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Veale Garden’s Bird Life

3 Jul

Veale Garden’s Bird Life

 Dear Reader;

There is a posse of bandits in the trees around me. Noisy miners with their black masked faces and highly social behaviour resemble just that, especially when they are defending their territory. Today it is a magpie that is on the receiving end of their aggressive chattering and aerial sorties. Despite its size, the magpie soon leaves the area and the miners return to their foraging and socialising in the trees.

Noisy Miner glaring at magpie

 

Australian magpie

 

I am in Veale Gardens, a lovely green space that borders South Terrace on the very fringe of Adelaide’s CBD. I have been attending a convention in the Adelaide Pavilion which caters for a range of functions from weddings to corporate events. After a superb lunch I am taking advantage of these charming gardens to enjoy some urban wildlife. Lawns, trees, flower beds, tall trees and a little brook that runs through the area make it ideal for a little environmental decompression on the edge of the city.

Veale Gardens Creek

In one shaded area of the creek there is a small pool that is attracting several different species of water birds. A male and female Pacific black duck are resting on the rocks at the edge of the water.  Nearby a little pied cormorant is perched a little further along the rock wall near a small waterfall. The predatory bird is watching the water intently for prey such as small fish, yabbies and frogs which it will chase underwater using its wings like flippers.

Pacific black ducks

 

Little pied cormorant

 

There are many other bird species around the gardens especially in the tall eucalypts that run along South Terrace. My favourites are the corellas which congregate in the trees and on the well tended lawns probing for bulbs and tubers in the grass. Their raucous calls can be heard as extensive flocks fly over the city to their roosting sites in the late afternoon.

Corella

 

It has been a rewarding lunchtime stroll around the gardens but the convention beckons and it is time to put away the camera and listen to another speaker extolling the benefits of the city’s parklands to the general health and well being of the public…..quite ironic really.

 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.

 

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Naturally Bonython Park

1 Nov

Naturally Bonython Park

Dear Reader

There are two rainbow lorikeets perched halfway up a red gum. They are exploring a potential nesting hole. First one bird pokes its head in then the other. Their house hunting is accompanied by much squawking, head bobbing and an occasional nip at each other. Just when they seem to have decided that this is the right site, a magpie lands on the branch just above them and both parrots take flight.

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Rainbow lorikeets at nesting hole

 

I am in Bonython Park by the Torrens River; downstream from the weir and opposite the Coca Cola factory on Port Road. Below me cycle and walking trails surround the waterway and a small causeway and larger train bridge cut across the river. The park abuts the holding paddocks for the police greys by the old jail and includes wide expanses of green space, a shallow paddling lake, kiosk and children’s playgrounds.

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Bonython Park Kiosk

 

 

From the recreational area I walk down to the pathway then head back upstream towards the train-bridge and city. The river bank is cloaked in tall reed beds and I can hear numerous small birds moving and calling in the jungle of stalks and leaves. There are several grassy areas that are free from the reeds and they provide opportune places to sit and observe the river’s wildlife.

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Purple swamp hen

 

Coots, moorhens and purple swamp hens are common along this stretch of water. The coots and moorhens tend to be in the water paddling close to the cover of the reeds. The swamp hens are more often seen in amongst the tangle of plants by the bank where they use their elongated feet to walk gingerly on the fallen reeds that form a mat on the water’s surface.

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Downstream view from railway bridge

 

The view from the bridge to the ford provides a good oversight of the river and eucalyptus trees that line the banks. However, the bridge is also a perfect shelter for a number of different animals. Over the years I have watched water rats foraging here and even a fox that was taking shelter during a rain storm. Today it is an eastern water skink that makes an appearance as it forages amongst the old wooden foundations of a pathway that runs under the bridge.

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Eastern water skink

 

Downstream from the bridge there are several islets made from debris that has floated down the river during recent floods. Several pelicans have claimed this territory as a resting place and are squabbling over squatters’ rights. They duel with their beaks, neither giving way, while disturbing a group of black cormorants that are using the same area.

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Pelican agro

 

I am almost back to where I started when I find one last target for my camera. Two swallows are perching on a papyrus stem where they are making forays over the water to hawk insects. Swallows are not the easiest birds to photograph as they are incessantly on the move but this pair has cooperated even though they are still at the extreme range of my equipment.

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Resting swallows

 

Cheers and enjoy the spring

BAZ

A Walk through Victoria Park

14 Sep

A Walk through Victoria Park

 Dear Reader;

The little musk lorikeet has been hovering around the small opening in the trunk of a red gum for a few minutes. Suddenly another lorikeet appears and disappears down into the tree. They are obviously nesting here. I walk closer to the tree and listen. From deep inside I can hear the plaintive calls of the young chicks demanding food.

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Musk lorikeet

 I am walking around the old Victoria Park Racecourse which is now a recreation area bounded by gracious old houses, a creek, walking trails and stands of massive old gums as well as a variety of native shrubs and bushes. It is a wonderful space for people to enjoy a bike ride, walk or run, exercise their dog off lead or even fly model planes.

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Historic old racecourse stand

 

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Avenue of gums on the western perimeter

 From the car park at the south western edge of the park I take the path towards Greenhill Road which winds through a copse of massive old gums and thick tangles of bushes. There are white cheeked rosellas high in the branches and one pair seem to be staying close to a hollowed out limb some 10 metres above the ground. I’ll come back at another time and see if they have chosen it for a nesting site.

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Huntsman spider in bark crevice

 To get a better idea of the bird life I decide to spend a little time sitting quietly on a fallen log deep amongst the trees and bushes. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the aforementioned log is also home to a large huntsman spider that scuttles for cover as my ‘butt’ approaches.

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White cheeked rosella

While the spider and I share our seating arrangements, a wide range of birds including- miners, mudlarks, crows, magpies and galahs-are active in the scrub around me. Wonderful for a photographer to capture some images; not so good for a spider who features on many of their menus.

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Police greys

Bidding adieu to ‘Boris’, I continue along the pathway. To my delight, my final encounter is not with native wildlife but a pair of police greys being ridden through the parklands.

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Spiny wattle variety with feeding fly

 Spend some time in our parklands during the spring. It really is the best time to enjoy the wildlife.

 

Cheers

Baz

Zoo Portraits

2 Sep

Zoo Portraits

Dear Reader;

The pool is not huge, no place for the third largest land animal on Earth to hide. But in truth, it is hard to see the animal with only its tiny eyes ears and nostrils breaking the surface of the water. Suddenly the massive head emerges and the hippo’s immense jaws open, revealing broken tusk-like teeth. The teeth are used for duelling and protection rather than feeding on the soft grasses it prefers. I had to re-visit the hippo enclosure several times to make this image.

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Open wide

It is a cold windy day with showers forecast. Not the kind of weather that makes for good nature photography in the field. So, I have decided to spend the morning at the Adelaide Zoo and set myself a photographic task; to capture half a dozen portrait images of mammals. I apologize for temporarily abandoning my usual theme of South Australian wildlife but an occasional foray into the world of exotic species is a nice change.

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Juggler

 Asian small-clawed otters are social animals that live in the rivers, marshes and estuaries of South East Asia. They are the smallest of all otter species and their name refers to the tiny claws that extend beyond their partially webbed feet. These intelligent little predators are extremely agile in the water twisting and turning in sinuous, fluid movements as they hunt for prey that includes crustaceans, molluscs and fish. The zoo group is a family and the mother ‘Boo’ can often be seen juggling small pebbles, just one example of their playful disposition and an ideal image to capture.

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A little timid

 White-cheeked gibbons are small, tree living apes that inhabit the rain forests of Vietnam, Laos and southern China. Habitat loss has made them critically endangered. Breeding these beautiful primates in captivity is one way to ensure that their species does not completely disappear from our planet. Male white-cheeked gibbons are black with splashes of white on their faces. Babies of both sexes are always golden/white then change to black with the females regaining the light colouring when they reach maturity at around five years. The image of the infant peering around its mother’s body seems to exemplify the vulnerability of these endangered animals.

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Contemplating life

Gibbons might be apes but mandrills are monkeys. Monkeys have longer faces, tails in most cases, and often move on all fours with their more dog shaped bodies. Mandrills are one of the largest and most colourful monkey species. They live in the rainforests and wooded savannahs of Africa and like their baboon cousins have enormous canine teeth capable of challenging predators. They will deter leopards in defence of their groups called hordes which can number in the hundreds. Like all primates (apes, monkeys, lemurs and a few others) they are an intelligent, social species and the rather wistful look on this female’s face reflects this. 

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Life’s tough

It would seem inappropriate not to include one South Australian species in my collection of mammalian portraits but neither kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian Devils, possums or even the usually photogenic koalas were particularly cooperative. When I had all but given up hope I came across a snoozing Australian sea lion with apparently not a care in the world. A photo opportunity not to be missed.

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Piercings

  My final image of the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, an inhabitant of the Amazonian rainforests, highlights the ways that zoos approach their captive stock. To monitor animal health, breeding status, age and many other characteristics it is necessary to track them individually. Where animals are numerous, hard to handle or distinguish and for many other reasons visible tags are one useful tool.

 Come visit our Z00

Cheers

Baz  

Once Around the Lake

2 Jul

Dear Reader;

The ‘little pied cormorant’ is perched precariously on a branch overlooking the lake. It has been fishing for the last ten minutes and I have watched the bird continually diving under the water to pursue small fish before swallowing them when it surfaces. When the cormorant has finished the afternoon hunt it will spread out its wings to help dry them before finding a suitable place to roost.

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Little pied cormorant

 

It is a mild winter afternoon and I am strolling around the Torrens Lake between the Frome Road Bridge and the new footbridge that links the city to the Adelaide oval. I have walked this circuit many times stopping at the zoo cafe for coffee, or dining at Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant in the evening. Each time I manage to encounter a different assortment of wildlife depending on the season, time and weather.

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Jolley’s and Popeye pleasure craft

 

 

In front of Jolley’s a fisherman is casting for carp and earning the close attention of several Australian pelicans. One bird in particular is waiting to see if it can capitalise on his skills. Pelicans are common throughout the year. Sometimes they hunt individually catching small carp in their flexible, pouched beaks and at other times they work together to round up a school of fish.

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Fishing buddies

 

A little further along the embankment a pair of dusky moorhens and a Eurasian coot are feeding on the edge of the water. Coots are adept at diving and they are able to squeeze the water out of their feathers to decrease their buoyancy which makes foraging underwater easier. Both species tend to stay close to the reeds which provide both shelter and a safe place for nesting.

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Eurasian coot and dusky moorhens

 

While I am watching this little group I notice the characteristic V shaped ripples of an Australian water rat heading towards the far bank. Water rats are shy and hard to photograph in the wild and I am pleased to fire off one or two quick frames before it disappears into a tangle of undergrowth and reeds.

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Australian water rat

 

I cross over the Adelaide Oval footbridge to the northern side of the Torrens enjoying an uninterrupted view of the water, parklands and riverside buildings including the Convention Centre and Festival Theatre. A young family are manoeuvring their paddle boat near the fountains and black cormorants are drying their wings on the ‘paper-boat’ sculptures in the centre of the lake.

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View from Adelaide Oval footbridge

 

Near the Frome Road Bridge several swans are swimming majestically along the edge of the manicured lawns to the delight of some children cycling along the path with their parents. The birds are very large with a wingspan approaching two metres and they can be quite formidable when there are cygnets around. On the bank, another bird is using its long flexible neck to preen the feathers on its back and side.

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Black swan

 

My walk concludes by the Frome Road Bridge where I indulge in a well earned cup of coffee at the Wisteria Cafe. Providing a wide range of snacks and casual meals, the cafe can be accessed from both inside and outside the zoo at the southern end of the bridge. It provides a lovely parkland setting alongside a small creek that runs through the Botanic Gardens and into the lake.

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Frome Road Bridge by the zoo

 

Cheers and enjoy a winter walk

Baz

A Walk in the Botanic Gardens

17 Jun

Dear Reader:

Australian magpies are fascinating birds, gregarious and intelligent with rather an aggressive streak during the nesting season. This one seems a little out of tune to the seasons, it’s not really the time to be constructing a nest at the beginning of winter but here it is collecting material for just that purpose.

 

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Magpie nesting behaviour

 

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Hoverfly

Botanical gardens are wonderful places to observe wildlife especially in the winter months when some animals’ natural habitats can be bereft of food while others will have moved on to the proverbial ‘ greener pastures’. The incredible variety of plants in the gardens ensures that something is always flowering or fruiting which in turn leads to a food web that supports a range of wildlife from birds and mammals to insects and spiders.

 

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Photographer at work

 

Our Botanical Gardens also draws in another species; the nature photographer (Homo sapiens cameralis) and they often migrate great distances to enjoy our wildlife. The gentleman in the picture was a visitor from Asia who was keen to photograph Australian native plants and we had an interesting conversation about the unique ecosystems that he might visit in South Australia.

 

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The lake near the kiosk and restaurant

 

My excursions often include a place to eat and have a break and there are several in the Botanic Gardens. On this occasion I simply sat by the quaint little lake and enjoyed a light snack from the kiosk but more elaborate and substantial meals are available from Cafe Fibonacci and the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. The gardens also house a museum of economic botany, Victorian era palm house, the bicentennial conservatory and many other specialised areas.

 

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Eastern rosella

 

Walking around the lake is always a pleasure and in the warmer months giant carp feed near the banks and freshwater turtles are commonly seen basking on the surface. Today, there are several cormorants drying their wings and a lone rosella foraging for seeds amongst the bare limbs of a tree that sits on a small island in the lake.

 

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Crested pigeon

 

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Maned ducks feeding near the creek

 

From the lake I head east towards the Bicentennial Conservatory crossing over a small creek where a pair of maned ducks and a crested pigeon are foraging in the lush grass that borders the waterway.

 

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Self portrait in glass

 

My last encounter is with another one of those hominid species that frequent the gardens. Indeed, it is my own reflection as I pause to photograph the fascinating glass sculpture entitled ‘Cascade’ by Australian artist Sergio Redegalli,  which dominates the southern end of the conservatory.

 

Cheers

Baz

Torrens Lake…..Down by the Weir

2 Nov

(Naturallysouthaustralia.com response to feedback and article)

Thank you for your comments regarding my change of style to a field notes format. Most people seemed to prefer the original recount genre and therefore I will return to writing in this manner.

 

Torrens Lake….Down by the Weir

Dear Reader:

From the walkway where I am standing I can see the V shaped ripples of an Australian water rat swimming towards the concrete lattice work at the foot of the weir. I am always excited by the chance to photograph these elusive mammals and despite the overcast conditions I am in a good position to get a few nice pictures; if the little creature cooperates just a tad.

1 The usual view of a water rat, a V shaped trail that quickly disappears nto the reeds

The usual view of a water rat, a V shaped trail that quickly disappears into the reeds

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Just sitting here enjoying the view

 

When the rakali (another name for the water rat) reaches the reeds instead of disappearing, as usually happens, it dives under the concrete barriers and hauls itself onto the flat surface. After settling for a few seconds it has a quick look around, grooms its fur then slides back into the water. Oh yes; there is a god of wildlife photography.

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Popeye does a U turn at the weir

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Below the Weir where ratty lives

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Great places to dine

 I am at the end of the Torrens Lake by the Weir. It is a place where cycling and walking tracks converge, the iconic Popeye makes its turn for home and the par 3 golf course begins. There are also free city bikes at the little kiosk and the Red Ochre/River Cafe restaurant complex which provides excellent dining and wonderful views across the lake towards the city.

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Moorhens in love

On my way to a coffee before heading home I can’t help but notice a pair of dusky moorhens delicately tripping across the top of the spillway. They follow each other for some time, apparently with amorous intent. Yes, spring is in the air.

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Miner getting a bite to eat the hard way

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I simply loved the colour and motion

 

Noisy miner birds are common along the river bank (not to be confused with the introduced Indian Mynah that plagues Sydney) and a small group are feeding close to the weir. One particular bird hangs from a slender eucalyptus branch as it gathers nectar from the blossoms then kicks off in flight. A nice couple of images to finish my walk by the water.

 

Enjoy the spring weather and our wildlife

Cheers

Baz

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