In the bush nearby you can often see sections of sandstone that have clusters of regular sized holes around 10mm in diameter. Sometimes these pieces of sandstone are on a walking track where they get worn down to show the internal paths these holes take. I have a distant hazy memory of being told the holes are made by native bees. A bit of the old web searching brought up some more information!
The holes in sandstone are apparently the burrows of a native bee called the Blue Banded Bee. Blue Banded bees are found all over Australia except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they are also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.
I’ve not seen one of these bees myself so I don’t have a picture. They are described as being 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months. They are meant to be common, I’ll be keeping an eye out to try and get a picture.
They’re back, and they still have an appetite for destruction! Every year about this time the black cockies visit for a day or two, tear up the Banksia trees in our yard then leave.
Sulphur Crested Cockies are here in abundance year round, Black Cockies only visit for a few days per year, sometimes I miss them altogether. Yellow tailed black cockatoos are larger than their sulphur crested cousins, they have a louder and more piercing shriek too. A few days before I saw the black cockies this year I heard a chilling shriek in the valley after dark, for a moment I thought it sounded like a person in distress, but I figured it was more animal like. After I saw the Cockies I now think that’s what it was.
“A small graceful tree to 15m high, but sometimes much taller”NOPS p.38
During the big storms a few weeks ago I was lying in bed at around 11pm just about to ready to go to sleep when a loud and prolonged cracking sound started coming from just outside the bedroom. I knew right away that the large Sydney Peppermint gum in the back yard was falling over! I jumped up and tried to get to the window but it was pitch dark and storming, I couldn’t a thing. As the cracking continued I was terrified it was going to fall on the house, luckily it went the other way and ended up taking out a sizeable swath of bush and other trees as it came down. Phew!
The Sydney Peppermint gum is a small to medium tree of up to 15m but can be much taller in the right conditions. It’s trunk is covered by rough grey bark that detaches from the tree and hangs in strips as it reaches higher up revealing smooth white upper branches. The leaves have a strong peppermint smell especially when crushed. The Sydney Peppermint was the first Australian plant to be used medicinally by Europeans. It’s oil was found by a surgeon on the first fleet to be “more efficacious in removing all cholicky complaints than of the English Peppermint”
As the name suggests Sydney Peppermint gum is found in the Sydney basin, it ranges from the extreme south NSW coast up to the central north coast. Flowering time is early summer.
It was a shame to loose the tree, it was a large feature of the back yard. The pair of kookaburras who used to sit in it came and sat on the toppled tree no doubt wondering what had happened.
I was working in the yard when Jess called me over to see a beetle she’d found. I was a bit reluctant to stop work but she convinced me “c’mon dad, you’ll love it!” She was right. With a quick search this beetle was simple to identify as a Fiddler Beetle.
Fiddler Beetles are native to Australia, they are found all the way up and down the east coast. The first thing you notice about them is their appearance, they are black with a striking pattern of yellow or green markings that look like they have been applied as part of a carefully thought out tribal design. The one Jess found had green markings. Not sure if it was male or female, often in nature the males are more visually striking than the ladies but I couldn’t find any sources that distinguished between the two in appearance. Fiddler beetles live in heathland, eucalypt forest and suburban parks and yards. They lay their eggs in rotting logs or damp soil. After hatching the grubs eat wood until they are ready to emerge as adult beetles in the early summer.