Tiny wonders Down Under: watch this footage of enchanting little Aussie creatures

By Liz Ginis 27 September 2022
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This mesmerising video of 30-plus different species was filmed in the Aussie bush with the majority in a suburban Melbourne garden. It begs the question, what’s thriving in your backyard?

When Peter Virag wanders into his home garden it’s not to mow the lawn or play a spot of backyard cricket. The photographer is on the hunt for tiny wonders that creep and crawl, zig and zag, flip and flap.

“All of the clips in this compilation were shot in my backyard in suburban Melbourne, with a few clips recorded in a studio environment where I needed more control in terms of lighting and composition,” Peter says. “I also have a specific location at a nearby reserve that I call my ‘little sanctuary’ where I always tend to find something new.”

The Melbourne-based professional photographer uses his full kit of gear to capture these enchanting creatures. 

“For the majority of the footage I used my full-frame camera, the Canon 1DX Mark II, which has a 1.34x crop factor when shooting in 4K resolution. This comes in handy as we get closer to our subjects when recording macros.

“My primary lens that I used for most of these clips was the Canon EF 100mm  f/2.8L IS, which I used both with and without the Raynox DCR-250 depending on the size of the subject to further increase the magnification ratio.

“For very small creatures, such as the waterbear [tardigrade] clip, I used the Laowa 25mm ultra macro lens at its maximum magnification ratio of 5:1, which is five times the life-size magnification of a basic macro lens. I took some hand-held footage but preferred to use a tripod for more stability where it was possible, which enabled me to create more cinematic scenes in post-production.”

Aside from perfecting his technical game while shooting, Peter says it’s his love of nature that draws him again and again to create footage such as this.

“I’ve always loved exploring nature and ever since I picked up a camera several years ago I have been capturing wildlife essentially on a daily basis. I mainly used to do photography but nowadays I shoot both stills and videos, which allows me to document these unique little creatures more thoroughly.

“I also like learning about my subjects and tend to do a bit of research once I manage to identify them and it gives me great joy to share this knowledge via educational nature videos, which I regularly post to my YouTube channel.”

“Observing nature is a unique experience, I consider it a privilege as it allows me to slow down and be immersed in something that gives me not only pleasure but also drives me, motivates me to learn something new every time. 

“I’ve fallen in love with macro [photography] in particular is because it makes me feel like I’m exploring and discovering something that’s relatively unknown, that we know so little about and the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to travel to exotic locations, these fascinating creatures are all around us, you can stumble upon them in your very own backyard, on leaves, on patches of moss, on the footpath, they are virtually everywhere. I’m very lucky because I can explore these tiny worlds whenever and wherever I want!”

Peter says the clips in this compilation were shot over the last couple of years (starting from late 2020), with the raw footage spanning well over 30 hours. “For example, the clips of the common peacock spider were recorded over a few weeks, where I spent almost eight hours every day in the field trying to capture their behaviour in their natural habitat. It required a lot of patience and preparation but it was very satisfying and heaps of fun for sure!”

Here are all of the identified species (in chronological order):

Whirligig mite (Genus Anystis)

Oleander aphid (Aphis nerii)

Garden jumping spider (Genus Opisthoncus)

Square-ended crab spider (Genus Sidymella)

White flank black braconid wasp (Callibracon capitator)

Male common peacock spider (Maratus pavonis)

Larva of a darkling beetle/honeybrown beetle (Ecnolagria grandis)

Banded sugar ant (Camponotus consobrinus)

Female Common peacock spider (Maratus Pavonis)

Red percher/wandering percher dragonfly (Diplacodes bipunctata)

Shieldback katydid (Subfamily Tettigoniinae)

Ichneumon wasp (Genus Echtromorpha)

Plume moth (Subfamily Pterophorinae)

Diamond comb-footed spider (Cryptachaea veruculata)

Ichneumonid wasp (Family Ichneumonidae)

Gum hopper (Genus Platybrachys)

Millipede (Family Julidae)

Wrap-around spider (Genus Dolophones)

Jumping spider (Simaethula aurata)

Social House Spider/Little Humped Spider (Philoponella congregabilis)

Robber fly (Genus Cerdistus)

Grass lynx spider (Genus Oxyopes)

Greater lady beetle (Genus Harmonia)

Lichen moth caterpillar (Cyana sp.)

Fungus-eating ladybird (Illeis galbula)

Mono ant (Chelaner kiliani)

Male garden jumping spider (Genus Opisthoncus)

Female garden jumping spider (Genus Opisthoncus)

Long-legged fly (Family Dolichopodidae)

Lauxaniid fly (Genus Homoneura)

Six-marked jumping spider (Opisthoncus sexmaculatus)

Portuguese millipede (Ommatoiulus moreleti)

European honey bee (Apis mellifera)

Garden snail (Cornus aspersum)

Tardigrade (Phylum Tardigrada)

Naidid worm (Family Naididae)

Common halfband hoverfly (Genus Melangyna)

Pillbug/woodlouse (Genus Armadillidium)

Roundshouldered orbweaver (Genus Araneus)

Muscoid fly (Superfamily Muscoidea)

Honebrown beetle larvae (Ecnolagria grandis)

Magpie tiger moth caterpillar (Genus Nyctemera)

Jumping spider (Simaethula aurata)

Male common peacock spider (Maratus Pavonis)