November 10, 2019

The Fires of the Lower Manning Valley

I have been contacted by fellow iNaturalists regarding the ongoing fire threat here in the Lower Manning Valley, N.S.W. And I thank you very much for your concern.

I thought perhaps it best to post this thereby allowing me to reference the one post rather than repeating more emails. And, oddly enough, there was something calming about putting this timeline together as if partitioning out the events helped make a bit more sense of it. Though as I type this, the deafening roar of a chopper hovering over the river gathering up water nonetheless has become more disconcerting than I would have credited my normally disciplined mind should register.

so here is what I have come to comprehend.


The Hillville fire began just 6k down the next road over from Bull Hill. We saw the smoke rising an hour before any alert went out. In the absence of info and observing what seemed a huge fire obscuring fully half a third of sky, I estimated where it may have originated and decide to triangulate it and perhaps calculate its progress. I guessed the next road west of us, Hillville Rd., would be best for viewing. In fact, I drove right into it. I was on scene and filmed the moment when it shot across the road into the state forest about 3 minutes before the fire service arrived. By then, although reported online as just a hay bale fire of 1 ha size, in fact it was 150 ha at that point. If the Forster fire had not exploded at the same time, resources may have been available to stop it ...

7 NOV Day 1 winds were westerly the first 24 hrs so the fire only crept north 1 km towards us but reached 1019 ha in just 4 hrs ending with 6150 ha. Fire crests Breakneck Lookout (and Fire Tower), the high point in the State Forest, and begins its run toward the coast.

8 Nov Day 2 saw FIERCE ungodly SW winds would double the fire size in just 12 hrs. The fire races down to the Pacific Coast Hwy, jumps the highway and rapidly engulfs Rainbow Flat. The Rural Fire Service HQ there burns to the ground. Faster than television reporting can keep up, the fire reaches the outskirts of Old Bar. I ring mum who is staying with cousin Jenni. She has just been witnessing tall flames a few streets over after knocks on the door from individuals rousing everyone to evacuate. Nonetheless, they opt to remain overnight as the beach is a short distance away. Morning brings more knocks and the sight of flames at the end of the street. They evacuate to the Surf Club. Along with 400 others, they snack on sandwiches in the car park ... the beach is right there as back up ... literally as the way forward toward the road out to the highway is closed. Meanwhile on the western front, a sickly coffee-brown smoke dominates the lower half of the sky. In stark contrast, volcano shaped pyro cumulus clouds, billowing high above, shimmer silver as they catch light off the setting sun. It is now 6pm and a brilliant red bullet emerges to fly directly overhead. Shortly after, the chase plane for the massive tanker passes so low one has an urge to wave at the pilot. They circle the fire a half dozen times. We never saw a drop ... we now know they were lining up runs over Old Bar. By 7pm, an unfavourable windshift forces our hand and we evacuate my reluctant aunt to Cundletown on the northern bank of the river. We have family here. My cousin Julian holds on another hour to secure the property until blinding choking smoke is too much to take. On leaving, he snaps a pic of the flames cresting the ridge 3 km to the south. Shortly after mobile phone service becomes wholly unreliable. Local council Mayor pronounces the situation dire ... he is not wrong.

9 Nov Day 3 winds become southerly bringing the 18km fire front north to the banks of the Manning and within 2.5 km of Bull Hill and 3 km of Tinonee. Bucket's Way, the road to hwy is now closed leaving just escape routes east to Gloucester and north to Wingham. It is a surreal landscape as if the entire valley was under a golden dome ... every surface, even the interior of one's home appears amber as if you had on tinted glasses. Choking smoke and fly ash came and went. Spot fires cropped up anywhere and everywhere. A fist size flaming ember landed on the lawn of a home in Upper Landsdowne 5 km from the fire front - that of the Dingo Tops Fire (18,000 ha) ... one of three "out-of-control" fires on the day surrounding Taree. The Hillville fire now just shy of 17,000 ha. To the NE, the Harrington/Crowdy Bay fire (officially Bill's Crossing) is now impacting John's River and Dunbogan ... it reaches 12,000 ha in size.

10 Nov Day 4. woke to a cool mtn breeze at sunrise. A light westerly permitted me to go back out to property and check on the horse and retrieve some documents I left behind. A walk up the hill on our neighbors property reveals new smoke well west of anything the fresh maps indicated ... it was obviously out of control and moving quickly supported by a freshening se. wind. I later learn this branch of the fire took off toward Burrell Creek (due west of Bull Hill) forcing a closure of Bucket's Way in that direction by evening. Only the north to Wingham now remains open. I checked in at Tinonee on my way back. The shop was open so I stopped to get a call out (phone service had been down for 48 hrs). While talking to my mother, I see smoke rising 200 meters away on the other side of the oval/tennis courts. A spot fire that takes the rest of the day to control ... gets to within 50 meters of the Tinonee fire station. This another and another spot fire to the south of Bull Hill close the gap to either Tinonee property (Mum's and my aunt Bevs) ... now 850 meters.

The se. wind shift permits Old Bar to breathe easier. The road closure there is lifted for necessary travel around 8pm. However, the Harrington fire, now north to John's River (site of one local fatality) rages with renewed vigour forcing the closure of the coastal hwy to the north. Police checkpoints go up in Cundletown and elsewhere ... only necessary travel permitted.

Now we wait for TUE - DAY 6 ... 37 deg and high winds may have us reliving this. A "Catastrophic Fire Alert" has been issued for the day. And now the forecast for rainfall places us in the swath along the east coast which will see little or no rain in the month of November. ... teeing up a summer like no other.



Posted on November 10, 2019 08:01 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 1 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 02, 2019

Australian MothTaxonomy / Ecology and the role of iNaturalist

There is an all to common a problem with Lep taxonomy ... who is the authority? I come from an ornithological background whereby there are over-arching nomenclatural authorities for specific geographical regions. The Australian Faunal Directory could be such an authority. However, as has been pointed out several occasions by Roger Kendrick and others, the listing may be out-of-date regarding Lep taxonomy. AFD still lists Ardices as a synonym of Spilosoma for example though in a recent iNat discussion more recent work reverses the synonym. See ...

This has been especially troublesome for iNat entries as any given week (for the past 18 months) I am aware of a dozen or so duplicate taxon pages for Australian moth species. But which name should take precedent? Apart from my unfamiliarity with the literature, there remains the conundrum posed by Ethan ... namely has a taxon change been adopted and by whom.

By way of example and not to get off topic ... do I propose

Nanaguna clopaea (35 iNat entries)
Etanna clopaea (60 iNat entries)

or vice-a-versa? BTW, Lep Index only recognizes Nanaguna clopaea.

This poses two questions. The obvious taxonomic issue which all too often buries the data management issue that impacts our ecological understanding (or lack thereof) for the species.

The first is to be resolved by taxonomic authorities. Is there an Australian working group dedicated to resolving these matters? But should we not accept, within the context of citizen science, temporary placeholders to facilitate ecological understanding?

--------------------------------------Post Script (a lament) ----------------------------------

This subject has pre-occupied much of my day for the past 2 years. Forty years ago this week, I started on a path in evolutionary biology as a taxonomist and museum trays were to become more familiar to me than my sock draw. From SEM study of dinoflagellate algae to species diagnoses involving Trichoptera, I put my time in. But the 20 years of work on endangered species recovery taught me the real meaning behind the nomenclature ... associating a species with its ecology allowing the basis for environmental management. That may seem to be stating the obvious, yet I feel the need to say it. I estimate there are 100-150 undescribed (not unknown) Australian moth species (identified by ANIC number) in iNaturalist. But in the absence of a means by which these species can be attached to a record of its distribution and seasonality, the entry cannot inform management decisions.

Yes, we desperately need more taxonomists. But that takes time and time is running out ...

Posted on September 02, 2019 15:10 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 3 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2019

iNaturalist Plutella treatment in Australia

Starting out in 2016 with iNaturalist, I was informed that an
"overlooked" species of native Plutella had been recently
described and required dissection or perhaps bar coding
to separate from the introduced species.

Here is the relevant reference ...

I only just noticed that a good many Plutella in Australia have been
identified to species. Other than @graemevc Graeme's material
which I know was bar coded (pers. comm. 2017), I'd like to
know what the basis for the change has been. According to
AFD, the two species are still recognized ...

however, there has occasionally been a lag in listing with
respect to the literature so I was wondering if I had missed

@dustaway @ianmcmillan @kenharris @dhobern
@hkmoths @imcmaster @tleitch @daniel_heald
@aedmonds @bushbandit @gumnut

Posted on July 22, 2019 11:44 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 7 comments | Leave a comment

July 17, 2019

Noteworthy finds in Lawrence County during the July 2019 expedition.

Odes by Day, Moths by Night: Wayne NF-Ironton Unit
A listing of the insect fauna within the Wayne National Forest - Ironton Unit, Lawrence County, OH.
Cumulative observations here ...

The effort included dragonfly surveys of Hanging Rock OHV, Lake Vesuvius, Timbre Ridge Lake, and Smith Hollow Lake from Sunday 7 July through Wed. 10 July. Several Ironton Unit wetlands in Gallia and Scioto Counties were visited (e.g. Cadmus , Sand Fork, Superior, Wolcott) but are not included in this review of Lawrence County.

UV Lights were set up at three different campsites No. 32 (Sun), No. 31 (Mon), and No. 9 (Tue). for mothing etc. Conditions were ideal Sun evening with heavy cloud cover, little wind, high heat and humidity.

Taxonomic Breakdown of Observations
Odonata: 24 species, 78 observations

Coleoptera: 18 species, 26 observations

Lepidoptera: 150 species, 318 observations (includes 6 species of butterfly, 7 obs.)

plus 17 other observations of invertebrates.


Noteworthy finds in Lawrence County during the July 2019 expedition.
According to the Ohio Dragonfly Survey, the following species of Odonata were added to the county list.

Comet Darner - Hanging Rock OHV park
Powdered Dancer - Lake Vesuvius (below the dam)


Swift Setwing (state rarity) was first located in the county at Lake Vesuvius in 2018. It was relocated there on this visit. An observation at Hanging Rock OHV park adds a new location for the species.


Rare moths:

... a southern species north.

the Black-marked Inga Moth, Inga sparsiciliella, is normally found south of the Mason-Dixon line save for the eastern seaboard where it ventures to central NJ. They have been observed as near to Ohio as the Daniel Boone forest near Booneville, KY*. This is roughly 95 miles to the sw.

*checked against Moth Photographers Group map here ...

Posted on July 17, 2019 17:37 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 24, 2019

Moths of Australia: Project Listing

I have created several 'projects' under the iNaturalist banner whereby one
may quickly view those moth observations for the respective political
entities within Australia. While one can draw up search parameters to get
the same, here is a quick reference list already eliminating butterflies and
restricting the list to research grade sightings only.

There are three features that enhance this type of listing.

1) The discrete map provides an at-a-glance sense of the coverage of the respective area ... moreso than the standard map presentation.

2) Under Overview, the observations are present by default as the most recent ... an easy way to keep up with the latest additions.

3) the export feature for collating observations for reports.

Stats below as of this writing:

Queensland, 11, 471 observations, 1625 species

New South Wales and the A.C.T. ... 15, 448 observations, 1337 species

Victoria ... 945 observations, 308 species

Tasmania ... 493 observations, 247 species

Western Australia ... 414 observations, 177 species

South Australia ... 223 observations, 115 species

Northern Territory 47 observations, 38 species

Posted on January 24, 2019 22:05 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 09, 2018

Moth Mis-matches in BOLD Systems V4

BOLD specimens are the defacto gold standard for much of Australian
moth ID. So to have uncovered more than a dozen conspicuous errors
in placement is cause for some concern. Here I will begin a listing of the
more obvious errors.

The page for Oenochroa

includes this entry
which represents
Oenochroma subistraria


The page for Philobota

is erroneously populated by a

and a

Pantydia sp. (or similar);


This "Dasygaster padockina";
is a
Paralaea ... not dissimilar to P. chionopasta;

Picromorpha ... includes odd one out


Posted on October 09, 2018 21:29 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 5 comments | Leave a comment

September 09, 2018

INat reports of undescribed Australian Moth species ... the lost ANIC entries

There is a growing number entries of undescribed moth species from Australia for which
images match closely with ANIC entries in BOLD Systems database. As there remains no
means by which to search these through iNaturalist, a central location for these entries
may serve to facilitate identification of these species. I am starting with my own but hope
this becomes a comprehensive listing across identifiers.


Aristeis sp. - ANIC 8;

Artiastis sp. ANIC3;

Barea sp. - ANIC 11;

Compsotropha sp. ANIC1;

Garrha sp. - ANIC 39;

Garrha sp. - ANIC 97;

Lepidoscia sp - ANIC 1;

Machetis sp. - ANIC 8;

Parocystola sp. - ANIC 1;

Philobota sp. - ANIC 5;

Oxysemaphora sp. A;



Chrysonoma sp. - ANIC 2;

Philobota sp. - ANIC 139;

Philobota sp. - ANIC 124;

Philobota sp. - ANIC 78;

Xylorycta sp. - ANIC 34;

Posted on September 09, 2018 12:58 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 06, 2018

Hypobapta BOLD review

Hypobapta AH01Au
coastal Victoria (Melbourne)

Hypobapta AH01Au
Kangaroo Island

Hypobapta barnardi [57]....
Hypobapta barnardiEF01 [4]
Hypobapta barnardiEF03 [2]
continent-wide; most abundant Mid-North Coast, NSW.

Hypobapta diffundens [38];
Hypobapta diffundensAH01Au [3]
Hypobapta diffundensEF01 [3]
Hypobapta diffundensEF03 [2]
Hypobapta diffundensEF04 [2]
scattered east to west in south with center of abundance ACT
also Alice Springs, and northern QLD

Hypobapta percomptaria [89]; Tasmania

Hypobapta sp. ANIC1 [5]; SW WA

Hypobapta sp. ANIC2 [13]; SW WA ... more widespread than ANIC 1

Hypobapta sp. ANIC3 [3]; coastal WA and SA

Hypobapta tachyhalotaria [58]; widespread coastal from Nullabor (SA) east through Vic and NSW north to Brisbane.

Hypobapta xenomorpha [37]; widespread interior WA and east to SA/VIC border

Posted on June 06, 2018 14:28 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 19, 2018

February 07, 2018

Lepidoptera House Coff's Harbour

Posted on February 07, 2018 20:22 by vicfazio3 vicfazio3 | 0 comments | Leave a comment