Friday, 5 September 2014

A moth for Friday: Asota heliconia (Aganaidae)

Although it's not moth season – too dry and too cold at night – a few moths do wander in after dark. A few nights ago, this tiger moth Asota heliconia (Aganaidae) flew in and settled on the wall, where it stayed for some days. It might have been frozen to the woodwork.

Half a dozen species of Asota have been recorded from the warmer parts of eastern Australia. North-eastern Queensland is the stronghold. Asota heliconia is probably the most frequently encountered of those species. (At least, it flies into the house more often than any of its congeners.)

Linnaeus described this species in 1758 as Phalaena heliconia. The lectotype, a little ragged but still in good nick for something so fragile and old*, is held in collection of the Museum of Evolution: Zoology at the University of Uppsala.


* Aren't we all?**

** Well, I am.***

*** I can't speak for you. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


There's a macadamia tree right next to the house. During the day, a coppery brushtailed possum naps in its branches. At night the possum uses it as a bridge to the roof. The tree doesn't quite reach the roof, so the last part of travel requires a big leap. Rustling leaves and a thump on the corrugated iron is followed by footsteps as the possum trudges (or scampers, depending on its mood) up one side of the roof, down the other and then across the carport to the trees on the other side. The return journey takes place at about 5.30 am, with the rustling, thump and drumming of marsupial paws starting at the carport. On most nights, the possum also scales the flue and/or the television aerial, presumably because it's a possum and those structures are there. In my experience, climbing on things and trying to break them open is what coppery brushtailed possums do. They are altogether lacking in the dignity of the green ringtailed possums, which also live around here.

The macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia) is endemic to southern Queensland and northern NSW, but is planted widely outside its natural range.

A related species, Catalepidia heyana, occurs in rainforests from Mount Windsor (NW of Port Douglas) to the Walter Hill Range (W of Innisfail). The flowers of this local species are pale to deep pink. I haven't seen that species, but I'm sure it must be in cultivation somewhere.

The possum and I not the only ones to appreciate the macadamia tree. This soft-winged pollen beetle (?Carphurus sp., Melyridae) was sitting quietly on a leaf...until I decided to take a close up photograph of it. I pulled down the twig to get a better look. The twig broke. And the beetle went flying. With a comic spring effect. That's how I remember it, anyway.

Honeybees visit the flowers. They have plenty to choose from.

The tree is prolific, producing nuts all year round.

It's a good idea to be somewhere else when the mower's going. A flying macadamia nut can do some damage.

Rats love macadamia nuts. They eat them where they fall...

Or they carry them under the house, climb up the stumps and use the termite capping as dining tables. On cold nights, they sit on the hot water tank and drop the empty shells onto the ground. Well, they might as well dine in comfort!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Jottings from the Tropics: 1 September 2014

It's been months.

I could scroll down and check just how many months have elapsed since I last posted*, but I'm embarrassed about my neglect of this blog. Let's just say 'posts were not posted' and move on.

Anyway, how have you been? You're looking well. No, that's enough. Back to me.

Surprisingly little has happened since whenever it was**. It rained a lot. Then it stopped raining. Then it started raining again. And now it's clear and sunny, mild by day and freezing at night***.

I get visitors every now and then.

First there was this one.

Nap time in the hall

Then this one.

It's a box turkey

And mice of various types, but they don't like having their photos taken. They must be up to something.

Assuming that the 'something' isn't nefarious, I'll be posting more often. If I don't post more often, send a mousetrap and cheese.

Stand by.

* I looked. Six months.

** Six months. 

*** Literally. Altitude beats latitude****.

**** On a couple of nights. Mostly it's not freezing. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014


I spent a lot of time thinking about the title of this post. I wanted to get it just right.

Haven't been posting because time got away from me. Sometimes I'm super-organised and efficient. Sometimes I'm super-disorganised and inefficient. If only I could average this out.

I don't know why time got away from me because nowt much is happening here. I might be forced to make up stuff to create the illusion of a vaguely interesting life. Oh, the bush stone-curlews are plotting to take over the world and a rat melomys is so obsessed with scratching its way up through floorboards that I have to wear earplugs if I want to get to sleep. And each evening the green tree frog, which lives in the laundry tub and has its own special water bucket, waits for me to open the window of its choice so it can go for a wander in the garden. It returns early in the morning via the gap under the door. At least it lets itself in. It has some manners. And we might get a cyclone next week. But apart from that there's not much happening.

Here's evidence of the stone-curlew uprising. You have been warned.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Jottings from the Tropics: 9 February 2014

Next to one of the windows is a big shrub much favoured by the possums. They use it as a ladder to get to and from the roof, where they spend hours chasing each other across the corrugated iron and trying to rip away the chicken wire from the flue. The shrub also provides snacks. One of the possums has a favourite branch. It lies at the centre of a denuded sphere exactly one possum's reach in radius. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there's a bum groove worn into that branch, but I don't feel like checking.

Last night I noticed that the younger of the two possums had her nose pressed against the window. She was perched — precariously — on the narrow window sill. I thought she was attempting to break in. (For some reason possums always want to get into houses. And then all they want to do is get out again.) But she was edging along the sill, systematically eating all the beetles that had been attracted to the interior light. Shuffle...crunch, crunch, crunch...shuffle...crunch, crunch, crunch...and so on. These are big Lepidiota — brown cane beetles — also loved by green tree frogs, which leave the processed evidence of their eating habits all over the place.

Well, you can imagine what happened. This possum edged along the sill until she came to the end. Instead of backing up, she attempted to turn around. Little Poss used to do the same. She stood up, felt herself slipping, clawed desperately at the glass and then, with a wide-eyed look, dropped out of sight into the vegetation below. I was relieved to see the shrub shaking as she made her way up to the roof, where she could be embarrassed without an audience.She stepped very quietly across the iron that night.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Reading Year: February

January's book-reading blitz went surprisingly well, so here are February's titles. Since there are fewer reading days, this month will be more cramped. Still, that's what makes it a challenge.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
Havana Blue by Leonardo Padura
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

The Fishing Fleet by Anne de Courcey
Spanish Steps by Tim Moore
Persian Fire by Tom Holland
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene
Hell's Gates by Paul Collins

The book spider will be keeping an eye (or eight) on my efforts.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Reading update: still going strong

The spider tells me I'm doing quite well. I am currently reading the books in bold

The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Cross and Burn by Val McDermid
Watch Out for Me by Sylvia Johnson
My Island Homicide by Catherine Titasey

Le Freak by Nile Rodgers
Eureka by Peter FitzSimons
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper
The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
The Butterfly Isles by Richard Bakham
White Beech by Germaine Greer

It's going to be interesting to read the Val McDermid book because one of the recurring characters has my name. If you're a regular listener to ABC Radio National's Books & Arts Daily, you'll know why.

Quick impressions
The Confidential Agent: I didn't enjoy this as much as other Graham Greene books and I'm not sure why. It could be the setting or the claustrophobic plot.

The Impossible Dead: You know where you are with Ian Rankin. This is a Malcolm Fox novel. I don't think the character has had time to settle in, so he's not as colourful as Rebus. There's a very promising ensemble cast, so I'll be reading more.

Over Sea, Under Stone: Parents in children's books are so irresponsible, letting their kids wander off all the time, facing supernatural (and natural) monsters, discovering the Grail, etc. Lucky kids.

Watch Out for Me: This by a friend of mine. It is written from multiple viewpoints with intersecting time lines, which I found intriguing. I'm fascinated by stories that play around with plotting in that way. It's not easy to do.

Le Freak: I've mentioned this before, but Nile Rodgers has had a heck of a life. The story concentrates on his (hair-raising!) childhood, but really takes off when he starts talking about his musical career from Chic onwards.

Eureka: I don't know that it's possible to retell the story of the Eureka Rebellion in a completely fresh way, but I did enjoy this version by Peter FitzSimons. Lots of colour, lots of detail.

The Tall Man: Devastating story of the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee while in custody on Palm Island. I strongly recommend this one.

The Old Ways: Macfarlane has an eye for detail and a very fine skill for description. I wasn't sure if I was going to take to this as much as I enjoyed Roger Deakin's books, but I did. Now I want to go walking along the old roads, but not the Broomway, which runs offshore on a tidal mudflat on the south-east coast of England. That's crazy stuff.