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Jupiter’s Wildlife

2 Oct

Dear Reader:

Before I have even climbed out of the car I notice a flight of cockatoos gliding low towards the grassy oval where they settle to feed on tubers and roots. Then from the trail head I spot a pair of tawny frogmouths high in one of the stringy barks that dominate the area. These fascinating owl-like birds are nocturnal and use the fine whiskery feathers to locate prey in the dark. Their camouflage is superb making them appear to be an extension of the branches they cling to during the daylight hours.

 

Tawny frogmouth

 

I am exploring the trails around the heritage listed Jupiter Creek Gold Diggings. They are located in the Kuitpo Forest area and were mined intermittently between the 1860s and 1930s. The diggings are now a heritage site and a great place to go for an historic and wildlife wander.

 

Bush trail near the car park

 

Today the weather is a little on the bleak side; not characteristic of South Australia’s habitually warm spring season. But the light adds softness to the bushland setting while providing many photographic challenges as I try trying to capture acceptable images of the constantly moving wildlife.

 

Grey currawong

 

A little further along one of the trails that leads to the diggings I hear the bell-like chimes of a grey currawong. Eventually the bird flies between some trees and I am able to get a clear shot as it perches high in the branches framed by a rare patch of blue sky.

 

Female scarlet robin

 

There are many small birds flitting between the branches and amongst the wattle and pea bushes that form the mid story. I catch glimpses of fairy wrens, tree creepers and even a crescent honeyeater. Eventually a female scarlet robin lands on the trunk of a large eucalypt and begins to forage between the layers of bark for grubs, spiders and insects. In the low light I have to steady the camera against a branch to make the shot.

 

Leaf curling spider web

 

Leaf curling spider emerging

Although only the first vestiges of Spring have graced the state a few insects and spiders are emerging from their winter dormancy. Numerous webs are strung between the lower branches of bushes and trees. Curled leaves are suspended in many of the webs in what, at first, seems a random fashion. However, closer examination shows this web and leaf combination is home to leaf-curling spiders that use silk to draw in the sides of the elongated eucalypt leaves to form a tubular shelter.

 

Common brown butterfly camouflaged

 

A few species of flowering plants are beginning to bloom in the leaf litter and under story and the contrast between them and a well camouflaged common brown butterfly provides a striking image.

 

Gums in low light

 

Today I have only wandered a little way along the trail that leads to the old diggings but I am determined to return later in spring to investigate more of this fascinating area. For now I shall climb back into the car and head for ‘Fred’, a charming little restaurant in Aldgate a just a few kilometres down the road and the home of some of Adelaide’s best lunch time treats. I’ll try the croque monsieur….then go for another walk in the wild to work off the calories!!!!

 

 Cheers Baz

 

Additional notes

There are some challenging areas when walking the trails around the mine site. A signposted area near the oval with basic shelters provides maps and diagrams of the area.

 

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and text describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will attach a new image and notes to accompany each post. 

The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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Cudlee Creek’s Winter Wildlife

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

It is early morning and the sky is still a little grey as it sheds the last of the morning mist. A steep path winds down to the riverside and it too is slippery from the moisture in the air. Small birds are flitting between the trees, moving too fast to recognise but an occasional call suggests they are honeyeaters and wrens. Eventually the ground levels off and I am able to walk comfortably amongst a stand of gums that border the water. To my surprise I find a large koala in the one of the smaller saplings doing its best to reach the tender leaves at the top of the tree.

 

Koala feeding

 

The road from the Cudlee Creek Bridge past the Kangaroo Creek Dam and back to Adelaide winds along the banks of the Torrens for the first few kilometres. There are a few narrow lay-bys where you can access the water and the enveloping scrub. Steep hillsides and sandstone cliffs make this an attractive but arduous place to search for wildlife but one worth the effort as a variety of birds, grey kangaroos, water rats and turtles; to mention but a few species; make the Torrens Gorge home.

 

River, cliff and road

 

Closer to the Bridge and Cudlee Creek store I park along a track and make my way down to the long pool at the foot of a hillside. A pair of rosellas is chattering in the trees above me and an expectant kookaburra is waiting above the water on an overhanging branch. But it is the little fairy wrens that intrigue me. One bird sits cautiously on a large rock near some straggly plants that have gone to seed. It seems aware of me but the lure of a nutritious lunch seems to outweigh caution. I watch it feed for a few minutes before the lorikeets issue a warning call and it flits back into the undergrowth.

 

Blue wren near water

 

Blue wren feeding

 

 

My final stop is the little store ‘come restaurant and gas station’ for a bite to eat but not before I walk across the adjacent bridge to see if I can spot some birds or even a possum in the foliage of several eucalypts that reach up from the river. Though it is winter and insects are a rarity it is a beautiful monarch butterfly that provides my parting shot and a reminder to return in the warmer weather.

Historic Cudlee Creek Bridge

 

 

 

Monarch on eucalyptus leaves

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Exploring the riverbank can be quite difficult but driving and simply stopping at the lay-bys between Cudlee Creek and Kangaroo Creek dam is a pleasant drive.

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and short texts describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will add a new image and caption to accompany each post.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Hills Face Koalas

1 Jun

Hills face Koalas

 Dear Reader:

I drive up the gravel track to a parking lot surrounded by massive eucalypts where several narrow trails lead up the bush-clad hillsides. Wanderer butterflies are feeding on the blossoms of several small groundcovers and a kookaburra is serenading us from somewhere in the deeper recesses of the scrub. But it is a lone koala that grabs my attention as it stretches full length along a tree limb.

 

 

Today is koala day. The sun is out and I am going to drive along the hill’s face to some of my favourite destinations and look for these fascinating marsupials, while trying to capture some images that demonstrate their lifestyle. My first encounter is at Anstey’s Hill Reserve in Tea Tree Gully where I have often seen koalas along the various trails that wind through the area.

 

 

From Anstey’s I drive to Morialta Falls Park. Koalas are often spotted along the road to the central gathering area where the walking trails start. And, as if on cue, I notice an animal nestled in the branches of gum tree growing across the creek. Unlike my first sighting this one is climbing, quite vigorously-for a koala- into the higher branches and is not in the mood to be photographed. Koalas are generally slow moving, laid back animals as the nutritional value of the leaves they eat is low and energy expenditure must be carefully rationed.

 

 

The Mount Osmond walking trails in Burnside are another of my favourite koala haunts. I am not disappointed and manage to spot half a dozen koalas in the trees alongside the path that leads to an old quarry. But it is a lone animal that continues my ongoing koala narrative as it walks on all fours between the trees. It is rare to see them walking on the ground as it is here that they are most vulnerable.

 

 

In Mitcham, the road that follows Brownhill creek has numerous lay-bys and koalas are often observed in this area. And my final shot of a koala demonstrating its perfectly adapted hand with two opposable thumbs for climbing and grasping leaves is a fitting way to end my observations of these uniquely Australian animals.

 Cheers

Baz

 

 

Para Wirra Wildlife

2 Mar

Para Wirra Wildlife

Dear Reader:

There is a small group of lorikeets high in one of the taller eucalypts that overhangs the track. Several birds fly down to the ground and start to forage amongst the bushes and groundcovers. A closer look shows them to be Adelaide Rosellas, a sub group of the crimson rosella. One bird in particular struts across the ground towards me and despite the low light conditions I manage to fire off a frame.

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Adelaide rosella

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Strutting his stuff

 

I am walking along one of the many trails that cuts through Para Wirra National Park near Gawler about an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The park has a wonderful array of wildlife as well as excellent shelter and barbecue facilities situated in several convenient  locations including a small lake close to the park entrance.

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Trio of emus

Leaving the parrots to their own devices I continue along the trail towards the ‘Devils Nose’ a prominent lookout a few kilometres ahead. There is an abundance of leaf litter on the ground and every so often I can hear the rustle of small skinks amongst the bark and twigs. Suddenly a crashing of branches and leaves permeates the air as three emus emerge from the scrub and head up the nearby hillside.

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Crescent honeyeater

 

I come to a sign-posted junction of trails and decide that today is about slow and stealthy not a long walk. Heading back towards the car by retracing my route I take a little more time to wait and watch where I think there might be wildlife. Near a thick patch of scrub I am well rewarded when a beautiful crescent honeyeater lands amongst some branches just a few metres from me.

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Striated pardalote

 

Back at the lay-by where I have parked the 4WD I take out some well earned lunch bought from one of Gawler’s many superb little bakeries, pop the cork on a bottle of cider and sit on a conveniently placed wooden bench beneath a spreading eucalypt. Not two bites in and I hear an unfamiliar bird call and glance up into the tree to identify the ‘perp’. And there sits a lovely striated pardalote, with half its body tucked into a nesting hole…….what a way to end my walk!!!

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

1 Feb

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

Dear Reader:

The road meanders up the slope of the hill from the freeway exit past houses and a plant nursery towards a school nestled in the scrub. A few metres back, a footpath shadows the road. I can hear small birds twittering among the bushes and as I walk the trail nature seems to have re-established itself despite the occasional sound of a passing car.

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Yellow thornbill

 

Tall eucalypts and a few pines cut the light to a minimum and I have to work hard to focus my camera on the birds that live in the shadows. Eventually I spot a tiny yellow thornbill hopping between the branches. I fire off a half dozen frames, one is reasonable.

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Crimson Rosella

 

A little further along the path I can hear the single piping note of a crimson rosella. The sound seems to emanate from the top of a tall pine closer to the road. It takes a few minutes to find the bird but the soft light and beautiful plumage render a gentle image in the viewfinder.

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Classy meals, great service

 

 

I am in Crafers, a charming little hill’s town, just off the South Eastern Freeway about 15 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD. The town is set amongst lush bushland with tall eucalypts and a smattering of introduced pine trees dominating its skyline.

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Grey currawong

 

The trail cuts and curves through the trees skirting some lovely homes and bush gardens that in themselves are drawcards for wildlife. A grey currawong catches my eye as it flies into a stringy bark tree and starts to sharpen its beak on a branch.

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Unknown small skink species

 

I stop near the school and chat to some of the adults who are dropping their children off. They tell me that koalas are common in the area and sometimes echidnas trundle through the undergrowth. With this information in mind I find a spot on the hillside opposite and spend twenty minutes just waiting and watching. No koalas or echidnas today but a there are small brown skinks hunting in the leaf litter.

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Interesting entrance to B&B

 

Shouldering my camera I walk back down into Crafers on the opposite side to the trail taking in the country ambience and imagining what it would be like to live here. I pass an intriguing guest house and stop at the local hotel for a meal. All in all…..a pretty good morning.  

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families although the road does a have a reasonable incline which is mediated by the winding trail.

Aldgate Valley Reserve

14 Apr

Aldgate Valley Reserve

The road from Aldgate to the reserve winds through rural and bush country with charming homes and patches of scrub on either side. I pull off the road near an old bridge that crosses Aldgate Creek and walk along the well marked trail listening to the sounds of birds high in the gum trees. Eventually I catch sight of a pair of eastern rosellas as they fly between the topmost branches.

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Eastern rosella

 

Aldgate is one of the principal towns in the Adelaide Hills. It has a village atmosphere with fine eateries and small, locally owned shops. A fascinating 6 km nature walk runs between Aldgate and its neighbour Mylor. The route passes through the Aldgate Valley where southern brown bandicoots have been reintroduced to their native habitat (little marsupials that superficially resemble rats).

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Aldgate Creek

 

From the road bridge I take the path alongside the creek where I find a small footbridge. Several eastern water skinks have taken up residence amongst the wooden slats and one little fellow, who seems to have regrown the end of his tail, poses nicely for a portrait. Most of these smaller skinks drop their tail if grabbed by a predator. This serves a dual purpose as the tail continues to wiggle after being detached, acting as a decoy.

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Eastern water skink

 

Today I have decided to simply explore the area around the reserve and search out some of the animals that inhabit it. A bandicoot would be nice but as they are timid and mainly nocturnal and I am not holding out much hope. On the right hand side of the bridge there is a small orchard and some benches. Several large magpies are strutting around the area and one sits on the bench and glares at me as I walk through the trees.

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Magpie with attitude

 

 

I spend a little more time sitting by the creek watching finches and wrens darting between bushes but the day is getting chilly and the clouds are rolling in. As I step into the car for the drive back home a solitary kookaburra chortles in the trees nearby. Something seems to have disturbed the bird and I take a closer look and find a koala feeding in an adjacent tree.

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Laughing kookaburra

 

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Does my bum look big up this?

I make one last stop back in Aldgate to drop in at ‘FRED’ for a late lunch. So much to choose from; but the Sicilian ciabatta with wilted greens, haloumi, home-made chutney and caramelised onion cannot be resisted.

1 7 wilted greens aloumi chutney ciabaco sicilian armelised onion

One of many choices

 

Cheers

Baz

PS

I will be travelling for the next month and will not post any articles until mid-late May

Take a look over some of the earlier work and find somewhere to take a walk and enjoy our wonderful wildlife.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bridge on trail crossing Cox Creek

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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Oh dear, wrong continent!!!

Cheers

Baz

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