Archive | February, 2013

One ‘Ticked Off ‘ Tiger Snake

16 Feb

 Field Notes

Dear reader

Sometimes life gets a little too busy and the pressures of work and family don’t allow me time to sit down, sort through my notes and put together a polished article. So I have simply edited my field notes in the hope that they will stand alone as an enjoyable account of my brush with one of Australia’s deadliest reptiles.

Setting

Late Summer, midday, on the banks of the river Murray near Mannum about 100kms NE of Adelaide. A smallish town, good pub with excellent view of river and great meals. Some nice antique and bric-a-brac shops, historic paddle steamer and houseboats to hire.

Notes

  • A pleasant drive from the city through the foothills.
  • Parts of the countryside is still green from good winter rains.
  • The rain shadowed plains on the other side of the ranges are quite dry and you can see the course of the river from the granite outcrops near Palmer.

    Clssical Murray river environment showing billabongs

    Clssical Murray river environment showing billabongs

  • We crossed the river on the Mannum ferry and drove along the edge of one of the billabongs.
  • Several small boats and a kayaker cruised past enjoying the sheltered environment away from the main channel.
  • The river level is high and there is quite a lot of debris along the bank.
  • There are numerous waterbirds foraging in the shallows and some parrots in the trees and I spotted a water skink on a concrete jetty near a bed of reeds.

    Pelicans feeding in the shallows near reeds

    Pelicans feeding in the shallows near reeds

  • I decided to explore a tangle of reeds and driftwood that was caught in the roots of one of the large river gums that grow on the edge of the bank.
  • As I pushed through some of the reeds I heard the distinct rustle of a fairly large animal moving away from me.
  • A sizeable tiger snake shot out from under a small log to my right and headed towards the water.
  • I froze momentarily so as not to alarm it unduly and steady myself to take a picture if it stopped-as opposed to freezing because it scared the .#$%%^&&  out of me.
  • Tiger snakes are one of the top ten most venomous snakes on the planet and can be rather aggressive when threatened. They feed on a variety of small riverside animals ranging from frogs and lizards to mice and birds. A large tiger snake can measure up to 2 metres. There are several varieties and the namesake stripes are not always obvious.
  • The snake paused after a few seconds and turned to face me.
  • It was about 3-4 metres away but looked unnervingly close through the telephoto lens.
  • The reptile had moved into the shadows and a quick review of my shots revealed a mottled and shady image.
  • I popped up the flash and fired another couple of frames.
  •  The snake did not like that and reared into a strike position as the second burst of light was emitted.
  • The results were startling, a Tiger Snake, mouth agape and fangs visible.

    Tiger snake striking

    snake striking

  • Time to leave and not annoy the tiger anymore
  • We continued to drive along the river bank track enjoying the scenery and had no more serious reptilian encounters other than a couple more skinks

    Water Skink near the river bank

    Skink near the river bank

  • Stopped  at the Pretoria Hotel on the banks of the main river
  • Great food, plenty of it and a glorious view of the river from the glass fronted dining room
  • Some pelicans feeding close to the river bank
  • Crossed back on the ferry then drove along the river towards Walker Flats to take in the views of the cliffs and an interesting stretch of Mallee scrub.

    Crossing the Murray at Mannum on the ferry

    Crossing the Murray at Mannum on the ferry

  • We have previously observed wombats here, foraging near the road in the late afternoon.
Wombat in sandy terrain within Mallee scrub near the river
Wombat in sandy terrain within Mallee scrub near the river

Cheers

Baz

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A Morning Walk Along Dry Creek

3 Feb

Dry creek is one the numerous watercourses that drain the Adelaide Hills. It is a corridor of native vegetation that attracts a variety of birds, insects and reptiles. Like most of Adelaide’s creeks, it has well established walking and bike trails and provides a convenient and effective way to experience the natural beauty that our state has to offer. The section of the creek that I usually explore is extremely easy to access as it is a five minute walk from Tea Tree Plaza a major hills face shopping complex that is serviced by numerous buses.

Dry Creek from Ladywood Bridge

Dry Creek from Ladywood Bridge

In the drier summer months Dry Creek provides a few pools of water for the local wildlife to survive the hot dry weather. The creek runs close to the bottom of my street and several times each week I will cycle or walk along its course observing and photographing the never ending cycle of life that it supports. This is one of many posts that will document my continued fascination with this easily accessed wildlife refuge. Sometimes I will focus on a particular species. Alternatively, I may simply record my observations of the wildlife that I encounter on a walk or ride.

The canopy of an ancient River Gum provides a myriad of micro habitats for birds and invertebrates and even the odd possum or Koala

Yesterday morning I fitted a new Canon 100-400 lens to my 600D and headed down to the creek to take a stroll and try out the equipment in a variety of situations. As it is mid-summer and many of the eucalypts trees that line the creek have stopped flowering and the shrubs and grasses are losing much of their nutritional value making the wildlife a little scarce. Treading lightly and watching carefully was the order of the day. Within a couple of minutes I heard the warbling cry of a White Backed Magpie and one of the powerful black and white birds dropped out of a tree just in front of me with a sizeable Christmas Beetle in its beak. I lifted the camera and focused quickly but the bug already heading down its gullet and I only managed to catch a smug looking bird staring across the grass in search of more prey.

Satisfied White Backedd Magpie that has just swallowed a beetle

Further along the creek I edged closer to the water and started to search for insects amongst the wild grasses and rushes. To my surprise I came upon a roach perched on a head of wild wheat. Not the common, old black roach that we find around the house and compost bins but a striking gold and brown specimen. An attractive roach- if roaches can be called that. Although the roach was quite large it was a good test for the lens as a macro tool. But with a minimum focusing distance is 1.8 metres, some cropping would be still be required.

Bush cockroach on cereal grass head

The creek even on a midsummer morning is rarely a quiet place and this day was no exception. A crescendo of raucous squawking announced a flight of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. They circled high above the creek then landed in an old decaying Red Gum that towered above one of the few pools to still hold water. One bird in particular seemed to take offence at my presence and sat defiantly on the end of a branch simultaneously erecting his bright yellow crest and screeching cockatoo obscenities in my direction.

Suphur Crested Cockatoo feeling a little stressed near nesting hole

My final discovery for the morning was neither bird, mammal nor insect but a reptile. When I reached the largest pool along this part of the creek I noticed a pattern of concentric ripples radiating from a point near a patch of reeds. Through the camera, I could just make out the pointy snout of a freshwater turtle coming up for air; a good test for the lens at distance and in the low light conditions and a great way to finish my morning walk.

Short Necked Turtle coming up for a breath of air

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