Most wattle flowers are bright and perfumed, but they don't produce any nectar so are never visited by honeyeaters and lorikeets.
However, honey bees readily collect the yellow dusty pollen to take back to their hives to mix as a food for young bee grubs.
It is creatures such as bees, beetles, wasps, flies and other flying insects that pollinate wattles.
The pollen grains are apparently too large and heavy to blow far in the air, so insects are needed to transport them from one wattle flower to another.
The honey perfume of some wattles probably results in more pollinators being attracted to the flowers.
A golden wattle plant is not able to pollinate itself, so it needs winged pollinators to carry pollen from one plant to another.
Such pollination is clearly successful, because wattle seed is usually numerous every year.
This is despite the yellow flowers appearing mostly in cooler weather when not many flying insects seem to be active.
Despite their flowers being nectarless, most wattle species have a tiny nectar-secreting gland on their leaf stems.
In some species at least, this has been shown to attract birds, which sometimes transport pollen from one flower to another while seeking this leaf stem nectar. It seems that this nectar is produced mostly when the wattles are flowering, rather than year-round.
Honey bees collect the nectar from the leaf stems, but they don't come in contact with the flowers when they do so.
Numerous wattle species are flowering in the Ballarat district now. There are 22 different indigenous wattles occurring in the Ballarat district, most of which flower in spring.
Nodding greenhood, yellow star, early nancy and scented sundew are just four late-winter wildflowers already reported by local naturalists.
Added more recently are the first flowers of common hovea, purple coral pea, common beard heath and pink bells. All of these are welcome signs of spring.
Cuckoos and orioles have returned to the district once again, and non-migratory birds are starting to call and sing more frequently as the days become longer.
The owl-like daytime hooting of bronzewing pigeons is heard coming from hidden places.
A few early broods of cygnets and ducklings have appeared, while magpies, ravens, masked lapwings (plovers) and others are sitting on their eggs.
Those not already nesting have become very territorial, not only driving away others of their kind, but also - in some cases - making nuisances of themselves when they fight their reflections in windows and car mirrors.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
Can you identify a pair of birds that are building a nest in a eucalypt near our home? They are slightly larger than a crow.
D. & K.W., Alfredton.
Your birds are grey currawongs. They are usually found in or near forests, although they will visit houses and backyards where there are numerous eucalypts.
Nesting in Alfredton is rather a surprise, given their preference for bushland.
They usually choose more secluded places to build their nests. They build stick nests high in eucalypts.
Three is the usual clutch and the incubation period is three weeks, with the chicks remaining in their nest for four weeks or more.
During this time they are fed insects, spiders and similar creatures, often including frogs and nestlings of other birds as the chicks get older.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org