Archive | April, 2014

Quinn and Pop do Cleland

21 Apr

Dear Reader:

Though I have photographed wildlife for over 30 years, I still get excited when I see an unusual bug in the garden or hear the screech of sulphur crested cockatoos on my morning bike ride. However, every photographer needs an extra bit of inspiration; that fresh way to see the world. Mine came from taking two year old Quinn to explore Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills. Seeing a child experience the beauty and mystery of nature is something that no amount of field experiences can ever compete with. With a little hand tucked in mine I was guided along the bushland paths to the sound of……

“Pop come see.”

“Look croos!!”…. (kangaroos, I presumed correctly)

 

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My first wildlife park

Quinn loves animals, she has a dog, a cat and often toddles down the road to the local wetlands where every bird species is still classified as a duck. At Cleland she was overwhelmed by the variety of new animals and ran between marsupials and reptiles then on to the birds (ducks) with ever increasing gusto. The wildlife was not quite as enthusiastic about her energy levels and tended to disappear with a hop, scuttle or ‘flap of wing’ as the two year old whirlwind bore down on them. The combined wisdom of Mum and Nan tried to instil a sense of calm and caution when dealing with wildlife but the concept did not seem to gel with her two year old philosophy.

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Quinn has a puppy too…not quite a dingo

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Stop croo stop

 

Unsurprisingly, the koalas were a particular hit. She probably associated their solid, furry bodies and bear-like appearance with the plethora of animated cartoon characters featured in various children’s programs. Next time we will get the obligatory ‘kid with koala’ image but on this public holiday excursion the overseas visitor line stretched away into the horizon. A few minutes watching the iconic marsupials climbing, snoozing and munching gum leaves, had to suffice; at least she was still for a while.

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An enclosure of cute

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Koala are not bears…a lesson for later

 

After an hour and half of unbridled, two year old enthusiasm we decided/hoped that she had used up her energy quota. Not so: near the gate there is an indoor complex that features species that require individual conditions such as specialised lighting, temperature control and enclosures that safeguard the public from venomous bites. In she went and spent the next 20 minutes staring at these more unusual animals which included: taipans, death adders and a variety of lizards. Eyes wide and somewhat subdued she grabbed my hand and repeated her, Pop come see’ request as we looked intently at each display.

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Mulga snake or king brown… she really liked this one

 

Even as we left the park she was pointing and staring into the trees that surround Cleland in the apparent hope of seeing more wildlife. To be honest I was amazed and secretly wondering at what age a child can be trusted with her first digital camera.

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Before I become a naturalist I’ll try art

 

It was an exhilarating day in a lovely bushland setting; without doubt, a place to take the family and experience the wildlife that makes SA such an extraordinary place to live or visit.

Cheers

Baz

 

Footnote

She slept all the way home

Mum hit the sack at 8.00 pm

Nan rubbed in some back ointment

I pored over the camera and laptop to record a Quinn-based blog

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Two out of Three ‘aint Bad

15 Apr

  The red bellied black is sunning itself on the track about forty metres in front of us. It hasn’t caught the scent of the dog yet or reacted to the vibrations created by our footsteps. We stop and watch it for a few seconds and that change in rhythm seems to alert the snake. Suddenly, a grey faced heron that is feeding amongst the samphire plants that line the foreshore of the lake, takes to the air. That is warning enough for the reptile and in the blink of an eye it has disappeared into the wetland. My companions are relieved, the dog is unaware and I must admit to being a little disappointed. They walk on ahead while I sit on a pine railing near the last point of sighting and watch. Sometimes a little patience pays off and after a few minutes I see just enough of the snake to fire off a single frame before it weaves its way deeper into the swamp.

Red bellied black snake hunting

Red bellied black snake hunting

  These rather striking snakes are quite common in the cooler wetland areas of southern Australia. They grow to around 2 metres in length and their diet includes a variety of small mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles including their own species. They are related to the deadlier and more aggressive brown and tiger snakes that also occur in this area. Red bellied blacks produce between 5 and 18 young which are delivered in a membranous sac; they are considered to bear live young rather than produce eggs.

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Lake Alexandrina on the shores of Milang

  My encounter with the black snake occurs along a dirt track on the edge of the small town of Milang, on the shore of Lake Alexandrina. With a population of just 500 Milang is a charming reminder of the bygone era of paddle steamers and rural living. The little township is a pleasant twenty minute drive from the rural centre of Strathalbyn. It is accessed by both sealed and unsealed roads which pass through rolling farmland and vineyards. With a caravan park, wharf, general store, designated walking trail and several historic sites; Milang is a great place to spend a couple of laid back days in the South Australian countryside.

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Common brown snake in strike position

  Leaving the black snake to its swampy refuge, I walk further down the trail and to my astonishment I catch sight of a long slender tail protruding from the edge of the grass verge. I freeze and ‘ever so carefully’ step forward until ‘snake two’ is immediately below me. It is almost completely obscured by a tangle of grasses and reeds. I watch it for a few minutes trying to angle my camera for a worthwhile shot. No luck; the common brown snake; the second most venomous land snake in the world; remains motionless, using its colouration and shape to stay hidden. I step back to change the angle fractionally and when I glance back through the viewfinder the snake is gone…without the slightest sound it simply disappeared into the grass.    

Dirt track between swamp and township

Dirt track between swamp and township

I have been photographing wildlife in South Australia for many years and I rarely see venomous snakes. To see two of the resident three species in the space of 15 minutes is extraordinary to say the least. Needless to say I did not run into a tiger snake on my return walk along the track.  

Cheers Baz

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