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Mole Cricket

I always get mixed reactions when I post pictures of creepy-crawlies. ¬†Some of you are quite squeamish! ūüôā ¬† I must admit, I am not particularly brave with critters that have six legs, especially if they’re the jumping, flying, leaping-about kind, but I do think they have as much right to be here as anyone else does, and they are all quite fascinating in their own way. ¬†Creepy, but fascinating.

Take, for example, Mr Mole Cricket. ¬†A fairly ugly son-of-a-gun, let’s face it. ¬†But look at those little moley-mole front legs! ¬†They use them for burrowing, of course, and do so in gardens across Western Australia (but they are found all over the world). ¬†They have a loud, shrill song which many people confuse with the chirping of frogs. ¬†The males even make special burrows to amplify their song, to attract the¬†ladeez.

One of the more unattractive traits that mole crickets posses is that they can (and quite happily do) squirt a stinky brown fluid at potential predators. ¬†If you’ve ever dealt with anal glands of any species (and I have, having been a vet nurse for ten years in my younger days) you want to avoid this happening. ¬†Don’t pick up a mole cricket unless you have to. ¬†And I really don’t know why you would ever HAVE to.

They’re not very jumpy so they don’t tend to leap out or suddenly land on you while you’re minding your own business. ¬†They are, by all accounts, pretty pathetic at jumping. ¬†Which makes other crickets and grasshoppers look scornfully at them and snub them at parties. ¬†These guys are not winning any popularity contests or prizes for athleticism.

They are a reasonably large insect – this one I photographed was about 5-6cm long – and can cause damage to people’s lawns, with their constant burrowing. ¬†They eat roots and leaf matter, and some are also predatory, consuming grubs and worms and other squishy delicacies. ¬†I apologise I don’t know which type this one was…I’m gonna go ahead and say he was a vegetarian. ¬†He was also sitting on a bike path so he may well have become quite squishy himself shortly. ¬†I wasn’t going to move him…y’know, the anal gland thing.

I see lots of different critters on my walks.  Mr Moley is probably not the prettiest of them all, but he deserves a spot in my blog as much as a beautiful swan or dainty duck.

Hope I didn’t freak you out too much ūüôā

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Mini Road Trip

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mum and I recently took a little road trip to Bunbury  for some much-needed rest and relaxation.  It was nice to get away for a couple of days, with no schedule to follow, no work to get through, and no dramas to stress us out.  It was such a lovely weekend and I think we both really needed it.

The weather was, unfortunately, pretty dreadful.  Cold, wet and miserable.  In the middle of Summer we had torrential rain, flooding and ridiculously cool temperatures.  It was so cold, I had to buy some extra warm clothes and shoes once we got to our destination.  I had planned on spending many hours at the beach (our favourite little motel is located metres away from the Ocean) but the weather was just too inclement.  We did have one afternoon where the sun shone for a few hours, and we were able to go beach-combing at Hungry Hollow and collect some lovely shells, have a paddle and soak up some rays.

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Sunshine at last!

I love the variety of shells at Hungry Hollow. ¬†I try to take the ones I think won’t be used by ¬†sea creatures for their homes or other purposes. ¬†I like to collect the broken, smooth pieces of shell and any that have that gorgeous oil-slick colouration (mother of pearl to everyone else on the planet, I guess) on the inside. ¬†I have great plans for the shells but then end up just keeping them because they’re so pretty and I can’t bear to use them.

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Nature’s Artwork

While the weather was fine we also visited the Bunbury Wildlife Park. ¬†We’ve been there before and have been very impressed with the way the animals are cared for and housed, and how the kangaroos, in particular, have “quiet zones” where they can escape from the crowds. ¬†It’s so important for animals in captivity to have places they can go to when they want time out. ¬†They shouldn’t have to be on display all the time if they don’t want to. ¬†The roos at the Wildlife Park seem very relaxed though. ¬†They follow you around and come up to you for food and enjoy a good scratch on the chest or under their chins.

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Kangaroo – boop my nose!

I do love kangaroos. ¬†Having had one as a child for a short period of time, I love their gentle nature. ¬†Of course, the bigger males can be quite aggressive and dangerous at times (usually when a human being is getting too close or basically being an idiot) but the inhabitants of the park are all very calm and friendly. ¬†I like to see them so un-stressed and chilled out. ¬†They don’t even startle when a group of noisy children come in, which to me means they are not anxious or have any need to be afraid. ¬†Do I wish they were out in the wild? ¬†Yes, of course. ¬†But these parks are also important for teaching people about native fauna and how we need to look after them and protect them. ¬†Many of the critters in the park are orphans, hand-reared after their mothers were killed on the road, in dog attacks, and other accidents.

I love getting up close with them. ¬†My Mum was a bit more nervous than I (she was attacked, rather badly, by a large roo, years ago when I was child) and so didn’t get right in their¬†faces like me, although she did feed them and give them a pat. ¬†But I have always been annoying and like to get right in the middle of the action ha ha. ¬†I wouldn’t do it if they were weren’t so calm and friendly. ¬†One of them actually grabbed my arm and pulled me back in when I stopped scratching his chest ūüôā

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Photo-bombing!

Another lovely little spot we visited was Mulberry House. ¬†Just gorgeous. ¬†Pretty things to buy and look at – room upon room of vintage-inspired treasures, in a 1900s building. ¬†Each room is themed and just so delightfully arranged with floor-to-ceiling goodies. ¬†You can also have afternoon tea there (we didn’t indulge this time) and enjoy some home-baked cakes and other treats. ¬†My Mum ended up buying some lovely fat quarters in beautiful country/cottage colours – pale pinks, greens and cream. ¬†If you’re visiting Bunbury, be sure to pop in here – you won’t be disappointed.

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I’ll have one of everything, thanks!

This is a bit random, but I had to show a pic of this beautiful Crepe Myrtle, standing proudly outside a small antique store. ¬†How gorgeous is it??? ¬†I can’t believe how bright that pink is. ¬†It was almost TOO bright to look at. ¬†I’m glad the sun came out long enough for me to take this photo. ¬†It wouldn’t have looked so spectacular if it was bedraggled and dripping with rain (which I would also have been, most likely).

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Crepe Myrtle.  Ridiculous show off.

So, a lovely, relaxing trip that recharged our batteries and gave us some respite from life. ¬†I’m looking forward to going back again later in the year, if I can. ¬†Which probably means more kangaroo cuddles. ¬†If I’m lucky ūüôā ¬†(and the kangaroos, less so, ha ha!).

Thanks for stopping in – hope you’re having a happy day x

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Mis-Beehaving

My Mum has a gorgeous garden. ¬†She keeps it¬†looking lovely, but also endeavours to make it as water-saving and bee/bird-friendly as possible. ¬†She has lots of natives combined with more traditional, cottage garden plants. ¬†It’s not easy having a nice garden in WA. ¬†The Summers are so hot and even in the “wetter” months things can dry out. A couple of years ago, Mum got a landscaper in to help her design an eco-friendly (but still beautiful) garden that she could maintain herself and continue to work on. ¬†She’s only a pensioner, my Mum, so it was all done on a strict budget, saving money where possible (the landscaper was brilliant).

What she ended up with is a low-maintenance garden that is pretty all year round and makes the most of every season. ¬†It is also very welcoming to native birds and bees and the odd frog or two. ¬†Mum’s been very keen on attracting the native Blue Banded Bee,¬†a cute little species of bee that lives a solitary life, with the females building¬†their nests in singular burrows, in mud or soft mortar (or you can build them a little house, like THESE). ¬†They don’t create large stores of honey, so they are not suitable for honey production. ¬†BBBs don’t mind having close neighbours, in fact they will often build their nests right next door to another bee, although they still do not behave in a “colony” kind of way.

They are excellent pollinators, using the “buzz” method, which means they grasp the flower and basically give it a good shake, by shivering their flight muscles, or banging their head on the flower (yes, really). ¬†This releases the pollen, which is hidden in tiny capsules. ¬†Many flowers require this type of pollination, so blue banded bees are very necessary to the continuation of several plant species.

While they do have a mild sting, BBBs are not very aggressive. ¬†They¬†move very quickly and can hover, unlike most other bees. ¬†They are a total pain to photograph (ha ha) because they don’t stay still for long, and move at a much faster pace than regular bees, zipping around in a blur that causes the photographer (ie me) to swear a lot and dance around the garden, yelling “Keep still, dammit!”

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If you look VERY closely, you can just see the bee, hovering about, in the centre of the photo.

They are attracted primarily to white or blue flowers (possibly because it is better for camouflage) and are particularly good at pollinating tomatoes, eggplants and kiwifruit apparently.  So much so, there are plans to use them as greenhouse bees for large-scale tomato production.

BBBs are small critters, about 11mm in length, and have bands of iridescent pale blue-almost white on their abdomens.  When they fly, they look like a little flash of blue.
At night, the males cling to ¬†plant stems, like tiny little chickens roosting for the night ūüôā

Bees, in general, are so important to the well-being of the planet.  We should look after them and give them happy habitats and clean environments.   I personally love the little critters (probably because I have never been stung!) and enjoy watching them and their behaviour.  I find if you just let them get on with their business, they will stay out of yours.  Blue Banded Bees are really nice to watch and because they are not aggressive, you can get up close and personal with them, plus there is no risk of being attacked by a swarm!

You can find out more info about the Blue Banded Bee HERE

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Finally Рa perfect shot!  It took me probably an hour to get this little guy to stay still long enough for me to take his photo.  Look at those amazing antennae and perfect stripes!
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Bandy-Cute

Hello, everyone ūüôā ¬†I meant to post this a few weeks back but got sidetracked… My Mum turned 70 in November and she had several little get-togethers to celebrate. ¬†On the Sunday afternoon, we met my brother and his family for afternoon tea at a large garden nursery, which also has a delightful cafe and children’s playground. ¬†It’s a very popular spot and can get very busy so we were lucky to get a table for all of us in a nice sunny spot.

As we drank our tea and baby-cinos (obligatory for the four munchkins) and scoffed cake, we were joined by another guest Рa Southern Brown Bandicoot  (or Quenda).  These little guys are normally quite shy and tend to come out at dusk, to forage.  Our visitor is was well known to nursery staff, apparently making guest appearances on a regular basis, in order to pick up any table scraps and crumbs left by lunching customers.

img_4257He (I’m going with “he” for now) was happy to wander around our table, under our feet and chairs, and wasn’t the least bit disturbed by the children or my attempts to take photos of him. ¬†I even got to stroke him, which he didn’t seem to mind at all.

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He was wiry to the touch, and very solid (he eats well :)) and about the size of a small cat (with albeit shorter legs). ¬†Bandicoots have long claws, used for digging out underground food items (they are omnivores and will eat insects, fruit, lizards, seeds, mice – pretty much anything they can get their paws on!) and are marsupials (meaning they have a pouch that they carry their babies in). ¬†They live alone, rather than in social groups, and have a running style described as a “gallop” rather than a hop or a scurry.

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We were delighted to have his company and hope to see him again if we visit the nursery. It’s so nice to see wildlife, of any kind, and I’m always very grateful to be able to experience them close up and in a non-captive way. ¬†I guess these little guys are learning to adapt to being part of our community and losing some of their shy ways. ¬†Survival is survival, after all. ¬†I just hope that this particular fellow is healthy and protected and doesn’t come to any harm, being around human beings so much. ¬†He seemed happy enough though – very fat and not stressed at all. ¬†He’s probably living the dream and wondering why other bandicoots are bothering to hunt for their own food in the bush. ¬†As his “people” are solitary creatures, it’s unlikely he’s going to let anyone else in on the action. ¬†This territory is his and his alone!

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Have you had any close encounters with¬†a wild critter lately? ¬†I’d love to hear about it ūüôā

Thanks for stopping by x

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Wolf Pack

Hello everyone ūüôā¬† Hope your weekend was nice and relaxing, or busy and challenging if you prefer that kind of thing!¬† Mine was lovely – spent much of it with family and friends and the weather was gloriously warm.

As it was my Mum’s 70th on Saturday, I spent Saturday night and all of Sunday with her.¬† She had planned various little get-togethers, so we spent a lot of time sitting drinking tea and feeding our faces.¬† Can’t complain, but my diet has been seriously derailed.

We also had another guest come to tea, and she brought her whole family.¬† This Wolf Spider decided to hang out in Mum’s kitchen with all her babies.¬† Hundreds of babies!¬† If you look closely, you will see is she hauling them around on her back.¬† It makes her look much bigger than she actually is (even though these little critters can get pretty big and scary ha ha) and you can see in the second picture how much smaller she is.¬† It was a really hot day when she came in so we put a dish of water out for her.¬† We’re a bit weird like that ūüôā¬† We used to have a spider that came down every day for a drink of milk – fascinating to watch and really cute.

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Anyway, this baby-momma had LOADS of little free-loaders on her back and basically proceeded to dump them all in Mum’s house overnight.¬† Tiny wee things they are and they will eventually make their way outside because that’s where the food supply is!¬† A few of them sadly met a watery death in the bowl of water we had left out.¬† Whoops.¬† Not sure if they fell in there when Mummy Spidey was having a drink or if they wandered in by themselves.¬† RIP little dudes – your lives were cut tragically short!

Wolf Spiders are venomous but not in the deadly sense – they can give you a painful bite if provoked, which can lead to swelling, itchiness and general localised pain.¬† If you’re really unlucky you might have a worse reaction, like nausea, headaches, dizziness etc.¬† But I’ve been around these critters my whole life and they pretty much mind their own business and don’t go around attacking people unless provoked.¬† For instance, there was the time I got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around me.¬† Hmmmm, I thought, there’s something scratchy in this towel…opened the towel only to discover a VERY LARGE¬† Wolf Spider sitting rather grumpily on my hip.¬† Cue screaming and panicking.¬† Now, I am not squeamish about spiders – I don’t kill them or worry too much about them in general –¬† however I do draw the line at a humongous hairy beastie the size of my hand catching a lift on my naked body.¬† But she didn’t bite me, that’s the point I was getting to.¬† They’re not overly aggressive – they will sometimes rear up at you a bit if you provoke them or try to relocate them with a broom or something – but they’re not jumpy, bitey creatures.¬† Unless you’re a fly or another insect.¬† Apparently, some of the larger species of Wolfy can also catch and eat frogs and toads.¬† Am I freaking you out yet?

This little lady in Mum’s kitchen was only small and has a lot of growing to do.¬† Having incubated and hatched her babies, she has done her job and now she will go off and live her life again.¬† The babies have to fend for themselves now (actually, even when they are with her she really only protects them by having them on her back – if one falls off it’s tough luck!) and hopefully not fall in to any more bowls of water!

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Enjoy your day everyone – hope your spidey senses keep you out of mischief¬†ūüôā

x

P.S : I had to include this close-up shot from the Australian Reptile Park (all photo credit to them) – isn’t it gorgeous? Those eyes!¬† And, um, those fangs!

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