately. I’m a bit over it. I have another small update to write on a group project. I’ve written one paragraph of a twoish para summary. I’ll re-write the first para again tomorrow. The trouble is that I always want to spice up such boring little factual pieces with some intrigue, controversy or a joke. Terribly inappropriate. Anyway, this para here is living proof that I can write a para and not spend a fortnight editing it.
I have been feeling a tad too boring to be blogging lately. Digging weeds day after day makes for pretty dull conversation. Also, somehow I had gotten it into my head that the quiet byways that I used to frequent were now inundated by crowds of people enjoying “nature” and therefore to be avoided. How selfish of me, but as per usual, it was nothing like I thought.
Anyway, I went out today. I saw less than a handful of people. I even said hello. It didn’t kill me. It was actually kind of nice. I had forgotten about the autumn light. Better make the most of it – the light, the time, the quiet.
In a moment of sheer panic and disbelief, I revealed something of myself, that is, a nagging concern about my forgetfulness and seemingly habitual carelessness. I am sure this came as no surprise to anyone given the name of this blog site.
I will let you in on something else important to me. I love photography. That is why I was so cross with myself when I recently lost my camera SD card. I only have two cards, one good and one not so good. Photography is a window to the world, a place mark and time stamp, don’t you think? It organises me.
I am calmer, more observant and patient when I am taking photos. I find that which is hidden may be revealed by chance or as it catches the light. Somewhere. Somehow.
Too much suspense?
So when I eventually found my SD card, I was immensely relieved. It was not in the fridge or under the fridge, in the bathroom or at the bottom of a bag of weeds as I feared. The dog hadn’t eaten it, nor was it on any shelf known to harbor such treasured objects. I owe its discovery all to you, dear Readers, and your kind and sympathetic comments. I really do. Because when I opened my laptop to respond to those comments, there it was. Surprise!
I should blog more often, don’t you think? Anyway, it makes a good story with a happy ending.
I worry about being forgetful. Don’t we all? My memory has never been very good but now it is dreadful. Apparently I’m supposed to remember how old I am but I can’t keep my age in my head. It changes all the time!
Today I lost my camera SD card. The good one. I remember putting it down on my desk and thinking that wasn’t a very secure place to leave it. Now it is no where to be found. I checked my bra, not there. Before you ask, it isn’t in the camera either. If I find it in the fridge, pantry or dishwasher, I’ll know something is seriously wrong with my memory. However the question is, if I never find it, is that better or worse?
Is a nondescript plant unworthy of the lingering gaze? Must the ugly duckling metamorphise into that beautiful swan? Does a light shine with none to see it, invisible when eyes are closed?
The winter woodland keeps its secrets. Echo chambers climb from forest floor until – tendril – summer’s fertile heat provides the desiccant, the bluffer and ephemera of nature’s final call.
I read a recent disparaging comment about the lovely Australian native climber, Clematis microphylla. Perhaps you are yet to discover it or if you have, perhaps you have been underwhelmed? Be patient, dear Readers, and look again.
By popular request (ie. again only one person), I return to the new verge garden which is in summer stasis. In other words, I haven’t had time to tend it. However, I have been taking note. I have a much better sense of the water, sun and soil requirements of particular plants. On the whole, I have chosen wisely, except perhaps for some rescue plants, which have died almost the moment they were planted.
The aim of this garden is to create a grassy woodland in miniature, using local flora. Or at least that is the aim now so we might come across plants that don’t quite fit that objective. Let’s get on with it.
On the subject of kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra), I have learnt that it is slow to get going compared to other native grasses. I am impatient for the grasses to fill out and provide protection for the small forbs that I planted between them. By then, we shall no doubt be in drought again.
Meanwhile, the seed heads of the wallaby grasses (Rytidosperma carphoides and bipartitum) jiggle freely, unrepressed, in the drying summer breeze.
The dusty daisy bush (Olearia phlogopappa) flowered prolifically this year. Perhaps reflecting an increase in the insect population on the verge (certainly the ants work diligently every day), there appeared to be a 100% success rate in the number of flowers that were pollinated. The seed heads formed delicate tufts on the bush that were even prettier than the flowers themselves. This particular bush is normally found in forests at higher elevations. I didn’t know this when I bought this plant. In fact, I didn’t know much at all. When I discovered its preferred habitat, I consoled myself with the fact that I live in a frost hollow so perhaps it would do well. This got me thinking about micro-climates and saving our endangered species.
There has been much general discussion about the need to adapt to the changing climate and planting more species that normally grow in hotter, drier regions. That makes intuitive sense but logic tells me there is a difference between climate and weather. Global average temperatures are trending up but we can also expect more extreme weather, both hot and cold, so we shouldn’t write-off our plants that live on the margins just yet. Perhaps many more of our precious, endangered ecological communities can thrive if we restore them to health and ensure the micro-climate we establish around them supports their continuing existence, Our cities and our gardens must play their part. Well, that’s my opinion, but like I said, I know nothing.
Not everything is in stasis on the verge. It is now time for the blue devils (Erygium ovinum) to shine. It is definitely their year, with Canberra’s nature reserves awash with dramatic metallic blue.
I can’t get enough of them so I have planted them liberally on my verge.
I’ve also planted some less conspicuous woodland plants, including this climbing saltbush (Einadia nutans). Its red berries are miniscule. Apparently, they flower in autumn and fruit from December to March. We occasionally see them at our park but they never seem to be vigorous or fruit profusely. I guess that reflects the mowing regimes for urban spaces. A shame really.
The lemon beauty heads (Calocephalus citreus) are another verge experiment. They look so vigorous and appealing in photos on the internet. So I planted a few and watered them in. And kept watering them. As you do. But they didn’t do well. Just in the nick of time, I learnt that I had to stop watering them. I am hopeful they will now do well in this hot part of the verge.
Since we have a dry forest side of our verge garden, we decided to plant a small shrub that typically grows in the eucalypt forest on the slopes of Canberra’s Black Mountain. Room was made for it when I removed an impulse purchase. I am much happier with this lovely slender riceflower (Pimelea linifolia).
Finally, let’s take a moment to visit the garden bed of death which forms the front boundary of my property. It is called the garden bed of death because nothing grew there until I stuck a few tough native grevilleas and grasses there. I also planted this lovely violet plant. Not that I’ve seen it for years as it was hidden by an exotic that I recently dug out. I got such a lovely surprise when I uncovered it this year. I think it is a kunzea, but not one that is native to Canberra. What do you think? Suggestions welcome.
Well, I will stop there lest it be winter before I actually publish this bloomin’ post.
A part of our small, grassy-woodland urban park is being allowed to regenerate. For the humans participating in the project, this mostly involves assiduous weeding and a small amount of replanting, but most of the hard work is being done by the land itself. The birds and other wild creatures (ie. two skinks and some butterflies) are embracing the changes.
I like my spear grasses straight off the plant. From paddock to plate – Fast food – So fresh, so nutritious, so grand.
This is my place. This is my home. From this watchtower, I behold you on your knees, creating a space for us to live together and apart. My retreat from mankind’s constant intrusions.
Peace and quiet, ladies and gentlemen, peace and quiet.
After a busy break doing the usual stuff, my True Love and I headed off to the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) for a relaxing New Year’s Eve stroll. To be frank, I find NYE rather a trial due to the inevitable illegal fireworks and a small dog who is terrified of them. I imagine it is not only small dogs that are terrified. The birds and animals at the ANBG get to hear and see the official fireworks show. At least that show is time-limited, unlike the unofficial ones which seem to go off all night.
This year I expected the firework shenanigans to be worse than usual because earlier pandemic restrictions seem to have caused more than the usual number of idiots to have slithered out of their holes. I asked my TL whether I should speak to those who had gone crackers but my TL suggested that would not be a good idea if I wanted to live til morning. So I didn’t. One friend in another city did tell her neighbours to fornicate with their illegal fireworks and lived to tell the tale. She may regret this next year when they let off even more.
As I keep saying over and over again, there are worse things than snakes, ladies and gentlemen.
By the way, after a two year break due to the pandemic, the ACT Herpetological Association in partnership with the ANBG, is again hosting Snakes Alive! from 9-15 January 2023. It is great fun for kids and adults alike. See here for details.
Anyway, happy 2023, everyone. I hope it is a bloody good one.
Kind Regards. Tracy.
About the Photos The photos of the red-browed finch and the bearded dragon were taken by my True Love. All the other ones were snapped by me.