With a wingspan of about 70mm, the dainty swallowtail butterfly is a showy creature, considerably larger than most local butterflies.
It is not a common butterfly in the Ballarat district, nor is it seen here each year.
Today's photo was taken earlier this week in the North Gardens Wetlands near Lake Wendouree. Just the one specimen was present.
Long-known as the dingy swallowtail, this handsome butterfly is hardly dingy at all - apart from a slight "dinginess" on the centre of its wings, where some of the white spots are lightly smudged with grey.
Dainty swallowtail is a better name, especially because this species is the smallest of the swallowtail butterflies.
Males and females are similarly-coloured.
The dainty swallowtail is very much attracted to citrus trees, which are the main food of its caterpillars.
There are no suitable food trees in the North Gardens Wetlands, but there would be many lemons in nearby gardens. Adults feed on nectar from flowers.
It remains to be seen whether this recent butterfly is the first of several to appear in the Ballarat district, or whether it is an isolated sighting.
In recent years another scarce and impressive butterfly has been seen at the North Gardens Wetlands.
This is the chequered swallowtail, which we shall be seeking again in February and March. Butterflies in general seem to be less common than usual this season.
Swifts are Asian migratory birds, a feature of summer and early autumn. Most of our local sightings are in the New Year. This season's first sightings were at the end of December, with a flock of fork-tailed swifts over Lake Burrumbeet, and a couple of reports of white-throated needletails at Mount Buninyong.
Both swifts breed in eastern Asia. While they are with us, the swifts are usually seen high in the air, normally higher in the sky than the similar-looking swallows.
Last week we mentioned sightings of white-bellied sea-eagle and wedge-tailed eagle high over Creswick Road in Ballarat.
Now we have a report of a black kite in the very centre of Ballarat.
Unlike the eagles, this kite was flying relatively low. It was above Lydiard Street North, between Sturt and Mair streets, and was being harassed by a silver gull.
Sightings of black kites have been gradually increasing over the past decade or more, but this report seems to be the first low over the centre of the city.
The black kite is a scavenger, finding most of its food on the ground.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
We have been watching the whiskered terns at the lake. We wondered how they got their name.
The whiskered tern has no obvious whiskers, despite its name. According to one reference, the name comes from the black cap that is cut off at eye-level by white cheeks, hence "whiskered".
Another states the bird in breeding plumage has white cheeks contrasting with the smoky-grey body, and, in flight, the white can look like broad "whiskers".
Another mentions the "white line through the cheek - the so-called whiskers".
None of these explanations are very satisfying, and a good imagination is required to see any "whiskers".
Another name for the bird is marsh tern, distinguishing it from many other species of terns, which are coastal birds.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org