Archive | January, 2015

Marion’s Warraparinga wetlands

24 Jan

Dear Reader:

There is a Kookaburra high in the red river gum near the entrance to the Warraparinga wetlands. It chortles out its laughing call alerting just about every wild creature in the area. However, the main purpose of its famous laugh is proclaiming to other kookaburras whose turf it is and how eligible one is for mating. As I sit and listen I cannot help but wonder what the original people who inhabited this land thought about these iconic Australian birds and the other animals that lived here.

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree (click to enlarge all images in this post)

 

For tens of thousands of years before European settlement the Kaurna people roamed the Adelaide plains and south coast. They used both forest and grasslands to hunt for kangaroos, possums and birds. The creeks and wetlands provided turtles, yabbies and fish. Reeds and other plants were a source of food, medicinal remedies and the raw materials for weaving and building.

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

 

 Although Aboriginal peoples used symbols, they never developed writing. Their laws, ideas, family histories and seasonal maps were passed from one generation to the next by a series of stories some of which are referred to as Dreaming Stories and often relate to spirit ancestors. One such story is that of Kulutuwi a young boy who is killed by his stepbrothers and carried to his resting place by his uncle Tjilbruke. It describes how the tears that Tjilbruke shed formed the little creeks along the Fleurieu Peninsula. Warraparinga, which comes from the Kaurna warri parri and means windy place by the river is on Sturt Creek near the start of the Tjilbruke trail in the suburb of Marion. It is a wetland complex and home to the Living Kuarna Cultural Centre which has interpretive displays, an art gallery, performing space and cafe.

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

 

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

 

 Leaving the kookaburra to its vocal gymnastics, I walk through a sculpture garden and down to the creek which is flowing quite swiftly as it has rained heavily in the last week. The rain has also stimulated some plants to flower and there is a healthy population of insects in the bushes and trees. The typical ‘wick wicky’ call alerts me to several white plumed honeyeaters that are energetically picking off lerps and ants high in the tall eucalyptus trees by the water. I spend a good ten minutes trying to get a definitive shot that shows their hunting strategies.

Galah feeding on the ground

Galah feeding on the ground

 

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

 

In the same stand of trees both rosellas and cockatoos are sheltering amongst the foliage. The cockies are particularly interesting as they have been feeding on the ground pulling up tubers and searching for seeds then returning to the trees to wipe their beaks on the branches; whether to clean, sharpen or what?…I am not sure.

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

 

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

 

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

 

 The trail is well defined and leads me past several different ecosystems. One of these is a chain of ponds that are surrounded by reeds. South Australia’s urban wetlands have been developed to help filter storm water run-off and improve the health of our creeks but they also serve as a wonderful habitat for water birds. Eurasian coots, purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens are all feeding close to the reeds and these birds would have been part of the diet of the Kaurna people who hunted along the nearby Sturt Creek.

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

 

Having spent a couple of hours exploring the trails and stopping to capture a representative batch of images, I wind up back at the cultural centre for a well earned cup of coffee and a pastry. In the next room there is a wonderful display of indigenous art and a timeline displaying the history of the Kuarna people. It seems a fitting and reflective way to end my first visit to this rather special park in the heart of Adelaide’ southern suburbs.

 

Until our next adventure

BAZ

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Henley Square……Crabs, Coffee and Coastline

13 Jan

Dear Reader:

The morning is warm and still with hardly a breath of wind. Although the water is not as clear as I would have liked it is worth putting on a mask and flippers to explore the shallows alongside the jetty.

Henley jetty on a summer's day

Henley jetty on a summer’s day (click to enlarge all images)

 

 

As I swim into the shadows beneath one of the jetty piles I can just make out a school of sizeable bream with a few silver whiting scattered amongst them. They are massing near the wooden posts directly below several fishermen who have empty buckets and a look of ‘no luck today’ on their faces.

 

School of bream under the  jetty

School of bream under the jetty

 

 

The wind is strengthening a little which often stirs up the sand and makes underwater photography challenging to say the least. It is time to switch to macro settings and look for small organisms on the sandy bottom. Numerous furrows snake across the undulating sand like roads through desert dunes. I follow one trail and probe the end point gently with my dive knife to see if I can reveal the perpetrator…no luck. But my digging does annoy a swimmer crab half buried in the sand only an arm’s length away. The little creature immediately strikes an aggressive pose angling up towards me with nippers spread and ready to attack.

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

 

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

 

 

I spend a few more minutes exploring the various organisms that cling to the jetty piles. Satisfied with a few close up shots of anemones and sea squirts, I head for the change rooms and outdoor shower to wash off my gear. And then, the all important decision…. which of the beachside al fresco restaurants for coffee and breakfast? Henley Square at the foot of the jetty is one of Adelaide’s favourite beachside haunts where you will invariably find an eclectic collection of walkers, cyclists, fishers and even the odd naturalist; all enjoying the coastal ambience and quality restaurants.

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

 

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

 

 

 

Refuelled and refreshed by my morning dip I walk south along the bikeway that skirts this section of coastline. Between the beach and the path there is a long stretch of low coastal dunes that have been revegetated over the last decade providing an interesting ecosystem that is home to a variety of plant and animal species.

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

 

 

Several small groups of sparrows and some honeyeaters are flitting through the foliage but they seem extremely nervous. The reason for their apprehension soon becomes obvious as a nankeen kestrel perches on a tall pine tree to survey its hunting zone. The bird of prey, however, does not go unnoticed by a pair of noisy miners that dive bomb the predator and force it to take to the air again.

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more errtic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more erratic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

 

A spcies of White butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

A species of white butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

 

 

The temperature is rising and the chance of spotting larger animals diminishing as the day progresses and they seek shelter from the sun. I turn back towards the jetty and focus my attention on the unique coastal plant life and the bees, wasps and butterflies that feed on the various flowering shrubs. Near one of the sandy tracks that lead down to the water a thick stand of acacias, with delicate blue flowering grasses growing amongst them, is attracting native blue bees and several varieties of butterflies. Tricky images to capture as the bees are speedy, erratic little creatures and the butterflies are only landing on the blossoms for a few seconds.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

 

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

 

 

By the time get back to the square I am ready to sit under one of the square’s cafe umbrellas and sip a long cool drink while watching the locals enjoying another warm South Aussie day at the beach. It’s hot now and time to drive home and sort my pictures. I slip the camera strap over my shoulder ready to leave as one final image presents itself. An Australian pelican glides in low over the water and gracefully deposits itself on one of the jetty light poles and glances in my direction…..thanks!!

 

Until we chat again

Baz  

Wild Dog Walk

2 Jan

Wild Dog Walk

Dear Reader:

The drive from Port Augusta to Whyalla is almost gun barrel straight for much of the seventy kilometre journey. Low scrub and salt bush plains dominate the landscape. Small birds occasionally flit across the road and for the keen observer; kangaroos and emus can be spotted foraging in the bush. But first impressions can be misleading and more careful look at this unique environment reveals a plant ecosystem quite different from the eucalyptus dominated vegetation closer to Adelaide.

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Entrance to the park (click to enlarge all images on this post)

 

 

The ground is hard pack red earth and salt bush, acacia and eremophilas form the lower layers beneath canopy of western mayall trees with an occasional eucalypt thrown in for good measure. The affect is a subtle interplay of greens and greys that typifies this harsh but beautiful countryside.

Wild Dog Walk

Myall and eucalypt canopy with shrubs and saltbush understory

 

 

Around 50 kms from Port Augusta and just 10 kms from the outskirts of the steel town of Whyalla, the park is announced by a signpost and bush track that leads off to the right. The trail is part of the Whyalla conservation park and the road leads to a rocky outcrop known as Wild Dog Rocks. A local Aboriginal story relates how a medicine man flung dingos, who had killed a child, off the north eastern edge of the rocks.

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Wild Dog Rocks rising from the bush

 

 

This story and information about the plants in the area is presented as a series of signs along a short trail that circumnavigates the outcrop. The mayall trees, lichens, various shrubs and grasses are all represented and provide the walker with a better understanding of this rugged ecosystem.

Mayall tree

Mayall tree surrounded by salt bush with acacia to the left

 

 

Depending on the season a wide variety of wildlife frequents this arid zone. Parrots, honeyeaters, magpies and delicate little finches are just a few of the birds that live in the dense shrubs and grasses. And if one walks carefully, stops frequently to look and listens for a tell tale rustle there are reptiles to be found, ranging from tiny skinks, large monitors and even the occasional brown snake.

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Australian magpie proclaiming territory

 

 

 

Despite the complexity and diversity of this ecosystem it remains a harsh and unforgiving environment. There is little food and plants bloom infrequently due to the low rainfall. A visitor needs to be patient to locate the wildlife and as always the early morning and late afternoon are when the animals are more active and far more easily encountered.

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Grey kangaroo in saltbush

 

 

 

 

I set aside three hours to explore this park and stopped several times on the way to the rocky outcrop where I walked a couple of hundred metres into the bush and sat quietly for a few minutes. One the first occasion I flushed out a grey kangaroo that paused for a split second to look at me before bounding through the salt bush into the scrub. The second time I watched some butcher birds and a magpie squabbling loudly over territory.

IMG_5494 crop red spiny cheeked honey

Spiny cheeked honeyeater feeding in an eremophila

 

 

At Wild Dog Rocks I spent quite a long time watching small birds flitting between some flowering shrubs. Photographing them was challenging to say the least. I noticed that several birds seemed to return frequently to one particular bush allowing me to set up and capture a few long range images. The birds turned out to be spiny cheeked honeyeaters a species I had not seen before.

IMG_5771 goanna red

Sand goanna or Gould’s monitor foraging through understory

 

 

With evening approaching I made one last foray into the scrub at the foot of the rocks and sat amongst a stand of mayall trees where there was a clear view of a small clearing. After a few minutes I heard the unmistakable rustle of a larger animal moving across the leaf litter. Suddenly a sand goanna appeared, the metre long monitor lizard was moving slowly with its long forked tongue frequently flicking out as it searched for prey. As the goanna approached dozens of locusts, that had been hidden amongst the undergrowth, took flight before they were added to the lizards eclectic menu.

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Almost locust for lunch

 

 

From the park to the city of Whyalla is a short drive. Here you can wash off the red dust and enjoy the pleasantries of hotels, regional shopping, restaurants, coastal activities and a fine golf course.

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The shapes, colours and textures of the arid zone are summed up in this imge

 

 

 

Have a great start to the New Year and I hope you have the chance to explore this interesting region sometime soon.

 

Cheers

Baz

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