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 28 August 2017

It is a month ago to the day since I last filmed, having been engaged on a pet project, of which more in due course. This morning I filmed a broken strangler fig in MacDonald National Park whose trunk  mysteriously snapped off some thirty feet above the forest floor. The fig was old and vast, one of a pair standing side by side. The fallen trunk generated an immense clearing, bringing down lesser trees, including palms.

 4 June 2017

Looking back through the blog, I notice that I first filmed the Cotton Harlequin Bugs on the 8th of April. On the 17th I filmed a female with her newly laid eggs, discovering that she would stay and guard them until they hatch. On various subsequent visits there she was, a marvel of maternal constancy. This morning I filmed the nymphs scrabbling in a clump on the egg casings a day or so after emerging, with the by now rather wan-looking female, on an adjacent stem.

 28 May 2017

Having just completed our 150th walk I thought it might be interesting to delve into the history of the walks and tally how many we did per season (broadly, October to May). In doing so I discovered I was one walk short in the total to this season’s end. We have actually completed 153. The 150th occurred a week earlier than the ‘official’ date. I didn’t start numbering the walks until a few seasons had passed. And then, I didn’t number every walk. The tally per season is:  ’07 –’08 = 5   ’08 – ’09 = 10   ’09 – ’10 = 13   ’10 –’11 = 26   ’11 – ’12 = 19   ’12 –’13 = 16   ’13 – ’14 = 13  ’14 –’15 = 16   ’15 – ’16 = 16   ’16 – ’17 = 19. You will notice that in the second season we doubled the number of walks of season one and in the fourth, we doubled the number of walks in season three.

I next tallied how many walks we had done in each of the national parks.  Joalah topped the list with 47, followed by The Knoll with 43, MacDonald with 31, Palm Grove 25, Witches Falls (less accessible than the others) 6 and 1 walk in Jaap’s former property in West Road. I am confident that any errors in the individual totals will not alter the ranking.

 17 May 2017

We toasted the 150th walk with a half bottle of champagne at the start of the 151st because Jaap, who spotlighted the very first walk, was able to accompany Mark, Lumart and me in Palm Grove on what may be this season’s last walk. The night was beautiful, the air still. I filmed a fungus and ants, a mayfly with 3 tail cerci (long filaments attached to the tip of the abdomen), a small stick insect on a leaf, a ‘new’ spider and two snails. We saw, but didn’t film, a nocturnal vignette. A large ant was wandering on an earth bank dotted with the burrows of several trapdoor spiders, until it came within range of a small spider lying in wait at the entrance to its burrow. In an instantaneous, single movement the spider seized the hapless ant and vanished into the depths with its prey. This triggered the door to snap shut on the carnage so that one could be excused for thinking it had never happened.

 8 May 2017

This evening I received an email identifying a roosting bird I had recently filmed at night in rainforest. It was a new species for the archive. This, I had not expected. Finding a new species of bird to film is increasingly rare. Whereas the opposite appears to be true with moths. Encountering a juvenile Pacific Heron a few weeks ago, having long before filmed an adult, was exciting. But a new species beats that.

Mite 150th NIGHT WALK
 3 May 2017

Tonight at The Knoll, Mark and Lumart were present on the 150th night filming walk. The series began at the end of December 2007. The intention is to go on a walk once a week. However, we do not film during the cooler months and crew crying off and rain on the night drastically affects the number of occasions we manage to film. The total does not include the rare instances when I didn’t film anything at all. I feared this might be the case tonight until we saw a giant panda snail devouring a fungus which was part of an interesting cluster, so I filmed both. I also filmed some tiny fungi and a slime mould. After cyclone Debbie there is plenty of water in the mountain’s creeks. I hoped to see the eel, whose presence in Sandy Creek we never suspected until it appeared just over two years ago in a pool which formed immediately downstream of the bridge thanks to ex-cyclone Oswald. Alas, there was no sign of the eel in the pool. To our great joy it was spotted in the pool immediately upstream of the bridge, but did not linger long enough for me to film it.

For the statistically-minded, the 50th walk was in April 2011, the 100th in May 2014. After the 53rd walk, which occurred in May 2011, I produced 3 scripted and narrated supplements to the Archive under the title ‘The Rainforest at Night’ on 3 DVDs, each about an hour long.

 12 April 2017

Night filming with Jaap and Mark in Joalah is only worth noting because it was the first such foray  since February 22nd due mainly to crew availability and only one rainy night. I filmed a moth, a spiny rainforest katydid instar, a carpet python and a snail which looked new to me.

 8 April 2017

The bolls on the cotton shrubs in the mountain garden have opened during the past two or three weeks, over two months after I photographed a flower. The property owners feared I might miss out on the bugs which infest the shrub until they noticed one and then another. I had to look carefully to find them. I returned with my camera and filmed a female Cotton Harlequin Bug and a lone nymph which is more spectacularly coloured than the adults. The females grow to a length of 20 mm.

 14 March 2017

Today I completed the paper edit of the first videos recorded on memory card. The initial seven are footage from the demo camera. The rest are from the camera I bought in January. Once again, after a long interval, there are garage moth videos as opposed to the videos of moths filmed intermittently at night. I have 25 videos in the pipeline and over two hours of material from the second memory card for Steve to download, which should yield several more.

 7 March 2017

I returned to Eagles Nest this morning to really get to grips with a magical subject I chanced upon yesterday afternoon, when I popped in to see the owners who are good friends of mine. I noticed that an abandoned potter wasp nest showed signs of being refurbished, so I went to get my camera and filmed the new work. The wasp duly appeared and eventually entered the nest, remaining there for a long time before emerging. I thought I noticed a second wasp.

Carefully positioning the camera to avoid the flight path, while getting a good view of the building site, I was rewarded by repeated visits of indeed two wasps. One continued to spend time in the nest. The other wasp flew in to work on the nest, but was chased away by the wasp which had been inside. For a reason not apparent, rubbing their abdomens with their hind legs was one of the wasps’ activities at the nest.

The glory of this event is that I first filmed the live nest in March 2010, attended by a single wasp. In October 2014 I filmed the decayed nest, revealing numbers of exposed cells. Two of them are still to be covered over. Nearly seven years later to the day, the nest is live again. Viewing the footage I now have doubts over the identification of the original wasp which is the same species as today’s wasps. I shall have to send the frame of it to an expert to find out whether it is Abispa ephippium or Abispa splendida. I find it hard to comprehend how an insect can construct such an intricate and durable structure.

PS  8 March:  This morning there were as many as three wasps and plenty of conflict, though there may also have been co-operation. A new entrance in a completely different position had been fashioned overnight. There was no trace of the old entrance, which dated from the original construction.


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