Archive | March, 2015

Jenkins Scrub

21 Mar

Dear Reader:

There are tiny birds flitting through the canopy and squabbling in the bushes either side of the walking trail that snakes its way through the scrub. Occasionally they settle for just a second or two and feed on Autumn’s few remaining blossoms or probe for insects beneath the bark. The birds move quickly, giving me just a split second to focus and fire; which is my excuse for some of these images not being quite as sharp as I would like. However, they do give an accurate depiction of what searching for wildlife images in dense scrub, is really like.

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Grey fantail

 

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Treecreeper species

 

 

After walking across a small footbridge, I find a clearing and sit on a fallen log and wait in the shadows for ten minutes. Birds are still twittering deep in the bushes, heard but not seen; but most have moved on.

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Crescent honeyeater

 

 

Jenkins scrub is a remnant area of the original bushland that once covered the Adelaide hills. The light sandy soil supports a wide range of shrubs, grasses and delicate flowers including native orchids. Tall eucalyptus trees complete the ecosystem which is traversed by a series of narrow trails.

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Classic hills scrub

 

 

The scrub lies just off the Springton road, a pleasant 50k hills drive from the city. A lunch stop at the Bakehouse Tavern in Williamstown, just 10 Kms from the park’s entrance, is a good way to break up the drive. Or, you can buy a pies and cake at the bakery to snack by the old cemetery on the edge of the adjoining pine forest; somewhere to explore the personal histories the people who settled this region. 

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Pub at Williamstown

 

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Graveyard from the old church

   

 

Hefting my long lens from the pack I continue my walk. The understory is littered with leaves and fallen branches which provide a home for a plethora of insect and retile species. There are quite a few butterflies in the area and every so often one settles in the leaf litter. They seem to spread their wings a couple of times then rest them upright exposing only the underneath which blend perfectly with the bleached leaves and twigs.

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Meadow argus butterfly…..brilliant camouflage

 

 

Another hour’s walking produces a few more images, shot at long range, and a memorable encounter with a pair of kangaroos which are feeding deep in the bush. I try for a better angle to get a clear shot but they quickly hop into deeper cover. By the time I reach the car it is a welcome refuge as some large bush flies have emerged in the late afternoon and the insect repellent is in the glove box.

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Adelaide rosella

 

 

Just as I am about to turn on the engine I hear the shrill call of rosellas. Luck is with me and the birds settle in a gum tree just within camera range of the car. Three quick frames and my day ends on a high or so I think. It turns out that the 2 Km drive back along the dirt to the Springton road has a final surprise; three young emus feeding in a field of stubble just a ‘stone’s throw’ from the roadside.

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Emus at dusk

 

 

Until our next adventure

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Author in the office

 

Cheers

BAZ

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A Walk Around West Lakes

14 Mar

Dear Reader: Once upon a time when I was several decades younger and people thought less about the environment, there was a mangrove swamp behind the dunes near Tennyson Beach. The government of the day and even the general public cared little for mangroves and even less for anything described as a swamp. Consequently, they allowed developers to ‘liberate’ this area from its unproductive state and create a new suburb in its place. The result was West Lakes. For some, the loss of this unique wetland was an environmental tragedy as such areas are important nurseries for many marine species and significant wild places to be cherished.

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Nearby mangrove swamp demonstrates what the area looked like before development

  History aside, West Lakes remains a worthwhile place to visit and walking around the man-made lake on a fine autumn afternoon still provides many interesting wildlife encounters. Instead of samphire swamp and mangrove forest, the edge of the lake is defined by fine sand and a ruler straight concrete edge which steps down into the water. Despite its artificial nature, marine invertebrates and small fish still feed on the algal growth that clings to this constructed shoreline. And on occasions I have even seen nudibranchs, a kind of sea slug with a prominent flower like gills on their backs, grazing on the concrete surfaces.

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West Lakes today

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A grazing nudibranch species

  Because the lake has a less diverse ecology than the original swampland, there are fewer fish species; although sizeable bream, mullet and even the occasional mulloway make it a popular venue for anglers. In fact, the people who live on its shore often feed the resident bream and have quite large schools living near their private jetties and landings. These fish are generally off limits to the fishers but school children who snorkel off the West Lakes Aquatic Centre get quite a thrill when an instructor lures a school from a nearby pontoon.

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Large bream close to the shoreline

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School student snorkelling near the aquatics centre

  The fish, crabs and sundry other creatures inevitably attracts predators. Because of the intakes that feed water in from the sea, sharks are virtually unheard of in the lake system and the main hunters are seabirds. Pelicans and cormorants are common and the ubiquitous silver gulls carry out their indispensible clean up duties along the shoreline.

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Little pied cormorant drying its wings on a pontoon

  Various paths and roads follow the course of the lake system. Walking or cycling along them in the evening and early morning is best for wildlife encounters. However, even at midday when the sun is up and all is relatively quiet on the wildlife front, the well-tended gardens along the fringe of the lake still attract a wide variety of common urban birds as well as insects and the occasional lizard.

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Bottle brush in lakeside gardens

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Gaura in lakeside gardens

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New Holland honeyeater feeding in garden

  Finally, a couple of considerations for those contemplating a walk around the lake. Start at the aquatics centre off Military road as there is a nice little cafe overlooking the water. And take a look at the Tennyson Dunes just across the road from the lake. They separate the urban zone from the seashore and are yet another wonderful South Aussie environment to explore… (see ‘Seaside Dragons’…30th Dec 2012)   Until next time Cheers Baz

Bridgewater’s Cox Creek Walk

7 Mar

My usual decisions as a wildlife photographer revolve around quandaries such as; which lens to use and whether the light quality is acceptable. Today’s problem is far more civilised. What to order from the menu while I sit back and watch the wildlife from the comfort of a deck overlooking a beautiful hill’s creek.

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The Bridgewater Hotel, a nice place to eat and watch the wildlife

 

 

Before I can even enjoy a glass of wine the wildlife show starts on the other side of the creek alongside the walking trail to Stirling. A small nesting group of Australian magpies are feeding on grubs in the grassy banks. Magpie groups have complex social structures that rely on strict dominance and submission and one adult bird is certainly exhibiting its position in the pecking order by harassing a juvenile. I watch the birds for a few minutes until a rather nicely presented herb crusted barramundi fillet demands my full attention.  

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Submit you young upstart

 

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Now, just for good measure, cop that

 

 

Cox’s creek meanders past the Bridgewater hotel and the Old Mill restaurant just a half hour drive along the freeway from Adelaide. The two restaurants are excellent and the historical trail to Stirling encompasses sections of the Pioneer Women’s Trail. An important chapter in Adelaide’s early history, the trail is part of a 35 km route walked by women and girls carrying heavy baskets of farm produce from Hahndorf to Adelaide between 1839 and 1854.

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An historic working mill wheel distinguishes the restaurant

 

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The banks along Cox Creek have thick cover which attracts a variety of wildlife

 

 

After finishing my meal I cross a small bridge and start walking slowly along the trail taking small detours down to the water’s edge where wildlife encounters are more likely. An interpretive sign indicates that water rats are found in the area and I spend quite a long time sitting quietly by some of the larger pools. But mid afternoon is not really ideal for these largely morning and early evening hunters. However, I do come across both maned and Pacific black ducks; both species with young in tow.

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An adult Pacific black duck with a brood of yung

 

 

Time passes quickly and I decide that dessert and coffee beckon. The walk back is equally fruitful. Near one large pool, two superb blue wrens are courting in the reeds and I am lucky enough to catch them perching delicately on a slender stem. A perfect example of sexual dimorphism with the male’s glorious iridescent plumage contrasting sharply with the female’s conservatively camouflaged dull colours. Mating privileges versus a better chance of avoiding predators, take your choice!

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Male and female superb blue wrens

 

 

My final encounter features a pair of spectacular bronze wing pigeons that suddenly emerge from the scrub alongside the trail. Fortunately, one of the birds walks through a patch of bright sunlight which highlights its spectacular plumage.

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Bronze wing pigeon

 

 

Coffee is good

Desert is better

Tough day in the bush

Cheers

Baz  

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