Archive | February, 2015

A Morning at the Zoo with Quinn

27 Feb

Dear reader: 

It is a warm Adelaide morning and the shady paths of the zoo are a labyrinth of intrigue for a nearly three year old. Around every turn there is a new enclosure full of sights, sounds and animals that she had only previously experienced in picture books.


A pair of king parrots provide a suitable backdrop for a tiger striped Quinn



The zoo is situated by the river just over the Frome Road Bridge



A misty spray of water shrouds the koala and Tasmanian devil enclosures in anticipation of the midday heat. It proves irresistible to our little granddaughter and sends her squealing down the path shouting, “bear, bear, bear!” I stand and watch the ‘really not bears’ as they stoically munch on eucalyptus leaves and fire off a couple of frames. Sometimes the images that can be taken in a zoo are invaluable additions for later projects.


A koala chews on eucalyptus leaves that would be inedible even toxic to any other species of marsupial



Half a vegemite sandwich and an ice cream later a little hand tugs mine and a voice whispers, “ Pop, kangaroo”. She is almost right, as a pair of yellow footed rock wallabies emerge from behind a tree in an open enclosure a few metres away. One of the little marsupials has a joey in its pouch; a difficult image for any photographer to catch in the wild.


A young yellow footed rock wallaby peering out from the safety of its mother’s pouch



The nocturnal house proves to be a real challenge. Try telling a toddler to be quiet as she goes through a dark tunnel lined with glass exhibits featuring bats and other night time wildlife. Near the entrance there are some aquariums which she finds quite fascinating (translate as…actually stops moving for a few seconds) giving me the opportunity to photograph some purple spotted gudgeons, one of our threatened native fish species. Yet another example of the pictorial opportunities that only captive animals can provide the amateur photographer.

2 purple spotted gudgeon

Purple spotted gudgeon are found in South Australia’s freshwater streams and lakes



Ironically, our final wildlife moment is not one that the Royal Zoological Society can claim credit for. Just as we are leaving and wandering past the hippos, Nan’s favourite exotic animal, we hear a family excitedly chattering about a spider. And there, strung in front of the hippo pool is last night’s tattered web of a sizeable orb weaver with the resident arachnid devouring a hapless dragonfly. Quinn says “yuck”, Nan scoops her up and I click away merrily wishing that I had brought the DSLR instead of popping the point and shoot in my pocket to ensure hands free, child minding capabilities.


A large orb weaver makes short work of an unfortunate dragonfly



By now the temperature is getting into the mid thirties and it is time to leave. She does not want to go. “More animals Pop.” A good sign for the future.



Baz (and Quinn)


Wynne Vale Dam Walk

17 Feb

The sulphur crested cockatoos are perched up high in the river gums that surround the dam. Their loud and raucous calls fill the air and drown out the sounds of the other birds that live and feed around the water’s edge. Every few minutes some of the large, white parrots fly down into the acacia bushes that grow along the pathway in search of food. They tear off some of the brown, elongated pods and fly back into the higher branches where they manipulate them with their feet and beaks to extract the seeds.

Acacia pods with seeds exposed

Acacia pods with seeds exposed


Sulphur crested cockatoo eating acacia seeds

Sulphur crested cockatoo eating acacia seeds



Wynne Vale Dam is just a fifteen minute bike ride north of Tea Tree Plaza along the Dry Creek trail which can be easily accessed from the bridge over Ladywood Road near the Modbury Hotel. It is a great way to break up the shopping chores or get some exercise after lunching at one of the nearby hotels and restaurants. The small lake is part of a stormwater reclamation and creek improvement project and is surrounded by a track with viewing platforms, interpretive signs and a sizeable earthen dam on the southern edge.

Wynne Vale Dam from the viewing platform

Wynne Vale Dam from the viewing platform



After watching the birds feeding for a few minutes I climb back on my bike and cycle round to the other side of the dam. Leaving the pathway I shift the mountain bike into low gear and pedal along an exposed stretch of the embankment bumping over a tangle of roots that radiate from a stand of partly submerged trees. Their skeletal trunks and branches are the perfect vantage points for a white faced heron to scope out its prey and a freshwater turtle to bask in a patch of early morning sunshine. White faced herons are quite common along the banks but the turtle is a more unusual sighting.

White faced heron survey its kill zone

White faced heron surveys its kill zone


Short necked turtle on a tree branch

Short necked turtle on a partially submerged tree branch



Just as I start to move off to my next location I catch site of a medium sized bird roosting high in one of the old willows that overhang the water. It is a nankeen night heron. Easily recognised by their cinnamon plumage and shorter powerful, beaks these herons tend to stay hidden during the day feeding in the morning, evening and sometimes at night; a behaviour that is referred to as crepuscular.

In the winter months the water level rises considerably covering the embankment

In the winter months the water level rises considerably covering the embankment


Nanakeen night herons feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish

Nankeen night herons feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish



After photographing the heron I cycle around the lake once more to make sure that I haven’t missed anything too obvious then head back down the western side of the creek. Where the dam ends and the creek re-emerges there is a line of exceptionally tall river gums. And there, right in my line of vision, are two koalas climbing up into the branches. Koalas, nankeen night herons and a turtle on one short ride. Not a bad morning’s work.

A pair of koalas climbing. Probably an adult fmale and mature joey.

A pair of koalas climbing. Probably an adult female and mature joey.



Thanks for reading this post.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Tell a friend who might be interested.



Robe…..raptors, reptiles and rough roads

7 Feb

Dear Reader:

To be entirely honest, the track hadn’t looked too difficult. My tyres were suitably deflated and the little Suzuki had a punchy V6 motor. What the hell! I backed up onto the hard packed dirt road, gunned the motor and headed up the sand dune towards the beach, scaring the daylights out of a pair of emus that had been feeding in the coastal scrub.

A pair of emus feeding in the coastal scrub

A pair of emus feeding in the coastal scrub



Marker posts driven into the sand had indicated the route was suitable for 4WD but I lost a little traction on the climb and one wheel slipped off the trail. The car slid, the sand pushed up hard underneath and there I was, stuck. Over the next half an hour I tried every way I could think of to get free from the sand trap; brush under the wheels, digging out some of the sand wedged under the chassis and swearing in several languages; all to no avail. I wasn’t going anywhere.

The edge of a coastal dune

The edge of a coastal dune



Feeling rather stupid and just a tad worried, it was 40C and though I had a water bottle and my mobile phone, it was a good hour’s walk back to the main road. Furthermore, I couldn’t remember seeing any signs of habitation when I had driven from Robe into the Little Dip Conservation Park earlier in the day. But my choices were somewhat limited and so, with my camera slung over my shoulder, I started off to get some help.

Numerous frehwater lakes in the the conservaion park provide a haven for wildlife

Numerous frehwater lakes in the the conservaion park provide a haven for wildlife



Within half an hour of trudging along the sandy trail I realised this was going to be a hard walk. Every 30 minutes I found a little shade took a sip out of the bottle and rested for 5. Eventually I reached the junction of the trail and the main road back to town. Sitting quietly in the shade of a park information sign, I sipped on my water bottle and waited for a few minutes in the hope that another vehicle might be heading my way. No such luck, but a rather feisty bearded dragon did saunter across the road and give me a long hard stare before disappearing into the scrub.

Bearded dragons tend to freeze when threatened relying on their camouflage to avoid predators

Bearded dragons tend to freeze when threatened relying on their camouflage to avoid predators



Suitably unrefreshed and distinctly grumpy, I started along the road back to Robe. Earlier in the day and in stark contrast to my present predicament, I had been enjoying a civilised meal of local crayfish and salad in a boutique restaurant. After a couple of kilometres I noticed a swamp harrier that had settled on a fence line after scanning the fields for prey. The fence ended  in a cattle grid  near a long driveway that led to a farmhouse that I had not seen earlier. It was one of those typically Australian country homes, old sandstone with return verandahs that spoke of generations of farmers that worked this rugged landscape.

A swamp harrier rests on a fence post

A swamp harrier rests on a fence post



It turned out that I was in luck. The farmer, who was tired of rescuing inexperienced off roaders, kindly offered me a drink and some sandwiches. When I told him I was in the park photographing wildlife for a children’s book on reptiles he shared some of the interesting encounters with native animals he had experienced recently. Ten minutes turned into a couple of hours and because of our mutual interest in natural history, he offered to use the farm truck to haul me off the dune.

The kindness of strangers

The kindness of strangers


As we approached my SUV I noticed the curved imprint of a large snake that had taken shelter under the front of the vehicle. Now that would have made a good shot!!

A brown snake flicks out its forked tongue to pick up chemical signals given off by prey.

A brown snake flicks out its forked tongue to pick up chemical signals given off by prey.



With the car back on track we sat in the scrub and had a cold drink before I headed back for a shower and a good night’s rest. Offering to pay for my rescue did not seem appropriate. Instead, I promised to send him some copies of the wildlife books I had recently written for his grandchildren and to stop in for coffee the next time I headed down to Robe and the limestone coast.

Many of Robe's restaurants, galleries and B&Bs are based in classic old buildings

Many of Robe’s restaurants, galleries and B&Bs are housed in classic old buildings



Until our next excursion



I think the raptor is a swamp harrier; any help on this identification would be appreciated


%d bloggers like this: