Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Noisy Little Cricket

This little cricket visited our lights recently when we set them in mixed wet sclerophyll vegetation near Mareeba, Qld. It is a plain cricket with greenish grey eyes. Males sing with a continuous loud series of chirps. It is a member of the Trigonidiinae, a large subfamily of Cosmopolitan species what occur in the temperate and tropical climes of most continents. Some have extensive geographic distributions.

The Trigonidiinae has been considered as a separate family by several authors. All species are small and many are colourful. Some genera produce no sounds at all. These will be dealt with in a later blog.
Anaxipha longipennis (Serville), male. Measures 11 mm from head to tip of the second pair of wings.

A. longipennis was recorded by Otte & Alexander from Australia but the Australian representative may represent something else as the species does not appear on the distribution maps in the Orthoptera Species File.

The Calling Song may hold a clue to the identification of this little cricket. It is performed at night and consists of a continuous sequence of chirps.

Oscillogram of the Calling song of A. longipennis. The song may be continuous for more than 30 seconds or until the cricket is disturbed.

Otte, D., Alexander, R. D. 1983. The Australian Crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Monograph 22. Pp. 1-477.

The Last song of Summer

On cool nights males commence the Calling Song with a series of buzzes. It is believed that this is a "warm-up", warming the muscles for the blast that is to follow. There is a brief pause after the warm-up buzzes and then the body of the song. It is loud and easily heard from a moving car. Other species of Hexacentrus have very low calls, scarcely audible from 2m distant, but not this species. It's loud call makes it very easy to sample its distribution.

The Mundurra Balloon-winged katydid is a predator. Other katydids or grasshoppers seem to be the preferred foods. This katydid is one of 24 in the genus Hexacentrus scattered throughout the Pacific, Africa and Asia. Many, but not all, occur in tropical climes. All have distinctive calling songs but none that I know of are as loud as H. mundurra.

Females present a different appearance from the males. The wings are held close to the body and, of course, they have a long ovipositor. Females are very difficult to locate. They seem to prefer to maraud deep in the grass, hunting for other katydids, grasshoppers and beetles. Eggs are laid in the soil and hatch the following spring.

In Volume 3 of my Monograph of the Tettigoniidae of Australia, Rentz (2001), I provided the known distribution of the species. On the east coast, populations start south of the Tropic of Capricorn, near Bundaberg, Qld. and extend north in a continuous band right across the top end of the continent and south to north of Broome, W. A. Further work needs to be done to refine the western limits of the distribution of the species. There are no authentic accounts of H. mundurra in New Guinea and, perhaps, publication of this sound recording may help to determine if anyone has heard it there. Other Hexacentrus species are found in New Guinea.

Rentz, D. C. F.2001. Tettigoniidae of Australia. Volume 3. The Listroscelidinae, Tympanophorinae, Meconematinae and Microtettigoniinae. CSIRO Publications, Collingwood, Vic. Pp. 1-524.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Another Moth Night!

It has been raining nightly for some weeks now. So it was with some interest that we accepted Melissa's invitation to set up our light sheet on her protected porch in the hills behind Smithfield. This is at the base of the Kuranda Range and we were happy to see much native vegetation and a perfect place to set up a light sheet. It was typical lowland rainforest at about 100 m elevation.

Here are some of the moths. Some are common but they make a colourful display. Check Buck Richardson's link for some 900 species identified for the region. This is just a small part of the total number of moths that must occur in our rainforests. The smaller moths, the microleps, are not included and they are a huge part of the total number of species that must be present.

Identifications can also be derived from the Australian Moths Online site and checking the recent Guidebook to Australian Moths by Zborowski and Edwards. Note: most of the Pyralidae are now considered by some to be in the family Crambidae.

Eudocima iridescens; Noctuidae female

Eudocima iridescens, Noctuidae, female

Eumelea stipata Turner; Geometridae

Eumelea rosalia (Stoll); Geometridae

Ischyja sp.; Noctuidae

Ischyja sp.; Noctuidae
Maruca vitrata; Pyralidae (Note distinctive stance)
Maruca vitrata; Pyralidae

Aetholix flavibasalis; Pyralidae

Saroba trimaculata; Noctuidae

Strepsinoma foveata; Pyralidae

Palpita limbata (Butler); Pyralidae
Eugoa sp.; Arctiidae
Glyphodes caesalis Walker; Pyralidae
Agrioglypta itysalis.; Pyralidae
Striglina cinnamomea; Thyrididae

Lasiolopha saturata (Walker); Nolidae

Parotis sp.; Pyralidae

Gerontha acrosthenia Zagulajev; Tineidae. Note the hind legs protrude like "tails".

?Acrocercops sp.; Gracillariidae

Conogethes pluto (Butler); Pyralidae

Dichomeris ochreoviridella; Gelechiidae

Anticrates metreta (Turner); Lacturidae

Tropidtamba lepraota; Noctuidae

Oxyodes scrobiculata; Noctuidae

Mecodina praecipua Walker; Noctuidae

Chrysothyridia invertalis; Pyralidae

Asota caricae euroa Rothschild; Aganaidae

Asota heliconia dama (Fabricius); Aganaidae

Tridrepana lunulata (Butler); Drepanidae

Astatochroa fuscimargo (Warren); Drepanidae

Antitrygodes parvimacula; Geometridae

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Squatter Pigeon, An Unusual Find in A Rainforest

Squatter Pigeon wandering along rainforest margin

The Squatter Pigeon, Geophaps scripta is nomally a bird of the inland arid country. Yesterday, I saw a small pigeon running about our place. It was reluctant to fly and I thought it might be a young bird of a local species. But I did not look closely to make a positive identification. This morning our neighbour, Gillian, came by to ask if we wanted to see something really rare. It was up on our lawn. And there it was, the same bird as yesterday. It was busy with searching for seeds in the lawn and was fairly easy to approach and identify.

The Squatter Pigeon is aptly named. The birds are reluctant to fly and are easily captured or shot. The early settlers were soon to discover this behaviour and hunted them relentlessly. This and the destruction of their habitat for agriculture has probably led to their vulnerable status.

But how did this bird get to the rainforest, especially if it is so reluctant to fly? Well it may be an escape from an aviary or was just off course. Who knows? There are populations in grassland country around Mareeba. The reddish ring around the eye indicates it is a local, a member of the northern population of this species. So maybe it is just off course but it's a long walk to Mareeba!

With its bumbling ways, it would seem to be a “sitting duck” for a goanna or a snake so its days in the Kuranda rainforest may be limited.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Nice cricket

Adult male of the New Guinea Rainforest Cricket, Cardiodactylus novaeguineae (Haan).

The New Guinea Rainforest Cricket, Cardiodactylus novaeguineae (Haan) occurs at coastal localities on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland as well as several coastal islands such as Dunk Island and Green Island, off Cairns. The name is a misnomer; the species is not known from New Guinea. However, other related species occur there.

The Orthoptera Species File lists 50 species in the genus from northern Australia through the islands of the south Pacific. Only a single species has been recorded from Australia.

Nymphs of the New Guinea Rainforest Cricket are distinctive with their reddish heads and lateral stripes and developing wings. There are no other crickets like them in the rainforest.

This cricket is common when it is encountered. They have a "patchy" distribution. This means that within their geographic range they are found some places and not others. I have not found it on our block here in Kuranda, but it is common at the Caravan Park only a few kilometers distant.
Adult male.

This is a large cricket, males measuring approximately 28 mm. It is found close to, but usually not on the ground. It prefers low shrubbery and tree trunks along rainforest margins and in mangroves. It would seem to be a sitting duck for marauding Cane Toads, Bufo marinus, but they do not seem to make a dent in the cricket population numbers even though the female crickets oviposit in the ground.
The Calling Song of males of the New Guinea Rainforest Cricket is very distinctive and easily recognised. Males sing after dark on warm nights.

More information on this and other Australian crickets can be found in Otte and Alexander (1983).


Otte, D. and Alexander, R. D. 1983. The Australian Crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Monograph 22, Pp. 1-477.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Cassowary Chatterings

Readers of this blog will know that each year we follow the progress offspring of the local pair of cassowaries.

This year three chicks appeared in early October. To date they are progressing nicely.

From their earliest days, the chicks make a variety of sounds depending on their activities.

The feeding sound is not unlike that made by a group of young chickens.

The sounds of Cassowary chicks feeding. The enthusiasm of the chortles is directly related to the quality of the food.

The Cassowary distress call.

If the chick gets out of sight of his father, who looks after the chicks for their entire young lives, it produces a sound like the above. If it is really distressed, the call is much more strident and much much louder. At no time have I ever seen the father rush to the aid of a supposedly distressed bub. (However, I have not tested this by grabbing one of the chicks!!).

Soon the father Cassowary will somehow decide that it's time for the chicks to be on the their own. He will drive them away and the distressed chicks will be heard calling throughout the rainforest.

They will just stand around calling and wondering what has come over their father. Just a day before he was a caring and protective creature and now he has completely changed.

As adults Cassowaries are generally silent. I have heard the male only make a booming sound that carries for a great distance through the undergrowth. I've not heard the female make a similar sound. Both sexes produce a sort of hiss when they are around one another.