This month, we had the second Leopard Seal stop over at Point Roadknight. The damage to its rear flippers was quite obvious; it stayed only a day on the beach. I do not believe it has been sighted again.

There have been the regular sightings of Right Whales off the coastline as they head towards South Australia and maybe beyond. A large pod of over 200 Short-beaked Common Dolphins, Delphinus delphis, was seen working together chasing school fish at Anglesea.

shortbeakeddophins
Short-beaked Common Dolphins

The white form of the Grey Goshawk has been seen again at various locations—from Nat’s House in Aireys Inlet, and more regularly at the back of Coogoorah Park, where they are known to have a long-term nest site.

greygoshawkGrey Goshawk

Recently, along Distillery Creek, up behind the shops, four glorious specimens of Royal Spoonbills, Platalea regia, in full breeding plumage were seen screening the shallow waters then resting on the banks around the shallow pondage.

spoonbillsRoyal Spoonbills

Two of our magnificent Surf Coast Spiders

There are many false myths regarding spiders, especially the bigger chunkier ones that may at times expose their Chelicerae/fangs.

They do not pounce or jump, they do not leap off walls, or crawl into bed to have a snack on us. If given half a chance all spiders will just stay where they are, or turn away and get as far away from us as they can. In nearly all instances where humans have been bitten, they have usually accidentally or sometimes purposefully impacted or restricted the spider and it has reacted defensively.

While I have photographed over 100 species of spiders in and around the Surf Coast, there are only a few species that we need to be aware of that can inflict a bite for which you should seek medical attention. Then again, if a person does have reactions to jumping jack or bee stings, they may also need to seek treatment for any spider bites.

The most common of the large brown/ black spiders seen around the coast, in our back yards under the mulch or walking around at night, is the local Funnel-web Trapdoor Spider. It is one of the Stanwellia species from the Nemesiidae family. The larger females 20-30 mm live in their underground funnel-web homes with a trap door, and very seldom come out onto the surface, except if disturbed, or to catch prey.

femaletrapdoorspiderFunnel-web Trapdoor Spider (female)

The males can be seen strolling around at night looking for a partner, especially on the warmer nights around spring.

maletrapdoorspiderFunnel-web Trapdoor Spider (male)

Two months ago in May, a male Red-headed Mouse Spider, Missulena accatoria, one of the mygalomorph spiders from the family Actinopodidae, was seen moving down one of the walking paths near Bells Beach. This is possibly the first sighting of a mouse spider this far south. They are typically found further north in the drier woodland country near Bacchus Marsh and up into central Victoria. It is one of the only mygalomorphs known to have its spiderlings disperse aerially through ballooning, where they float away on the wind. These spiders are very distinctive with their cephalothorax (fused head and thorax).

The male spiders, between 25-30 mm, are diurnal seeking out their females during the day. They have a red head and large red Chelicerae and often an iridescent blue abdomen. It is thought these unusual colours are a necessary feature for defence and in their mating rituals. Their eyes are spread across the front of the carapace and they have long pedipalps, which they use to keep a safe distance from the females during courtship and mating, after which they can become her next dinner.

mousespidermaleRed-headed Mouse Spider (male)

The females, which are black, are much stockier than the males at 30-35 mm, and, typical of many funnel web/trapdoor spiders, do not come out of their homes apart to feed at the entrance of their trap doors.

mousespiderfemaleRed-headed Mouse Spider (female)

Mouse Spider bites are not common. However, they have had serious effects in humans, with symptoms similar to the Funnel-web Spider envenomation. Their fangs are powerful and it is best not to handle them, even if wearing gloves. It should however be noted that these spiders are integral to the local ecosystems, and if found, should be left alone, or if seen around your home or pets, carefully relocated rather than killed.

The Red-headed Mouse Spiders are unique in that they have two trap door entrances to each burrow. They do not eat mice, but predominantly feed on ground foraging insects, other spiders, small lizards, and frogs that disturb the silk trip lines which radiate out from each of their funnel entrances. The spiders emerge, capture, and retreat back down their burrow to feed, all within the blink of an eye.

Thanks to Mark Newton for providing his magnificent images of the Red-headed Mouse Spiders

John Lenagan

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