Dryandra Woodlands

September 2019 KRM Branch
Common Dragon Orchid (Caladenia barbarossa), C Prickett

We had a total of 10 participants for KRMB’s visit to the Dryandra Woodlands, which commenced on Friday 20th due to the cottages only being available on the Friday and Saturday nights. The weather forecast was for fine but cool days and cold nights. A group of us arranged to pay a short visit to the Congelin Picnic Area and campsite prior to check in at the Lions Village. The dam at the picnic area had a couple of Australasian Grebes and a small group of Grey Teal with few woodland birds evident. Western Gerygones and Weebill were seen and a Restless Flycatcher and Striated Pardalotes were heard but not sighted. We had brief glimpses of Purple-crowned Lorikeets as they noisily flew overhead. What was to be the only raptor sighted for the weekend was spotted over the dam when an Australian Hobby glided over, causing the Grey Teal and Australasian Grebes a bit of a stir. We walked along the track—which was once the rail line—towards the campground, noticing small Twining Fringed-lily (Thysanotus sp.), Conostylis sp. and Cowslip Orchids (Caladenia flava) along the way. At the campground we were somewhat surprised to find good numbers of the Common Dragon Orchid (Caladenia barbarossa) right on the edge of the track. This was a first sighting of this species for all in our group, a great start to our visit. A closer inspection of the campground turned up another orchid, the Little Laughing Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum gracile). Though plentiful, all the specimens found were around 75 – 100mm tall, which is towards the bottom of the listed size range for this species. Conversations with a few campers led to even more orchid sightings with Blue China (Cyanicula gemmata), Crimson Spider Orchid (Caladenia footeana) and Common Spider Orchid (Caladenia vulgata) present.

Cushion Buttercup C Prickett

An unusual plant found on the track itself was a ground-hugging Hibbertia with grey-green leaves that formed a beautiful mat with a host of yellow flowers. This was believed to be the Cushion Buttercup (Hibbertia hibbertioides var. pedunculata) . Sightings of a pair of Red-capped Robins and a Western Wattlebird added to our bird list. Having spent a lot more time exploring the campground than was perhaps planned, we then made our way to the Lions Village to check in to the cottages. Along the way we spotted an Echidna crossing the road. We stopped for a look but only saw its back as it dug itself into the soft soil at the edge of the road so we left it alone and continued on our way.

Grey Currawongs were foraging around the cottages as we unpacked our gear from the cars. We would later discover that they were from two families that had nested and were raising chicks in the trees nearby. Late in the day, a large number of kangaroos emerged to graze in the paddocks. As the sun got lower in the sky the temperature very rapidly dropped and we quickly got a fire going under one of the BBQs and drew our chairs up close as we waited for the remainder of our group to arrive. As we cooked our dinner we heard the call of Bush Stone Curlews in the paddocks behind our cottages—a great end to our first day.

Bush Stone Curlews C Prickett

After a very cold night (around 10C) we awoke to a fine morning on Saturday. An exploration of the paddock behind the cottages before breakfast resulted in a sighting and photographs of the Bush Stone Curlews, two adults and three fully-fledged youngsters. This was a nice find, as they had not been present during our visit in 2018. At the top end of the paddock, the Eucalyptus macrocarpa were in flower and attracting White-cheeked Honeyeaters. Around the tree line, Yellow-rumped Thornbills were foraging amongst the branches and also down on the ground. Daniel Heald noted an abundance of micro-moths until an hour or so after dawn. Moths seen included a Ribbed Case Moth (Hyalarcta nigrescens), damage from a Scribbly Gum Moth (Bucculatricidae) on a dead tree and several Geometridae including the Double-fringed or Guenée’s Emerald (Chlorocoma dichloraria) (Guenée, 1857). Another Concealer Moth (Ocystola paulinella) sighting was quite unexpected, as this is supposed to be a south-eastern species. So what is it doing in the Dryandra Woodlands in the WA Wheatbelt?

After a quick breakfast it was time to head off for our first walk of the day. This would take us through Wandoo/Mallet woodland starting at the Woodland Village. A pair of Western Yellow Robins was foraging near the walk track as we started off, providing an opportunity for some nice photos. Along the track we spotted numerous flowering plants including Dampiera sp., Hibbertia sp. White Myrtle (Hypocalymma angustifolium) and Bossiaea sp. At the top of the ridge some of the Dryandras (Banksia sp.) were in flower. Orchids were also present, with the Frog Greenhood (Pterostylis sargentii) quite common along the track and, as the track passed over the ridge and down the other side, we found the Wandoo Beard Orchid (Calochilus stramenicola). Daniel was regularly checking the shrubs and trees for invertebrates by shaking branches over an open umbrella. He found large numbers of Jumping Plant Lice (Psyllids) on every eucalypt he checked and a very few tiny parasitic wasps that may have been targeting the psyllids. Fallen Mallet leaves were also covered in lerps. A small caterpillar, one that moved by looping along branches, was found in one instance—possibly being from the Geometridae family of moths. The small Concealer Moth (Philobota xanthastis) was commonly found along the track. On closer inspection it was found that the many small spider webs we encountered on the walk were made by tiny Christmas Jewel Spiders. Daniel also spotted an unusual fly in leaf litter. It was later identified as being from an undescribed genus of Stiletto Fly (Therevidae). Photographs taken by Daniel and myself have been provided to Dr Christine Lambkin, Curator Terrestrial Biodiversity (Entomology) at the Queensland Museum Network, as they show characteristics not evident in the dead specimens they have been studying.

Stiletto Fly (Therevidae) C Prickett
Scented Banjine C Prickett

As we reached the bottom of the ridge we took a track to the left, to head back to the Lions Village. Along this track we found some different plants in flower, including the beautiful Scented Banjine (Pimelea suaveolens subsp. suaveolens) together with Tassel Grevillea (Grevillea tenuiflora), Isopogon dubius and Hakea sp. Soon we arrived back at the cottages to have a well earned lunch break.

After lunch we drove to the Lol Gray picnic area. On the way up, we stopped to check out an area of nice vegetation alongside the road. Here we found more Isopogon dubius, Painted Lady (Gompholobium scabrum) and Grevillea hookeriana subsp. hookeriana. Jug Orchids (Pterostylis recurva) and Dancing Spider Orchid (Caladenia discoidea) were also found in this area. A Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii) was found soaking up what little warmth it could from the intermittent sunshine. Despite the attention it received from us all taking photos, it did not move, obviously not wanting to give up its sunlit clearing. We then continued up to the Lol Gray Picnic Area. Here we took the walk trail down past the fire lookout tree. Banksia nobilis provided a nice display at the start of the trail. Other flora included Cow Kicks (Stylidium schoenoides), Isopogon dubius and a Bearded Heath (Leucopogon sp.). Daniel spotted a Peacock Jumping Spider near the picnic area that posed for a few photos before disappearing back into the leaf litter. Other invertebrates included several different species of Bee-fly and a Robber Fly. We then headed back to the cottages for an early dinner before going to Barna Mia for a tour of the marsupial enclosure. Despite it being another very cold night, good numbers turned up for the tour and the attendees were split into two groups following the introductory presentation. At the first feeding station we encountered a large number of Woylies, Boodies and two Bilbys that were hopping around our feet, plus a Brush-tailed Possum that had jumped the fence to get in on the action. It was great to be able to get so close to them. Marsupial numbers dropped off at the next two stations but we did see another Brush-tailed Possum, this one a female with a youngster on her back. After the tour, we drove back to the Lions Village and got a bonus when a Woylie ran across the road right in front of us near the entrance. We then sat around the fire for a while and reflected on another great visit to Dryandra Woodland.

Wandoo Beard Orchid (Calochilus stramenicola), C Prickett

We woke up on Sunday morning to find the area blanketed in fog. We had to check out of the village by mid-morning, so we packed our gear away and cleaned the cottages in readiness for our departure. Some of us decided on a side trip to Yilliminning Rock, east of Narrogin, rather than heading for home straight away. Arriving at the picnic area at Yilliminning Rock, we were pleased to see a sign asking visitors to avoid the practice of erecting stone cairns on the granite outcrop. This practice is common throughout the Wheatbelt and destroys habitat for the Ornate Crevice Dragons that inhabit the granite outcrops. We firstly explored the Sheoak and Wandoo woodland around the base of the rock and were soon rewarded by finding a Fringed Mantis Orchid (Caladenia falcata) and a Smooth-lipped Spider Orchid (Caladenia integra)—a Priority 4 species—a short distance down a walk trail. These sightings were soon followed by other orchid sightings; namely Pink Candy Orchid (Caladenia hirta subsp. rosea), Chapman’s Spider Orchid (Caladenia chapmanii), Jug Orchid (Pterostylis recurva) and the Small-flowered Donkey Orchid (Diuris porrifolia). A Yellow-rumped Thornbill was seen busily taking nesting material into a low hanging Sheoak branch and a Red-capped Robin was feeding amongst the woodland. We then made our way up on to the rock itself, where we found the Resurrection Plant (Borya sphaerocephula) and Lemon-scented Sun Orchid (Thelymitra antennifera) and tiny Pimpernel Sundew (Drosera glanduligera) were in flower in the moss-filled depressions in the rock surface. Despite the cool temperatures, we did spot some Ornate Crevice Dragons basking on the rock with several smaller females and one larger male seen. A female Red-capped Robin was also spotted amongst the Hakea sp. growing on top of the rock. Daniel Heald found the following invertebrates at Yilliminning Rock: a female Red-spotted Jezabel (Delias aganippe) which may have been searching the Sheoak for mistletoe, or laying eggs on the Quandong in the Sheoak bushland around the rock, which was looking distinctly nibbled; a large Tachinid Fly from the Goniinae subfamily on one of the Quandongs may well have been searching for Jezabel caterpillars to parasitise; a green mantis on the shrubs on top of the rock, and a grey wingless Assassin Bug among the moss and Borya growing on the granite. He also found a pair of the same Peacock Spiders as the one at Lol Gray. A walk away from the rock towards the north sees the woodland habitat change dramatically to Kwongan Heath. Here we found a different variety of plant life with Dryandra (Banksia sp.), Dampiera sp., Calytrix leschenaultii and Yellow Verticordia (Verticordia sp.) in flower. Unfortunately time was against us, so we did not have time to fully explore this area of the reserve and we decided to start the trip home. It had been a great weekend with a total of 30 bird species sighted along with numerous flora, invertebrates and mammals.

Colin Prickett

Western Yellow Robin, C Prickett