Archive | March, 2013

A Drive Along the Beach

20 Mar

Dear Reader

At the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula the rocky cliffs and granite outcrops of Victor Harbor and Port Elliot subside into a long stretch of pristine sandy beaches. They are the product of aeons of erosion and define the area where Australia’s longest river, the Murray; meets the ocean. The beach is easily accessed from the old river port of Goolwa and the short 5 Km drive along its length is only possible in a  4WD vehicle, Even then, it is best to keep a close eye on the tide and have a little experience driving in soft, sandy conditions.

Four wheel drive entry to Goolwa Beach

Four wheel drive entry to Goolwa Beach

Over the last few weeks I have made the trip several times to photograph and observe the wildlife that lives along the tidal zone and in the windswept dunes. Twice, I reached the river mouth and once I had to turn back as the high tide and churned up sand made the going a little too difficult for my SUV.

Goolwa beach near the Murray mouth showing different environments

Goolwa beach near the Murray mouth showing different environments

The surf breaks for several hundred metres out to sea along this beach and sometimes you can be lucky enough to see a dolphin or the dark outline of a whaler shark hunting for Australian salmon or mulloway in the waves. However, most of the time it is the caspian terns that dominate the open ocean as they dive for schools of baitfish or rest on the wet sand ready to set off and hunt again.

You've done something different with your hair

You’ve done something different with your hair

In the shallow surf break a dozen different species of waders can be seen each exploiting its own niche with its specialised beak and hunting style. Diminutive sanderlings and dotterels race along the sand in between the wave fronts gleaning tiny invertebrates and worms too small to see. Small groups of oystercatchers use their broadened beaks to dig out cockles and prise them open while avocets use their slightly upturned bills to catch tiny crustaceans and other invertebrates swimming in the shallow water. In fact, what at first glance appears to be an homogenous continuum of beach; is in reality, a collection of micro habitats or niches, each exploited by its own particular species of bird.

Pied Oystercatchers feeding in the surf

I hope you enjoyed this jaunt along the beach and stay tuned for more South Aussie  adventures.

Cheers

Baz

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Golf Course Birdies

9 Mar

Dear Reader

Adelaide has a diverse collection of golf courses. They wind along the coast, straddle the hills face and even overlook the heart of the city. Their well-watered fairways, native bushes and towering trees provide an attractive habitat for a wide variety of wildlife ranging from kangaroos and possums to waterfowl and colourful parrots.

Well watered fairways and a diverse collection of shrubs and trees provide an enticing array of niches for different bird species

Well watered fairways and a diverse collection of shrubs and trees provide an enticing array of environments for wildlife

This week’s story comes from one of the two inner city courses that stretch between the Torrens Lake and the fine old villas and tree-lined streets of North Adelaide. They are back to back public courses that are used by walkers, golfers and, of course, the occasional wildlife photographer.

An Adelaide rosella nonchalently feeds on seeds as a golfer strolls past

An Adelaide rosella nonchalantly feeds on seeds as a golfer strolls past

My morning walk started around eight and my quarry was the various groups of cockatoos that I had noticed feeding on the fairways earlier in the week. Although the birds are up and about just after dawn the light is not really conducive to capturing quality images in the early hours. As I strolled past the clubhouse towards one of the greens near the end of the course I heard the unmistakeable chatter of galahs (rose-breasted cockatoos). A quick glance around the area and I discovered half a dozen birds in a nearby patch of rough using their powerful, curved beaks to dig out tubers and crack open fallen seeds.

Galah searching for seeds amongst leaf litter below pine trees 2

Galah searching for seeds amongst leaf litter below pine trees

After a few minutes I left the cockies to their morning meal and moved across the course to a stand of tall, pale Eucalypts. As I scanned the canopy for movement several of the feeding birds flew onto a branch and started to groom each other. This was an unusual behaviour that I had not previously observed in galahs though I am sure these gregarious parrots interact socially in many ways. Perhaps they were a nesting pair and an older offspring. The grooming continued for a few minutes then escalated into a good natured session of sparring with beaks and wings that looked remarkably like a wrestling match.

Galahs socialising after flying into a Eucalyptus tree

Galahs socialising after flying into a Eucalyptus tree

My final cockatoo encounter was with a small group of little corellas near the car parking area. They were using their powerful beaks and claws to break up pine cones and extract the seeds. The birds seemed oblivious to me as they worked away at their hard won meal and I was able to sit and watch them for some time.

Little Corella demolishing a pine cone

Little corella demolishing a pine cone

Cheers

Baz

A Sunday Walk…….Hackney Street Bridge

1 Mar

Dear reader

South Australia’s wild expanses are vast and the wildlife fascinating  in these remote areas but the cities and towns have their own natural features and often the wildlife is equally prolific and interesting in these urban spaces.

The River Torrens flows from the Adelaide hills through the city and on to the coast. It is an effective wildlife corridor supporting a wide range of animals and plants. The government of South Australia, along with local councils and interested wildlife groups, have crafted the aptly named ‘Linear Park’ along the urban sector of the waterway. It is defined by a narrow strip of bushland that runs along the river from the hills suburb of Athelstone to its outlet at Henley Beach. Walking or cycling along sections of this trail is a great way to experience the wildlife of the region. In some areas there are also interpretive references and information about the Kaurna People; the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the Adelaide plains.

Bubble fountains installed in the river help reduce algal blooms in the hot summer months

Bubble fountains installed in the river help reduce algal blooms in the hot summer months

The section of park that runs between the two bridges spanning Hackney and Frome roads is one of my favourite haunts. Although it is on the very fringe of the city centre there is a surprising amount of wildlife for the careful observer to enjoy. My last walk along this section of the river was an early morning jaunt on a Sunday. I shared the path with a few cyclists and joggers all blissfully unaware of the interesting creatures that they were passing.

Cyclist crossing linear park behind the Zoo

Cyclist crossing linear park behind the Zoo

Several stands of large eucalypts overhang this part of the river providing perfect roosting sires for great cormorants. This particular morning several of the birds were puffing out their neck feathers and jockeying for position on some bare branches trying to catch the first rays of the sun filtering through the canopy. As I walked along the bank they started to stretch their wings and glide down to the water to begin the morning’s hunt for fish, frogs and occasional water kkink.

Great Cormorants roosting in trees overhanging the Torrens Lake

Great cormorants roosting in trees overhanging the Torrens Lake

And there were quite a few nervous skinks for the cormorants to set their sights on. Amongst the tall papyrus reeds that grow along much of the bank, I could hear the rustle of the little reptiles as they scurried into the dense matt of stalks and grasses. Eventually one of the lizards decided that freezing was a better escape strategy and I was able to capture an image before it too, disappeared into the reeds. The area seemed to have quite a large population of lizards so I adopted a sit and wait policy. A few minutes later my patience was rewarded when I noticed two cormorants fishing close to the reeds.  After several failed attempts one of the birds emerged with either a slender fish or a lizard firmly clamped in its hooked beak which it then dispatched with a quick gulp.

A water skink freezes in the undergrowth near the river bank

A water skink freezes in the undergrowth near the river bank

 

The first half an hour of my walk had taken me along the western bank up to the Frome Road Bridge. From there I crossed the river and walked back along the opposite side. Small groups of Pacific and maned ducks were feeding close to the bank and a small Australian grebe was having an energetic wash in a sheltered pool.  But it was a colourful dragonfly that really caught my attention as it flitted over the water eventually settling on the branch of a gum tree. One brief moment for a photo op and it was gone.

Dragonfly on eucalyptus branch

Dragonfly on eucalyptus branch

My final wildlife encounter was with a couple of mudlarks that had built a cup shaped mud nest in one of the taller eucalypts that grew out from the bank. One of these territorial little birds was aggressively defending its territory against a large raven that had landed too close to their nesting site. The other bird was perched on a branch peering into the bushes near the water in search of prey.

A Mudlark perches on a branch watching for insects

A mudlark perches on a branch watching for insects

 

Insects, reptiles, birds and a good walk; not a bad way to spend the morning- just one final touch, breakfast in one of Adelaide’s parkland bistros a few minute’s drive from the river.

Cheers

Baz

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