Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘Australian wildlife’

Redback spider

At the risk of reinforcing the image of Australia as a land of scary and poisonous beasties, today’s post is about the Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) a classic  poisonous Australian beastie.

Ulike the other garden spiders that went racing off when disturbed today, the Redback sat very still for some time.

Today I found a Redback minding it’s own business against a sheltered brick wall (at least it was sheltered until I came along and exposed it with a spot of overdue weeding) in our front yard. It was a perfect little Redback hangout (until the cover was removed) as it is a very dry, sheltered and warm spot.

Now, I have to admit, if I sound nonchalant about discovering a poisonous spider millimeters from my hand, I’m faking it. I am quite the arachnophobe, but am respectful of these creatures that are as much a part of the natural environment as any pretty butterfly or bird. Besides, I am only likely to get hurt by a redback if I’m a) not wearing my gardening gloves and b) not looking where I put my hand. They just won’t come looking for you – you have to blunder into their direct path, which is quite a relief but still cause for caution.

According to the Australian Museum a Redback will struggle even to give you a decent bite. Still, you won’t find me testing the theory as if they do bite it is potentially fatal and at the very least very painful. Luckily antivenom is widely available and there has not been a reported death in recent years.

Another cautionary note is that they generally live close to humans as they love nothing better than a nice comfy shed, hollow garden ornament, sheltered garden wall or, quite infamously, a cosy spot under an outdoor toilet seat.

Because this spider is black (rather than light brown) comparatively big and has some white on the abdomen, I'm guessing she is an immature female based on information from the CSIRO's website.

Weirdly, I was well and truly an adult before I realised that we had Redbacks in Victoria. At some stage in my youth someone told me that they aren’t found in our state and I ignorantly took them at their word. You could imagine my shock when the first one I saw was one revealed by my then preschool daughter playing in the garden.  She picked up a ceramic garden ornament and looked inside to find a very brightly coloured little spider which she promptly came to show me. I managed to respond appropriately without screaming. Just.

In case my photos made you think she is gigantic, here is some better perspective. those are a couple of common garden snailsalso flushed from cover, so you can see the Redback is really quite small.

Many will know that the Redback has a very close cousin in the American Black Widow spider and has cousins in New Zealand and other parts of the world too. Ours just come with racing stripes. The Brisbane Insects website has quite good observations about the Redback if you can stand more creepy crawly info.

Personally I’ve freaked myself out quite enough, so I will leave you with one last photo and wish you a Happy and Safe Easter.


Just in case there was any doubt, a clear view of why this spider has it's name.

A stroll with a Blue-tongue lizard

We had another unusual visitor to the GippyGarden household a couple of weeks ago, but unlike the Monarch butterfly, this one the Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua scincoides is definitely from around these parts!

I’ve read that Blue-tongues are happy to live in suburban back yards as long as there is plenty of cover and food for them, however it is not usual to see one when you are walking down the street in our town. I’ve not seen them often before and it has always been out of town when I have.

But, a week or two ago we had a couple of warm days after a cooler spell, which may have encouraged this critter to go for a wander a bit further than usual from home. My little family found him literally walking down the street, which turned out to be a surprise for everyone concerned. I wasn’t there at the time but apparently he was strolling along oblivious to the fact he was walking down the side of a road in danger of getting squashed.  I heard that he did quite a double take when he looked up and found my daughter doing her own double take back at him!

Not a great photo, but at least you can see why he's called a 'blue-tongue'!

Anyway, he was brought home for a quick photo shoot before being returned to nearby bushland for a bit of peace and quiet away from the traffic and the attraction of warm bitumen.

You can find out more about the Eastern Blue-tounge Lizard via the Australian Museum link here.

In other news from around the garden we discovered two more Monarchs on separate occasions having just emerged near the Milkweed over the last few days. It was interesting to see that they waited quite some time before being ready to fly away. It took the remainder of the day they emerged, through that night and on until the next day – and only when warm enough for their liking!

I’m also playing around with the appearance of my blog as I was getting tired of the old layout. Is this one too ‘busy’ do you think?

Have a great weekend,


Killer Snails and Lying Birds

I’ve been meaning to share with you a walk we went on recently. It was up to a place called ‘Mushroom Rocks’ about an hour or so north of where we live.

The walk will give you a little peek at some of the indigenous plants on the mountains and hills that border the valley where I live. The valley itself has few stands of bushland left, let alone ones containing indigenous plant life.

We’ll also get to see some of the local wildlife…best to look but not touch!

The Mushroom Rocks walk forms part of the Australian Alps Walking Track in Baw Baw National Park that can take you 650 kms and nearly to Canberra if you are really keen. We walked the 1.5 km Mushroom Rocks section.

My daughter was a little worried when I said we could walk all the way to Canberra if we hurried.

Fair go. I hadn’t packed lunch.

The lower section of the walk winds through damp ferny gullies dominated by giant tree ferns.

We hadn’t gone far along the ferny gully beneath the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) canopy when we found this lurking by the side of the path, possibly waiting for unsuspecting hikers to sit down beside him for a rest…

Sure he looks harmless enough, but this is Victaphanta atramentaria, a carnivorous snail.

I think he is actually quite attractive and textural. But it is true, he is carnivorous. But you can relax a little, as he is not going to bite your hand off.  According to Museum Victoria his prefered diet is worms, other molluscs and insect larvae. Just don’t wiggle your finger like a worm.

Look at all the different plants clinging to this granite...I wish I'd taken the time for some individual photos.

As we moved into the more open Snow Gum (eucalyptus pauciflora) forest there were new things to see.

Bright purple seems such a weird colour amongst the subtle hues of the Australian bush. I think this is the fruit of Dianella caerulea, the blue flax lily.

See anything interesting in this photo..?

look a little closer…it’s a…

Tiger snake!

Tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus) can inflict a bite that can kill, but they generally don’t like to hang around for an argument. If disturbed they will tend to do what this one is doing and slither away to find a quieter place to sun themselves.

A variant of Correa Reflexa - Mountain Correa I think (Correas are sometimes referred to as Native Fuchsia)

On the return journey we were stopped in our tracks by the sound of a male Lyrebird in the scrub just off to one side.

Lyrebirds are great imitators and this one was merrily running through his range of calls. We heard him accurately imitate a Kookaburra, a Black Cockatoo an Australian Magpie, a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and a Crimson Rosella, all in quick succession. He also make another weird electronic sound that my daughter thought sounded like a submarine, but was probably the ring tone of a park ranger’s mobile phone.

These guys are incredible mimics and can easily reproduce the ‘brrring-brrring’ of an old-fashioned telephone or the buzz of a chainsaw, which can be quite disconcerting.

Lyrebirds are usually shy and I have only been fortunate enough to get a good look at a lyrebird in the wild once – and of course I was without my camera! If you are interested in finding out more about  Lyrebirds, who are named for their lyre shaped tail feathers, not their mimicking habits – you can find out more here.

All I was able to manage by way of a photo this time is below. You will have to look hard to see the ‘tall chicken’ like shape roughly in the middle of the photo…

Do you see him?

Most often, you will find a Lyrebird with your ears not your eyes!

It was one of those days where we came home feeling exhilarated because we saw and heard so much more than we expected to. Can’t wait to visit again!


On a slightly different note, I have been considering the layout of my blog and have a few questions to ask over the coming few entries. First up is about photos. Do you find a post like this one, where I have used larger (but still compressed) photos takes a long time to download or is it quite manageable?