Archive | May, 2015

Belair National Park…Plants and a Pond

25 May

Dear Reader:

It is a mild autumn day and a light wind from the south promises to blow the early clouds away. A cyclist, rugged up against the chilly morning air, pedals through the parking area on her way to the nursery. I have come here in search of plants too, some native grasses and a red flowering gum to fill a vacant spot by my back fence. But there is an ulterior motive as the nursery often attracts a variety of birds and insects from the surrounding bush.

The hills can be chilly in the morning

The hills can be chilly in the morning



Close to the car park there is a thick growth of native correas and bottle brush. I notice a slight movement in one of the correas that is heavy with pale pink flowers. I change position to get a better line of sight and wait quietly. After a few moments an eastern spinebill appears amongst the leaves busily searching for insects and nectar.

The eastern spinebill belongs to the honeyeater group

The eastern spinebill belongs to the honeyeater group



Belair National Park is just 13 kms from the city centre in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges. As well as a wonderful native nursery, the park boasts over 20 kms of walking, horse riding and cycling trails covering a range of different environments. Tennis courts, grassed playing fields, barbecues areas and even an adventure playground are dotted throughout the 840 hectare park making it a popular destination for both outdoor enthusiasts and families.

The Belair Naional Park nursery markets wonderful array of native plants as well as an extensive collection of natural history books

The Belair National Park nursery markets a wonderful array of native plants as well as an extensive collection of natural history books


The park has quite a few non indigenous species of tree near Old Government House,  which provide lovely autumn colours

The park has quite a few non indigenous species of tree near Old Government House, which provide lovely autumn colours



From the nursery it is a short five minute drive to Playford Lake. By now the sun has burned off the last remaining clouds and it is sunny and clear; ideal for taking a short walk around the lake. On the edge of the lake several freshwater turtles are basking on a tree root taking in the morning sun. As I approach they slide off with a splash and head into deeper water.

Playford lake at the end of summer

Playford lake at the end of summer


Australian  freshwater turtles eat a variety of foods including insect, small fish and yabbies

Australian freshwater turtles eat a variety of foods including insects, small fish and yabbies



On the other side of the path a patch of tall gums shade a small gully where a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos are squawking in the tree tops and biting the leaves. On closer examination, through the long lens, I suspect they might be scraping insects off them, as eucalypt leaves are not usually a part of their diet.

Sulphur crested cockatoos tend to feed on the ground searching out fallen seeds, berries roots and nuts

Sulphur crested cockatoos usually feed on the ground searching out fallen seeds, berries roots and nuts



As I work my way back towards the car the terrain changes slightly with a gentle hillside rising up from the path. The snap of branches deeper in the bush suggests a bigger animal and suddenly a large grey kangaroo hops across the path and bounds through the trees. As I try to follow the roo through the viewfinder I catch sight of a fluffy bundle moving slowly up one of the eucalypts. It turns out to be a koala climbing up a slender branch to feed on the tender, outer leaves.

This young koala's mother was feeding a few metres higher in the tree

This young koala’s mother was feeding a few metres higher in the tree



My 20 minute walk has taken the best part of an hour with all the wildlife stops and I’m ready for a coffee in the hills suburb of Belair before driving home. But one last critter appears to round off my morning in the park. A large blue dragonfly is hovering over a reed patch. I wait for it to land, no luck. It zips from one grassy stalk to the next with manoeuvrability that puts any military helicopter to shame. Then, as if to do me a favour, the elegant little insect lands on the path just a few metres away…. nice one…click..done !!!

Large blue and red dragonflies are quite common around the lake

Large blue and red dragonflies are quite common around the lake






Whyalla to Point Lowly…a top coastal drive

16 May

Dear Reader:

The road from Whyalla to the Point Lowly intersection has dense mallee scrub on both sides. Kangaroos are not uncommon but hard to spot amongst the grey, green foliage. Sometimes a kite or eagle can be seen gliding on a thermal, scouring the scrub for prey.

Low Scrub Whyalla

Classic scrub with acacia in bloom




As I turn right and head towards the coast the landscape changes. The trees and bushes give way to stretches of saltbush and dried out shallow salt pans. Not much can survive in this country but I have seen emus foraging along these coastal badlands. I am not disappointed; catching sight of a fully grown male with his adolescent chicks just a few hundred metres from the fence-line.


Adult emu with a half grown chick in saltbush



The road turns quite sharply heading back down the peninsula. The salt bush landscape reverts back to low coastal scrub. This ecosystem is characterised by acacias and smaller eucalypts where various parrots, wrens and honeyeaters are feeding along the edge of the road. A sandy track leads down to the beach where a small group of shacks nestle into the scrub, all with a wonderful view back across the shallow gulf to Whyalla.


Red track, green scrub and blue coast



Whyalla across the bay



After my beach side detour I drive back onto the main road and continue on to my destination. Point Lowly and the associated LPG gas complex of Point Bonython are part of the 12 kilometre Freycinet trail that winds around Fitzgerald Bay. The trail which is ideal for cycling, walking or driving, features interpretive signs that explain Aboriginal and European history as well geological and biological features.


Point Lowly lighthouse



Gulls and cormorants



However, my trip today is simply exploratory and I will leave the trail for another time. Just a wander around the lighthouse, shoreline and nearby scrub will suffice. And the local sights more than live up to expectations. A mixed group of gulls and cormorants is roosting on a rocky outcrop while a pacific gulls glides above the inshore rockpools. Near the lighthouse a glorious little wood swallow perches on the guttering of a local shack expectantly watching a family BBQ.


Pacific gull hunting



Wood swallow on guttering



My appetite whetted for the next visit I turn the car and head back.


Until our next adventure



North Adelaide……the lion circuit

8 May

Dear Reader:

It is a mild sunny morning and I am enjoying one of my favourite bike rides. Starting at The Lion Hotel I ride away from the city along Melbourne Street to the Park Terrace intersection. The street is an eclectic mixture of cafes and niche retailers selling anything from clothes to antiques and Persian rugs.


Classic old building converted into shops and galleries



Crossing Park terrace I wind my way through narrow streets and past some lovely old homes to intersect the path that runs alongside the Torrens River before it hits the city proper. The river has cut a narrow gorge through the ochre coloured rocks and tall eucalypts dominate the trail. A pair of rainbow lorikeets is fussing around a nesting hole and one bird takes flight as I dismount to take a closer look.


Rainbow lorikeets nesting



A wooden boardwalk descends towards the river and the weir that controls the water flow. Common pigeons can often be seen foraging along the steep hillside early in the mornings. I think that the clay might supplement their diet and aid digestion.


Boardwalk trail along the river



Common pigeon feeding on cliff-side



Where the walkway levels out a small bridge splits the trail with one path leading back into the city and the other north east to the foothills. I head for the city. The track is flatter here and I pass numerous joggers and other cyclists all enjoying the fine weather.


Foot and cycle crossing near St Peters



Large dragonfly resting in a bottle brush near the river bank


Just past the little foot bridge the path sweeps under the much larger Hackney Road Bridge that carries the majority of traffic into the eastern side of the city. Here, the river widens, slows and becomes the Torrens Lake. As if to herald the change, a graceful snowy egret stands sentinel-like amongst the reeds watching for prey. Further along the waterway, a great cormorant perches close by with similar intent. These larger predatory water birds seem to indicate a greater abundance of prey in the lake.


Signage explains Aboriginal connections and other historical facts



Great Cormorant perching on the lake behind the zoo


egret edit

Egret hunting in reeds



Although the path follows the lake right along the northern edge of the city, I only ride a couple of hundred metres further to the Frome Road Bridge. Pausing briefly to take in the view of the lake, city and zoo from the top of the bridge, I turn right and head past the playing fields riding parallel to Mackinnon Parade through an avenue of massive, stately eucalypts. Cyclists, joggers and football players of all codes share this green space with cockatoos and other parrots that squawk in the trees and feed in the grass.


Cockatoo foraging on the oval near McKinnon Parade



Left near the end of the tree line and I’m back where I started and ready for coffee or breakfast at The Lion.


Back at The Lion



A brilliant way to spend the morning!!

Try it some time!!!



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