Month: December 2014

Christmas Tree Nuytsia floribunda Perth Hills Western Australia Moodjar

Christmas Tree – Season Greetings

The Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda) or Moodjar is not exactly known for its lights or baubles, but for its spectacular display of golden flowers that appear in Birak or the ‘yellow season’. The succulent roots, nectar-rich flowers and nutritious sweet gum of the world’s largest mistletoe are prized by the Nyungar, however, as the tree is thought to be inhabited by the spirits of dead people it is better left alone when not in bloom. So we are lucky to have another kind of Christmas tree around our place – and therefore would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas while it’s in full glory!

Forest Red Tailed Cockatoo Karra Perth Hills Korung National Park

Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

The call of the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) is a sound you simply can’t miss. The discordant ‘ka-rark’ resembling screech is so high-pitched you normally hear this bird before you even see it – no wonder the Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo is aptly called Karrak in Nyungar language. But in case you would’t recognise its call, this Cockatoo is easily identified by its spectacular red and orange tail feathers – a feature that makes them one of the most beautiful Australian birds in my humble opinion. Endemic to the forests of south-western Australia, the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (FRTBC) is one of the five subspecies of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos present in Australia. It has a distinctive larger and wider beak than birds from the other subspecies – perfect for cracking its favourite Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) nuts. Marri and Jarrah trees dominate its habitat, not only providing food but also hollows in which the birds can nest. But as these hollows are becoming increasingly scarce by deforestation and competition from …

Gilbert's Dragon Ta Ta Lizard Amphibolorus gilberti Kalbarri NP

Gilbert’s Dragon

Some visitors of iAMsafari might have noticed my fascination with dragons. I guess the sheer variety of shapes, patterns and colours simply intrigues me – together with the fact that the latter can change according to gender, temperature and behaviour. But when I met this Gilbert’s Dragon (Amphibolurus gilberti) I was most impressed with its speed because this little agamid is a true sprinter – moving rapidly and agile on the rocks and branches that lined the banks of the Murchison River – and as it quickly waves its forefeet after each sprint this dragon is aptly called “Ta Ta Lizard”. Most of the time these creatures observed me carefully in a vigilant posture – arched back, tail down and head tilted towards me. Just long enough to take some close-up portraits before waving good-bye.

Bull Banksia flowers Beelu NP Perth Hills Australia

Bush Tucker # 3 – Poolgarla

Only one look at the flowering spike of the Bull Banksia (Banksia grandis) and you know why the Nyoongar season of Birak was sometimes called the ‘yellow season’. During the hot and dry summer months these Poolgarla spikes where collected for their nectar – either sucked directly from the flower or steeped into water to produce a sweet drink called mangite or mungitch. An account from famous botanist John Drummond (1839) states that ‘the natives, men, women and children live for five to six weeks particularly upon the honey which they suck from the flowers of this fine tree’. In the Diary of George Fletcher Moore (1884) the production of mangite was described as ‘this was done by lining a hole in the ground with paper-bark, filling it with the spikes, and then covering these with water and leaving them to soak’. Consumption of this slightly fermented drink in large quantities could eventually lead to intoxication – a possible explanation why during Birak there would be large gatherings of Nyoongar people participating in mangite drinking parties. On a walk through …

Rose tipped Mulla Mulla Pom Poms Ptilotus manglesii

Rose tipped Mulla Mulla – Birak

The season of Birak has started. Sometimes it’s called the first summer, characterised by easing rains, warm easterly winds and increasingly hot weather. The dry conditions transform the surrounding landscape – most wildflowers slowly wilt while certain trees as Banksia, Balga and Mudja are in full bloom. One of the smaller flowers showing its beautiful colours at the moment is the Rose-tipped Mulla Mulla or Pom Pom (Ptilotus manglesii) – easily found on the pea-gravelled paths of nearby Beelu National Park this fluffy flower is certainly one of my smaller highlights this time of the year.