Saturday, December 16, 2006

Laughing Kookaburra

The bird with the best name on the planet. The voice will be in my head forever.

Laughing Kookaburras are believed to pair for life. The nest is a bare chamber in a naturally occurring tree hollow or in a burrow excavated in an arboreal (tree-dwelling) termite mound. Both sexes share the incubation duties and both care for the young. Other Laughing Kookaburras, usually offspring of the previous one to two years, act as 'helpers' during the breeding season. Every bird in the group shares all parenting duties.

Actually saw one emerge from a termite nest on a tree once. Thought it was a little cream-colored rodent at first, then it flew off.


Azure Kingfisher

The Azure Kingfisher plunges from overhanging perches into water to catch prey. Prey items include: fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects and other invertebrates, and, sometimes, frogs. They will often bash their prey against the perch before swallowing it head first. Often watch Platypuses foraging underwater and catch any food items that are disturbed.

Saw this little guy, a cousin of the kookaburra and only three of four inches high, on the South Alligator River in Kakadu Nat'l Park. Several times he'd dart down, be back up on the limb and have his food down almost faster than you could see.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Two Good Links

First, Pharyngula, the blog of an extra-smart and funny biologist.

And a story he linked to, saying, "It's a strange thing to care about a dog I've never met…".



Christine took this right behind home. Nice, huh?


Friday, December 8, 2006

Mind the Fence

Opossum, Dee Why, October, 2006.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Gippsland Water Dragon

Eastern Gippsland Water Dragon, Tidbinbilla Nature Preserve, east of Canberra, October, 2006. If you're in the area, go. Very much worth it. Saw a Red-Bellied Black Snake there. Venomous. Beautiful.

The only thing I don't understand is that stripe that goes up to its ear. Took a lot of photos of the many dragons we saw, but they all had the stripe going right up to the eye, which is one of their distinguishing features. This one only went to the ear. May be a different species. Or just a freak.

Well, dang, I just found out. It's a Gippsland Water Dragon, not an Eastern. Google wins again. Here's a good shot of the Gippsland, and info.


Sculpture by the Sea

Took this at Sculpture by the Sea in November. Entered it a contest there, was one of the five finalists for the day. But I didn't win. Dang it.


Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Waiting at home when we got back from Australia.

Small-marble sized body.

With a funnel-like core in its web.

I don't know what kind of spider this is. Anybody?


Tawny Frogmouth

Walking through the suburbs of Sydney one night in October I heard this "ooo ooo ooo" sound:

Too dark to see, I pointed the camera at the sound and snapped:

I got lucky. It was a Tawny Frogmouth, probably about 16 inches from tip of the tail to head.

Here's a closer look:

More here. And more images of the messy-face Frogmouth here.


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Shark Egg

Took this photo at Hans and Kellie's house in Dee Why. It's a shark egg. They lay them near kelp beds and the eggs get lost and tangled up therein and so are protected from the eight gazillion things in the ocean that would love to eat them.

Who knew?

You can find the dried up and hard shells, if you're lucky, washed up on certain beaches.

At the top you see the beginning of the long curly stringer that comes off the top of the egg - about seven inches long. It allows the egg to attach to the kelp. We didn't know what kind of shark it came from, but a little googling tells me it may be from a Crested Horn Shark. Here's the shark with its horns. And this is cool.

Bonus: This one never "hatched." You can feel the weight of the little shark embryo inside.


Sunday, December 3, 2006

Kangaroos. Boxing.

I've already had two people ask me, "Where the heck are the boxing kangaroos?" So here they are again.

The boxers were the very first post on this blog just a few weeks ago. I guess I'll have to put it up on a regualr basis. I'll be putting up an edited version soon too; take out some of the Blair Witch parts.



November, 2006.

Rainbow Lorikeet on the deck in Dee Why (suburb in Sydney's Northern Beaches).



October, 2006.

Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) surfacing, Manley Aquarium.

I could write all day about these little buggers, so don't get me started. (I'll do that some other day.) I wanted so much to see one in the wild and spent a fair amount of time sitting by the side of creeks and streams and drainage ditches and what have you. The Aussies thought it was hilarious. The great majority have never seen one—even in a zoo. I finally met two people in a pub in Gunning who had actually seen platypuses in the wild. They saw them west of Sydney, beyond the Blue Mountains even.

I'll be there.

This guy, along with another that day, was very frisky and swimming and rooting in the aquarium floor and even jumped out of the water and onto the "beach" for a little while. Truly cute and bizarre. Big yellow eyes and sleek, brown, silky fur. Fast, wassly swimmers. Just beautiful. I'll put up some video of them soon. And some day I'll click here.


Coming into Sydney

October, 2006

Under the wing, under the sun, you can see the Sydney Harbor Bridge, looking straight out the harbor out to the Tasman Sea.


Friday, December 1, 2006


I'm cheating here. I had these photos up at another site I run...but that's another story.

Brothers and sisters, the head of our cousin the hellgrammite as seen under a scanning electron microscope:

I found this on the the hellgrammite page of the Web site of the Stratford Landing Elementary School in Fairfox County, Virginia. They give credit to

I've gotta get out of here, so I'll just leave you some photos to drool over. Here's another view of the head:

And here's a view of the the head of what the hellgrammite turns into: