The Wildlife in Underwood

Underwood Bushland is home to many species… What’s been seen in Underwood?


Reptiles: Dugites, Western Bearded Dragon, Burtons Snake-lizard….


Mammals: Brushtail Possum, bats


Amphibians: Turtle Frog….they live mainly underground, eating termites.


Insects: Many many:…..native bees pollinate our native species.


Birds of prey: Goshawks, Little Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Hobby.


Primitive spiders: 200 burrows of five species of trapdoor spider. Burrows entrances were revealed after the 2014 fire burnt off the trap doors…..


Little Birds: Variegated Fairy-wrens, Striated Pardalotes, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Rainbow Bee-eaters (migratory)….


Black cockatoos: Carnaby’s Cockatoo, Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos-critical habitat ….the food in the bush supports the numbers.


Plants: Banksia species, Tuart, Jarrah (it’s a forest) and all the understorey.


Fungi: Plum and Custard fungus, Red fingers.




Banksia Woodlands are an icon of Perth
Banksias are ancient, having evolved over more than 50 million years.

Perth is the only city in the world set in a natural landscape dominated by Banksia Woodlands. These woodland communities are highly biodiverse, especially in the understorey and herb layer. They support a rich assemblage of plants, reptiles, insects, spiders and fungi.

Banksia Woodlands are unique.



Western Bearded Dragon

I had walked right past this western bearded dragon in Underwood Avenue Bushland without noticing her. I turned back and there she was on the warm sand of the track. Then I noticed that she had bulges from her belly, which would indicate that she was bearing eggs. The warm sandy track is a good place to increase temperature, which may speed up egg development.

Western bearded dragons lay from 5 -11 eggs in two clutches.* The female digs a hole in which to lay the eggs and buries them. Perhaps in a couple of months we will be able to see baby dragons about.

Margaret Owen, 22 October 2013

* A Guide to Reptiles and Frogs of the Perth Region by Bush, Maryan, Browne-Cooper and Robinson, UWA Press.

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Can you spot the eggs in the belly of this pregnant lizard? 


Exciting find in Underwood Avenue Bushland


This year, all the spider orchids and donkey orchids had finished flowering by the beginning of October.What a surprise discovery then to see this orchid in Underwood Avenue Bushland in November.


Thelymitras are the sun orchids and this species is Thelymitra fuscolutea or leopard orchid. Orchid expert Dr Andrew Brown said that the orchid ‘is rare in the Perth Region but it is known from scattered locations as far north as Lancelin’. He added that it was a ‘great find.’


In sun orchids, the labellum or lip is almost the same size as the other petals and sepals. (unlike other orchids where the labellum has a distinctive shape and colour and may be ornamented). This strategy is a deceit to attract pollinators who may be deceived because the sun orchid flower looks like flowers which will deliver nectar.


A different sun orchid, Thelymitra macrophylla, the scented sun orchid, was flowering recently in Monash Bushland, another very threatened bushland.

Written 13 November 2011. Monash Bushland was subsequently destroyed.

 Leopard Orchid


Jewel Beetles: so spectacular


Because jewel beetles are so spectacularly brilliant, you might think they would be easy to see, but this jewel beetle species is quite small; about one centimetre long. I also photographed numbers of an even smaller species on some of the Swan River myrtle bushes.


Lots of children would know David Knowles, as he has a travelling insect show called ‘Spineless Wonders’ which visits schools. David wrote an article about jewel beetles in which he explained that after the French and English early visitors to Australia collected jewel beetles, private collectors and museums in England and Europe financed expeditions to Australia to collect the exotic Australian beetles. When the jewel beetles arrived they were classified and named by each sponsor. One common jewel beetle had been allotted up to eleven differing specific names.


Like many other insect species, some jewel beetles feign death by dropping to the ground when alarmed.


Of course habitat clearing is one of the greatest threats to the survival of jewel beetles. Underwood Avenue Bushland is still threatened by the development proposal approved by the Barnett state government in 2010, and which still has to be re-referred to the federal government.


We cannot expect creatures such as jewel beetles to survive with their habitat reduced and isolated.

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Fire beetles


Admiration and thanks go to Mark at the Paraquad Association and to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for responding to the fire in Underwood Avenue Bushland so promptly. It took about five minutes after the triple 0 call for the FES crews to arrive.


The day after the fire, it was noticed that fire beetles had already arrived in the burnt bush. Fire beetles have special infrared sensors called pit organs that can detect infrared radiation. The antennae of fire beetles are able to detect chemicals in smoke. So using these tools the beetles can sense fire from over 40 kilometres away. They fly to the burnt area, mate and the females lay eggs under the bark of the burnt trees. The burnt trees cannot defend themselves and there are few insects around which could predate on the fire beetles.


Fire beetle larvae can only develop in freshly burnt trees.


These pryophilic beetles are at their evolutionary peak.


A housing estate in the bushland? Not a great idea.


Fire beetles


Endangered Quails – ‘Spectacular birds’.


Many years ago in Underwood Avenue Bushland, occasionally a pair of quail would suddenly fly up from the shubbery, fly about 20 metres and then drop into cover. Of course this was quite startling.


Quail haven’t been seen for years now: that is until last week. One morning, slowly following the beautiful red-tails around, I saw movement and there amongst the understorey, were the backs of a pair of quail walking away. Then they seemed to disappear somewhere into the low plants. I was told they are likely to be painted button-quail.


These quail are not actually quail, but are in an unrelated Family. Notes on the BirdLife webpage states that they are ‘endangered in WA.’


Last week also was an awesome time in the bush because of other spectacular birds. Five red-tails flew to a Jarrah tree and landed there. I walked around to the sunny side of the Jarrah tree and looked up.


There above me was a sleepy brown goshawk. He and the red-tails were in the same tree for about fifteen minutes. He stretched and fluffed up his feathers and then flew off. Goshawks call this bushland home.


And at the top of the hill, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a black-shouldered kite. Unlike the goshawk, the kite was watchful, turning her head constantly. She was alert but not alarmed.


A family group of three red-tails flew into the bushland and it was obvious that one was a very young bird. I was told that he looked to be only a few weeks from the nest. Attention was lavished on the young one from both parents. Mother and youngster ‘kissed’ a lot by putting beak to beak. As juveniles are fed by regurgitation, perhaps this behaviour is a bonding action which arose from the method of feeding.


And then there are so many small birds about now including variegated fairy-wrens, but that’s another story.


Written 5 August 2015


Tawny Frogmouth.


The Tawny Frogmouth had been sitting on the nest for at least 25 days before this little chick was seen. I read that Tawny Frogmouths share in brooding the eggs. All that time I thought she was the same bird. Even with sharing, a great effort is put into nest building and to hatching a chick or chicks. Then the offspring have to be raised.


This nest is just outside Underwood Avenue Bushland but the other partner has been heard in Underwood on two mornings, no doubt seeking food. The call is a repeated oom, oom, oom, oom, oom.


How our comprehension about nature has changed over 150 years. John Gould described the nesting behaviour of Tawny Frogmouths:


“In every instance one of the birds was sitting on the eggs and the other perched on a neighbouring bough, both invariable asleep. That the male participates in the duty of incubation I ascertained by having shot a bird on the nest, which on dissection proved to be a male.”


Our search for knowledge needs the habitat of such birds to be protected. Our native species are protected but their habitat is not.


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Striated pardalotes; so beautiful.


Lerps are fairy-floss-like structures found on eucalyptus leaves and are the protective cover of the larvae of tiny sap-sucking insects. The excess of the sap ‘flows from their anuses as honey dew or is sculpted into lerp palaces.’* These lerps provide food for many small bush birds including striated pardalotes.


Pardalote beaks are short and stout, just made for levering the lerp from the leaves. Two pardalotes were within a metre of the ground in the regrowth Jarrah leaves in Underwood Avenue Bushland while others foraged higher up.


Like various other small perching birds, striated pardalotes are disappearing from urban areas and are dependent on bushland. Habitat loss and fragmentation are a key cause of driving species to extinction.


It is a nonsense to claim as UWA does that the proposed housing development in the bushland is a compromise which will protect feeding habitat.


There is an alternative to destroying bushland for housing.


* ‘Where Song Began’ by Tim Low.




Giant Thynnid Wasp with a female


Some of this family of wasps are as small as 2mm, but this version surely must be the largest.


The small but stout female is wingless and she relies on the male to find her, pick her up and carry her off.


They mate in the air and the female remains attached to the male as he flies from flower to flower.


The diet of these flower wasps is nectar. The male on the flowering grass tree spike gathers the nectar and gives it to the female as she stretches forth underneath him to receive it. She is holding the nectar in the crook of her body and eating it.


With the flowering of the grass trees, insects are in noisy abundance.


This is in the wonderful Underwood Avenue Bushland.

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