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

 

 

Cheers

Baz

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