Winter time- orchard, bees and animals

It has been a fairly busy month or so tidying the orchard trees, preserving the bountiful lemons, and of course getting firewood for our wood fire!

We generally do a summer prune, and a fairly light prune in winter but there has been so much growth on most of the fruit trees that we have just done a fairly thorough winter prune on most trees. It was a bit late for the apricots so they have been left, but everything else was reduced in height to ensure they can be easily netted and harvested.

Pruned and tidied orchard

We have had some bumper crops this last season, so a good tidy up was certainly needed! Also most of the trees are now big enough to remove the metal surrounds we had surrounding them so the geese and turkeys didn’t damage them. This makes it so much easier to whipper snip, fertilise and generally tend each tree.

Couple of remaining surrounds protecting the growing trees

Our lemon tree has been thriving, as lemon trees so often do! We have cut many into wedges for the freezer (ideal for adding to a refreshing drink- whether it is just water or gin and tonic!), and made lots of Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney to add to the couple of remaining jars from last year. This chutney is a real favourite of ours and used almost daily.

Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney

We have also sowed our ‘clucker tucker’ areas, adjoining the chook run. This provides a good supply of green food for the poultry when we need to leave them locked up in their pens.

Clucker Tucker

We recently purchased some more guinea fowl which were added to one of the clucker tucker areas to get accustomed to our place. In another week we will let them out to join our others, who free range the property.

New additions

As if there aren’t enough mouths to feed, we have been including a pair of Pacific Black ducks who are regular visitors to the dam and now the food supply!

Wildlife joining in

And another major bee event- we moved our Langstroth from the front paddock because with all the tree growth it is now in pretty constant shade, and hadn’t really thrived over the warmer months. We used the same procedure as when we moved the Warre some time ago- the hive was closed up one evening when the bees were inside, strapped up and tied to a trolly, and moved to its new location nearby the other hives.

Moving the strapped up hive

The hive stayed closed for three days, and a bush placed at the entrance. When the entrance was opened, the bees are forced to reorient due to the bush in the entrance. So far so good, there is coming and going from the hive and even bees taking pollen in. The plan in the warmer weather is to transfer the frames from this Langstroth to the new horizontal hive which was placed behind it ready. The horizontal hive uses all Langstroth components so is easily interchangeable (unlike when we have transferred to or from Top Bar and Warre hives), and has the huge benefit, like the Top Bar, of not needing to lift a full super. Unlike the Top Bar though, it will be easier to manage, and harvest, as it uses the Langstroth frames.

Horizontal hive ready for the transfer

Eagles and foxes!

Well, if it isn’t one predator it is another!

One morning at 7am after letting all the poultry out for the day, we saw a fox checking them out. It was daylight, though only just at this time of the year. Needless to say we were not happy.

Next day, there were two eagles perched in a tree overlooking the wandering poultry! Now they are a predator too, and we have certainly seen them take our poultry in the past….. but……. they are a native Australian bird, indigenous to this area…… and so majestic! So of course the camera comes out, and numerous photos taken.

A pair of eagles watching the poultry

 

Needless to say, in the last two weeks since seeing the fox and the eagles, we have lost two geese and two turkeys, and everyone now needs to stay locked up in their pens for their safety!

Native insects galore!

Over the last couple of years we have noticed a lot more native insects such as the leaf cutter bee. This summer has been unusual weather in Perth (currently it is cool and pouring with rain….. in January!), but we have seen (or maybe just noticed) so many insects.  Here are just a few:

The Blue Banded Bees are out in force at the moment, and love the purple morning glory flowers.

Blue Banded Bee -Amegilla (not sure which one)

These little sweat bees are tiny! The males congregate on the end of a dead twig to roost at night, and then leave in the morning to find females, coming back to the same spot to roost.

Lipotriches flavoviridis

Lipotriches flavoviridis

Quite a few different bees and wasps are using the bee hotels (and holes drilled in the veranda rails!).

Different types of bees use different material to seal their nests.

Masked bees- Hylaeus nesting in wood.

And then there are those who have made homes in the clay blocks. There are a couple of different types here, the Hylaeus that uses a cellophane type material to seal its nest, and the Hylaeus nubilosis that nests in clay (often the abandoned nests of potter wasps or mud daubers. This one used the clay from the area around the hole to seal its nest. This series of photos shows top left- 4/12/17; top right- 15/12/17; bottom right 27/12/17 and bottom left with the hole sealed)-28/12/17.

Masked bee- Hylaeus nubilosis

And of course there are some who will just find anywhere!

A Hylaeus has used and sealed the holes in the handle of a whipper snipper!

It isn’t all about bees! There are lots of other interesting insects around:

Hoverfly

Wasps nesting, possibly Flower Wasps of some sort

Close up of roosting wasps

Orange Potter Wasp

Braconid Wasp (White Flank Black Braconid)

Christmas spider

Leaf cutter -Megachile

Daddy Long Legs Spider nest

Small wasp using the bee hotel

Ant Lion Lacewing

 

Black cockatoos

The black cockatoos visit McCarthy Park regularly, both the red tailed and white tailed, and they never cease to impress with their noise and size! Usually it is quite small flocks that come by, but occasionally we get a very big flock like this one. Check out our post on Instagram here! Or on Facebook here 

Black cockatoos

The Carnaby’s Black- cockatoo is endangered, so we are thrilled they feel at home here, even if it is only for short visits.

 

Native bees

The warmer summer weather brings a lot of native insect activity, particularly the many native bees we get here in Western Australia. We have seen quite a few different kinds over the years, blue banded bees, resin bees, leaf cutter bees and these masked bees. Today, I set the camera on a tripod n front of the latest bee hotel, pressed record and returned 15 minutes later to find the top hole completely sealed. The video is amazing, really showing the perseverance of this small insect (it is alas too big to post, so a snippet of the end is all that we can post).

masked bees

Video of masked bee sealing nest

Leefcutter bee

Over the years we have seen the circular holes made by the leafcutter bee, but for the first time we had the camera on hand and photographed this amazing native bee in action making a nest inside a hole in the mortar between the bricks of our house. the location is a surprise, as it is right by the spade and tap that we use regularly in our front garden!

Heading for the hole with its neatly cut piece of leaf

Heading for the hole with its neatly cut piece of leaf

Entering its nest

Entering its nest

Twisting upside down to get into position

Twisting upside down to get into position

Leaving the nest ready to cut the next piece of leaf

Leaving the nest ready to cut the next piece of leaf

It was a fascinating process to watch! It took about 5-10 minutes to source and cut the leaf (not sure where from as it seemed to fly over the house). This is despite a rose bush being right next too it, which is often used and had some of the tell tale circular holes cut in it already. Once it entered the nest, it took about a minute or two before it flew back out.

Wonderful!

Birdlife

It is wonderful to see a variety of native birds on our property- and always exciting to see something new, especially when it is a bird we have heard many times but just could not see it! The Fan-tailed Cuckoo is one of those! It has a very distinctive call, so was easily identifiable….. but it always went quiet when we started to get close enough to see it! Well, finally we saw one- and managed a photo!

Fan-tailed cuckoo

Fan-tailed cuckoo

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Drop skinks!

It has been pretty busy here at McCarthy Park lately. We have had one bush fire already and have spent a fair bit of time doing more fire proofing, including getting some tree loppers in to help clear.

An entertaining aspect of the wildlife at present is the King skinks. We have always had a whole community of them in the rockery, and encourage them by giving some food now and then and keeping the dogs out of that area. We often have them in the roof space, and occasionally get quite energetic and run around.

this year, they have added a few kamikaze dives from either the eaves or the grape vines! Quite regularly we here a THUD and look out to see a skink on the ground!

King Skinks in the rockery

King Skinks in the rockery

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Finding its way in!

Finding its way in!