Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Jim Trice from Oz sent me some photos from back in February; his notes and IDs are indented. One of the world’s cutest mammals is at the bottom.

Some recent visitors to my yard to help top up the photo tank. Shot 1 is of a damselfly resting on one of our lavender bushes in late afternoon light. I don’t have an ID for this species yet.

The spider is a garden orb spinner, probably Eriophora transmarina, another highly variable species, which seems to be the case with many Australian spiders. The “Spiders of Australia” web site has some information on these, including:

“Formerly called genus Araneus. These are the common garden spiders that make that familiar vertical orb-web usually at face level. The web is usually renewed after a night’s use and renewed the next evening. During the day the spiders remain in a hiding nearby. Males are the same size as females but with a slender abdomen, long legs and conspicuously clubbed palps.”

It’s a pretty accurate description, except it should read something like “…removed after a night’s use, and renewed the next evening.” This one built a new web just outside my back door exactly at my face height every night for months. The body of this spider is around 25mm, or an inch, in length. The web extends from the lower edge of our roof gutters to about mid chest height on me. But on this night the spider was above head height, and I needed a 3 foot step stool to get this shot. I also needed to shoot in manual mode as the hairs on the spiders body were highly reflective, bleaching out in my flash. I deliberately underexposed these shots by two stops, and brought the mid tones back up using curves.

The mantis is likely in the genus Archimantis, the stick mantids, and is probably a female Archimantis latistyla. This one is around 10cm long, but they grow to around 11cm. The adult females have reduced wings, and can not fly, but the smaller males do have fully formed functional wings.

This was quite a lucky mantis. She was trying to get herself squashed in our front door. But I rescued her and placed her somewhere more appropriate. I came back, camera in hand, about an hour and a half later. She had caught, and was much of the way through eating, a small vespid wasp. It might be Vespula vulgaris, the common wasp. We get a lot of them around that part of the garden.

And, though it looks odd, she really is upside down.

The koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, is a young female who came visiting near the beginning of a heat wave. She is clinging on to the trunk of one of our golden ash trees, Fraxinus sp., about 5 metres from my camera. When they are not foraging koalas often spend time in introduced trees. Their foliage is usually denser than Eucalypt foliage. This affords better protection from being mobbed by Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen). It also provides better shade when they are heat stressed. Later that day she did indeed become heat stressed, and sat on the ground at the bottom of the tree. She became very annoyed with me and told me off quite vocally when I put out a tub of water for her, as I got closer than she was comfortable with. But I wanted the water close enough to the base of her chosen tree that she could easily flee up it if the neighbourhood dogs came by while she was drinking. She moved on about a day after that, which is pretty normal. They will typically spend between 1-3 days when visiting my yard, as we have many trees they can feed on, mostly grey box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), and a couple of South Australian blue gums (Eucalyptus leucoxylon).

6 Comments

  1. Jacques Hausser
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Very good photos! The spider is interesting with her underpart brightly colored (to attract a male ?) and the upperpart dull brown (camouflage? It is the only part visible when the animal is hiding at rest and should make her unnoticable).
    The coloration of the mouth parts of the mantis is quite vampire-like! A bloody smile.

    • ratabago
      Posted April 7, 2018 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      Thanks!

      Interesting speculation on the spider. They are hard to find during the day. This one used to hide in the gap between the verandah roof and a supporting beam. Very little of her showed, and with her legs pulled in all of the red was hidden.

      I’m not sure how good the colour vision is in these spiders. They are mostly active at night. I wonder if those contrasting dark and light bands on the underside might not be a more important visual signal? Google hasn’t been able to help me much with this question.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Excellent pictures! The feeding mantis somehow looks guilty. I especially like the damselfly photo.

    • ratabago
      Posted April 7, 2018 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Mark.

      I think the mantis is just shocked at the brazenness of the paparazzi. The damselfly is the recent shot I am most happy with. The light was very kind to me.

  3. Christopher
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Well how fun is that to have visiting koalas! Sure, it’s not as exotic to you, but for a mid-Missouri boy, it’s a crazy neat notion! Hell, I’m still pleased as punch that I get red squirrels and a fox in my yard, and that there are cows in the pasture behind, so I’m easily amused. Your spider looks so similar to ones I get all over the eaves of the house that I’d easily have been fooled into thinking it was one of mine rather than an awesome Aussie arachnid. And the damselfly shot I find particularly pleasing in composition.

  4. Mark R.
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    A visiting Koala…lucky you!

    Great photos, thanks.


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