Archive | July, 2015

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf

26 Jul

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf 

Dear Reader:

I am in the little parking area at the Newland Head Conservation Park, just a twenty minute drive from Victor Harbor. On the grassy verge near a stand of pink gums, a small group of red-browed finches are feeding on seeds. It is a wonderful way to start my late afternoon exploration of this diverse coastal park.

2 Red-browed finches like to live in thick ndergrowth

Red-browed finches like to live in thick undergrowth

 

 

A series of trails branch out from this sheltered camp ground. They wind through the scrub providing access to the beach and rock climbing areas or simply wind through the scrub that lies behind a series of coastal dunes.

3 coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casuarina trees

Coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casurina trees

 

I choose a trail that runs parallel to the dunes. It is dominated by coastal acacia bushes where a variety of small birds flit amongst the foliage chattering and calling to each other. I fire off a few shots in the low light conditions to try and identify the species. One bird is definitely a grey fantail the other is bouncing on the thin branches as it feeds on seed pods. Perhaps it is a robin or thornbill species; hard to tell but that is the challenge of wildlife photography in these conditions.

 

 

What is it a thornbill or a robin

What is it a thornbill or a robin?

Grey fantails

Grey fantails are often found in coastal scrub

 

From the campground the road descends towards the beach. To the right a seasonal creek spreads into a shallow lake behind a set of dunes that are continually eroded by wind and water. I pull the car into a siding and walk along the edge of the lake. The wildlife here is quite prolific. A pair of kangaroos bound out of the scrub in front of me and there are black swans, coots and several duck species on the water. In one small bush, growing amongst the long grass, silvereyes are feeding on berries.

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

 

As I approach the beach I can hear the roar of the surf over the car’s motor. This is a classic southern beach with white water breaks that stretch several hundred metres out to sea. In the afternoon light the sand is pale gold contrasting the darker figures of anglers casting for salmon from the beach. There are silver gulls crowding around their bait buckets and several of their larger cousins, Pacific gulls, are patrolling the edge of the surf.

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to moluscs and even other birds

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to molluscs and even other birds

 

 

It has been a rewarding afternoon at ‘Waits’ and I have enough time to drive back to Victor Harbor and enjoy an afternoon meal sitting on the decking of the Whalers restaurant enjoying a wonderful view of Encounter Bay. And, at this time of year, even the chance of a whale sighting.

bluff vh

Dinner overlooking the bluff

 

I hope you take the time to enjoy this lovely bit of our coastline sometime in the near future.

 

Cheers Baz

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Port Wakefield…more than a tank of gas and a snack on the road

11 Jul

Port Wakefield…more than a tank of gas and a snack on the road

Dear Reader:

For more years than I care to remember I have stopped at Port Wakefield to fill up the car and grab a quick roadhouse snack before continuing on to the York Peninsular, Flinders Ranges or the mid north towns and wineries. Today is the exception and I must admit to being more than a little surprised to discover what this small town has to offer. As always, my first objective is the natural history of an area and this one has quite a  diverse offering of environments all of which are easy to access.

 

2b

Silver gull

As I sit in a little park next to a natural saltwater lagoon, which is used as a swimming pool in the warmer weather, a flight of silver gulls sweeps in low over the saltbush and samphire flats that stretch to the horizon. They are, no doubt, attracted to the bacon and egg pie that I am enjoying or perhaps it is the vanilla slice that is reserved for later. Instead they settle next to a car where a family is enjoying some chips…seagulls and chips… how South Aussie can you get? 

1a

Enjoying the boardwalk across the lagoon

1

Local source of a great pie

 From the seagulls in the car park I make my way across a little footbridge that crosses the tidal pool and follow an interpretive trail along the creek. The signage explains the peculiarities of the mangrove trees, the importance of seagrass meadows and how the coastal saltbush can withstand seasonal inundations of salt water. There are also images of common coastal birds; two of which, a little black cormorant and a pied cormorant, I photograph near the sluice gate that maintains the water level.

5

Little black cormorant perching on sluice gate

4

Pied cormorant on embankment near mangroves

 I walk along a raised boardwalk for a hundred metres giving which gives me an excellent view of the mangroves, saltbush and creek. Then as I turn back towards the car I hear the unmistakable call of a singing honeyeater which is conveniently perched on a dead tree branch near a restored stone section of the old wharves. And, just to finish my walk on a positive note there is a white faced heron hunting along the stonework causeway on the water’s edge.

5b

Singing honeyeater a common coastal species

5c

White faced heron stalking prey near the stone embankment

Driving back to the main highway I notice a lovely colonial building with an antiques sign out the front. I chat to the owners as I browse through the treasures and find that the town has many lovely old buildings and a fascinating place in our colonial history. Today I am in a hurry to get home after a couple of days in the bush but on asking where I can get some more information they refer me to a website, (portwakefield.sa.au)

6

The antique shop is one example of the many fine heritage buildings

Leaving Port Wakefield I have one overriding thought in mind. Next time I come this way I’ll take a little more time to have a closer look at this historic little town and explore its coastal melange of habitats in more detail.

 

Cheers

Baz

Tea Tree Gully’s Camellia Nursery

5 Jul

Dear Reader:

It is a cool crisp morning, and to be perfectly honest, I am not in the mood for a long drive. Instead, I have decided to visit a local nursery just a few kilometres away, where the North East Road starts its climb into the Adelaide Hills.

1a Newman's nursery

Newman’s nursery front entrance

 

As I park the car next to the entrance I am immediately struck by the contrast in lighting conditions. The path following the little creek that leads from ‘Newman’s Camellia’ nursery to the ‘Tea Tree Gully Hotel’ is in deep shade whereas the hills on the opposite side of the road are bathed in sunlight. An afternoon walk might have offered better lighting for photography but the wildlife always seems more active in the morning.

1a Start of the walk

The path begins

 

Climbing out of the car I glance up at the hillside above the little creek and to my surprise and delight I notice the hunched outline of a koala wedged between the branches of a huge gum tree; not what I was expecting this close to a suburban area.

1a koala in tree

Koala in tree

 

The trail starts just a few metres from the nursery entrance and meanders alongside the small watercourse for a mere 500 metres before broadening to a neatly manicured lawn enclosed by trees and shrubs. A varied collection of plants flank the path; including arum lilies, several lovely camellias, indigenous wattles and melaleucas as well as the ever-present, towering eucalypts.

1a Rogue camelia

A rogue camellia alongside the path

 

Small birds are continually flitting through the bushes though I am only able to catch fleeting glimpses of them. Some are definitely female blue wrens and I suspect that the tiniest ones are thornbills. Eventually, a small brownish bird settles in a low, flowering shrub some 50 metres away. I fire off a series of shots which, on review, reveal a glorious eastern spinebill.

1a Eastern spinebill  foraging in shrubs

Eastern spinebill foraging in flame heath bush

 

At the end of the trail half a dozen magpies are foraging for grubs in the well tended lawns. Several enormous gums tower over the grass and a pied currawong is perched on one of the topmost branches with a seed pod hanging from its beak. Another bird joins it, they seem nervous, jumping between branches before flying off, possibly to a nesting site.

1a Currawong with food approaching nest

Currawong approaching nest with food

The walk back is equally eventful with both rosellas and lorikeets feeding on berries in the scrub along the edge of the trail but capturing a sharp image in the shadows and overcast conditions is somewhat challenging.

1a Tapas on the terrace

Tapas

 

 

Newman’s nursery has a charming little restaurant with both inside and alfresco dining areas which afford a fine view of the hillside on the other side of the road. While I enjoy the delights of a tapas snack I notice several tiny finches feeding on the liquid amber trees that decorate the front of the nursery. From my outside table the birds are just within camera range and using the long lens I am able to identify them as European goldfinches.

 

1a European goldfinch in liquid amber tree

European goldfinch in liquid amber tree

 

Until next time

Baz

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