Saturday, November 29, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna V - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (Part 2)

We continued our almost five day stay at Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania with a long bushwalk from Ronny Creek up to Marion's Lookout and then back down to Dove Lake. Part of the walk took us along the Overland Track which runs through the Park.


View from Ronny Creek
View from Ronny Creek in Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park


The landscape includes button grass (mesomelaena sphaerocephala) which is ubiquitous at Cradle Mountain. The seed pods of the button grass are responsible for coloring the streams in Cradle Mountain a dark coffee color.


Button Grass
Button Grass (Mesomelaena sphaerocephala)


The scenery also is dotted with pandani (richea pandanifolia) which are the largest heath plant in the world and found only in Tasmania. Appearances are deceiving, as the pandani is not related to the palm family. Pandani leaves are very sharp.


Pandani along Overland Track
Pandani (Richea pandanifolia) along the Overland Track


On our way down from Marion's Lookout, we caught this view of Lake Lilla, Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain.


Lake Lilla, Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain


In the evenings, near Cradle Mountain Lodge, we saw more Tasmanian marsupials including the common wombat and the red-necked Bennett's wallaby (Macropus refugriseus). We learned that wombats defend themselves from predators by diving into their holes and protecting themselves with their rear composed of cartilage that acts as a shield (and sometimes can be used to crush and injure the predator).


Wombat
Common Wombat


Bennett's Wallaby
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus refugriseus)

We also paid a visit to the Devil Sanctuary at Cradle Mountain. There, we observed Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) feeding in the evening. Their fur was very dense and they resembled very small bears. Unfortunately, Devil facial tumor disease is afflicting and killing the small Devil population. Hopefully, a cure will be found so that the Devils will not become extinct. For more information on Devils and the facial tumor disease, click here.


Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Cistus Flower

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On an early morning peregrination in Golden Gate Park today, I encountered a shrub with these pretty flowers. Can anyone help me identify this flower? Update -- Thanks to Zoe in the comments below, I now know that this is a cistus flower.


Flower in Golden Gate Park
Cistus Flower in Golden Gate Park


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna IV - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (Part 1)

From the humidity and heat of Queensland, we next flew due South to the cooler climate of Tasmania. Tasmania was rugged and beautiful and filled with lots of national parks and interesting flora and fauna deriving from Gondwanan heritage. We spent almost five days touring Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

We began with a rainy-day walk around the the King Billy circular track near Cradle Mountain Lodge. The track is named for the ancient King Billy Pines (Athrotaxis selaginoides) (which notwithstanding their name are conifers, not pines) up to 1500 years of age. The walk was an exploration in the many shades of green in the trees and the profusion of mosses and lichens.



Forest along the King Billy Track



Logs and Trees along King Billy Track




Moss on Tree Branch along King Billy Track



Back at the Lodge, it was incredible to observe the many animals that come out to feed in an open meadow near the Lodge in the evening. In the past, the animals had been fed by Lodge staff and guests although this practice was discontinued several years ago (although apparently some guests irresponsibly continue to feed the wild animals). A very bright-eyed and cute Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby) appeared frequently in the evening on the front porch of our room unsuccessfully begging for food.


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Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby)


We learned that these poor herbivorous creatures are common roadkill in Tasmania. In addition, their numbers are large due to the dwindling numbers or extinction of some of their natural predators -- e.g. the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) is extinct and the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) population has shrunk due to a fatal and incurable facial disease (more about this in a future post). Click here to learn more about the sad tale of the marsupial Tasmanian Tiger and how it was hunted to extinction. Here is another Tasmanian Pademelon feeding near the Lodge in the evening.


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Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby)
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna III - Daintree Rainforest

After leaving Lizard Island and the Great Barrier Reef, we flew back to Cairns and then drove north into the Daintree rainforest. The weather was miserable on a few days due to heavy rainfall which closed down several road causeways due to rising water. Nonetheless, we managed to spend time in the rainforest in the Daintree Discovery Centre and to take a very informative and interesting day walk with Prue and a night walk with Ziggy through the ancient rainforest at Cooper's Creek.


Stream in Cooper's Creek
Stream in Cooper's Creek


Fan Palm
Fan Palms in Cooper's Creek


Rainforest Floor
Rainforest floor in Daintree Discovery Centre


We managed to see several interesting birds, dragons and a frog on our walks. We did not see the elusive but beautiful cassowary in the wild. Instead, we saw a cassowary claw print in the mud.


White-Lipped Tree Frog
White-Lipped Tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata) on night walk with Cooper's Creek


Cassowary Claw Print in the Mud
Cassowary Claw Print in the Mud at Cooper's Creek


Buff-Breasted or Paradise Kingfisher
Buff-Breasted or Paradise Kingfisher (Tanysiptera sylvia) in the Daintree Discovery Centre


Golden Orb Spider
Golden Orb Spider (Nephila pilipes) in the Daintree Discovery Centre


On our drive back to Cairns for our next flight to Tasmania, we stopped at the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary in Port Douglas, Queensland. There, we were able to see a cassowary, among other animals.


Crocodile Lurking in the Water
Crocodile


Swamp Wallaby Family Photo
Swamp Wallabies


Cassoway in Captivity
Cassowary


Cassowary Claws
Cassowary Claws


Male Eclectus Parrot
Male Eclectus Parrot
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Living Roof, Butterflies, Birds and Frogs

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Green Thumb Sunday Blogroll


Earlier this past week, I ventured to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The Academy just reopened about a month ago after an almost 10-year renovation project. The new building is stunning and I spent most of my time on the Living Roof as well as in a four-story rainforest habitat.


The Living Roof is comprised of seven hills planted with nine native plants and spanning two and one-half acres. These native plants include four perennials: (i) Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis), (ii) Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris), (iii) Sea Pink (Armeria maritima ssp. californica), and (iv) Stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium). The remaining nature plants consist of five annual wildflowers: (i) Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa), (ii) Goldfield (Lasthenia californica), (iii) Miniature Lupine (Lupinus nanus), (iv) California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), and (v) California Plantain (Plantago erecta). I spotted many bees merrily enjoying the flowers of these native plants. The Living Roof absorbs all rainwater (which can be substantial in our winter rainy season) and the plants act to naturally cool the building's interior (avoiding the use of electricity to cool the building). The Academy is believed to be the "greenest" museum in the world.

Living Roof



Living Roof



Bee on Wildflower
Bee or Fly-Bee on Wildflower


Bee on Miniature Lupine
Bee or Fly-Bee on Miniature Lupine



Living Roof



Living Roof



The 4-Story Rainforest rests directly beneath the open area shown on the above photograph of the Living Roof. It consists of four stories in a 90-foot diameter glass dome.


Rainforest Exhibit


Here is a sampling of some of the beautiful frogs, butterflies and birds featured in the rainforest habitat.


Rainforest Butterfly


Rainforest Butterfly



Rainforest Butterfly


Rainforest Butterfly


Bird


Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Red-Eyed Tree Frog


Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Red-Eyed Tree Frog


Poison Dart Frogs
Poison Dart Frogs

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Red Flowering Gum (Bloodwood) Tree

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In late summer, the Red Flowering Gum Trees (Corymbia ficifolia f.k.a. Eucalyptus ficifolia) begin blooming all over San Francisco. The flowers can be white, pink, red or orange but my favorites are the trees with the striking orange flowers. Native to an area of Western Australia that is south east of Perth, these trees prefer infertile, sandy soils. They are a very popular street tree in San Francisco (as are many other Australian native trees). Although called "gums," these trees are "bloodwoods" so named because of the dark red liquid that flows when wounds are inflicted on their trunks. One negative attribute of these trees is the stringy detritus from the flowers that collects on cars and in the streets (visible in the photo below).

Red Flowering Gum Tree
Red Flowering Gum Tree (Corymbia ficifolia) in Pacific Heights, San Francisco, California

Red Flowering Gum Tree
Flowers of the Red Flowering Gum Tree (Corymbia ficifolia)


Red Flowering Gum Tree Flower
Macro shot of flower from Red Flowering Gum Tree (Corymbia ficifolia)

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Honeybee and Victory Garden

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
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Today, we went to the San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden. "Victory Gardens" were planted during World Wars I and II to grow food to overcome wartime deficits. Slow Food Nation partnered with Victory Gardens 2008+ to create an organic Victory Garden in front of San Francisco's City Hall. The last Victory Garden in front of City Hall existed over sixty-five years ago in 1943. For more information, click here.


The Victory Garden consists of attractive concentric rings of vegetables, wildflowers and other California native plants against the stunning backdrop of City Hall.

San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden



San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden



San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden



Kale
Kale



Sunflowers
Sunflowers


The Victory Garden also included demonstration gardens of California Native Plant Pollinator Habitat and California Native Coastal Shrub Habitat. I was fortunate to be able to capture shots of a honeybee and a bee-fly or a wasp on flowers in both of those habitats.


Honeybee on Tidy Tips
California honeybee on Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)



Honeybee on Buckwheat
Bee-fly or Sand Wasp? on California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)



Yarrow Flowers
Macro shot of flowers of California Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in California Native Coastal Scrub Habitat



Baby Blue Eyes
Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii) in California Native Plant Pollinator Habitat



California Native Plant Pollinator Annual
Annual California Native Plant Pollinator


Unknown Moth on Leaf
Unknown Moth on Leaf


The Victory Garden is wonderful and sets an example of all of the food that could be raised right here in urban backyards of San Francisco.

P.S. Thanks to Eileen for pointing out to me that my photo of what I thought was a honeybee on the buckwheat in fact was either a bee-fly (a fly that mimics a bee to fend off predators) or a sand wasp. Can anyone help in identifying it precisely? Thanks!

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