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Dry Creek by the Junction

31 May

Dry Creek by the Junction

Dear Reader:

Yes, an ant is an ant, but in Australia some ants are just that little bit more! Inch ants or bulldog ants live up to their name and reputation. Solitary hunters that still live in communal nests they have a fearsome bite and relentless disposition. This one is hunting late on a cool autumn afternoon scouring a eucalypt trunk for prey. I watch carefully as it systematically probes under the bark for any hapless invertebrate that is sheltering or hibernating. Seeing a bulldog ant at this time of year seems strange, perhaps a late burst of warm weather woke the colony up. The vagaries of nature are always fascinating.

 

Bulldog ant hunting

 

I am exploring the section of Dry Creek which flows between the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Nelson Road through to Walkley’s Road. It can be accessed behind ‘The Junction’ shopping centre. The creek twist and turns along this part of its length and is bordered by walking and bike trails. There are some deep pools, a ford and a small footbridge which all facilitate wildlife viewing and photography. Throw in a nice bakery at the shopping area and you have the makings of a perfect walk.

 

Dry Creek

 

The little footbridge which spans the river is an ideal place to watch for wildlife. It is high on the banks and provides a good vantage point for peering into the treetops. Today it is the surface of the water that catches my attention. The tell-tale V shaped ripples of a water rat swimming across the creek are an unexpected bonus on my walk. I have rarely seen the elusive little rodents in Dry Creek and to know that they are present is quite a treat. Water rats or rakalis are a native species with a broad head, webbed feet and a white tip to the tail. They feed on aquatic insects, yabbies, molluscs, frogs and small fish.

 

Australian water rat swimming

 

 

 

Further along the path there is a break in the bushes and trees that envelop the sides of the creek and I can get good access to the water’s edge.  A little pied cormorant is sitting on a log directing its gaze into a long pool before continuing to hunt amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. On my walk back I see the same bird with its wings outstretched drying them between forays into the creek to hunt. Cormorants do not have waterproofing oils to protect their plumage like some waterbirds and therefore must continually dry out their feathers.   

 

 

little pied cormorant

 

Near one of the fords there are some massive river red gums shading the creek bed and I can hear the raucous screech of lorikeets in the highest branches. A quick look through the telephoto lens helps me to identify them as musk lorikeets. These social little birds seem to have found something to feed on in the canopy. There are no blossoms on the trees so I can only assume that it is some form of insect life.

 

Musk lorikeet

 

My walk has been most rewarding as I have encountered a wide range of animals from aquatic mammals and predatory insects through to brightly coloured parrots in the treetops. Only the bakery to go and I can mark today down as more than a little successful.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

3 Apr

Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

 Dear Reader:

I can hear the bird chirping deep in the reeds that surround the waterway. Pointing the long lens towards the sound I scan the thick tangle of bulrushes; nothing! Then I catch the slightest movement deeper in, closer to the water. Success, I squeeze the shutter release and smile inwardly. Reed warblers are hard to see at the best of times and this is only the second image I have captured. Reviewing it on the screen I notice that the bird has its beak open. ‘Yes’, my reed warbler is warbling.

 

Reed warbler

 

I am walking around a lovely little wetland called Apex Park, just off Sir Donald Bradman Drive near the airport. Having grabbed a bite to eat at the Ikea store, along with a few items for my studio, I have parked in alongside the little pond and am taking a slow walk around the tracks and boardwalks that surround it.

 

General view

 

Viewing platform

My next stop is a viewing platform close to a long dead tree that seems to be providing a good vantage point for a cormorant and several resting swallows. As I steady the camera a young willie wagtail lands on a skeletal branch and starts to sing. It seems to be a day for birdsong; nice theme for a series of images.

 

Willie wagtail

 

Geese

And the world of bird acoustics does not seem to be letting up. A pair of geese cruise across the water honking as they paddle and the musk lorikeets high in a eucalypt by the water’s edge are making ‘one hell of a racket’.

 

Galahs

 

When I get back to my starting point I sit alongside the pond and enjoy a moments silence, and it is a moment for right on cue a pair of galahs start to squabble over a nesting hole. 

Cheers

Baz

Additional information

This is quite a short walk with no steep gradients. There are toilets, a playground, benches and shelter in the vicinity.

Patowolonga’s Cormorants

1 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious spring day, not a breath of wind to ruffle the placid expanse of water that stretches out in front of me. By the breakwater there is a gathering of little black cormorants paddling alongside the rocky barrier. Every few minutes, one of the birds dives and swims out into the deeper water to hunt. Cormorants use both wings and feet to navigate underwater. Their aquatic speed and agility combined with specially adapted eyes and serrated beaks make them formidable fishers.

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Black cormorant

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Black cormorant diving

 

I am walking around the Patawolonga from Glenelg towards the first road and foot-bridge. This man-made lake extends between Glenelg and West beach for around 1.5 kilometres and serves as a flood mitigation system. The area also incorporates a berths for larger boats and lock that lead on to Holdfast Shores Marina an upmarket, shopping, restaurant and residential complex.

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View from the bridge

 

When I reach the bridge there is a spectacular view back down the lake towards Glenelg that takes in the old replica ship The Buffalo which brought some of South Australia’s first colonists and governor ashore. The extensive grassed areas that run alongside ‘The Pat’ are shaded by eucalypts and Norfolk pines which attract a wide range of common urban birds. Today there are numerous crested pigeons foraging in the grass as well as wagtails and swallows demonstrating their sophisticated aerial acrobatics as they hunt for insects nearer the water.

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Crested pigeon

 

From the western end of the bridge I walk back towards Glenelg along the edge of the marina. There are several fishermen casting for bream and I stop and chat with them. Apparently a small pod of dolphins has been in the area over the last few days. Not great for fishing but wonderful for those who simply enjoy the wildlife. The rocks along this part of the Patawolonga have a healthy cover of small molluscs and occasionally I catch sight of small schools of baitfish in the shallows.

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periwinkles at low water

 

The path stops near a dive shop and I have to walk around the lake past neatly kept houses. When I reach the lock I can see dozens of swallows hawking insects. A few have settled on the glass and steel partitions that enclose some of the nearby units to rest for few minutes before resuming their hunting sorties.

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resting swallow

 

The lock is not being used by any of the local boaties and I am able to walk across to finish my circuit of the lake, watched intently by yet another cormorant. This time it is a pied cormorant, perched high on a railing. The bird is drying its wings before it too dives back into the water for lunch while I head for nearby Jetty Road with similar intent.

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Pied cormorant drying wings on lock

 

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby.

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park

12 Nov

 

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park 

Dear Reader:

There is a rainbow lorikeet around fifty metres away from me. The excitable little bird has inverted its body to dip its feathery tongue into a tube shaped eremophila blossom.  Several other species of birds including new Holland honeyeaters and wattle birds are feeding in the same garden beds where there is a smorgasbord of flowers to choose from. Clever planting also attract a variety of butterflies which feed on the nectar and help to pollinate plants by transferring pollen.

 

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Rainbow lorikeet feeding

 

I am walking around the Wittunga Botanical Gardens near Blackwood in Adelaide’s foothills, just a twenty minute drive from the CBD. The busy little township is nestled into bushland where koalas and myriad bird species are common visitors. There are several hotels, bakeries and restaurants in the area and the Belair National Park and Golf course make this an ideal day trip for city residents.

 

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Old church and soldiers’ memorial in Blackwood

 

Leaving the flower beds behind I venture down to the lake that is the central feature of the park. It is surrounded by massive gum trees and there are crows, honeyeaters and a kookaburra perched in some of the branches that overhang the water. But it is a tiny head that emerges from the lake that draws my attention as I watch a Macquarie short-necked turtle swim towards the shore. The side-plate sized reptile clambers up on to a fallen branch and positions itself to catch some warming sunlight.

 

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Central lake and gardens

 

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Macquarie freshwater turtle

 

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Pacific black ducks

At the end of a long cool, wet summer the lake is full of new life. I spot purple swamp hens tending their fluffy black chicks near the reed beds. Several species of frogs are calling; probably spotted marsh frogs and common froglets or perhaps a potty bonk. Two Pacific black ducks are preening their feathers near the water’s edge and Eurasian coots appear to be amorously pursuing each other further from the bank.

 

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Ra venfeeding, they are often mistakenly called crows

 

Various pathways meander around the lake and I choose one that cuts through a stand of massive red gums. A lone raven is strutting around the perimeter of one tree pecking at the bark which is cracked and sloughing off the trunk. The bark of most eucalypts is an important environment for many smaller animals. Insects and spiders find shelter and breed there while larger predators such as birds and lizards find it a fertile hunting ground.

 

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Koala portrait shot

 

Having enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake while indulging my passion for both wildlife and plants in general I walk back to the car park by way of a small stand of gums that run along the northern edge of the gardens. They are the kind of trees that might be attractive to koalas and I know that these endearing marsupials are common in the Blackwood area. Sure enough, there is one wedged between two branches in what I can only describe as the perfect koala portrait pose; a nice way to finish my walk.

 

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Lesser-wanderer butterfly

 

Enjoy our city and suburban parks in spring as they really are some of the best in the world.

Cheers

Baz

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

11 Aug

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

 Dear Reader;

As I follow the narrow footpath south from the cul-de-sac overlooking Tennyson beach towards the Grange jetty in the distance, I can see a bird of prey hovering just above the houses that spill down to the dunes. The sky is patchy, blue then grey as clouds blow in from the sea and it is difficult to locate the kestrel in the viewfinder. I take a few quick shots and hope for the best.

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Nankeen kestrel hovering

I am intrigued by the raptor and wait quietly close to a coastal wattle bush watching it patrol along the line of the dunes pausing periodically to hover and scan the terrain below for small animals. The birds in the surrounding scrub are not quite so keen. They head for cover deep in the bushes or under the eaves of the houses twittering their various warning calls.

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Singing honeyeater in shelter

A lovely little singing honeyeater hides in a dense tangle of branches while spotted doves remain motionless closer to the ground near some dried scrub that matches their subdued colouring. Both species are usually very wary in this dune habitat and hard to approach but I am obviously the lesser of two evils and able to get closer than usual to capture some images.

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Spooted dove

Continuing along the pathway, I am fascinated by the different architectural elements incorporated in many of the houses. There are domed chapel-like structures, facades of tinted glass and walls with pastel shades of ochre, pink and grey. Just before I reach the jetty the beautiful ‘Marines’ sit alongside the beach. This group of Victorian 3 story terraces was built in 1840 and they dominate the foreshore.

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At the trail head near Tennyson Beach

 After a wonderful lunch at the Grange Hotel and a walk along the jetty to check out the fishers and look for dolphins, I turn back for home. The wind is getting up so I opt to walk back down the path rather than along the beach front. There are numerous trails down to the sea allowing me deeper penetration into the scrub as well as a quick search for seabirds. On this visit they are few and far between bar a couple seagulls under the jetty.

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Grange Hotel

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From track to beach through the dunes

 

Near one of the beach access paths I stop to watch a mudlark foraging in the sand and notice a discarded Besser brick lying in a sunny patch near a patch of early flowering succulents. Much to my surprise there is a bearded dragon lizard perched on it, flattened out to extract every bit of heat from the masonry. These reptiles are not uncommon in the summer but in the winter I would have expected them to be tucked away hibernating until spring.

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Mudlark foraging along pathway

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Bearded dragon picking up some rays

 

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Still a few bugs around to eat for the dragon

Predators prey and unseasonal reptiles it has been a rewarding winter’s walk along the dunes enjoying the ocean, good food and quite an assortment of wildlife.

 

Enjoy your winter walks in SA

Cheers

Baz

Modbury’s Three Bridge Walk

1 Aug

Modbury’s Three Bridge Walk

 Dear Reader:

There are ibises along the banks of the pond and high in a river gum. One pair seems to be concentrating on a particularly dense area in the crown of the tree. I look more closely through the telephoto lens. It is a nest, barely discernible amongst branches. Closer inspection reveals a pair of chicks nestled against one of the parents while the other has left in search.

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Ibis nest camouflaged in gum tree

 

I am walking along the pathway that runs from Montague Road to McIntyre Road behind the little complex of shops that includes Katmandu, Bunnings and Subway; just a few hundred metres before TTP. It is best to park next to the creek appropriately behind the outdoor shop then walked over a small traffic bridge to Victoria road. After a hundred metres, head left over the footbridge that crosses Dry Creek past a large pond where the ibises gather.

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The pond near Montague Road

 

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Walking and cycling track along Dry Creek

 

Leaving the ibises to their domestic duties I follow the creek using a small track along the bank. Alternatively a new concrete path traverses the same route. There are waterfowl along the creek which is flowing quite fast after heavy winter rains. In a slightly calmer stretch where a curve in the creek creates a sheltered pool a pair of black ducks, recognisable only by their upturned tails, are feeding on the bottom.

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Black ducks feeding

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Along the secluded detour

 

After a couple of hundred meters I come to the third bridge which crosses the creek and bends back to the car park and lunch. However, alongside the bridge there is another rough dirt track that leads into the scrub emerging at a lovely secluded section of the creek. As I follow this trail I come across a variety of smaller birds including some New Holland honeyeaters that are perched in the reeds and a flock of musk lorikeets squawking high in a huge red gum near the trail junction.

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Third bridge over the creek

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New Holland honeyeater in reeds

 

I back track to the bridge, cross it, turn left following the main watercourse and stop to photograph a small waterfall that has developed in the creek. From here the track branches left running alongside a steep banked gully with very little water in it. Back at the car park I can get some lunch, shop for outdoor gear or find some hardware to occupy the remainder of the day.

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Little rapid or waterfall

 

Not a bad way to spend a winter’s morning

Cheers

Baz

Gawler’s Dead Man’s Pass

7 Apr

 Dear Reader:

There are dragonflies and damselflies hovering above the water. Every so often one of the slender damselflies hovers near the bank then attaches itself at right angles to a reed.

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Damselfly

 

The pool of water is left over from the winter rains and sits alongside a causeway that crosses the river just a few hundred metres from Gawler’s main street. The town has a country, colonial feel about it with classic stone buildings and a good smattering of pubs, restaurants and bakeries to fuel up on before exploring the ominously named Dead Man’s Pass.

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Causeway over the Gawler River

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Historic stone buildings in Gawler

 

Well placed signs along the walking and cycling track indicate interesting historical information as well as describing the wealth of fauna that can be encountered along this trail which follows the course of the Gawler River. As I approach a dense clump of reeds I am lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of a red bellied black snake before it disappears into the undergrowth near the river bank.

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Red bellied black snake

 

The edge of the river is bordered by massive red gums that in themselves create a multitude of ecological niches. I sit near the base of one huge tree watching a variety of insects from ants to beetles as they forage along the trunk while a tree skink weaves its way amongst the deeply furrowed bark in search of prey.

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Tree living skink

 

Several metres higher up the tree, a pair of crested pigeons has made a nest on one of the larger limbs. Both birds will share the incubation of the eggs (usually two) which will hatch after about 21 days.

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Crested pigeon

 

The river red gums along the creek also play host to a wide variety of parrot species including cockatoos, rosellas, rainbow lorikeets and the brightly coloured little musk lorikeets. Two of these delightful little birds are checking out a nesting hole where a branch has been removed and I am fortunate enough to capture an image of them contemplating their future real estate.

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Nesting musk lorikeets

 

My morning exploring the park on the outskirts of this charming country town has been most rewarding and I am sure that Gawler’s historical and ecological diversity will be the topic of more posts in the future.

 

Cheers Baz

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