Archive | July, 2014

Kestrels at the Cape

25 Jul

Dear Reader:

It is late morning on a fine winter’s day and I am leaving the dirt road from Victor Harbor to join the main route back to Adelaide. As I round the curve the descent towards the coast is quite spectacular. From the top of the hill the road drops away sharply providing a panoramic view of open pastures dotted with small dams and patches of native vegetation. A corridor of lazy blue ocean separates the mainland from the island, which appears as a hazy outline on the horizon.

View from the top

View from the top (click to enlarge)

Closer to the coast a dirt track leads to a viewing point alongside a small stand of low trees and bushes. From the elevated position I watch the Sealink ferry crossing Backstairs Passage and stop to take a shot as it docks at the terminal below. While I focus on the ship I can hear the twittering of finches in the nearby scrub and catch a fleeting glimpse of two brightly coloured rosellas gliding into one of the taller bushes.

Rosella feeding in accacia tree

Rosella feeding in acacia tree (click to enlarge)

Sealink ferry docking at Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in background

Sealink ferry docking at Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in background (click to enlarge)

The ferry from Kangaroo Island docks at Cape Jervis on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is one of my favourite places in the South Australia; from the little coastal hamlet you can visit local beaches and dive spots, access the Deep Creek Conservation Park, organise a charter fishing expedition or take a day trip to Kangaroo Island.

Rocky outcrops extending into the sea

Rocky outcrops extending into the sea (click to enlarge)

From the lookout I follow the road down to the lighthouse and park on a track a hundred metres back from the sea. The shoreline is a geology lesson in itself, with weathered ridges of dark rock ‘criss-crossed’ by veins of quartz, jutting into the ocean and patches of coarse sand and fractured rocks abutting the low earthen cliffs. In the distance I can see a line of giant wind turbines silhouetted on a faraway hilltop and the smell of salt air combined with the sound of waves breaking amongst the rocks fills my senses.

Nankeen kestral hovering above beach

Nankeen kestrel hovering above beach (click to enlarge)

As I move up the foreshore, picking my way between the boulders, I can see two  kestrels hovering over the beach. They seem to be systematically working together; one hovers for  a few minutes over the rocks then moves on while the other works the grassy slopes a little further inland. By pure chance they are slowly coming towards me so I lift the camera skyward and try to remain as still as humanly possible until the birds are almost directly above. I fire off a dozen shots and smile at my good fortune.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly (click to enlarge)

Pied crmorant by rockpool

Pied cormorant by rock pool (click to enlarge)

Raven with nesting material

Raven with nesting material (click to enlarge)

My walk provides a few more interesting moments: a cluster of monarch butterflies in a shrub that looks like milkweed, a lone pied cormorant sunning itself on one of the rocky outcrops that reach into the sea and a raven that is tearing up seaweed on the breakwater for nesting material. However, while I sit in the ferry terminal sipping a coffee, watching passengers returning from KI and reviewing my images I realise that it is the kestrels that have really made my day.

Cheers

Baz

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Mt Lofty on a Winter’s Day

12 Jul

Dear Reader:

Last weekend was cool and clear, perfect winter weather for a visit to Adelaide’s highest point, Mt lofty. The bush covered peak is a mere twenty minutes drive from the city along the SE freeway and the viewing deck and restaurant are surrounded by tall eucalypts that are home to a variety of wildlife.

AD A view from the top  (click to enlarge)

A view from the top (click to enlarge)

A selection of walking trails and bike tracks converge on the summit and earlier in the year I had spent some time walking along their lower sections photographing wildlife. However, on this occasion I had decided to see if the distribution of species was different at a slightly higher altitude in the cooler months.

AG Mt Lofty summit - Copy

Mt Lofty summit (click to enlarge)

The summit was quite busy with a smattering of mountain bikers and walkers using the trails and dozens of casual visitors simply enjoying coffee and the view from the observation deck and glass fronted dining areas. As I knelt down by my pack to select a lens I heard the chattering call of some blue wrens that were flitting between some nearby bushes and diving into the undergrowth. I watched their antics for a few minutes before heading off on one of the shorter trails that circle the summit.

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Male blue wren surveying his territory(click to enlarge)

AH White backed magpie (click to enlarge)

White backed magpie (click to enlarge)

After walking for several minutes I noticed a sizeable magpie foraging for grubs amongst the grass and rocks. As I paused to take a few shots a group of Japanese tourists stopped and asked about the different birds in this area. We spent an enjoyable few minutes chatting and comparing their native species to ours; it transpired that they were an ornithological party on a study tour.

AE Natve heath - Copy

Native heath (click to enlarge)

AB Rosella feeding in the trees (click to enlarge)

Rosella feeding in the trees (click to enlarge)

A little further along the trail the greens and browns of the understory were enhanced by small patches of bright red flowers belonging to one of the hardy little heaths that flowers in the winter months. But the real splash of colour on this winter’s day was a colourful Adelaide rosella that was feeding on berries high in the branches above me. This was quite unusual as virtually every rosella I have observed feeding has been foraging on the ground for seeds and tubers.

AA Large male koala near the restaurant entrance - Copy

Large male koala near the restaurant exit (click to enlarge)

Mount Lofty, as I have pointed out, is a prime tourism site and in keeping with this status it provided one final surprise. A large male koala, that seemed to be extending a farewell gesture of pure Australiana, was comfortably tucked into the forked branches of a large gum tree alongside to the exit path.

Cheers

Baz

Rapid Bay’s Misty Morning Predators

5 Jul

Dear Reader:

The road drops sharply from a cloud enveloped ridge top to the beach then emerges from the mist alongside a small creek. The sky is clearer close to the ocean and I can see the familiar outline of the steep cliffs and the twin jetties that jut out into the gulf. It is a chilly winter’s morning and my hands are cold as I organise my back pack and cameras ready for a stroll along the seafront.

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The creek at Rapid Bay (click to enlarge)

Two large birds are flying slowly along the beach front; in the early morning light they seem to resemble pacific gulls, a fairly common species along this part of the coast. I track the seabirds with my long lens and fire off a series of shots and quickly review them. Although the light mist obscured the birds’ features to the naked eye the captured images reveal a pleasant surprise. The wing feathers, tail shape and characteristically curved beak indicate a far more interesting and less common bird….the white breasted sea eagle. A little further down the coast I can see the eagles rise up on a thermal alongside the cliffs as they soar in tight spirals before resuming their beach patrol.

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White breasted sea eagle (click to enlarge)

The beach with its high cliffs, creek and mining jetty define one of the Fleurieu Peninsula’s most interesting and historic locations; Rapid Bay.  It was here that Adelaide’s original surveyor Colonel Light anchored his brig ‘The Rapid’ in the sheltered bay uttering the words “I have hardly seen a place I like better”.  Only 100 kms south of Adelaide, Rapid Bay is a prime location for divers and anglers. It is also  holds a significant place in the lore of several local Aboriginal peoples; a feature of the area that I will explore in more depth at a later date.

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Anglers on the jetty (click to enlarge)

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Southern calamari (click to enlarge)

From the beach front I walk along a short dirt road to the jetty. A couple of fishers tell me that a sea lion has been hunting in the shallows between the new and old jetty. After a few minutes a sleek grey shape twists and turns in the water only a dozen metres away and a whiskery face pops up, surveys the surface and is gone as suddenly as it appeared. The anglers tell me that they have tossed a couple of squid to it and that the sealion has been around the jetties for the last couple of days.

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Australian sealion (click to enlarge)

I watch the men jigging for squid for a few more minutes before returning to the car which is parked near the creek. As I pack up my gear I can hear the sound of finches in the bushes and reeds but it is difficult to focus on the tiny birds especially in these low light conditions. While I am concentrating on the tiny birds a large raven appears on the nearby embankment with a piece of squid in its beak and proceeds to tear the rubbery flesh apart while keeping a wary eye on me and croaking out a few warning calls to any other would be scavengers that might fancy a calamari entree.

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Little raven (click to enlarge)

Eagles, sealions, squid and even a dolphin that cruises past as I leave the jetty; it has been a morning of predators and scavengers both aquatic and aerial. And now it is my turn to grab a bite to eat. Leonard’s Mill, a renovated flour mill, is one of my favourite dining spots and on the main highway to town a mere 15 kms from the Rapid Bay turn off. Their calamari is on the menu as salt and pepper squid and best enjoyed with a fine white wine from the local vineyards.

Cheers

Baz

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