Archive | December, 2014

Aldinga Scrub

21 Dec

The tawny frogmouth is absolutely motionless. At first glance, I can’t see the bird even though my guide has pointed out its position. Eventually I locate it amongst the foliage exploiting its extraordinary camouflage and the tactic of remaining statue-still to remain ‘hidden in plain sight’. I am using a long lens which allows me to zoom in close enough to capture the delicate whisker-like structures around its beak; perfect for sensing insects at night. “Sometimes there are two together,” she informs me. “And we’ve had a nest with young.” I make a mental note to ask her to give me a call when that happens; photographing a frogmouth and its chicks would be something special.

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage (Click to enlarge all images on page)

I am on the edge of the Aldinga scrub; a patch of remnant bushland that hints of what this coastal plain would have looked like before the early settlers arrived with their ploughs and sheep. Aldinga and its coastal neighbour Silver Sands are just an hour’s drive from the centre of Adelaide and a favourite haunt of mine for an entirely different reason. No more than a kilometre away is one of my favourite snorkelling destinations. A reef to dive on, long white beaches for swimming and surfing and a patch of scrub to explore; make this an ideal destination for a day trip from the city.

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

I continue to walk along the road that borders the scrub. The houses on the urban side of the track blend in well with the bushland ambience. Obviously the residents have chosen this location because of its natural setting and the gardens are filled with a variety of native plants that attract insects and birds. In a huge gum that towers over the track I can hear the raucous screech of a wattle bird high in the canopy. The largest of all the honeyeaters, wattle birds often feed on leaf bugs and nectar from eucalyptus flowers. This one is hopping between the branches calling loudly while foraging amongst the leaves.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch

A post and wire fence separates the road from the scrub and a host of tiny birds are twittering and flitting between the trees just inside the reserve. I find a likely spot and sit quietly, balancing the camera and lens carefully on my knees. Eventually, one of the tiny birds perches on a bare branch a dozen metres away. I track the fluffy bundle of feathers and take a quick series of shots as it hops and turns before taking flight. Perhaps one frame will freeze its incessant motion and allow me to identify the species. On reviewing the image my best guess is a species of thornbill.

Thornbil species

Thornbill species

I am more than pleased with my stroll along the edge of the scrub. The frogmouth, wattle birds and tiny finch-like birds were more than I expected. But as I turn to walk back to the car I hear the familiar thump of a kangaroo’s powerful back legs hitting the hard packed earth of the track. An adult grey kangaroo and its joey bound across the road and pause by the fence-line. I watch them as they survey the obstacle for a few seconds then the joey squeezes between the strands of wire while the adult clears it with a single bound. They stop and look around before disappearing into the thick scrub.

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

The afternoon light is fading and I have one last stop to make before driving home and it has little to do with wildlife. Opposite the Aldinga pub there is a charming café called the Old Vine. It has a colonial cottage feel about it and the meals are interesting, tasty and sourced from local produce but the main draw card is a citrus tart that is as good as any I have eaten anywhere in the world…and I have sampled quite a few.

 

Come visit

Merry Xmas

Baz

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An Island in the Lake

17 Dec

Dear Reader:

Sunday morning is for bike riding. A time to drop my little point and shoot into the non-lycra shorts, haul the mountain bike out of the shed, and cycle through Adelaide’s extensive parklands or along the linear park trail which follows the Torrens River.

Torrens lake with Popeye and pelican

Torrens lake with Popeye and pelican (click to enlarge all images on this page)

On this particular morning I thought it would be nice to ride around the Torrens Lake which sits on the northern edge of the city by the picturesque Adelaide oval. There is always a wide variety of wildlife on the banks of the lake and my long-time photographic adversary, the water rat, can sometimes be found near the tiny island opposite the paddle boats. In fact, on my last excursion around the lake I caught sight of one of the elusive little rodents paddling into the reeds that form the bulk of this tiny refuge.

Island with convention centre in the background

Island with convention centre in the background

Unfortunately my journey past the island yielded no results on the water rat front but it did turn up a couple of quite unexpected visitors; a pair of nesting mudlarks with fully fledged young and a long necked turtle basking on a partially submerged tree branch. However, as the island is a good 40 metres from the bank and the targets fairly small, capturing good, clear images was always going to be a problem. Nevertheless, I fired off a series of shots as the birds and certainly the turtle might be gone before I could return later in the day armed with a DSLR and long lens.

Snake neck turtle basking

Snake neck turtle basking

Several hours later, in somewhat overcast conditions, I parked my car by the weir alongside the golf course and iconic Red Ochre restaurant at the northern end of Memorial Drive and walked along the path towards the little island. The banks along this part of the lake are thick with tall reeds and both purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens use them for shelter and nest building materials.

Purple swamp hen with chick near reed bed

Purple swamp hen with chick near reed bed

Despite many distractions, I finally reached the section of bank opposite the island and set about photographing the magpie family. The adults were fossicking for grubs in the muddy banks close to where I was sitting and feeding the young as they squawked for food in the crowded nest. Below the nest, a pair of black cormorants perched delicately on a dead branch stretching out the­­ir wings to dry after hunting carp in the lake.

More please

More please

 

Mudlark or Murray magpie forging in the bank for grubs to feed young

Mudlark or Murray magpie forging in the bank for grubs to feed young

 

Little black cormorant drying wings

Little black cormorant drying wings

After about 30 minutes, a large black swan that had been cropping the grass nearby waddled over to keep me company. Swans can be aggressive and this one certainly had something in mind as it settled no more than a metre away and glared at me intently. Over the years I have often observed large groups of birds congregating around a local personality who       I refer to as John Swan. He does not feed them but simply spends time with the birds; perhaps this particular swan mistook me quietly sitting on the bank for John. Finally the swan’s enthusiasm waned and it nonchalantly wandered off to crop the grass leaving me to finish documenting the tiny island’s wildlife community.

What's your problem

What’s your problem

Enjoy the festive season

Cheers

Baz

Ingalalla Falls

13 Dec

Dear Reader;

Ingalalla falls does not actually cascade down the dark boulders to the pools below. This is South Australia where water is scarce and in the summer months rain is a rare blessing. But it is a waterfall and as such attracts a varied collection of wildlife as well as providing a few interesting walks and the perfect setting to enjoy a picnic in the bush.

Yankalilla's main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible

Yankalilla’s main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible (click on all images to enlarge)

 

 

The falls are about 10 kilometres off the main south road near the coastal hamlets of Normanville and Yankalilla. Both towns have superb little bakeries where one can quickly stock up on a range of ‘goodies’. My choice for this expedition included a gourmet chicken, potato and cheese pie with a generous serve of bee-sting cake (a legacy of our early German settlers) to follow.

Ingalalla falls desceding into the creek

Ingalalla falls descending into the creek

 

 

The dirt road from Normanville passes through a mixture of open bushland and wheat fields with a superb links golf course near the main highway. And just few kilometres down the track I noticed a boulder with a metal plaque that celebrated the life of a local settler, mariner and pastoralist William Field, adding an unexpected historical perspective to the day.

A little bit of history

A little bit of history

 

Where the native scrub started to merge with pine plantations, a small signposted track leads to a sheltered camping area complete with a simple shelter and scattering of wooden benches and tables. From there, a walking trail follows the little creek to the falls. On the right side of the path a steep hillside covered with bracken, native shrubs and tall stringy barked eucalypts rises abruptly from the creek.

Bushland trail characterised by  eucalypts, bracken and low bushes (2)

Walk to the falls showing eucalypts, bracken and low bushes

 

 

The rustle of leaves and chirping calls indicated that the thick cover was home to many small bird species but the dense foliage made identifying them somewhat difficult. Eventually, I adopted the sit still and wait strategy which yielded results as a yellow faced honeyeater and grey fantail soon came within camera range.

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

 

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

 

 

Although it was a mild day for summer, a few insects were active around the creek. Both dragon and damsel flies hovered amongst the reeds and several species of butterflies alternately fed on small flowering shrubs and rested amongst the leaf litter.

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

 

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

 

 

The rest of my walk was equally rewarding with a pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos making a sudden appearance in one of the nearby pine trees and a couple of wester grey kangaroos bounding across the track as we drove back to the road with the late afternoon light enhancing the golden wheat fields.

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this recollection

Drop me a line with any suggestions, criticisms or compliments

All are welcome

 

Baz

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