Small Wonders

A Stroll along the Fence

Bronwen Scott

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A moth snoozing in the weeds, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland. © Bronwen Scott.

I had planned to photograph cattle egrets in a paddock, but the birds were not complying. Despite my stealthy approach, they all flew off before I had even raised the camera. So I pretended I wasn’t interested in them at all. Instead, I was wielding this ridiculously heavy telephoto lens to stalk insects and spiders in the weeds along the fence line.

(I must do something about the weeds.)

(Not today, though. It’s raining.)

(In the ‘dry’ season.)

The thickets of tall grass and flower stalks are complex habitats. Inhabited by insects, spiders and fungi (plus lizards, snakes, rats and cane toads), they house residents at every level — from the roots to the flowers. Visitors wander in and out.

A trio of lynx spiders. © Bronwen Scott.

On sunny days, Lynx spiders (Oxyopidae) sit in the open. Recognisable by the long spines on their legs, these creatures are ambush hunters, waiting for prey to approach.

A near miss! © Bronwen Scott.

This moth, resting on the Billygoat Weed (Ageratum, Asteraceae), seemed oblivious to the hunter scuttling down the other side of the stem. The spider kept on going. The moth kept on sleeping.

For the spiders, the weeds hold a rich source of prey. But they have to be quick to catch grasshoppers. The spindle-shaped Atractomorpha similis (Pyrgomorphidae) is an abundant species in the garden. It comes in a variety of hues that match the vegetation. If camouflage doesn’t work, these grasshoppers are prodigious leapers. This is a group where a telephoto lens really does come in handy. You can take photos from two to three metres away — far enough that insects aren’t disturbed.

Looking like grass seeds and stems. © Bronwen Scott.

This is a group where a telephoto lens really does come in handy. You can take photos from two to three metres away — far enough that insects aren’t disturbed. Under these conditions a telephoto lens is not as sharp as a macro lens, but…well…I was after Cattle Egrets.

The egrets were a long way away… © Bronwen Scott.

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Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com