Context: 2.8km2 of mature Brown and Messmate Stringybark over Beaked Hakea, Large-leaf Bush Pea, Common Heath, Common Flat-pea, Honeypots and Wire Rapier-sedge. Breeding ground for the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo and habitat for the Bassian Thrush. Look out for Hairy Correa, Dwarf Micrantheum, Scrambling Guinea-flower and Yellow-footed Antechinus.
Stop four on the second City Nature Challenge day was Spring Mount Conservation Park. The original plan was to follow the fire break along the boundary fence heading North. But upon arrival this looked to be a dense layer of medium height shrubs about 20 metres deep. I’d miss much of the bird life here as the Stringybark trees were much further back. As such I took a short hike along the main fire track through the park starting at the carpark on Mount Alma Road.
This park is often seems very quiet and still, unless the Sulphur-crested or Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are hanging about. Their calls almost echo through the park. There’s not a lot of colour about this time of year, but the Common Heath (Epacris impressa) flowers stand out.
The old Stringybark Eucalypts drop a lot of leaves, thick bark and branches, which make great habitat for ground dwelling critters. Carefully lifting and replacing a few of the logs along the edge of the track I was able to add quite a few species to my CNC species list. A Three-toed Earless Skink (Hemiergis decresiensis) and my first record of a Wishbone Spider (Family Anamidae). Unfortunately this one wasn’t willing to sit still for a clear photo. A Heteromastix Soldier Beetle (Genus Heteromastix) that landed on me. I’ve only spotted this Genus once before in the nearby Mount Billy Conservation Park. On that occasion a dozen or so were attracted to a Millipede. Exactly why this was occurring remains a mystery.
I finally found my first Harvestmen, a Triaenonychid (Family Triaenonychidae), but photos missed diagnostic features so it may be stuck at a Family level ID. Also the Land Planarian Fletchamia mediolineata, which I’ve also found on my suburban property. A Trilobite Cockroach (Genus Laxta) that looks a little different from another species in the same Subfamily I found here in 2019. These spend the daylight hours, often in groups, under bark or in rock crevices from which they emerge at night to forage(1).
Different parks seem to have different species of Bull Ants that dominate. Aldinga Scrub, for example, has a lot of Black-scaped Bull Ants (Myrmecia nigriscapa). Look down as you walk along and you’ll spot multiple on every walk, usually after they’ve spotted you and begun backing away. In Spring Mount CP the Black Jumper Ants (Myrmecia pilosula) dominate. Their nests can easily be spotted along the edge of the fire track. These are active during the day and climb up understory shrubs looking for prey. It’s all too easy to brush past a branch and end up with one or more of these crawling on you. Unfortunately their venom is quite immunogenic and responsible for the majority of anaphylactic reactions associated with Ants in Australia. So, long sleeves and long pants recommended in this and nearby parks.
Under a few logs I found several colonies of Pale-footed Ants (Genus Technomyrmex). My first sighting of these. Also a Somethus Millipede (Genus Somethus). It’s nice to see a native Millipede as opposed to the all too common Portuguese Millipede.
No sighting of any Cockatoos. There were a few small Bird species high in the trees, but against the overcast daylight these were difficult to spot, let alone photograph. I did encounter a White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea) doing its thing up one of the Stringybarks.
(1) RENTZ, D. (2014). A Guide to the Cockroaches of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne