Archive | November, 2014

Crossing the Creek

30 Nov

Dear Reader:

In my other life I am a teacher and my school has the unique advantage of having a creek running through the centre of the campus neatly dividing us into two quite distinct entities. I say advantage but to those less enamoured by the lure of nature it is seen, more as a barrier; to each their own. Every day I cross the creek on at least a half dozen occasions and every day I see something interesting that I point out to my students in the hope that it might promote a little engagement with the non-digital world. Duelling magpies, mating dragonflies and the occasional brown snake have all been prime time features.

Baz teaching creek studies on the bridge

Baz teaching creek studies on the bridge (click all images on page to enlarge)

 

 

Education aside, the creek is a wonderful resource for the people who live in the area and walkers, joggers and cyclists alike use the pathways that run along the banks. Currently, the creek is starting to dry out as spring fades and summer breathes its hot northerly winds across the city. But there is still a diverse mixture of wildlife taking advantage of the receding water. Both black and maned ducks have raised their ducklings in the small pools near the school bridge and chestnut teal with their striking markings are not uncommon.

Black ducks and chestnut teal

Black ducks and chestnut teal

 

 

My creek runs through the suburb of Mawson Lakes which has been fashioned around a series of artificial lakes that in themselves are home to various water birds, turtles and huge carp. The central shopping area is a good place to start a walk as it has a nice little cafe overlooking the main stretch of water and the coffee is good. Mawson Lakes is a twenty minute train or bus ride from the city and the train station sits on the northern edge of quite a sizeable expanse of swampy wetland.

Mating dragonflies

Mating dragonflies

 

 

The local council have planted bushes and trees along the length of the creek which attract a variety of birds. Rainbow lorikeets seem to be around the area throughout the year with the greatest numbers occurring when the eucalyptus trees are flowering. They provide these raucous little parrots with the nectar, seeds and blossoms that are the bulk of their diet.

Rainbow lorikeet feeding on eucalyptus blossoms

Rainbow lorikeet feeding on eucalyptus blossoms

 

 

During my most recent foray across the creek it was large water birds that dominated the reedy watercourse. Ibis and herons are quite common but one of the children rekindled my faith in the observation abilities of twelve year olds when she noticed that one of the ibises had a different shaped beak which it was swinging through the water rather than probing. It turned out to be our first spoonbill for the year.

Spoonbill feeding

Spoonbill feeding

 

 

Until our next chat

Baz

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The Old Talisker Mine

15 Nov

The view from the top of the hill is spectacular. Soft winter pasture still covers the ground in sharp contrast to the spiky Xantheria or grass plants that characterize the harsh coastal scrub and the blue of Baxter’s Passage and hazy profile of Kangaroo Island beckon on the horizon.

 

Backstair's passage and Kangaroo Island

Backstair’s passage and Kangaroo Island (double click to enlarge all images on this page)

 

As I get out of the 4WD to capture this image I notice a pair of western grey kangaroos on the edge of the scrub no more than 20 meters from the vehicle. They are wary, ears twitching and sniffing the air. One is considerably larger than the other. They are probably a mother with a joey at heel and her pouch looks a little enlarged suggesting that she may have another little one tucked away. There could even be two in the pouch; one permanently attached to the nipple while the other simply enjoys the ride. In good times kangaroos can multiply quickly.

Western greys by the track

Western greys by the track

 

 

I am in the Talisker National Park about an hour and a half journey from the city and 10 kms from Cape Jervis at the toe of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The park centres around a series of bush trails that surround an abandoned silver and lead mine dating from the 1860s. Old machinery, buildings and shafts add an historic dimension to an area rich in scenery and wildlife.

Crushing house and old boiler

Crushing house and old boiler

 

 

From my cliff top lookout I backtrack along the dirt roads to the entrance of the old Talisker mine site. The walking trail to the mine is not too steep but the scrub on both sides is dense and full of life. In both the treetops and bushes I can hear the calls of wrens and honeyeaters. Eventually one of the delicate little birds pauses on a branch to announce its territory.

Crescent honeyeater

Crescent honeyeater

 

 

The track ends in a small clearing where the rusted remains of crushers, boilers and old buildings mark the main site. They are all that is left of a mine that once was the workplace of dozens of miners and supported a community of 300 souls at nearby Silverton; now also long gone.

Pied currawong

Grey currawong

 

 

The buildings are surrounded by a forest of eucalypts and I can hear the more distinctive movements of a larger animal in the branches on the far side of the crushing plant. I focus my long lens on the area and start to search for the perpetrator, expecting another roo or even a possum disturbed from its daytime sno0ze. But it is a large crow-like bird that I spot amongst the leaves and branches, a pied currawong, a relative of the white backed magpies that are so common on the plains where I live. Currawongs are a group that I have rarely photographed successfully as they tend to be a little more wary than their magpie cousins.

Bush track surrounded by eucalypt forest near the park entrance

Leaving the park along a bush track

 

 

It has been quite a long day walking, driving and stalking wildlife and the ruins are a great place to sit and unpack a well anticipated lunch picked up at the local Yankalilla bakery; nothing flash, just a steak and mushroom pie and an indulgent apricot tart to round off the meal. Good South Aussie ‘tucker’ to fuel up for the walk up the hill and drive home.

 

Cheers

Baz                  

A Stroll with a New Camera

1 Nov

Dear Reader:

Like all photographers I enjoy equipment. Every so often I can even justify buying a new camera. With an overseas trip to Italy looming I needed a light compact zoom that would fit easily into my pocket. In truth I had been thinking of getting the same kind of equipment to carry when cycling along the parkland trails that I enjoy each weekend. Too often, I had decided not to take my DSLR or super-zoom because thy were that bit too cumbersome or the weather looked threatening. And on nearly every occasion some exquisite little wildlife moment went un-recorded.

Small lake near McIntyre Rd f3.3 @1  320 sec ISO100, click to enlarge

Small lake near McIntyre Rd; f3.3 @1 320 sec ISO100, click to enlarge all images on this page.

Australan grebe f6.4 @ 1 200th sec ISO  400; click to enlarge

Australian grebe; f6.4 @ 1 200th sec ISO 400

 

A little compact would serve both purposes and popping a plastic bag in my bike pants (not the lycra variety I assure you) would take care of any wet weather problems. My camera of choice was a Panasonic TZ40, a pocket sized camera with a respectable 20x zoom. They were on special with a new model coming out and my old Pana’ FZ40 had always proved a reliable unit capable of producing some extremely sharp images.

Sacred Ibis reflections f5.9 @ 1 320th sec ISO 100

Sacred Ibis reflections; f5.9 @ 1 320th sec ISO 100

Red flowering gum, f5.9 @1 200 th sec ISO  100

Red flowering gum, f5.9 @1 200 th sec ISO 100

 

Armed with my new acquisition, I chose some familiar turf to see what the little camera could do. Tea tree Plaza is a large shopping mall on the north eastern fringe of Adelaide’s suburbs. There are some nice cafes to get an early morning ‘cuppa’ before you set off across the adjacent park to intersect Dry creek by the bridge over Montague Road. From there, a network of paths, trails and tracks wind south along the creek towards the coast or north into the foothills.

Rainbow lorikeets examining tree hollow f6.4 @1 125  th sec ISO 250

Rainbow lorikeets examining tree hollow; f6.4 @1 125 th sec ISO 250

Mudlark collecting nesting material;  f2.9 @ 1 125th sec ISO 400

Mudlark collecting nesting material; f2.9 @ 1 125th sec ISO 400

 

I decided to take the southern bike trail that follows the creek down to McIntyre road then work my way back to the bridge along the bush tracks that hug the other side of the waterway; a nice journey of around 3kms that includes several small lakes, patches of quite dense scrub and some towering old river gums.

Maned duck with chicks;   f5.6 @ 1 80sec ISO 160

Maned duck with chicks; f5.6 @ 1 80sec ISO 160

Black duck taking off;  f6.4  @1 250 th sec ISO 100

Black duck taking off; f6.4 @1 250th sec ISO 100

 

In this post, I will not describe each particular wildlife encounter, instead the pictures and brief captions can tell the story. There was a little post image tidying up through Photoshop but in my humble opinion the little camera did a good job as a backup and will certainly sit in my pocket on many a bike ride or travel adventure in the future.

 

Until our next chat

Cheers

Baz  

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