ON THE ROAD — Two different Orb-weaving spiders (family Araneidae) from South Australia. One shows red sections on leg segments, something typical of some groups of Orb Weavers. Sorry no species ID today — The revision of Australian orb-weavers lists 268 species in 39 genera and the informed estimate in Volker et al’s Guide to the Spiders of Australia is 500 species in 60 genera. Worldwide there are 3030 species known in 169 genera.
ON THE ROAD — The Spiny or Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax) is found throughout Australia and exists in a variety of coloured forms, but always with a shiny, enamelled look. It’s only a small spider (females 10mm and males 3mm) but is common in brush and low scrub, anchoring webs between neighbouring bushes to snag passing insects. Each individual builds its own web but they often build close together so the webs are more or less inter-connected.
ON THE ROAD — We met the male Golden Whistler (Pachycephela pectoralis) in low scrub outside Tintinara and two days later saw the female of the species on a sandy ridge in Ngarkat National Park.
ON THE ROAD — The Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) is a bird of rainforests, palm forests, dense gullies, clearings, and parks and gardens from Cairns south along the East Coast. With the temperature hitting 37 degrees Celsius in Melbourne today this pair came to sit out the heat of the day in a gazebo in Hurstbridge.
ON THE ROAD — a windy day on the road to Alice Springs and the desert wind runs its snaggle-toothed comb through the fine blond grass beside the road near the Devil’s Marbles.
ON THE ROAD — green grass changing the palette of earth and sky in the red centre following big rains last month. The rains were widespread and had floodwaters running through the centre of Alice Springs. This red-topped ridge is east of the road around Barrow Creek, which is between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
ON THE ROAD — We met up with our first White-Plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus) on our trip south at Tennant Creek. For us this was quite a treat as the WPHs range doesn’t extend into the Top End of the Northern Territory. There are three races of the WPH and they cover most of Australia. Morcombe’s field guide puts the northern extent of the bird’s range pretty much just where we found it.
ON THE ROAD — The Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) is renowned for its complex and mellifluous song. But at the Olive Pink Botanical Garden in Alice Springs, with the temperature heading towards 40 degrees centigrade mid-morning, the adult bird was gaping her beak only to cool down. Her youngster, wearing immature plumage which includes the superb brown and black bib, was coping a little better with the heat.
An hour’s drive from Kuching and then a 20km ride down a tidal river bring you to Bako National Park. Highlights for us were the large number of bird species and the opportunity to see Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), or bekantan in Malay, hanging out in the rain forest fringing the beach.
Heading for Arnhem Land tomorrow for a survey of rock art and won’t have internet access until the end of the week. So a few extra posts today, beginning with some photos I took in Sarawak in 2011 at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, just on the edge of the capital Kuching. The Orang Utans live wild and come to feeding stations when they feel inclined. If there is plenty fruiting in the jungle you’re not likely to see them. We were lucky and a family of about 10 swung down to the feeding platform on the other side of a gully which separates the visitors from the locals. A wonderful experience but not so wonderful as to make one forget the big picture of habitat loss facing this and many more species all around the globe.