Archive | June, 2014

The Paralana Trail

29 Jun

Dear Reader 

It’s winter but you’d hardly know it. The afternoon sky is a clear endless blue and though there’s a hint of the approaching night’s cold desert chill, the temperature is still a comfortable 25 degrees. I am in the Arkaroola Wilderness reserve in the Gammon Ranges some 1000 kms north of Adelaide heading towards the Paralana hot springs. After a hearty breakfast in the resort’s dining room we have loaded our gear into Suzuki GV and locked in 4WD for the 30 km trip along one of the most interesting off road adventures in this world heritage region.

Ochre wall

Ochre wall (click to enlarge)

 We have been crawling over the rugged terrain for about 20 minutes and the stony track has opened into a dry creek bed. One section of the embankment is quite extraordinary; a wave shaped deposit of ochre that contrasts sharply with the surrounding bush. This significant deposit was of great importance to the Adnyamathanha people who used it in ceremonies and to trade with other Aboriginal groups.

Rock skink

Unknown skink species (click to enlarge)

 While the others break out a little gas stove to brew a ‘cuppa’ I walk along the creek bed camera in hand. The unseasonably warm weather has brought out a few reptiles that would normally be hibernating at this time of the year. They are wary and the only clue to their presence is an occasional rustle in the undergrowth. Finally, one little skink that is basking on a weathered tree trunk decides that remaining motionless is a better option than retreating, offering me a nice clear shot.

(click to enlarge)

Male mulga parrot (click to enlarge)

Femal mulga parrot feeding on blue bush berries

Female mulga parrot (click to enlarge)

 Just as I am about to make my way back to the vehicle a flash of colour amongst the skeletal branches of a long dead acacia tree catches my eye. I peer through the telephoto and focus on the turquoise plumage of a male mulga parrot. If it is the mating season then the female should be nearby and with a little persistence I find her on the ground feeding on some small yellow berries that are the fruit of a low growing saltbush-like plant.

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Yellow footed rock wallabies on steep cliff (click to enlarge)

 Refreshed, we resume our drive along the trail, slowly climbing into the hills which provide spectacular views across the Gammons. Following a twisting descent down a narrow track we enter the spectacular Baranarra Gorge with its sheer rock walls and boulder strewn pools of clear fresh water.   Our progress has been slower than planned and it is late afternoon when we start to pick our way along the edge of the water hole. Almost immediately I hear the rattle of small rocks skittering down a steep rock face. Almost immediately I hear the rattle of small rocks skittering down a steep rock face. Looking up I catch sight of a pair of yellow footed rock wallabies precariously perched on the sheer cliff face. Once again, I am reminded of the extraordinary adaptations of these beautiful little animals. With their furry back feet perfectly designed for gripping rock surfaces, long counterbalancing tail and subtle camouflage, they are the Aussie equivalent of mountain goats.

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Chopper based at Arkaroola Village (click to enlarge)

 Unfortunately our stay must be a short one as the light is starting to fade and we must head back to our home base at the village. Tomorrow we have decided to take a helicopter flight over the area to get an overall picture of the terrain before our next off road foray.

Cheers

Baz

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Breakout Creek’s Herons

22 Jun

 

Dear Reader

It is a typically South Australian winter’s afternoon; cool, clear and sunny with a light breeze coming off the ocean.

5 heron poised to strike

Grey faced heron poised to strike….click to enlarge image

4 heron and yabbie

Heron and yabbie (freshwater crayfish)….click to enlarge image

 

The white faced heron is hunting amongst the shallow reed beds and rocks along the edge of the river bank. It moves slowly, carefully placing each of its long, spindly legs before freezing to stare into the water in search of prey. The long neck coils back slowly and then with disarming speed the dagger beak flashes into the water to snatch an unsuspecting yabbie. The bird rearranges the unlucky crawfish in its beak then strides onto the causeway to enjoy its catch.

3 white faced heron in flight

White faced heron in flight….click to enlarge image

 

Over the next few minutes I watch the heron as it continues to hunt in the same area. I am trying to capture some images that depict its hunting style but the wader is becoming more nervous and eventually takes to the air.

Breakout Creek looking south

Breakout Creek looking south….click to enlarge image

 

I am at Breakout Creek, a section of the Torrens where the river broadens and significant environmental work has been done to improve aquatic habitats. Over the years I have seen water rats, lizards, frogs, possums as well as a wide variety of birds in this area. It is a favourite destination when I go for a bike ride along Linear Park and one that I would recommend to any visitor who enjoys the outdoors and a little mild exercise. Free bikes are available at the weir near the golf course and the ride to Breakout Creek and back is an easy one hour pedal.

7 greater egret

Greater egret….click to enlarge image

 

From the causeway I cycle back towards the city for a couple of hundred metres then dismount where the reeds are thickest. Between a small island and the bank a lone greater egret is hunting, half concealed by the brush. Like the grey face the egret uses its long bill to snatch small prey from the water and while I am watching it snaps up several small fish.

2 Nankeen night heron

Nankeen night heron….click to enlarge image

 

Close by the reed bed some tall eucalypts overhang the creek and, as luck would have it, there is a far more unusual heron roosting in the topmost branches. The nankeen night heron is a nocturnal hunter and it spends the days resting before hunting for its prey when the sun goes down. This one is becoming a little more active as it is now late afternoon. Night herons are one of my favourite birds and though they are not exactly rare along the river seeing one is a bit of a treat.

6 red ochre grill

Red ochre grill….click to enlarge image

 

Three herons in one day (egrets are a kind of heron )……nice; but the day is not done and I have planned to meet a friend for dinner at the Red Ochre Grill, a fabulous restaurant adjacent to the weir, golf course and bike hire station where I started my ride. Their menu, which sources local ingredients and is a kind of upmarket take on the bush tucker concept, is certainly something to look forward to.

 

Until next time

Baz    

Mount Barker’s Wetland Wonders

8 Jun

Dear Reader;

It is a glorious autumn day, perfect for a little bird-watching and a stroll around the water.

 

The tiny plover has been edging around the reed beds for the last ten minutes, finally coming out of the dense cover around the lake to probe the mud for worms and other avian niceties. The colourful little wader seems more confident and continues to feed just forty metres from where I am concealed in the undergrowth; a little too close to bull ant nest for comfort. Eventually it comes close enough for me to fire off a couple of shots before taking off abruptly, spooked by a pair of maned ducks cruising low over the water.

 

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Black-fronted plover (click to enlarge)

 

I am at the Laratinga wetland on the edge of Mount Barker, the largest town in the Adelaide Hills. The word Laratinga comes from the indigenous name for the Mt Barker Creek and near the entrance of the wetlands there is magical series of portraits that relate episodes within the timeline of the original inhabitants of the area, the Peramangk people. Mount Barker is a busy regional centre with plenty of places to buy fresh local ingredients for making up a picnic lunch to enjoy while you wander around the wetlands observing the diverse collection of plants and animals that live there.

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Portraits at the wetlands (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

Leaving my hiding place on the edge of the lake, I follow one of the many trails that zigzag through the reserve. Near the edge of another patch of reeds a small flock of ibis are feeding in the shallows. Their distinctive curved beaks and greater size means they might be feeding in the same habitat as the little plover but their prey will be distinctly different. Such a variety of beaks, feet and size is one of the reasons that so many different species of birds can feed together in the same area without destroying the food supply. But the wetland is not reserved for wildlife enthusiasts and a jogger runs a little too close to the flock causing the them take to the air. Despite this being a fairly recent wetland, constructed by the council to filter water naturally, wildlife and people live quite harmoniously and the birds soon return to their chosen spot and resume dining.

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Ibis in flight (click to enlarge)

 

 

Although I have caught a fleeting glimpse of a couple of turtles in the shallow pools and the undergrowth has more than healthy population of insects; it is the bird life that is dominating my walk around the wetlands. The reeds that encircle the water are a veritable cathedral of birdsong. I can hear the twitter of finches and reed warblers in the tangle of greenery and occasionally catch sight of one of the tiny birds flitting amongst them. Finally a superb blue wren makes a more prolonged appearance as it perches on a reed stem giving me just enough time for one last shot before I leave.

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Superb blue wren (click to enlarge)

 

Cheers

Baz

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