Archive | November, 2013

A Golden Day

24 Nov

 

Dear Reader:

The track is quite steep and the scrub dense. I can hear birds calling and catch fleeting glimpses of tiny finches foraging deep in the bushes. At the same time a group of lorikeets are feeding on eucalyptus blossoms in the canopy. But the birds are wary on this warm spring morning and keep moving out of camera range. Periodically, the eroded openings of narrow mine shafts, fenced off for safety, appear on both sides of the trail. I stop to reflect on the men who worked these dangerous tunnels armed only with buckets, ropes and spades. At the top of the hill, where I started my walk, a restored miner’s cottage and the weathered skeletons of a rock crusher and derrick suggest that the area had once been the centre of a sizeable mining operation.

1 mining equipment

Mining equipment

 

I am at the Barossa Goldfields about 40 kms from Adelaide between Williamstown and Gawler. At its peak in 1870, the lure of gold attracted around 4000 hopeful souls to these hills and over 25000 ounces of the precious metal was extracted. The site has been carefully restored by volunteers and is in the Para Wirra National Park; a worthwhile stop en route to the Barossa wineries if you care to take the back roads rather than the main highway. There is a network of well marked trails to suit walkers of all abilities and many excellent interpretive signs that cover everything from local geology to the everyday life of the original miners.

2 Cicadas

Cicadas

At the bottom of the trail there is a small creek still flowing from this year’s ample winter rains and as I cross it a kookaburra takes flight from a low branch where it had been watching for prey. The air is warm and buzzing with the calls of cicadas. I find a small eucalypt that seems to have more than its share of the ‘noisy little buggers’ and sit quietly in its shade for the next half hour trying to get a half decent shot.

4 Wattle bird

Wattle bird

 

As the trail climbs back out of the gully the terrain changes; the thick scrub gives way to more open grassland interspersed with stands of tall eucalypts. In the distance I catch sight of a pair of western grey kangaroos but they bound off over a ridge as I approach them. A scattering of rosellas are feeding in the grass and a wattle bird squawks defiance at a group of miner birds that are encroaching on its territory.

3 sleepy lizard

Sleepy lizard or shingleback skink

As the track takes a sharp bend I come across a sign that indicates a short cut back to the cottage and car park where I started my journey. It seems an opportune time to sit under a tree and take a ‘swig’ from my water bottle. However, I am not the only one who finds this a convenient resting place. I hear a faint rustling sound by my feet and a sleepy lizard materialises between a couple of rocks, its pine cone scales shiny and dark in the dappled light.

 

5 Grevillias

Grevillea flowers

 

I leave the lizard to its shady refuge and continue on my way, happy with my wildlife sightings and ready to wind up a successful morning’s trek. Close to the cottage another trail head appears. This track drops down sharply into a gully and I can see that the terrain has changed yet again. The soil is gravelly and grass trees, grevilleas and a variety of small plants with yellow, lilac and orange flowers, decorate the understory.

6 Grasshopper

Grasshopper species

The ever present eucalypts are a smaller more gnarled species. A few cicadas still buzz in the trees but on closer examination I can see a variety of other insects in the scrub including a glorious little cricket with ‘pink-camo-splotches’.

7 Grass tree amongst low eucalypts

Grass tree amongst stand of low growing eucalypts

 

I walk a couple of hundred metres further and realise that this trail is worth more than a cursory glance- but not today. And so ‘Dear Readers’ I look forward to another hike around the goldfields and the opportunity to share whatever I find with you.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 

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Photo Reflections 2

16 Nov

Dear Reader:

South Australia is an extraordinary place to live and work especially if you are a wildlife writer and photographer. Our fauna is both diverse and fascinating and en route to any destination there are always interesting country towns, world class wineries or vast rural properties to explore. This blog is a reflection of those attributes and is a collation of images and notes that remind me of the reasons I live and work here.

A Camping near Arkaroola

Camping near Arkaroola

 

Arkaroola is a world heritage wilderness area approximately 700 kilometres north of Adelaide. Its geology, Aboriginal heritage and wildlife make it a premier destination for off roaders, photographers and those who simply like a taste of real outback life.

B Nankeen night heron

Nankeen night heron

The wetlands around the Adelaide region have a core of commonly sighted species that include a variety of waterfowl, pelicans, ibises, swamp hens and swallows; to mention but a few. The nankeen night heron is one of the less frequently encountered birds which made photographing this one, as it hid in a willow overhanging a lake near my home, a special moment.

C Vines near McClaren Vale

Vines near McLaren Vale

 

The coast road that runs south from Adelaide along the Fleurieu Peninsula is a drive I have made countless times on the way to a dive site. On this occasion I was drawn to the dormant vines that stood in stark contrast to the overcast sky and yellow oxalis flowers.

D Biscuit star

Biscuit star

 

Sometimes the simplest creatures, the ones encountered countless times, catch your attention. Perhaps it is the light or just the way the animal is positioned. This common biscuit star caught my eye as it crept along the edge of a rock face covered in algae and a melange of encrusting organisms.

E Hoverfly on blossoms

Hoverfly on blossoms

 

Hoverflies are one of the most common invertebrates in our gardens. These agile little insects hover, flit and settle on a variety of flowering plants. They seem to be in constant motion. On an afternoon stroll through the Botanic Gardens an accommodating hoverfly settled on a nearby blossom giving me just a split second to get down low and capture this image which emphasises its startling compound eyes.

F Echidna foraging

Echidna foraging

 

Echidnas roam the length and breadth of Australia but they are not commonly seen. This one was trundling through the bush in the Adelaide Hills close to a termite mound that it had been ripping apart. It was the sound of the little spiky battle tank that gave away its location. Stealth does not appear to be part of their defensive repertoire. You don’t need to be furtive when you are armed with a plethora of sharp spines.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little reflection

Baz

Moralana Trail-Outback Wildlife With A Little History Thrown In

2 Nov

Dear Reader:

The sky is endless blue, interrupted by just a few cotton-wool clouds. High above the ranges I can see the outline of a wedge tail eagle spiralling on a thermal as it searches for prey. Once these majestic raptors were a common sight throughout the Flinders but with the decimation of the rabbit population their numbers have dropped. Today they hunt for more indigenous prey; wallabies, lizards and road kill from the many tracks that meander through the ranges. As I carefully steer the vehicle around another corrugated, gravelly bend, I catch site of a kangaroo standing motionless in the long grass. Easing to a stop, I wind down the window and take a closer look through a telephoto lens. The powerful, compact body and rusty brown tinge to its fur immediately mark it as a euro or hill kangaroo; a species that lives amongst the rocky outcrops rather than on the plains.

a Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

 

I am driving the Moralana trail, a 30 km dirt track that cuts across the Flinders Ranges, 40 kms south of the iconic bush resort of Wilpena Pound. The track is flanked by the jagged peaks of the pound on one side and the Elder Ranges on the other.  It is an easy drive compared to the trails that follow the gorges further north yet there is a proliferation of wildlife ranging from flocks of cockatoos to echidnas and several species of kangaroos.

b Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

 

We leave the euro feeding on some low bushes and continue our drive. A few kilometres further on, half hidden amongst a stand of pale barked eucalypts, I notice a rough cut log corral by the roadside. Closer examination reveals a plaque explaining that the structure is a restored ‘cueing’ or shoeing station. In the 1870s it serviced the bullock trains that hauled native pine logs which were then cut for the construction of the overland telegraph. The corral is just one of the many historic sites that remind us of the hardy pioneers who lived and worked in the Flinders during the state’s early years. After a long day’s driving, the cueing station seems a perfect place to stop for a late lunch and enjoy home baked meat pies and sausage rolls, purchased earlier in the day at a country bakery on the drive from Adelaide.

c Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

 

The afternoon sun is dropping low in the sky and it is unwise to drive these tracks in the evening as the roos become more active and 50 kgs of kangaroo smashing into a vehicle does neither animal nor car much good. I ease my foot down on the accelerator, the dust billows behind us and we continue our journey along the track. We catch sight of more kangaroos in the distance; they are probably western greys or reds. Suddenly, a pair of emus emerge from thick scrub alongside the road and for a few minutes the huge birds keep pace with the car before heading back into the bush. According to the map we are only a few kilometres from the junction with the Wilpena road when we slow for a broad, dry watercourse that cuts across the road. I turn the car into the creek and engage 4WD. We bump and slide over the round pebbles and avoid the larger boulders as we drive a couple of hundred metres along the creek and venture out for a final forage in the bush. We are not disappointed. On the dried out bank, wedged into a tight crack between some flat rocks, we come across a sleepy lizard which, judging from the snail shells close to its refuge, has made this little niche its home base for some time.

d A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

 

The sun is low now, the light soft but Moralana has one more moment in store for us. Close to the junction with the bitumen road, a small herd of wild horses are grazing near the fence-line. Whether these are true brumbies (Australian wild horses) or stock that is herded periodically for riding, I am not sure… but whatever their origin the very presence of these elegant animals was the perfect parting gift.

e Wild horses grazing near a creekline

Wild horses grazing

 

From the Flinders

Regards

Baz

 

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