Archive | March, 2016

An Autumn Walk and Drive Around Stirling

21 Mar

Dear Reader:

There are ravens in the tree near the restaurant. We call them crows in SA but the birds that live around Adelaide are usually little or Australian ravens. True crows are found much further north in outback regions. The birds are feeding on some autumn berries in a deciduous tree by the roadside. Every so often, one of the more adventurous gang members swoops down and reconnoitrers the outdoor tables for any tasty leftovers.

1 1 red

Raven disguised as crow


I am sitting in Rubys Organic cafe in the hills town of Stirling, a twenty minute drive from the city along the south-eastern freeway. This charming town of around 3000 people has a distinctly English feel about it. As well as native trees the town has numerous European species and the cooler climate makes it ideal for plants such as azaleas and camellias.

1 2 red

Healthy, interesting and tasty


After a healthy and delicious (gf) lunch of salmon croquettes and a pumpkin and bean salad, I drive out to the golf course on the outskirts of the town. At the end of the aptly named Golflinks road I park the car and walk into the Mt George Conservation Park. Tall stringybarks dominate this section of the walking trail which is part of Adelaide renowned Heysen Trail. Some of the trunks are blackened from earlier fires though most are still alive and bearing new growth. There is a proliferation of native groundcovers including heaths, grevillias and even some tiny orchids and lilies sheltered in the understory.

1 3 red

One of the many small plants growing in the understory, probably a heath


Walking through the forest is enjoyable but most of the bird life is high in the trees and hard to photograph so I return to the car, drive back and head along Old Carey Gully Road to the Mt George turn off. At the little picnic area, pleasantly situated by a small dam, I rejoin the track which is now part of the Pioneers Womens Trail. It runs over a small bridge where I pause to look into the creek bed in search of water skinks or perhaps a water rat (rakali). To my surprise I catch a fleeting glimpse of a small rat-like creature hopping across a pool on a fallen log. It is a southern brown bandicoot, a marsupial, not a rat at all. It pauses for a brief moment on its makeshift bridge and I take a shot. Photographically, the results are somewhat mediocre but in terms of satisfaction as a naturalist, it is a special moment.

1 4 red

Bridge on trail crossing Cox Creek


1 4 2 red

Unbelievable to get a photo of a bandicoot especially in daylight hours


But the bandicoot is not my last marsupial. To really ‘make my day’ I spot two koalas, probably a mother and joey, perched on a slender eucalypt overhanging the creek bed.

1 5 red

Mum and youngster



I started with lunch in Stirling and I decide to finish with a visit to Aptos Cruz; one of my favourite hills art galleries.

1 7 red

Aptos Cruise gallery from the top floor


However, on the short drive back to the town nature provides one last surprise when a deer bounds out across the road then pauses amongst the singed trunks of the gums on the edge of the roadside

1 6 red

Oh dear, wrong continent!!!




Wildlife and Wineries

15 Mar

Wildlife and Wineries

Dear Reader:

I can hear the first few notes of a kookaburra calling near some picnic tables across the other side of the green. The birds are usually quite shy and I don’t hold out much hope of sighting them with all the families enjoying their lunch on the grass. However, to my surprise there are two birds sitting on a low branch quite close to a group enjoying a BBQ and glass of wine. I have seen kookaburras steal a sausage in the past and these birds must be residents accustomed to life in the grounds of one of South Australia’s most notable wineries.

1 1

Laughing kookaburras


Seppeltsfield winery in the Barossa Valley is a pleasant 50 minute drive from the city. Easily recognised by the avenue of huge palms at its entrance, the rambling complex encompasses: green spaces, bushland, old buildings, a family mausoleum, fine restaurant, cellar door facilities and even an art gallery; and that’s without even mentioning the sprawling vineyards. Established in 1851 the land was initially used for growing tobacco then wheat and finally grapes in the mid 1860s. Today, it is one of the nation’s most famous and revered wine wineries.

1 2

Jam Factory gallery


I decide that a bushland trek in the area is not by best wildlife option. Today, I will simply wander around the grounds enjoying the animals that take advantage of the plantings, food and shelter that this popular rural setting can provide. My strategy pays off when a wattle bird hops down onto one of the slate tables just a few yards away. Like the kookaburras, wattle birds are fairly common but shy and often difficult to photograph. Having one so close is a rare opportunity.

1 3

Wattle bird


1 4

Picturesque grounds

From the picnic area I take a walk around the courtyards near the restaurant enjoying the tasteful landscaping and searching for insects amongst the plantings. There is a good selection of butterflies this time of year and several different kinds of tiny spiders are hunting amongst the flowers.

1 5

Flower spider n blossoms


After a late afternoon meal ‘Local Garfish, Skordalia, Snowpeas and Vegetable Escabeche’ at ‘FINO’ and a sample sip of the wonderful vintage port that Seppeltsfield is renowned for, I call it a day. As I walk back out to the car park a young magpie fixes its gaze on me cocking its head to one side as if to bid me farewell

1 6

Fond farewell from magpie gatekeeper




A Hot Semaphore Sunday

4 Mar

A Hot Semaphore Sunday

Dear Reader:

As I walk along the Semaphore jetty I can see several anglers working the shallows for silver whiting. Further along, another fisherman is jigging for squid. His bucket is half full of small baitfish and an opportunistic silver gull is sitting on the railing eying the contents as breakfast. The angler is unaware of his feathery adversary and a few minutes later the gull grabs a fish and heads off down the jetty.


Silver gull


Semaphore is one of Adelaide’s original coastal suburbs and the jetty has been part of Adelaide’s beach scene for well over 100 years. It was originally used to moor pilot and customs craft. A coastal pathway follows the beachfront behind the dunes allowing visitors partial access to this protected area of sensitive coastal vegetation. The Esplanade, near the start of the jetty, is dominated by the iconic Palais Restaurant and Function Centre which was built in 1922. This Semaphore landmark has served as a bathing pavilion, dance hall, surf life saving club and kiosk before renovations in the 1990s.


Lovely morning light


View of the jetty and dunes over the function centre pavilion


Closer to the shore a young Pacific gull sits on a lighting fixture watching the antics of its smaller cousins and keeping a watchful eye on the ocean ready to patrol the shoreline in search of its next meal.


Juvenile Pacific gull


It is getting warm by the time I walk off jetty on to the beach where I have left some snorkelling gear with a family who are enjoying the solitude of an early morning dip. The water is clear and there is little tidal movement as I enter from the beach. I follow the jetty poles out to sea as they provide shelter and food for a diverse collection of marine animals. It is not long before I notice a large blue swimming crab foraging near the bottom. We play a game of tag around the pole as the aggressive crustacean uses its powerful pincers to keep me at a distance.


Agro blue swimmer crab


Half an hour in the water is enough to cool me off and I still want to walk along the pathway to search for birds and reptiles in the dunes before it gets too hot. Most of the bird life has sought shelter from the sun but I do encounter one singing honeyeater amongst the grasses that bind the loose sand of the dunes. Along one of the trails to the beach, a sleepy lizard emerges from under a coastal acacia bush to eye me suspiciously before disappearing amongst the ground cover.


Singing honeyeater


Shingleback or sleepy lizard, a kind of large skink


Over the next half hour I stroll down couple more paths and sit quietly amongst some of the coastal scrub watching for tell tale signs of animal life. Numerous doves peck amongst the ground covers and a group of wattle birds squabble noisily in one of the larger shrubs. However, as midday approaches the sun and heat has obviously taken its toll on both me and the wildlife and it is time for a cold drink and lunch. Needless to say, the Palais adequately provides both and as I look across the dunes from my table by the window, enjoying a delicate dessert, I reflect on how much I always enjoy my visits to Semaphore.


What more do I need to say




%d bloggers like this: