Purple waxlip orchids, yellow-and-brown leopard orchids, green and maroon spider-orchids and pink fingers orchids in all shades from white to candy-pink were among the native orchids found flowering in the Scarsdale - Enfield area a week ago.
The intriguing flowers of the spider-orchids are more spider-shaped than others, with remarkably long segments. A common local species known as the small spider-orchid was found, with three of them photographed amongst the gumleaves and bush litter for today's page.
Note the maroon-tipped labellum, and the yellow column containing the pollen that is brushed onto visiting insects.
Completely different in shape are the greenhoods, with many of their floral parts joined to form a green or green-and-white hood that covers the centre of the flower.
The common nodding greenhood was found in several places, as well as fewer maroonhoods, blunt greenhoods, tall greenhoods and dwarf greenhoods. The blunt greenhood has the largest flowers of these.
Other orchids flowering last weekend included common bird-orchid, small gnat-orchid and mayfly orchid. A slightly different bird-orchid may also have been another species.
Despite their amazingly different sizes and shapes, a large proportion of these native orchids are pollinated by tiny wasps or gnats. These are lured to the flowers by colours or scents.
Male wasps are often attracted to scents resembling those of female wasps, with pollination of the orchid occurring while the male wasp visits the flower.
We were told that the highest number of flowering orchid species in Enfield forest are found in early November. Leaves of sun-orchids, diuris, caladenias and others revealed that more are yet to open.
Other wildflowers seen on the recent naturalists' excursion included blue love creeper, field daisy - a white native daisy rather like the English daisy that grows in lawns - common beard-heath and showy violet. The shrub known as golden bush-pea was flowering prominently throughout the forest.
One dam had pobblebonks (banjo-frogs) calling loudly and continually, while another contained numerous tadpoles and a few colonies of tiny red bloodworms, waving about while anchored in the mud.
Tadpoles have been scarce or absent until this month, causing concern among some local naturalists.
The first small tadpoles are often found in August, but several observers have commented on their late appearance - or their absence - this spring. The reason for this is unknown.
Pobblebonks and others are now calling strongly and producing their frothy white egg-masses, so their tadpoles should soon appear. It remains to be seen whether those of the smaller, earlier-breeding species will be found from now on.
NATURE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Years ago I found two eggs of a bronze-cuckoo in a yellow-tailed thornbill's nest. What would happen if both of them hatched? J.M., Bald Hills.
A cuckoo chick has a strong dislike of anything touching its back.
If it feels another chick or egg in its nest, it arches its body with the chick on its back, reverses to the entrance, then tips the other chick out of the nest.
In a battle between two cuckoo chicks, the first to get the other onto its back would win the battle and would then have the nest to itself.
While this may seem unpleasant and unfair to us, this is the way most sorts of cuckoos behave. I have never seen this happen in many years of bird watching.
Once again, we have five different sorts of cuckoos back with us after their winter absence.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org