ACT News

Tim the Yowie Man: Summer sightings from Canberra Times readers

Taking advantage of the summer weather, many Canberrans have been out and about exploring our region. As a result, every day captivating images showcasing the diversity of our region's wildlife fill my inbox. Here's a selection.

Mothaclypse mystery

While thousands of Canberrans saw in the new year with pyrotechnic displays, Peter Blunt, of Theodore, celebrated the start of 2016 by clambering up a peak in the Brindabellas where he experienced a light show of a different kind, and one he will never forget.

A spotted jezebel butterfly on Mount Ainslie.
A spotted jezebel butterfly on Mount Ainslie. Photo: Matthew Higgins

As Blunt and his wife and daughter approached the summit of Mount Gingera just after sunset, he "heard what sounded like a semi-trailer working its way up a long hill – a low thrum".

Once atop the lofty peak, the origins of the curious sound was revealed. "The summit was a swarming frenzy of bogong moths," Blunt reports. "They seemed to be buzzing around the area generally, not flying off in a group to some other destination, they were all around and often bumped into us."

Australian painted lady butterfly.
Australian painted lady butterfly. Photo: Suzi Bond

Blunt managed to video the scene for his blog and when he snapped some photos with his digital camera "the flash went off automatically and captured the moths in flight against the darkening light in amongst the rocks and bushes".

As you can see, the result is stunning. It wasn't only moths which made Blunt's New Year's Eve so memorable. "As we watched the fireworks over distant Canberra we saw a pair of glowing eyes in the torchlight that moved off in a slinky manner – possibly a feral cat or fox," Blunt reports.

Adding to the light show were "the orange street lights of the city which seemed to flicker through the haze", and which, Blunt says, "looked like the embers of a distant bushfire, a reversal of the same scene we had seen in 2003 when we had looked from Tuggeranong towards Namadgi on the evening of the fires".

As to the moths? Well, Blunt, who camped overnight on the rocky crag, says that "in the morning there were layers of moths in the cool cracks in the rocks but none flying around".

Bogong moths fill the night sky in the Brindabellas.
Bogong moths fill the night sky in the Brindabellas. Photo: Peter Blunt

While the swarming behaviour for the moths was a first for Blunt and his family, moth expert Ted Edwards, an honorary fellow with CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection who has spent many an evening atop Mount Gingera, says: "It is usual for a proportion of the bogongs to fly at and after dusk at least on a warm night. We know almost nothing about this behaviour, including whether the moths are off to feed, whether they are seeking more secure hiding places and what proportion of moths are involved."

Butterfly bonanza

A number of readers including Matthew Higgins, of Ainslie, have photographed a significant number and variety of butterflies in and around Canberra this summer, prompting some readers, including Jeff Jones, of Kaleen, to ask if it's a boom year for the colourful insects.

Have you seen a lace monitor bigger than this one near Tathra?
Have you seen a lace monitor bigger than this one near Tathra? Photo: "Brick" from Hawker

Dr Suzi Bond, an ecologist and visiting fellow at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, confirms that she is receiving many reports of common backyard species "such as the Australian painted lady and the large, citrus-loving orchard swallowtail, as well as more specialised species further afield such as the bright copper and fringed heath-blue".

However, while Bond agrees that "it has certainly been a good season for many species of butterflies", she also suspects that there is an increasing awareness and appreciation of local butterflies among Canberrans which may be contributing to the impression that it is a boom year for butterflies.

Inquisitive seal at Narooma.
Inquisitive seal at Narooma. Photo: Mark Westwood

"Anecdotally there seems to be more activity this season, but this is difficult to ascertain without long-term data," the butterfly aficionado says.

Bond, who is compiling a field guide to the butterflies of the ACT, further reports that the overall peak for butterfly activity in Canberra is from December to February, but that the ACT has a lowland (Canberra suburbs) and highland (Brindabellas) season for butterfly activity.

The gallivanting Googong goat.
The gallivanting Googong goat. Photo: Bede Bezo McFadden

"The lowland season kicks off in September and has most species on the wing by November and December, while the highland season starts later and has most species flying in January to March," Bond says. "We do have a few tough species which fly all year like the cabbage white, but for the most part the butterflies are finished by about late April / early May."

If you want to maximise your chances of spotting our beautiful butterflies, Bond highly recommends "getting out to your nearest hill or mountain on a warm, sunny day, and watch the male butterflies defend their territories in spectacular aerial dogfights".

Broulee's Pipi tree.
Broulee's Pipi tree. Photo: Meryl Hunter

Long lizard

"Brick from Hawker" wonders if anyone has encountered a lace monitor in their holiday travels bigger than one he spotted in 2008 in Mimosa Rocks National Park, just north of near the Tathra bridge

"Measuring in at just over 2 metres in length, it's the largest I have ever encountered," the outdoorsman reports. "It was patrolling the open woodland just off a secluded beach early in the morning and when it sensed my approach it bolted for the tree."

Where on the South Coast this week.
Where on the South Coast this week. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

My oddly named correspondent says that when he returned 30 minutes later with his daughter and her friend "it was still roaming around in what was clearly its territory".

"I'd wonder if anyone else has come across this impressive creature in the past eight years," "Brick" ponders."It would be nice to know he was still king of his domain."

Where on the South Coast last week.
Where on the South Coast last week. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

Seal of approval

The arrival late last year of a displaced dugong in Merimbula Lake (Dugong drawcard,  December 19) raised concerns that it would scare away the lake's resident seal which is often spotted resting of rocks near the town's main bridge.

These fears were confounded in early summer when the seal wasn't spotted for weeks, and when a dead seal washed up on a nearby beach, speculation was rife that Merimbula's much-loved marine mammal had died.

However, a number of readers including Warren Muller of Kambah triumphantly report that "that the seal is back".

"There is now speculation that the dugong might actually get spooked by the seal, so it will be interesting whether the dugong remains," reports Muller, adding, "my wife and I tried hard to see the dugong, but without success."

Meanwhile, a number of readers, including Mark Westwood have captured seals frolicking in the waters of Narooma, including this one, which "recently popped up in the muck of the tide near the town wharf where the fish cleaning table is".

MAILBAG

Googong goat

While the feral goat running amok in the old Mugga Quarry continues to avoid camera-toting bushwalkers and Akubra-clad columnists (Gallivanting Goat, January 16) , another goat across the border at Googong is exhibiting anything but shy behaviour.

As clearly demonstrated in this photo, Brian, as the gregarious goat is affectionately called by Bede McFadden, his Googonian owner, has a peculiar penchant for jumping on cars and striking a pose.

"I like to think he is domesticated but he just does what he wants when he wants," says McFadden, who has to regularly resort to "gently poking him off the bonnet with a broom" to drive his car to work.

Broulee pipi tree

While Broulee's "Pipi Tree'' sadly succumbed to wild weather in the 1970s (Secrets of Broulee, January 2,  the much-loved beach marker for both surfers and fishers lives on in the memory of many readers including John Lee, of Kambah, and Meryl Hunter, of Murrumbateman.

In fact so enamoured was Hunter by the tree that she designed and installed a stained-glass window featuring the gnarly old banksia in her family's Broulee holiday house in the 1990s.

"The window is based on a sketch I did when the tree was still standing and executed by my husband," says Hunter, who, during the week, made a special trip to the south coast hamlet to take a photo of the striking feature.

PS: The caption for last week's eye-popping photo of a brown snake devouring a lizard at the botanic gardens was incorrectly attributed to Ros Joslin. The photo was taken by Kathy Bradfield.

Contact Tim: Email: timtheyowieman@bigpond.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/-The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick. You can see a selection of past columns at:http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/by/Tim-the-Yowie-Man-hvf8o

Where on the South Coast?

Clue: Not far from the troll bridge
Degree of difficulty: Hard
Last week: Congratulations to Elaine Wise, of Isaacs, who was first to correctly identify last week's photo, as the colourful boathouse at Mitchie's Jetty at Merimbula's Fishpen. Wise just beater a number of readers including Peter Ward, of Gordon, nine-year-old Ruby Sheargold, of Hall, and Angela Penhallow, of Nicholls, who "tries to visit this beautiful part of the world at least once a year", to the prize.

Meanwhile, Kevin Mulcahy, of Merimbula, reports "Bill ​Deveril, the guy who owns the jetty, is a local from way back and runs whale watching and fishing excursions from there," adding, "it also serves as a platform for tai chi classes."

How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to timtheyowieman@bigpond.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, January 23, with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.