Archive | December, 2015

Xmas Gums

26 Dec

Xmas Gums

Dear Reader;

The New Holland honeyeater is perched on the topmost branch of the white flowering gum in my backyard. Every few minutes it takes to the air and chases an insect that has inadvertently flown too close to its ‘operating zone’. But hawking for prey like this takes an energy toll on the little bird, requiring frequent refuelling at the nectar rich flowers that also serve to attract its insect prey.

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New Holland honeyeater

 

This is just one of the little wildlife scenarios that play themselves out during the Christmas season in the gum trees that grace my backyard. The smaller tree comes into flower in early December reaching its peak around Xmas day. The larger tree has flowered earlier but seems to harbour a wealth of tiny leaf and bark insects throughout the early summer months. Together, they attract a wide range of birds providing an interesting holiday spectacle; especially if one has scored a new camera from Santa.

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A tale of two gums

 

New Holland honeyeaters aren’t the only species of honeyeater that feeds in my garden. The more timid white plumed variety also samples the blossoms and hawk for insects. However, at this time of year they are almost finished raising their final brood for the season and the young ones are being schooled in the art of bug catching by the adults. Peering through my long lens into the shadows of the taller tree I am lucky enough to capture two images of a chick waiting for food then being fed a bug by its parent.

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White plumed honeyeaters

 

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Have a bug or two junior

 

In a wonderful coincidence, there is also a family of wattle birds in the same tree and a fully fledged chick is sitting on a branch demanding to be fed. I watch carefully, trying to time my shots to coincide with the exact moment the adult shoves some insect offering down its waiting gullet. Of course, some leaves get in the way and the light intensity drops at the crucial moment but that’s wildlife photography.

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Wattle bird and chick

 

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A gullet full of whatever

 

With a Xmas drink and a mince pie resting on the outdoor table next to my cameras I scan the foliage of the smaller tree for a final shot or two. Two colourful creatures oblige; a rainbow lorikeet is tearing apart a blossom emerging from a gum nut and a swallowtail butterfly is probing the mature flowers for nectar.

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Rainbow lorikeet

 

6 Dingy swallowtail

Dingy swallowtail

 

Cheers and Seasons greetings

Until next year

Baz

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Port Augusta…Arid Lands Botanic Gardens

7 Dec

Dear Reader:

The sand monitor, a kind of goanna, is raised slightly off the ground and peering intently towards me. It doesn’t seem too perturbed by my presence. In fact, I am probably the more excited of the two. It is my first encounter with one of these lizards which can reach a length of around 1.5 metres. Like all monitors, the sand goanna has a forked tongue like a snake allowing it to use scent to detect the distance and direction of its prey. A closer examination through my camera lens reveals that this animal has been injured at some time and is missing part of its front right foot.

Sand monitor

Sand monitor

 

I am in the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just a few kilometres out of Port Augusta near the head of the gulf. The gardens showcase many of the diverse dry-land ecologies that SA has to offer. Unlike most parks this one is not fenced and the animals that venture into its proximity are wild. Despite its natural status the gardens are well serviced by a modern visitor centre and cafe.

The view from the head of the gulf

The view from the head of the gulf

 

Leaving the sand monitor to its own devices, I walk around the edge of the encroaching scrub towards the extensive eremophila plantings at the back of the centre. Several zebra finches are perched in the branches of a skeletal tree overlooking a small artificial waterhole. I search for the right image, eventually finding a male and female settled on a dead branch; perfectly demonstrating the difference between the sexes.

male and female zebra finches

male and female zebra finches

Purple eremophila

Purple eremophila

 

After spending some time exploring the eremophila shrubs with all their subtle floral variations, I walk around to the northern edge of the gardens. This area includes habitat zones where interpretive signs explain adaptations to climate and terrain as well as Aboriginal use of plants as foods and medicines. While I am reading about how sugarwoods are used as sweeteners and their amazing regenerative powers after bushfires, I hear a rustle in the undergrowth. Only a few metres from where I am standing a pair of or shinglebacks are following each other closely between the ground-covers. Sleepy lizards, as they are sometimes known, are essentially solitary reptiles which can only mean that it is mating season.

 

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

 

Whenever I visit these extraordinary gardens I conclude my day with a little culinary treat; a light meal, ice cream or scones with jam and cream. But these are no ordinary delicacies. Many of the flavours are created from the landscape with a distinctly ‘bush tucker’ nuance such as quandong ice cream and native herb flavoured damper.

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

 

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz  

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