Torrens Island

1 Oct

Torrens Island and its causeway entrance are situated over the Torrens Island Bridge at the end of The Grand Trunkway in Port Adelaide; about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The island is closed to the public but the small breakwater and causeway are open. Most of the island is a conservation park with the remaining area housing the power stations and some historic sites.

Road across breakwater looking back at hills

The island if flat and covered with mangroves, samphire and saltbush. The causeway has no vegetation. The mangroves that are accessible from the causeway and road are actually situated on Garden Island. The causeway forms a barrier between the Angas inlet on the left and the warm water outlet from the power station on the right as you face the power station.

Black-shouldered Kite perched on light pole

Numerous fish species including bream, mullet, whiting and Mulloway are attracted to the warm water. In turn, predatory birds such as: herons, pelicans, terns, gulls, cormorants and egrets are found in this area. Small mangrove crabs are found under the rocks in the intertidal region. Dolphins are not uncommon and best spotted from the bridge.  A population of common rats live among the rocks feeding on discarded bait but they are rarely seen during daylight hours.

Little Egret hunting near mangroves

The dominant vegetation seen from the causeway is the Grey Mangrove with small amounts of samphire. At low tide there are seagrass meadows visible through the fencing on the mudflats to the left facing the power station.

Mangrove leaves and fruit….note the waxy top and rough, paler underside where salt crystals accumulate.

Prior to European settlement the mangrove and samphire swamp areas were a rich hunting and gathering region for the local Kaurna people. They would have caught crabs and speared or netted fish as well as collecting shellfish.

Torrens Island power station

Torrens Island was named after Robert Torrens senior who was chairman of the SA Colonisation Commission. Between 1870 and 1980 it was a quarantine station for both animals and people entering the state. During World War 1 the island was used as an internment camp for citizens of German and Austrian backgrounds. Since 1963 much of the island and surrounding water have been protected areas and part of different marine reserves. Three power stations are operating on the island: Torrens Island PS since 1963, Quarrantine PS since 2002 and finally Barker Inlet PS since 2009. All are gas powered.

Fishing as the sun goes down

Fishing from the rocky causeway in the warm water outlet is popular. There are fine views of the ships’ graveyard and its wrecks from the bridge. Tours of the old quarantine facilities can be arranged through the maritime museum in Port Adelaide. In short, quite an interesting place to visit and combine with a day at Port Adelaide.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy destination to visit and is quite suitable for families and seniors.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

 Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

About Port Gawler

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

For the rest of this year I will be posting occasional articles exploring some destinations along Adelaide’s coastline. They will include notes on: terrain, vegetation, common animals, history( First Nations and European) and other attractions. Port Gawler is the first in this series.

Introduction

Port Gawler is about 30 kms north-west of Adelaide’s CBD along Port Wakefield Road, Highway 1. The road from the main highway to Port Gawler has some fertile pastureland flanking it as well as mangrove and salt bush closer to the coast.

Fertile farmland on the drive into Port Gawler

 

Terrain

The seafront is dominated by Grey Mangroves with areas of samphire and low scrub alongside. An extensive beach area of shell grit and mud is exposed at low tide for hundreds of metres. Where the Gawler River meets the beach there is a channel. Seagrasses cover the sub-tidal region further out to sea. 

Samphire, saltbush and wetlands

Wildlife

Mangrove stands are important nursery areas for many recreational fish species such as King George Whiting, mullet species and Black Bream. Numerous marine snails, bivalves, crabs, sponges and other invertebrates live in the complex mangrove jungle and seagrass meadows. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and small spiders are common terrestrial invertebrates.

Masked Lapwing

Bird life in this area is prolific and includes many shore birds such as herons, oyster catchers, Black Swans, Cormorants, ibises, gulls and stilts as well as numerous migratory species including plovers and other small waders from as far away as Mongolia. Warblers, flycatchers and honeyeaters live in the dense foliage of the mangroves and are easy to recognise by their calls but hard to spot. The density of smaller birds also attracts some raptors including Nankeen Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites. There are foxes, hares, lizards and snakes in the surrounding pasture and scrub. 

Nankeen kestrel hovering

 

Vegetation

The dominant plant in this region is the Grey Mangrove which grows close to the shore and extends into the shallow intertidal zone. The tubular structures that push through the mud are part of the root system called pneumatophores. They help the plant to absorb oxygen. Samphire, saltbush, pigface and other low growing hardy plants are found around the shoreline. Large amounts of seaweed are often washed up on the shore during the winter months. It is dead Posidonia or strapweed, a common sea grass along our coastline.

Grey Mangroves at low tide showing channel and pneumataphores

Mangrove fruits

History

First Nations

This was a rich area for the indigenous Kaurna people whose coastal lands stretched from Port Wakefield in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. They fished, hunted and collected shellfish and crabs from the estuary and used reeds for constructing a variety of products including fish nets and baskets.

Blue Crab

European settlement

Port Gawler was named in 1867 Governor Henry Young most likely for the earlier Governor, George Gawler. It was surveyed in 1869 and a large property of 4000 acres named Buckland Park was established along the river. The township and Lisbon Wharf became an important shipping point for grain and other produce with over 100 shallow draft ships called ketches taking their cargo to Port Adelaide. In 1920 fire destroyed the wharf and it was never rebuilt as a nearby rail link to Port Adelaide was constructed.

Remains of the old wharf system

Other notes e.g. attractions facilities

There is no township only a boat ramp, toilet block and shelter with interpretive information. Port Gawler marks the beginning of the Saphire Coast, a shallow mangrove and mud flat dominated stretch of coastline incorporating the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary-Winaityinaityi PangkaraThere is a nearby off-road hire park for 4WD, motor bikes and go-carts. Bird watching, fishing are popular along this part of the coast. From September to April, large numbers of Blue Crabs are caught in the shallows.

I hope you enjoyed this description and plan a visit to Port Gawler in the near future. Next month’s blog I will return to my personal account style. Until then…..enjoy and protect the natural world and all it offers.

Cheers

Baz

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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Rainbow Parrots……..1

2 Aug

As well as continuing to write posts describing South Australia’s best natural and urban destinations and their associated wildlife; I will be posting some shorter pieces focussing entirely on one species or idea.

Dear Reader:

I am sitting on the front porch watching the street’s wildlife. There are a few New Holland Honeyeaters hawking for insects and a small group of Crested Pigeons congregating on the newly mown nature strip. Always a good time to look for food. But it is the brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets in the Hackberry Tree opposite that really catch my attention as they balance on the thin branches to feed on the small, dark berries. 

Hackberries for dinner

These energetic little parrots do not feed quietly; they squawk and chatter to each other as they bounce, balance and flutter amongst the foliage in search of the ripest fruit. And, while these birds feed on the Hackberries another group are tucking into the last blooms of my flowering gums in the backyard.

Blossoms for desset

Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) are smallish parrots with around 30 cms in length wih a wingspan around 40 cms. Their main foods are blossoms, nectar, seeds, fruit and sometimes insects. They have brush like tongues for collecting pollen and sharp beaks capable of biting into fruit and crushing seeds. Rainbow Lorikeets are often considered a nuisance by people who have fruit trees in their yards.

Cheers

Baz

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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Houseboat Day 5…..At Caudo Winery

2 Jul

Dear Reader:

The gum tree alongside the boat is massive. Its branches extend well over the bank and river. These River Gums are a sanctuary for many species that live along the Murray providing homes for myriad invertebrates, birds, reptiles and even mammals such as bats and possums. At the moment, I can see a Yellow Rosella perched high in the canopy. A long shot but certainly gettable with my Nikon P900.

Yellow Rosella

We have tied up the houseboat at Caudo Winery after a lovely cruise along the river which was quite productive when it came to wildlife; as I mentioned in my last post. The winery is a perfect pause for lunch and wine tasting on a river trip from Morgan, and the staff are both helpful and knowledgeable.

Houseboat and winery outdoor area

After a sip of a local white, I am ostensibly a non-drinker but love a little taste to simply enjoy the flavours, I decided to take an exploratory wander around the grounds. Another Red Gum, even larger than the first, towers over an open paddock on the property’s edge. Peering through the long lens I can make out a Corella nesting in a dead branch. While I am watching the Corella’s mate flies in and they exchange places.

Short-beaked Corella in nesting hole

Turning my attention from the larger animals I start to hunt around under the half-shed bark and understory by the base of the gum trees; always a good place to find insects, spiders and reptiles. I am not disappointed, discovering some beetles and small coppery skink that I have yet to identify.

Pie Dish Beetle species
Unknown skink species

My stroll is brought to a pleasant end when a couple the houseboat crew send me a quick text about pizzas hot from the oven being served in the next few minutes. Pizzas, fine wines, good company a bit of wildlife….a pretty good afternoon on the Murray River.

Cheers

Baz

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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Houseboat Day 4…….On the way to Caudo Winery

1 Jun

Dear Reader:

A dusty track runs parallel to the river about a hundred metres from the water. I catch the sounds of birds calling on the wind. The twittering of small species such as wrens and finches but also the faint call of a Kookaburra. Tiny Copper-Headed Skinks scurry about in the leaf litter and I sit under the shade of a river gum for a few minutes to photograph them. My P900 is an excellent tool for this task and its versatility is tested as I quickly shift to maximum telephoto to shoot a Western Grey Kangaroo as it bounds through the low scrub.

Boat moored on the bank

Walking trail through scrub

We are now four days into our cruise along the Murray from Morgan and heading towards Caldo Winery. About two kilometres from our destination we tie up along the river-bank for a walk and lunch. I have packed a snack and water bottle then headed out towards a significant bend in the river where I can see a small gully edging close to the water. An ideal place for wildlife as it presents a variety of ecological niches in one concentrated area. 

Dragonfly species near river bank

As I continue along the track it bends closer to the river and the wildlife changes in character. There are large dragonflies hovering around the reeds and landing on the loamy soil. I spot a small group of Nankeen Night Herons in a Willow tree overhanging the water. They are wary and hard to photograph but it is the first time I have seen a group of these nocturnal predators which are usually solitary…..possibly an adult with young??

Adult Laughing Kookaburras near nest site

I take a sit and wait approach when I notice a perfect log to rest on. It overlooks the edge of a steep gully which runs down to the river. By pure luck I have chosen well and over the next twenty minutes I am able to observe a pair of Kookaburras and locate their nesting hole in an aged River Gum.

Kookaburra landing in nesting hole with prey in beak

My walk has taken me a couple of kilometres from the boat and it is time to retrace my steps and head back. Shuffling through a deep patch of leaf litter I am startled by a rustle and sharp hiss off to my right. I freeze monetarily and look around. Not a snake but a large Shingleback Lizard which I have disturbed as it forages amongst the litter.

Shingleback lizard in aggressive pose

Dropping to one knee I attempt to photograph the lizard as it moves through the leaf litter but my sudden movement has irritated it and I am confronted by a full on mouth gape and tongue display.

It is time to call it a day and I shoulder arms and walk briskly back to the Houseboat ready for my duties as rope boy as we set off for the winery……..to be continued

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Visit Caudo Winery website

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Charleston Conservation Park……Coming Back from a Burn

1 May

Dear Reader:

Despite the blackened and scarred bush there are glimmers of hope in the landscape. Grass trees can survive the worst of the worst bushfires and some Banksias and other native species need fire to regenerate successfully. And, where there are plants the animals follow. Sitting atop the burnt spire of a grass tree (Xanthoria sp) I notice a female Superb Fairy Wren and my companion David points out a Male in full breeding plumage. Wildlife amongst the devastation.

Superb Fairy Wren male….photo by David Morris
Superb Fairy Wren female

I am exploring the Charleston Conservation Park, on Bell Springs Road in the Adelaide Hills about 7 Kms north of Lobethal and near the little town of Charleston. This small park of 54 hectares and bounded by open farmland on all sides, was devastated by recent bushfires but it is starting to show signs of re-vegetation. It is both sad and fascinating to walk around the park and look at the new life that is emerging amongst the burnt trees and undergrowth. However, the open, burnt bushland makes it easy to see animals though they are scarce, wary and hard to photograph. If you visit take a camera with a good telephoto.

Track along the park perimeter

We follow the track which runs around the edge of the park. It is separated from the surrounding farmland by a fence with a few surviving trees and bushes along the perimeter. In the distance I spot a mob of kangaroos feeding alongside cattle. These animals would have inhabited the park before the bushfires and will again as the understory and scrub develops, providing them with food and shelter.

Mob on the fenceline

A few hundred meters along the primary track that circumnavigates the park we take a smaller trail leading to a rocky outcrop. David stops abruptly and points, “Snake and it’s a big one, just a few metres in front of me.“ I can just make out the shape as it slides into a gap between the rocks; a sizeable Red Bellied Black Snake. Time to be a little more cautious in our movements. Later, we encounter another large Red-bellied Black on the gravel path. This snake is remarkably relaxed and we are to get some decent close-up images.

Snake ahead….enlarge and look at centre below and left of large rock
Red-bellied Black Snake

Further along the main track I notice numerous Monarch Butterflies landing on plants growing near the fence line. I focus on one of the insects while David point out a pair of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters feeding in a native pine.

Yellow -faced Honeyeater……photo David Morris
Monarch or Wanderer buterfly

Quite unexpectedly we hear the strident sound of Laughing Koookaburras. A pair has landed in a badly burnt eucalypt. They look surreal against the devastated background. Getting close enough to photograph them in this open environment is difficult; finally I settle for a long distance shot stretching my Nikon P900 to its limits.    

Laughing Kookaburras

Nodding Vanilla Lily

There are many signs of life emerging in the blackened landscape including: mosses, lily flowers, and patches of, what appear to be, acacia plants. Only time will tell how much the new environment will reflect the past as many non-native species will quickly colonise the vacant spaces; most notably grasses and windblown weeds. However, with some help from park rangers and volunteers this small area of remnant bushland may be able to regain much of its former beauty.   

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk and drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors. It is not dog friendly due to its status as a a conservation park.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat 3 Hogwash Bend

31 Mar

Dear Reader:

As we slow the boat and glide slowly towards the riverbank, I spot a pair of Ospreys perched high in the canopy of a massive Red Gum overhanging the river. One takes flight and circles some forty metres above us. I slip the Nikon P900 into sports mode opting for fast shutter speeds over depth of field and fire off a half dozen frames. Hopefully, something will turn out right.

Osprey in flight

It is a glorious blue-sky day. I can think of no place better to be than on the river with good friends and time to do what we please and go where the mood takes us. This morning we are tying up in the Hogwash Bend Conservation Park about 8 Kms east of Cadell.

Houseboat moored

The eagles leave and their air space is replaced by two Australian Pelicans that seem to be utilising a thermal rising off the land. They ride the updraft then slowly descend and land on the water a short distance from our moored craft. Boats often equate to fishing and small discarded carp that are pelican bite size. These glorious birds, with wingspans well over 2 metres, are common companions on the river.

Pelican near houseboat

Having spent a few minutes photographing the pelicans I turn my attention to the park. This is a part of the river where there are a variety of habitats from small billabongs and creeks to cliffs and flat grassy areas. I search a rockface exposed by erosion and find numerous fossils encased in the rough limestone matrix.

Gastropod fossils
Classic Murray scenery

Near the low cliffs there is a wide expanse of low bushes and grasses; ideal habitat for kangaroos. I have noticed a lot of kangaroo droppings on this trip though I have only caught a few fleeting glimpses of the animals themselves. I find a likely spot where I can watch the widest sweep of the terrain, a sit and wait strategy. Luck is on my side. Some ten minutes into my vigil I hear the bushes rustling off to my right and notice a roo feeding. My line of sight is obscured and I change position slightly. The kangaroo’s sensitive ears twitch and it turns towards me. A few seconds to shoot and the nervous animal bounds off.

Western Grey

I have been exploring the park for a couple of hours and it is time to return to the boat for lunch before we change location. For me, it is a chance to scan the shoreline as we cruise along. There are herons and egrets hunting in the shallows. Both Anhingas (snake birds) and cormorants perch on half submerged tree roots and dry their wings after hunting underwater. Occasionally, another craft passes by and we smile and wave sharing a moment that is unique to those who enjoy cruising along this mighty waterway.

Anhinga drying wings

Passing by
Tells a story

I hope these paragraphs and images inspire or a least suggest to you ‘Dear Reader’ that a houseboat adventure might be a reasonable proposition for your next holiday.

Cheers

Baz

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Secretive South Aussies

1 Mar

Dear Reader:

The diminutive birds look like mottled balls of feathers darting through the undergrowth. It is time to just sit and wait until one settles long enough to let me focus and fire. A keeper arrives and spreads some mealworms across the floor of the enclosure. Temerity is temporarily discarded and the Stubble Quail come out of hiding to feed. The Birds still move quickly as they peck at the mealworms and I must switch the camera to shutter priority which I have permanently set at 1/2000 of a second on my P900.

 

Stubble Quail feeding

Virtually all the photographs for my posts and the books I write are taken ‘in the field’ at the location I am exploring. However, sometimes there are animals that I see, hear or find traces of, but cannot photograph. For some of these species, wildlife parks, museums and zoos are an invaluable resource. Today, I am collecting images from Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills near Crafers and Mount Lofty; about a twenty minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD.

 

Inland Taipan

Near the exit and shop there is a building that houses nocturnal animals and a range of reptiles. Having gained permission to use limited flash photography, it can stress and annoy certain animals, I decide to target venomous snakes. When shooting through glass enclosures it is necessary to angle the flash to prevent the light from bouncing straight back into the lens. Luckily several of the snakes are active in their enclosures.

 

Eastern Brown Snake forked tongue protruding

In several decades of photographing wildlife I have seen very few venomous snakes and those I have encountered have been shy and almost impossible to photograph in any detail. Limiting my attempts because of the flash stress factor, I manage to get a couple of reasonable images of an Inland Taipan and an Eastern Brown Snake with its forked tongue protruding. The forked tongue that all snakes and monitor lizards possess, allows the reptiles to pick up tiny particles emitted by prey and determine direction and distance using a special feature known as the Jacobsen’s organ. The process is much the same as our two ears being set apart determining the direction of a sound based on the intensity and volume being different for each ear. By the way; snakes do not have ears but can feel vibrations through the ground.

 

Princess Parrot

South Australia has many beautiful bird species and it is often difficult to get near some of them in the wild. In addition, some species like Princess Parrots are quite rare or live in extremely remote areas. With this in mind, I stroll through one of the ‘walk-through’ aviaries in search of birds I have not previously encountered or photographed.

 

Ringtail Possum

Most South Australians know and recognise the common Brushtail Possums that frequent urban backyards and sometimes, to the dismay of residents, their roofs. It is the slightly smaller and endearing Ringtail Possum that is less often seen. To this end, I have arranged with an education officer to photograph the ringtail they use in lessons about our native marsupials. She carries the little marsupial out in a hessian sack and places it on a tree branch. I wait for the most natural pose and capture a couple of images.

With possum and possum image safely ‘in the bag’ it is time for lunch and a little retail therapy at the café and souvenir shop. The food is good and I am pleased to say that I find a copy of my last book ‘Discovering Adelaide’s Wildlife’, on the shelf. I never tire of Cleland and will return again in the cooler weather to add to my  ‘hard to get’ wildlife, photographic collection.  

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

These images were taken using a Nikon Coolpix P900 camera

This is an easy excursion which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, parking, restaurant and other facilities on site.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat Day 2 Lizards and Falcons

30 Jan

Dear Reader:

The cliffs rise steeply from the river’s surface. There are definite divisions in the strata indicating various periods in geological time. Tree roots, wind, water and the sun have weathered the rocky surface creating shallow caves, overhangs and depressions providing shelter for a variety of wildlife.

 

Typical limestone cliff scenery

We are travelling upstream from Morgan in our rented houseboat towards the little township of Cadell. Named after Francis Cadell, an early steamship navigator and explorer, the town sits in the Cadell Valley which is a Citrus and grape growing region. There is accommodation, a general store, second-hand shops, heritage centre and a ferry crossing.

 

Murray River Ferry at Cadell

The ochre coloured cliffs are home to numerous bird species but photographing them from a moving boat is challenging. I pick out what appears to be a family of raptors huddled in a narrow space near the cliff top and train the powerful lens of my Nikon P900 on the group. It is difficult to get a clear image. Nevertheless, I fire off half a dozen frames to work on later.

 

Fleeting glimpse of a raptor family on the cliff……shot from a moving boat at about 120 metres

Further down the river I notice some larger birds of prey. One is perched near a nest and the other sits on a eucalyptus branch overhanging the water. *They are either young White Breasted Sea Eagles or a juvenile kite species, possibly Whistling Kites.  

 

Eagle or Kite…..let me know please

The reeds and branches that line the edge of the river are home to a variety of waterbirds including: Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamp Hens, Pied Cormorants and Anhingas often called Snake birds. I focus on an Anhinga resting on a fallen branch.

 

Anhinga perching….note the webbed feet and spear-like beak

We moor the boat near a wide bend in the river and set up for an evening barbecue. I take a walk along the river bank and find a quiet place to sit and wait for the wildlife to appear; an approach that often pays dividends. I can hear the twittering of wrens and finches the rustling of other small animals in the undergrowth. Several small skinks appear on a log but they are too quick and timid for me to get a clear image. Moments later a Shingleback lizard emerges from leaf litter. Unaware of my presence the lizard comes quite close to me. When I lift the camera to get a shot it turns to face me, opens its mouth wide extending it bright blue tongue in a defensive display.

 

Shingleback or Sleepy lizard

Leaving the lizard to its meanderings in search of food and with a similar thought in mind I return to the boat for our evening barbecue. Full of steak, sausage and salad I go back through the days images and to my delight and surprise the raptors I photographed turn out to be Peregrine Falcons.

 

Peregrine Falcon at distance on the cliff face

Two days out and I have encountered quite a lot of wildlife. Who knows what the next day will bring.

Cheers

Baz

*If anyone can identify these birds please contact me and I will change the text accordingly

Additional notes

This is an easy boat trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors and only a current driving licence is required to operate a houseboat.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat Adventures Morgan Day 1

2 Jan

Dear Reader:

The road is ‘dead set’ straight for kilometre after kilometre. Expanses of saltbush and mallee scrub border the highway. While driving I scan the bush for wildlife. Crows perch on branches, an occasional parrot flies in front of the vehicle and there is the inevitable road-kill. I ease my foot onto the brake and pull over. Hundreds of meters across the saltbush, on the woodland fringe, I can see a pair of emus. My Nikon P900 is an excellent tool for locating an image at this range but even the 83X zoom is challenged when it comes to getting a good clear shot.

 

Emus at distance

I am driving to Morgan, an historic town on the River Murray about 160 kms from Adelaide. Morgan was a busy river port during the 1800s with hundreds of paddle steamers delivering goods prior to the advent of railways and more recently motor vehicle transport. However, this colourful history has given rise to Morgan’s current attractions; heritage docks, museum, renovated paddle steamer, historic trails and two wonderful, old pubs.

 

Books and bric a brac

Sandra at the helm

 

I am meeting friends for a week-long houseboat trip exploring this stretch of the river. Each afternoon we will pull into the bank at a different location, stay there overnight then head off again in the morning. For my companions it is an ideal way to spend some down time away from their busy lives. For me, it means long walks to explore and photograph each location, editing images and writing up notes as well as capturing images from the boat as it cruises along.

 

Whale vertebrate fossils

 

Our boat docked

Before we leave Morgan I take a stroll along the river bank towards the old wharf. It seems like a good place to look for animals that thrive close to human habitation. I can see swallows hawking across the water and picking off insects in the air but they rarely settle and photographing them in flight takes a better photographer than me. However, I do manage to spot a beautiful Eastern Water Skink catching the late afternoon sun.

 

Wharf, cliffs and old paddle-steamer being restored

 

Eastern Water Skink

Pleased with my final image, I head back to the boat for dinner and a pleasant evening socialising with friends before we set off up-stream in the morning to another location and a fresh adventure.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Only a driving license is required to operate a houseboat. We used Foxtail Houseboats and were more than pleased with their level of service.

Please pass on this blog title/contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

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