Tag Archives: blue banded bee

Whyalla’s Wildlife Oasis

5 Dec

Dear Reader:

The red-necked avocets are searching for food along the shoreline of the little lake. They use their characteristically upwards curved beak to probe for tiny crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates. Avocets employ two different feeding strategies. Where the water is clear the birds pick their prey from the surface but in muddy areas they sweep their bills across the sediment flushing out tiny animals to feed on.

 

Red-necked avocet

 

I am walking around the freshwater lake that is the centrepiece of Whyalla’s newly created wetlands. The area has been carefully developed over the last few years with the aid of local community groups. There are significant stands of reeds, grasses and shrubs throughout the park providing a habitat for a range of wading birds including: stilts, ibises, plovers, dotterels as well as larger species such as pelicans and cormorants. Barbecues, a playground, benches, toilets and sheltered areas make this both an ideal family destination and wildlife oasis in the dry desert countryside that surrounds Whyalla.

 

Wetlands view

 

 

Further along the trail clumps of native grasses and flax lilies provide shelter and food for quite different kinds of wildlife. Native blue bees flit between the blossoms where their vibrating wings shake loose pollen. Hidden strategically in the grass blades, a well camouflaged dragon lizard waits patiently for any unwary bee or other insect to venture within its kill zone.

 

Blue banded bee

 

Dragon waiting

The extensive grassed areas provide yet another habitat for those animals that prefer to feed or congregate in open spaces. Parrots, ibises and ducks often relish these open areas but today it is a flock of black-tailed native hens that are foraging on the grass. They are nervous and hard to approach and getting a reasonable shot takes a little patience.

 

Black-tailed native hens

 

 

 

As my walk draws to a close I notice two delicate little waders close to each other as they feed along the shoreline. A black-winged stilt with its needle-like beak and a smaller red-kneed dotterel are both feeding in the same area but their different beak shapes means that they are not in competition.

 

Dotterel and stilt

 

The wetlands are just off the Lincoln Highway at the southern end of Whyalla. From there it is a short drive into the town or down to the marina which is famous for the pods of dolphins that come up to the walkways to help themselves to any fish discarded by anglers returning to the marina……or perhaps just to enjoy the company of another intelligent species.

 

Next stop

 

Take a drive out west sometime and enjoy this unique part of our State

Cheers

Baz  

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and text describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will attach a new image and notes to accompany each post. The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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Henley Square……Crabs, Coffee and Coastline

13 Jan

Dear Reader:

The morning is warm and still with hardly a breath of wind. Although the water is not as clear as I would have liked it is worth putting on a mask and flippers to explore the shallows alongside the jetty.

Henley jetty on a summer's day

Henley jetty on a summer’s day (click to enlarge all images)

 

 

As I swim into the shadows beneath one of the jetty piles I can just make out a school of sizeable bream with a few silver whiting scattered amongst them. They are massing near the wooden posts directly below several fishermen who have empty buckets and a look of ‘no luck today’ on their faces.

 

School of bream under the  jetty

School of bream under the jetty

 

 

The wind is strengthening a little which often stirs up the sand and makes underwater photography challenging to say the least. It is time to switch to macro settings and look for small organisms on the sandy bottom. Numerous furrows snake across the undulating sand like roads through desert dunes. I follow one trail and probe the end point gently with my dive knife to see if I can reveal the perpetrator…no luck. But my digging does annoy a swimmer crab half buried in the sand only an arm’s length away. The little creature immediately strikes an aggressive pose angling up towards me with nippers spread and ready to attack.

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

 

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

 

 

I spend a few more minutes exploring the various organisms that cling to the jetty piles. Satisfied with a few close up shots of anemones and sea squirts, I head for the change rooms and outdoor shower to wash off my gear. And then, the all important decision…. which of the beachside al fresco restaurants for coffee and breakfast? Henley Square at the foot of the jetty is one of Adelaide’s favourite beachside haunts where you will invariably find an eclectic collection of walkers, cyclists, fishers and even the odd naturalist; all enjoying the coastal ambience and quality restaurants.

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

 

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

 

 

 

Refuelled and refreshed by my morning dip I walk south along the bikeway that skirts this section of coastline. Between the beach and the path there is a long stretch of low coastal dunes that have been revegetated over the last decade providing an interesting ecosystem that is home to a variety of plant and animal species.

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

 

 

Several small groups of sparrows and some honeyeaters are flitting through the foliage but they seem extremely nervous. The reason for their apprehension soon becomes obvious as a nankeen kestrel perches on a tall pine tree to survey its hunting zone. The bird of prey, however, does not go unnoticed by a pair of noisy miners that dive bomb the predator and force it to take to the air again.

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more errtic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more erratic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

 

A spcies of White butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

A species of white butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

 

 

The temperature is rising and the chance of spotting larger animals diminishing as the day progresses and they seek shelter from the sun. I turn back towards the jetty and focus my attention on the unique coastal plant life and the bees, wasps and butterflies that feed on the various flowering shrubs. Near one of the sandy tracks that lead down to the water a thick stand of acacias, with delicate blue flowering grasses growing amongst them, is attracting native blue bees and several varieties of butterflies. Tricky images to capture as the bees are speedy, erratic little creatures and the butterflies are only landing on the blossoms for a few seconds.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

 

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

 

 

By the time get back to the square I am ready to sit under one of the square’s cafe umbrellas and sip a long cool drink while watching the locals enjoying another warm South Aussie day at the beach. It’s hot now and time to drive home and sort my pictures. I slip the camera strap over my shoulder ready to leave as one final image presents itself. An Australian pelican glides in low over the water and gracefully deposits itself on one of the jetty light poles and glances in my direction…..thanks!!

 

Until we chat again

Baz  

Willunga’s Blue Bees

13 Dec

 

Dear Reader:

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in the charming little country town of Willunga just south of Adelaide, in the McLaren Vale wine region. I was updating some illustrations in one of my wildlife books and needed some photographs of honeyeaters feeding on different coloured flowers. We stayed in a heritage B&B on the edge of the town with a lovely garden featuring stands of agapanthus, native hibiscus and several large bottle brush trees. Throughout the day a variety of birds, including both new Holland and white plumed honeyeaters, used their elongated beaks to probe the blossoms and hawk for insects.

1 Willunga has many fine old colonial buildings

Willunga has many fine old colonial buildings

 

As well as honeyeaters the plants attracted more than their fair share of bees. Between sips of wine and a nibble of cheese (doing it tough that day) I watched them flit from one blossom to another gathering nectar and collecting a dusting of pollen on their legs. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of one bee flying more erratically than the others, it seemed to hover for a second then repeatedly zoom off in different directions; like a miniscule attack helicopter. Every so often it would land but only for a short time before resuming its unpredictable flight pattern.

2 New Holland honeyeater probing bottle brush flowers for nectar

New Holland honeyeater probing bottle brush flowers for nectar

 

I moved my chair a little closer to the native hibiscus, where the little insect seemed to be spending most of its time, set the camera to macro zoom and started to track it through the lens. The bee was certainly smaller than the honeybees that were also doing the rounds of the blossoms and it appeared to have a bluish tinge. I fired off a couple of frames and took a closer look on the review screen. It was certainly not a honeybee. Over the next hour and a half several of the little blue bees appeared at different times and I managed to get a series of images that I could use to identify them. I suspected they were native bees which I had heard of but knew very little about.

3 Honeybee feeding on a blue agapanthus

Honeybee feeding on a blue agapanthus

 

My guess was correct. The little insect was a blue banded bee (Amegilla cingulata). Blue banded bees are actually far more common than I realised and are found throughout SE Asia. They contribute to the pollination of many commercial crops with their unique ability to buzz pollinate; the result of intense wing vibrations when they cling to flowers.

4 Banded blue bee hovering in front of native hibiscus 2

Blue banded bee hovering in front of native hibiscus blossom

 

Unlike honey bees these native bees are not colonial with females building burrows in dried up river banks or even soft mortar in urban housing. Their sting is mild and they are not aggressive. Interestingly, these blue bees collect most of their nectar from blue flowers and since my initial sighting I have found them on the lavender and agapanthus in my own garden. They have obviously been there for years and I had never even noticed; yet another lesson in observation.

Cheers

Baz

 

 

 

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