This place where I live has a million stories, maybe more. Everyday I glimpse another fragment of plot, perhaps meet another character.
Last Sunday a Lewin’s honeyeater gave me a cook’s tour of her larder (the genders of this species look the same, so it could have been a he). First she plucked the fruits of the Native Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus nutans), wiping her beak on the branch to clean off the copious sap. Then she snapped a few insects from the rough bark of the Melaleuca tree, followed by a quick sup from the flowers of the native ginger. And then… she licked at the leaf bases of the white cedar.
Ah ha! I never knew white cedar (Melia azederach) had extra-floral nectaries, but the little bird showed me the spot. An ‘extra-floral nectary’ is a place ‘outside the flowers’ where a plant will exude nectar. Many birds and insects know where they are. But if you don’t have one of these handy guides about to show you, see the picture above for where you can find them on the white cedar. The video clip below shows me drawing this nature journal entry.
And then there was the velvet worm!
I had waited decades to find one of these amazing critters in the bush. I’d looked for them in all sorts of rainforests, especially cool temperate rainforests, turning over logs and ferreting through piles of damp leaf-litter. I had sort of given them up as an extremely rare and elusive beast.
Then a few days ago Ray came scrambling up the back steps with a strange little legged wormy critter glued to his gardening glove. He had found a velvet worm in a pile of pavers behind the water tank. Wooohooo!
So I guess right now some of you are thinking “What on earth is a velvet worm? And why should I be excited?”
Fair enough. But rather than me trying to explain, here is a fabulous video clip by The Master:
At least one Australian species of velvet worm (of which there are many) has been observed to live socially, in female-dominated hierarchies. These velvet worms hunt in a pack (how terrifying if you are a small creature who gets in their way!) and the top female gets to eat first. This sort of social behavior has rarely (or never?) been observed before in an invertebrate. See this paper if you’d like to read more.
I’m not a big participant in Valentine’s Day (in fact I forgot it was Valentine’s Day until late last night. Fortunately, Ray isn’t a big fan either). But much better than any present was this little critter Ray found in the shed yesterday:
Yes it looks like a rat, but it’s an Antechinus: a little marsupial predator that’s just as Australian as a kangaroo or a koala. The name ‘Antechinus’ means ‘Hedgehog-equivalent’ which is a bit weird as it’s not spiny at all. It eats mainly invertebrates, piercing them with sharp little teeth that are nothing like the big curving/gnawing teeth of rodents. It’s also famous for all the males dying off in their first year of life after a frenzy of mating. It looks like we have a family of these living in the shed, which I think is marvellous.
I’m still having lots of fun getting to know the locals through drawing them:
If you’d like to learn more about nature journaling I have two workshops coming up in March which should be great fun, and are happening in two wonderful venues:
I also have a regular stall at the Beechmont market which is on the third Sunday of each month, from 8 am to 12 pm at the Beechmont Community Centre (old school site on the roundabout), Beechmont, Queensland. I’ll have nature journaling displays, and books, greeting cards, original artwork, prints, and nature journaling kits for sale.
More events will be announced soon. You can also follow me on Instagram (@paula.peeters) if you’d like to see snippets of other projects that I’m working on, and other bits of Beechmont nature.
So I hope you are getting glimpses of nature stories where you are too. There is a lot going on out there, if we give ourselves the time to look.