Autumn days are perfect for wandering bushland, parks and reserves, observing and enjoying natures events. Late autumn and early winter is fungus season, when weird and beautiful fungal fruiting bodies emerge from their substrate in order to produce spores and establish new colonies.
Along with fungi popping up on lawns and gardens, there is also likely to be another strange organism appearing; slime moulds. They also come in an astounding range of colours and shapes, changing form to produce and shed spores.
I am not aware of any damage caused by slime moulds, so don't be alarmed if you find such a growth amongst garden mulch or leaf litter. I have featured a few of my slime mould finds in blog #22 and #41 - if you're not familiar with slime moulds, check these weird things out.
A slime mould in its creeping stage in my garden
Another exciting autumn happening, is the flowering of many of Australia's ground orchids. Once bitten by the orchid bug, like the fungus bug, there is no escaping the irresistable attraction these wonders of nature project.
Many areas of the Hunter are covered in dense grasses as a result of the unusually wet summer, which may hinder some orchids, but I am hopeful of finding some on the natural bush tracks of the Hunter Region Botanic Garden, and national parks.
Denis Wilson from The Nature of Robertson, is an avid orchid hunter, for discovery, study and photographic purposes and has been a real encouragement to me and my endeavours. He has an extensive documentation of his orchid finds here.
I'll be out and about throughout autumn looking for the delicate and often hidden terrestrial orchids. Here is a link to my orchid finds to date.
A Chiloglottis species photographed April 2007
Invertebrate activity is interesting all year, with many species coming and going, metamorphosing, reproducing and dying - it is a fascinating field of observation.
Autumn dew and fog will leave countless spiders' webs sparkling, strung across fences, trees, shrubs and grasses, advertising their position. I take advantage of this spectacle to check out what spiders might be lurking in my backyard formerly unnoticed. Along with the spiders, there will be egg sacs, and possibly still some hatchings to study.
Crisp autumn mornings are also ideal for spotting those normally fast and elusive dragonflies as they dry and warm their wings before flight. Butterflies might also be another beaut find as they warm their wings.
A chilly dragonfly in my backyard in May 2007
And of course, there will always be intersting bugs to discover in the garden, at any time of year. I spend a lot of time working in my garden creating habitat for small animals and insects, and I never cease to be amazed at the variety of creatures that live in and visit my garden. I have bookmarked another nature blog, Lepidoptera Diary, featuring moths, butterflies and other backyard invertebrates - others interested in bugs and stuff should also find it an excellent read.
An autumn visitor - I am presuming this to be a parasitising wasp breaking into the nursery chambers of a mud dauber wasp in order to parasitise the larvae
And an ant carries off a pollen-laden bee
Autumn is my favourite season, with its cool crisp mornings and evenings, warm pleasant days, and awakening of many of nature's treasures as others prepare for dormancy.