16 de julio de 2022

A New Way For Tracking Undescribed Species

Previously I have been tracking recognizable undescribed fungi using the "Tag" feature of iNaturalist. These can then be used in a search yo find all matching ones. A disadvantage of doing this is that you can only add tags to your own observations so you communicate with others in the hope to include all such observations.

Now I am trialling a new way of doing this: using Observation Fields. These can normally be added to any observation so could potentially be easier for including more observations.

As an example, I have first started adding it to my observations of a fungus with the working name Marasmius 'angina' - a fairly common fungus in wet forests of south-eastern Australia. This name has been used by the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (and possibly fungimap) for over a decade while we wait for it to be described.

Currently Included Fungi Species

Hymenoscyphus 'olive cream with black rhizomorphs'
Found in damp Eucalyptus forests in leaf litter.

Hymenoscyphus 'white bruising orange'
Found on logs in damp-wet forests. When gently scratched with a fingernail these turn yellow after about 10 seconds.

Marasmius 'angina'
Found in fallen branches and leaf litter. Extent of black on stem varies and this may be a species complex.

Mycena sp. indet. A of Grgurinovic
Found on wood in wet forests. Has a slender, yellow stem tending to white by the cap that is quite sturdy. Might belong in the Marasmiaceae family or *Hemimycena*. Also known as Mycena 'epipteroides'.

Bolete 'Jackson's Bend'
Found in wet forest and rainforest. Name as used by Gates & Ratkowsky.

Marasmius 'flat white with short yellow stem'
Found on leaf litter in damp-wet forest with eucalypts, including in the crowns of tree-ferns. Features a fairly flat, white cap with wide, shallow gills and a pale stem usually grading to yellow at the base. These have been microscopically examined and determined to be consistent with *Marasmius* by Virgil Hubregtse.

Publicado el 16 de julio de 2022 10:29 por reiner reiner | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de diciembre de 2021

Big Swamp Survey

Having surveyed a small swamp earlier in the morning I decided to also survey the nearby Big Swamp (so named) in a similar, repeatable manner. This was mainly for Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), particularly for the generally rare Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis). This swamp is ephemeral and dries out over summer most seasons (apart from the artificially deepened dam). It is also significant as the only known breeding site for the Common Glider (Tramea loewii) dragonfly in Victoria as I observed one emerging there ten years ago.

The temperature was about 20°C–22°C with light to moderate wind gusts and sunny. Water depth was generally to about 10cm but deeper around the area of the dam in the east where I started. I bisected the swamp roughly in an east–west direction across about 300m of the swamp and recorded all insects I disturbed:

  • 41 Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis)
  • 14 Slender Ringtail (Austrolestes analis)
  • 5 Wandering Ringtail (Austrolestes leda)
  • 3 Aurora Bluetail (Ischnura aurora)
  • 3 Blue-spotted Hawker (Adversaeschna brevistyla)
  • 2 flies
  • 1 moth

view observations

A significant number of the Austrolestes were newly emerged and all the Adversaeschna brevistyla seen had emerged that morning (a few more of these could not be photographed/recorded as they flew away).

Publicado el 25 de diciembre de 2021 20:33 por reiner reiner | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

A Small Swamp Survey

After just about walking off from this swamp, rather than just leaving things at my normal "only recording species' presence," I thought I'd take a slightly more scientific approach and bisect it, recording every damselfly and dragonfly. Normally for these sorts of activities you'd record weather but I can only estimate temperature from memory, remembering it was quite cool, only around 16°C, with some light to moderate wind gusts, but most importantly it was sunny.

I walked from the far side through the middle of the 50m wide swamp. Water depth was 5cm at most. I recorded:

  • 5 Slender Ringtail (Austrolestes analis)
  • 4 Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis)
  • 3 Aurora Bluetail (Ischnura aurora)
  • 1 spider
  • 1 fly

view observations

I couldn't find a name for this swamp. The old (no longer working) governement mapping system might have had more names but the new one doesn't have a name for this one.

See also the Big Swamp Survey a little later in the morning.

Publicado el 25 de diciembre de 2021 09:54 por reiner reiner | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de enero de 2021

Tail Waving Damsels

I had circumnavigated the lagoon and photographed every species I found so now what? Still having time on my hands I decided to try and photograph a charismatic little damselfly performing its characteristic tail-waving. Having capable photographic equipment I thought I would use the opportunity presenting itself — the temperature wasn't too hot to be out in the sun but still warm enough for these insects to be active.

It had been documented that the Ancient Greenling Hemiphlebia mirabilis damselfly waves it tail about at times. Originally thought to only be male territorial signalling behavior I found that both sexes perform this display equally.

They usually wave their tails about immediately after landing or when another perches nearby; most of the rest of their time they spend sitting quite still and may only move to catch a passing meal. So to get them doing their dance I walked back and forth along the edge of the swamp and flung my camera in their direction whenever one I disturbed landed again (like most damselflies they don't fly far). It isn't easy to catch this action as they may only do it two or three times and each wave only lasts around a second. Even though my camera focuses fairly quickly on something near its last focus distance it was still not easy to capture this, but using continuous shooting I managed to get some reasonable images. Ideally I would have had the camera level with the little beasts but as they prefer to perch on emergent swamp vegetation below half a metre tall my photos were angled somewhat from above.

Until 2013 coupling had not even been observed (oviposition is unknown to this day) but the male pounces on the wings of the female and holds them closed (so she can't fly), walks up the wings [image 1 and image 2] before curling his abdomen undernath his body and normal damselfly mating follows. The males don't seem to be too exact about selecting a potential mate and I have photographed one on a male Austrolestes leda and even two on the same male Ischnura aurora! As a result of this indiscriminate behavior I think both sexes have evolved the tail curling as it could dislodge an unwanted attachment. [This is my opinion based on many observations however traditionally it is still believed they are waving at each other, which I guess they are sort of doing and saying "don't land here, Mr".]

Observations 67188374, 67188376 and 67188377 illustrate the tail curling behavior that I captured in the late morning on 25th December, 2020. The second of these shows the full sequence of the tail-flick in chronological order.

Publicado el 24 de enero de 2021 11:17 por reiner reiner | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

04 de octubre de 2020

A Numerical Milestone

When I first started using iNaturalist I had already accumulated about 15,000 observation records via other systems, but over 16 years. On iNaturalist however inspirational people like @finatic, who was leading the way with over 50,000 records, motivating comparisons like in this blog post about how many finatics other people were (as a ratio/fraction). In Australia I think @vicfazio3 had most observations and I remember globetrotters @sea-kangaroo and @silversea_starsong having many observations and identifications too. However at the time I thought I'd never become one finatic.

Changing circumstances however meant I started travelling more and I began photographing stuff almost every day. Previously I would be very targeted - I'd spend half a day chasing dragonflies and photographing nothing else. I now started photographing everything I could vaguely identify or that was interesting. Although typically I only make one observation of a species on a trip/walk (as I still do) - maybe sometimes I will make a few extra observations on longer trips. This meant I started accumulating records and once I was mentally programmed to photographing things in passing it was easy to average 100 observations per day.

For a few months since travel restrictions were imposed I didn't think I'd make 100,000 records by now but I still have some older images not submitted anywhere. I don't want to duplicate records so this is complicated by be submitting some records to other systems that reached Australia's national aggregator ALA (that includes many sources including museum specimens). When I'm away from home I take photos all day and evening until I go to bed (there isn't anything else to do). What I've also been doing this spring is spotlighting in my garden like I do when I'm out in the bush - its amazing how much minuscule life is out there (I don't live in a very urban area).

Of course 100,000 is an insignificant number of itself, it just looks aesthetic with out base-10 numbering system but it doesn't really mean much more than 99,000. However the next such aesthetic milestone of one million records is not within reach of me in my lifetime even if I continue to submit 30,000 records per year so at least I will save myself another blog post. :)

Thanks to all the great people who have lead the way and continue to help me and others understand what is around. I will mention a few people off the top of my head now but I hope everyone else isn't offended if I left them out. Identifying machines like @johnascher, who corrects all my many bee misidentifications (and of course globally). @borisb for all his beetle input, even reading up old literature to work out poorly known species from the other side of the world. Similarly @tony_d for his work on Australian flies and @matthew_connors has done a lot of researching numerous invertebrate groups. Also thanks to @wongun for bug assistance and @susanna_h for wasps.

My biggest problem is I know enough to know how little I know. 😀 See you all around online.

Publicado el 4 de octubre de 2020 02:16 por reiner reiner | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de junio de 2020

The Third Tree

More discoveries of Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood'
This article first appeared in Field Nats News No. 309 (July 2020), newsletter of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Inc.

Normally, at this time of year the FNCV Fungi Group would be out on frequent forays, including to Blackwood (west of Melbourne) where they discovered the rare Stemless Earpick Fungus (Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood') in 2005. In most years since, the fungi has appeared again, but were only ever observed on the same tree trunk, a Narrow-leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata), 'the first tree'. I have attended several forays there in the last 10 years, but unfortunately these elusive fungi were not present on each of these occasions. Many autumns being quite dry, they eventually appeared later in the season (after the forays) in some of these years.

Blackwood, being about as far on the other side of the city as my home is to the east, I have spent more time in local areas instead. I thought the forests around Silvan and Gembrook could be suitable but never had any success until last year when I stumbled across a good colony in Olinda, 'the second tree'. Some FNCV members formally searched several hundred nearby trees over two days without further success.

Being brown and small, typically around 10mm across, (but I've measured them up to 25mm, see observation 48624044), they aren’t easily seen unless you are within a few metres and on the right side of the tree They mostly grow on the shady side. Additionally, they don’t appear for very long if rains aren’t reasonably continuous, drying to nothing within a couple of weeks. The bark on which they grow seems to need to be spongy and wet.

Sporing body on 8th April, 2020 (left) and same 15th April (right)

When searching there are problems of being deceived by other fungi that look similar at first glance. Pseudohydnum gelatinosum is fairly common on trunks of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) where it develops grey-topped, gelatinous sporing bodies to around 5cm. However in Kurth Kiln Regional Park there are some on Eucalyptus radiata that forms smaller structures with a browner top (but the spines are still white).

Small Resupinatus can also be misleading when sighted from a distance. Resupinatus cinerascens (usually larger), Resupinatus subapplicatus and Resupinatus aff. merulioides can form similar colonies on gum tree trunks, but they are easy to distinguish from Auriscalpium when inspecting the under-side.

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum at Kurth Kiln

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from above

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from underneath

Another site regularly visited for FNCV fungi forays is Mortimer Nature Trail in Bunyip State Park near Gembrook. I believe that was where I went on my first foray with the group. Interestingly it was here where, on a tree immediately beside the track, I found the third known colony of Auriscalpium sp. ‘Blackwood’ on 5th May this year 2020, ‘the third tree’. Admittedly it wasn’t in the wet gully where most of the foray time is spent but it is still an area frequented by fungi enthusiasts. It has also been found in Kurth Kiln Regional Park this season.

My understanding is that the description is close to being published, so these Auriscalpium may soon have a formal specific epitaph (species name). In Australia it seems to help being given a conservation status, if a species has been named and properly described. It is unfortunate that it has taken fifteen years. It is only in the past two years that more than one colony was known. Before that it would easily have qualified as Critically Endangered, the highest ranking before being considered extinct.
Publicado el 19 de junio de 2020 09:05 por reiner reiner | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de mayo de 2020

I Am Biased & An Aberration

Statistical problems with my observations

Until the government imposed lock-downs this year I travelled north during winter to escape the cold weather. As I make a lot of observations compared to others, some interesting things start to become apparent. One such artifact is seasonality records for the Scarlet Percher dragonfly Diplacodes haematodes show a bulge during August and September. This is a fairly common species in New South Wales and Queensland and, with mature males being bright red and perching beside water habitat, also readily photographed. Until this past summer nearly half of the records were from me and the chart pictured here was even more distorted. Anybody looking at that would think there is a strange peak emergence at the end of winter but actually its just a freak emerging from the south. As more users come on board this curve will gradually be flattened but highlights the problem of me. 😊

I am somewhat of a pariah - I'm not doing what everybody else is doing and I'm doing a lot of it. This includes local observations too. For example, a common mushroom here is the attractive, bright blue Pixie's Parasol Mycena interrupta but over 90% of the records on iNaturalist are mine.

But other biases are less apparent. I am more inclined to photograph something I know and ignore stuff I expect won't be identified. Historically I've been ignoring small herbs and bryophytes as unidentifiable and therefore not worth recording. For example, so far this year I have recorded the common moss Cyathophorum bulbosum 20 times, which represents over half the observations here. Its not like it suddenly appeared, I've just not been able to recognize it previously and thought I wouldn't be able to have it identified anyway. Another example is Indian Weed or Eastern St Paul's-Wort Sigesbeckia orientalis: half the Australian records are from me and half of those are from this year.

So by being one of the more active observers I am introducing statistical biases. I hope you don't mind. 😎

Publicado el 9 de mayo de 2020 23:41 por reiner reiner | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de febrero de 2020

My Try for a Big Day

Today is the 21st of February and after a few days of showers and distractions I decided to go out to Healesville today (Badger Weir to be precise). I thought there might be a bit of fungus out and the open picnic area there is also good for insects when the sun comes out.

The first stop was Silvan, the forest behind the reservoir park. This is normally a good place for fungi too but today it was quite lean. However once I got out into the open I started to see numerous roosting insects in the long grass receiving an unwanted morning shower from the occasional drizzle. I was glad I was wearing my gumboots as the grass was quite wet and was amazed when I ended up with 140 photos for the area. Once I started getting a bit of stuff I thought I'd really go for it for the rest of the day and get as much as I could.

Up the road I visited the bushland in Seville. There isn't much here but there is always stuff hanging around in the long grass along the creek - once again I took over 100 photos.

I finally made it to Badger Weir at lunch time and found numerous perched insects before heading off along the forest tracks. All up I took over 750 photos, which is somewhat of a record for me. I suspect this will give me a personal record for number of observations in a day (well over 200 observations).

My observations will be available via this link as I upload them.

Publicado el 21 de febrero de 2020 09:10 por reiner reiner | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de septiembre de 2019

My Dragonfly Book

Several years ago I was considering writing a book on Victoria's dragonflies and damselflies, having seen and photographed nearly every species in the state. As I started collating some photos I realized many were not of publishable quality. For example, in latter years I wasn't bothering trying to photograph the very common Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum very well as I already had many photos but it turned out they were not really of very good quality. So having a reasonable camera by then I went out and ensured I got decent photos of all species I needed. During the past couple of seasons I also managed to finally find Nighthawk Apocordulia macrops, the last extant species within the state I had not seen.

Initially I was going to cover south-eastern Australia but I was missing too many species from New South Wales so decided to restrict it to Victoria. Having recently visited Tasmania in February I also recorded 4 of their 5 endemic species so the book could almost be expanded to cover that state too, and indeed a followup visit in November I got the final Tasmanian endemic. So that's why the book became the "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Victoria and Tasmania".

At this stage I was putting things together and had images with nice margins just most other field guides. I then realized things look better without margins so had to go through and re-edit all the photos to fit the full page. It also turned out that since Southwestern Billabongfly Austroagrion cyane had been found in Victoria there were no species in South Australia that weren't also in Victoria, so the book can also be used as a complete guide for SA (but no distribution maps or flight times are provided).

So after about 250–300 hours of editing time (including separation into damsels and dragons and then recombining) a book was born. It is available from the Entomological Society of Victoria (launched at the October 15 meeting). Cost is $30 (plus $5 postage within Australia or $20 to America or Europe).

» download sample...

Publicado el 28 de septiembre de 2019 10:36 por reiner reiner | 16 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de junio de 2019

Wasp Observations in Northern Victoria

This article first appeared in the Victorian Entomologist for June 2019. See the Entomological Society of Victoria

Ichneumonid Lissopimpla excelsa at Miepoll.

At some locations there is tall grass in which numerous insects will roost, like wasps. They certainly sleep in other spots too but they are quite easy to spot against the pale grass. There were common species, like the Orchid Dupe or Dusky-winged Ichneumonid Lissopimpla excelsa. Males of this species are attracted to Cryptostylis that emit the same pheromones as the female wasps and pollination occurs by pseudocopulation. There are many other species in the Ichneumonidae family with males and females usually not appearing significantly different (apart from an often long ovipositor in some of these species) but on these trips only a few species were seen.

Many female insects have a long ovipositor at the end of their bodies which is used to lay their eggs into something (such as larvae or pupae in the case of wasps). Some wasps are capable of inflicting a painful sting in us humans – these are usually species that hunt living creatures that must be disabled quickly. It is worth remembering only female wasps can sting as this is with a modified ovipositor. What they catch is actually food for their larva as the adult wasps in most species feed on flowers, which is where they are most often observed during the day (but photographing them there while busy feeding is more challenging).

Pompilidae Ferreola handschini at Miepoll.

A well known wasp family are the Spider Wasps (Pompilidae). Some of these get quite large (ones that prey on huntsman spiders) and many sport some orange coloration as a warning to potential predators to indicate they can have a nasty sting (I know, I accidentally stood on one during these trips). A fairly commonly encountered species was Ferreola handschini, which is mostly black with unusual orange “shoulders” (so is at least relatively easy to identify).

Wasps in the family Crabronidae hunt other insects, including catching flies in flight, so they are often very swift and agile flyers, and are also similarly hasty when feeding at flowers. They can feature vivid yellow eyes and among the more well known are the Bembix sand wasps, a genus with about 90 species in Australia. These dig nesting chambers in sand, when it is often easiest to photograph them. The second sand wasp pictured was a lot smaller.

Crabronidae (Bembicinae subfamily) Bembix sp. left and unknown species right, both at Burramine within metres

Probably the family containing the most familiar wasps (including the invasive European Wasp) is Vespidae, which includes Potter Wasp (Eumeninae) and Paper Wasp (Polistinae) subfamilies (among others). Below is a photo of Delta bicinctum, a not uncommon potter wasp but I have never seen a pair together. These were photographed in the morning where they had roosted in the grass overnight but they were already starting to get fidgety with my big black camera pointing at them.

Vespidae: Eumeninae Delta bicinctum pair still at their overnight roost at Peechelba East

Smaller but with a similar waist (petiole) to Delta, the attractive black and yellow Deuterodiscoelius species is not one I’ve seen before and one that hasn’t been photographed much. It too was in the morning before it had warmed up sufficiently. Also pictured are two similar black potter wasps with differing amounts of orange at the end of the abdomen.

Vespidae: Eumeninae Deuterodiscoelius sp. at Eldorado

Two similar Vespidae in the Eumeninae subfamily at Burramine

Paper wasps (Polistinae) build honeycomb nests hanging from vegetation, rock overhangs and artificial structures. Polistes humilis is widespread and common in south-eastern Australia (including Melbourne) but inland I also found Polistes erythrinus, which is dark brown and significantly larger.

Vespidae: Polistinae Polistes erythrinus at Burramine

The family Sphecidae goes by several common names including Thread-waisted Wasps. This includes the Slender Mud-daubers of which two species are relatively abundant in Victoria. Sceliphron laetum is generally more yellow than Sceliphron formosum (especially the antennae) and they have different patterns on their back. See http://museum.wa.gov.au/research/collections/terrestrial-zoology/entomology-insect-collection/entomology-factsheets/sceliphron

Sphecidae Sceliphron laetum at Burramine (left) and Sceliphron formosum at Peechelba East (right)

Another family are Thynnid Wasps (Thynnidae) where the females are wingless as they spend most of their time burrowing underground looking for insect larvae to host their offspring. The sting of these is said to be quite painful. Probably the most well known is the so called Blue Ant Diamma bicolorbut there are many more species. Many males in this family are tricked into mating with orchids that emit the same pheromone as the female wasp. Members show significant sexual dimorphism, the female is usually significantly smaller than the male as for many he takes her to the flowers for feeding. One in this family that I thought I saw quite often was a black one with yellow mouth parts however when I started to collate some images for this article I realised there were at least two species. One has dark legs and black shaded wings while the other has red legs and reddish wings. Before I noticed this I usually just photographed the first one at a site and therefore may have missed the other species (so I now pay more attention). Thynnid Wasps used to be classified as a subfamily under Flower Wasps (Tiphiidae).

Thynnid Wasps with black legs (left) and red legs (right), both at Peechelba East

mating pairs of Thynnid Wasps showing typical sexual dimorphism, both at Burramine

Both sexes in at least most Flower Wasps are winged, as are those of the similar family Scoliidae. Particularly inland I have regularly encountered the 15mm long males (excluding antennae)of the Yellow Flower Wasp Radumeris tasmaniensis but less commonly the quite large female. Both of them appear amazingly hairy. Males are also tricked into mating by the deceptive Calochilus campestris beard-orchid.

Thynnidae Radumeris tasmaniensis male left and female right, both at Burramine

So many different wasps (Australia has thousands of species), although I only saw perhaps a few dozen so one wonders where all the others are hiding. But this number also makes them difficult to identify. I am only able to get to family with most of them and I don’t know if there is a specialist that can help more. A lot probably look very similar and may require concealed microscopic features.

For all the observations I records during these three trips have a look at the following iNaturalist project I created for them:

Publicado el 19 de junio de 2019 02:44 por reiner reiner | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario