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Walkerville’s Bickle Reserve…..Fairies in the Garden

4 Sep

Fairies in the Garden

Dear Reader:

As I have categorically stated in several of my posts, “I am no botanist”. I love gardening and appreciate the wonderful diversity of South Australia’s flora but remembering all the different classifications, names and botanical intricacies is just a little too much like hard work. Instead, I rely on a couple of field guides to common plants in the Adelaide area, phone a friend or simply make reference to those yellow bushes or tall straight eucalypts. Hopefully, this gap in my naturalistic armoury will be narrowed as I write more nature posts, though the signs are not promising. So: it is with some trepidation that I lead into the following piece …….

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Pink fairy (Caladenia species)

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The Torrens near Bickle Park

 ….It is a cool winter’s day, slightly overcast and I am on my knees examining a glorious little patch of native orchids. Most are pink fairies but there is one tiny delicate bloom, the size of a little finger nail, called a gnat or mosquito orchid. Nearby several of the flat prostrate leaves indicate where other orchids will appear in the near future.

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Gnat orchid (Cyrtostylis species)

All of these species are endemic to the area and though a few might have grown naturally, most are the result of a dedicated group of volunteers who are revegetating this area which is part of the Vale Park Wildflower Walk. The section I am exploring is alongside the Torrens River just east of the autobahn bridge near the Bickle Reserve. Several of the Vale Park group are holding an open morning and explaining the importance and biology of the plants they have established.

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Chatting about orchids

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Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia)

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Purple swamp hen

As I listen to information about the relationship of certain fungi in the soil to the propagation of orchids and marvel at the spidery native clematis and hardenbergia that are climbing up some eucalypts (big tall ones) I notice a pair of purple swamp hens foraging in the long grass by the river. Leaving the group I pursue the birds and make my way along the bank where there are also dusky moorhens in the reeds and crested pigeons feeding near the bikeway.

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Dusky moorehen

Rejoining the group I chat about the importance of maintaining our wild heritage for future generations and learn about Aboriginal use of some types of native plants including orchids. Predictably in this group I encounter another wildlife photographer and the conversation fluctuates between nature and the lenses we have used for different purposes.

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An occasional visitor

In the course of our conversations one of the replanting team asks me if I have any images from the area and I remember that on a bike ride along this part of the linear park trail I had photographed a koala high in the largest eucalypt overshadowing the orchid beds. But, in keeping with my botanical prowess I forget to ask what kind of species it is (probably a tall, straight one).

Until the next journey into SA’s natural wonders

Cheers

Baz

PS

Check out Geotravelling a new site that I have attached that celebrates the natural, cultural and urban diversity of our planet through my travel photographs.

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Adelaide’s Frome Road Bikeway

16 Aug

Adelaide’s Frome Road Bikeway 

Dear reader:

One of my favourite bike rides starts in north Adelaide at the junction of Barton and LeFevre Terraces. From the roundabout, a dedicated bike lane follows Le Fevre Terrace which is flanked by open parklands on one side and lovely colonial homes on the other. For the marginally more adventurous, there are several paths through the park that run almost parallel to the road. Noisy miners, honeyeaters, magpies and lorikeets are common here and in the evening you might see brush-tailed possums in the trees.

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Noisy miners are a species of honeyeater

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Nice little house with a good view of the parklands

 

The bike lane curves down towards the city through more parklands and playing fields. Huge Moreton Bay Fig Trees dominate the parklands providing a vantage point for both rose breasted and sulphur crested cockatoos that often fly down to the grass in search of food.

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Galahs having a bite to eat

 

Just over the Frome Road Bridge, Adelaide Zoo’s classic entrance marks the end of the parklands. Tucked between the zoo and the Botanic Gardens there is a stand of huge pine trees. Look up and it’s hard not to notice a large colony of fruit bats (flying foxes) that call these trees home.

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Entrance to the zoo

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Fruit bats in the trees

 

After the zoo there is a well marked bike lane that runs up Frome Road past the medical school and hospital. The lush lawns around these buildings are a favourite haunt of Sacred Ibises that probe the soft ground with their long curved beaks in search of worms and grubs.

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View of the Torrens from the Frome Road Bridge

 

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Sacred ibises feeding

 

As Frome Road crosses North Terrace you enter a purely urban environment with a wide bikeway that cuts all the way across the city towards the southern parklands. This charming region of the city has many unique little houses and flats decorated with native plantings providing a rich urban ecosystem that supports common bird species such as sparrows, blackbirds and magpies.

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Magpies carolling in an urban environment

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Stopping for a coffee along the way

 

The bikeway finally emerges at the Himeji Japanese Gardens. These gardens are dedicated to Adelaide’s sister city on the Japanese island of Honshu. In keeping with the rest of Adelaide’s green belt parklands the signage also relates to the aboriginal heritage of the area. Rosellas and lorikeets are common inhabitants in the ancient eucalypts that characterise this southern edge of the city.

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Japanese garden

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White cheeked eastern roesella

 

 

From the Japanese Gardens there are bike paths that meander through all of the southern parks but their wildlife and charms will be the subject of a further post in the warmer months to come.

 

Cheers

Baz

Brougham Park on a Winter’s Afternoon

7 Jun

Dear Reader:

It is late in the afternoon and a bit on the chilly side. Grey skies and showers have alternated all day with patches of blue and occasional bursts of sunshine through the clouds. My car is parked in O’Connell Street where I am meeting friends in an hour for a bite to eat then a movie at the art deco Piccadilly Theatre. Typically, and despite the weather, I have arrived a tad early with camera in hand, hoping that I might encounter a little urban wildlife.

O'Connell street has a woderful collectionof cafes and restaurants

O’Connell street has a woderful collectionof cafes and restaurants

 

At the end of O’Connell St the road curves down into the city through a little patch of parkland. Asphalt paths cross this little green oasis which is dotted with tall eucalypts, pines and several large Moreton Bay Figs. I can hear parrots calling in the tree tops and eventually I spot a rainbow lorikeet shuffling along a branch high in the crown of one of them. With a flourish of feathers, a second bird appears and the parrots start to preen and gently peck at each other. They seem to be a mating pair settling in for the night. Nearby a lone eastern rosella appears to be looking on with a touch of sad envy…anthropomorphic, I know.

Just dropped in to say Hi

Just dropped in to say Hi

A lone eastern rosella sillhouetted against the late afternoon sky

A lone eastern rosella sillhouetted against the late afternoon sky

 

I sit and watch the birds for a few minutes while scanning the rest of the tree with my telephoto lens when I notice the furry coat of a possum wedged in a hollow. I toss a couple of pebbles against the branch. The brown patch moves and a tail appears for a second as the owner moves further into the tree; definitely a possum, probably a brush tail as they are far more common than their ring tail cousins.

Daytime view of a brushtail possum

Daytime view of a brushtail possum

Parkland possums forage at night

Parkland possums forage at night

 

On the eastern side of the park the imposing facade of the Brougham Place Uniting Church is framed by the massive leaves of an old fig tree. There are birds flitting though the foliage but in the afternoon shadows it is impossible to identify, let alone photograph them.

Brougham Place Uniting Church across park

Brougham Place Uniting Church across park

 

Before heading back up to my parked car I walk further down Brougham Place alongside a red brick wall that cordons off one of the area’s classic old mansions. A tangle of olive tree branches straddle the top of the wall and deep in their shadows a pair of crested pigeons are finding a sheltered place to roost.

Classic homes and businesses surround the park

Classic homes and businesses surround the park

Crested pigeons in olive tree

Crested pigeons in olive tree

Even on a cloudy winter’s afternoon, Adelaide has yet again delivered a memorable wildlife experience; a fascinating and ever-changing urban ecosystem available to anyone who takes a few moments out of their busy day to stop and look.

 

Thanks for reading my work

Cheers

Baz

North Adelaide……the lion circuit

8 May

Dear Reader:

It is a mild sunny morning and I am enjoying one of my favourite bike rides. Starting at The Lion Hotel I ride away from the city along Melbourne Street to the Park Terrace intersection. The street is an eclectic mixture of cafes and niche retailers selling anything from clothes to antiques and Persian rugs.

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Classic old building converted into shops and galleries

 

 

Crossing Park terrace I wind my way through narrow streets and past some lovely old homes to intersect the path that runs alongside the Torrens River before it hits the city proper. The river has cut a narrow gorge through the ochre coloured rocks and tall eucalypts dominate the trail. A pair of rainbow lorikeets is fussing around a nesting hole and one bird takes flight as I dismount to take a closer look.

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Rainbow lorikeets nesting

 

 

A wooden boardwalk descends towards the river and the weir that controls the water flow. Common pigeons can often be seen foraging along the steep hillside early in the mornings. I think that the clay might supplement their diet and aid digestion.

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Boardwalk trail along the river

 

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Common pigeon feeding on cliff-side

 

 

Where the walkway levels out a small bridge splits the trail with one path leading back into the city and the other north east to the foothills. I head for the city. The track is flatter here and I pass numerous joggers and other cyclists all enjoying the fine weather.

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Foot and cycle crossing near St Peters

 

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Large dragonfly resting in a bottle brush near the river bank

 

Just past the little foot bridge the path sweeps under the much larger Hackney Road Bridge that carries the majority of traffic into the eastern side of the city. Here, the river widens, slows and becomes the Torrens Lake. As if to herald the change, a graceful snowy egret stands sentinel-like amongst the reeds watching for prey. Further along the waterway, a great cormorant perches close by with similar intent. These larger predatory water birds seem to indicate a greater abundance of prey in the lake.

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Signage explains Aboriginal connections and other historical facts

 

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Great Cormorant perching on the lake behind the zoo

 

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Egret hunting in reeds

 

 

Although the path follows the lake right along the northern edge of the city, I only ride a couple of hundred metres further to the Frome Road Bridge. Pausing briefly to take in the view of the lake, city and zoo from the top of the bridge, I turn right and head past the playing fields riding parallel to Mackinnon Parade through an avenue of massive, stately eucalypts. Cyclists, joggers and football players of all codes share this green space with cockatoos and other parrots that squawk in the trees and feed in the grass.

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Cockatoo foraging on the oval near McKinnon Parade

 

 

Left near the end of the tree line and I’m back where I started and ready for coffee or breakfast at The Lion.

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Back at The Lion

 

 

A brilliant way to spend the morning!!

Try it some time!!!

Cheers

Baz

A Morning at the Zoo with Quinn

27 Feb

Dear reader: 

It is a warm Adelaide morning and the shady paths of the zoo are a labyrinth of intrigue for a nearly three year old. Around every turn there is a new enclosure full of sights, sounds and animals that she had only previously experienced in picture books.

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A pair of king parrots provide a suitable backdrop for a tiger striped Quinn

 

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The zoo is situated by the river just over the Frome Road Bridge

 

 

A misty spray of water shrouds the koala and Tasmanian devil enclosures in anticipation of the midday heat. It proves irresistible to our little granddaughter and sends her squealing down the path shouting, “bear, bear, bear!” I stand and watch the ‘really not bears’ as they stoically munch on eucalyptus leaves and fire off a couple of frames. Sometimes the images that can be taken in a zoo are invaluable additions for later projects.

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A koala chews on eucalyptus leaves that would be inedible even toxic to any other species of marsupial

 

 

Half a vegemite sandwich and an ice cream later a little hand tugs mine and a voice whispers, “ Pop, kangaroo”. She is almost right, as a pair of yellow footed rock wallabies emerge from behind a tree in an open enclosure a few metres away. One of the little marsupials has a joey in its pouch; a difficult image for any photographer to catch in the wild.

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A young yellow footed rock wallaby peering out from the safety of its mother’s pouch

 

 

The nocturnal house proves to be a real challenge. Try telling a toddler to be quiet as she goes through a dark tunnel lined with glass exhibits featuring bats and other night time wildlife. Near the entrance there are some aquariums which she finds quite fascinating (translate as…actually stops moving for a few seconds) giving me the opportunity to photograph some purple spotted gudgeons, one of our threatened native fish species. Yet another example of the pictorial opportunities that only captive animals can provide the amateur photographer.

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Purple spotted gudgeon are found in South Australia’s freshwater streams and lakes

 

 

Ironically, our final wildlife moment is not one that the Royal Zoological Society can claim credit for. Just as we are leaving and wandering past the hippos, Nan’s favourite exotic animal, we hear a family excitedly chattering about a spider. And there, strung in front of the hippo pool is last night’s tattered web of a sizeable orb weaver with the resident arachnid devouring a hapless dragonfly. Quinn says “yuck”, Nan scoops her up and I click away merrily wishing that I had brought the DSLR instead of popping the point and shoot in my pocket to ensure hands free, child minding capabilities.

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A large orb weaver makes short work of an unfortunate dragonfly

 

 

By now the temperature is getting into the mid thirties and it is time to leave. She does not want to go. “More animals Pop.” A good sign for the future.

 

Cheers

Baz (and Quinn)

Marion’s Warraparinga wetlands

24 Jan

Dear Reader:

There is a Kookaburra high in the red river gum near the entrance to the Warraparinga wetlands. It chortles out its laughing call alerting just about every wild creature in the area. However, the main purpose of its famous laugh is proclaiming to other kookaburras whose turf it is and how eligible one is for mating. As I sit and listen I cannot help but wonder what the original people who inhabited this land thought about these iconic Australian birds and the other animals that lived here.

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree (click to enlarge all images in this post)

 

For tens of thousands of years before European settlement the Kaurna people roamed the Adelaide plains and south coast. They used both forest and grasslands to hunt for kangaroos, possums and birds. The creeks and wetlands provided turtles, yabbies and fish. Reeds and other plants were a source of food, medicinal remedies and the raw materials for weaving and building.

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

 

 Although Aboriginal peoples used symbols, they never developed writing. Their laws, ideas, family histories and seasonal maps were passed from one generation to the next by a series of stories some of which are referred to as Dreaming Stories and often relate to spirit ancestors. One such story is that of Kulutuwi a young boy who is killed by his stepbrothers and carried to his resting place by his uncle Tjilbruke. It describes how the tears that Tjilbruke shed formed the little creeks along the Fleurieu Peninsula. Warraparinga, which comes from the Kaurna warri parri and means windy place by the river is on Sturt Creek near the start of the Tjilbruke trail in the suburb of Marion. It is a wetland complex and home to the Living Kuarna Cultural Centre which has interpretive displays, an art gallery, performing space and cafe.

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

 

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

 

 Leaving the kookaburra to its vocal gymnastics, I walk through a sculpture garden and down to the creek which is flowing quite swiftly as it has rained heavily in the last week. The rain has also stimulated some plants to flower and there is a healthy population of insects in the bushes and trees. The typical ‘wick wicky’ call alerts me to several white plumed honeyeaters that are energetically picking off lerps and ants high in the tall eucalyptus trees by the water. I spend a good ten minutes trying to get a definitive shot that shows their hunting strategies.

Galah feeding on the ground

Galah feeding on the ground

 

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

 

In the same stand of trees both rosellas and cockatoos are sheltering amongst the foliage. The cockies are particularly interesting as they have been feeding on the ground pulling up tubers and searching for seeds then returning to the trees to wipe their beaks on the branches; whether to clean, sharpen or what?…I am not sure.

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

 

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

 

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

 

 The trail is well defined and leads me past several different ecosystems. One of these is a chain of ponds that are surrounded by reeds. South Australia’s urban wetlands have been developed to help filter storm water run-off and improve the health of our creeks but they also serve as a wonderful habitat for water birds. Eurasian coots, purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens are all feeding close to the reeds and these birds would have been part of the diet of the Kaurna people who hunted along the nearby Sturt Creek.

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

 

Having spent a couple of hours exploring the trails and stopping to capture a representative batch of images, I wind up back at the cultural centre for a well earned cup of coffee and a pastry. In the next room there is a wonderful display of indigenous art and a timeline displaying the history of the Kuarna people. It seems a fitting and reflective way to end my first visit to this rather special park in the heart of Adelaide’ southern suburbs.

 

Until our next adventure

BAZ

An Island in the Lake

17 Dec

Dear Reader:

Sunday morning is for bike riding. A time to drop my little point and shoot into the non-lycra shorts, haul the mountain bike out of the shed, and cycle through Adelaide’s extensive parklands or along the linear park trail which follows the Torrens River.

Torrens lake with Popeye and pelican

Torrens lake with Popeye and pelican (click to enlarge all images on this page)

On this particular morning I thought it would be nice to ride around the Torrens Lake which sits on the northern edge of the city by the picturesque Adelaide oval. There is always a wide variety of wildlife on the banks of the lake and my long-time photographic adversary, the water rat, can sometimes be found near the tiny island opposite the paddle boats. In fact, on my last excursion around the lake I caught sight of one of the elusive little rodents paddling into the reeds that form the bulk of this tiny refuge.

Island with convention centre in the background

Island with convention centre in the background

Unfortunately my journey past the island yielded no results on the water rat front but it did turn up a couple of quite unexpected visitors; a pair of nesting mudlarks with fully fledged young and a long necked turtle basking on a partially submerged tree branch. However, as the island is a good 40 metres from the bank and the targets fairly small, capturing good, clear images was always going to be a problem. Nevertheless, I fired off a series of shots as the birds and certainly the turtle might be gone before I could return later in the day armed with a DSLR and long lens.

Snake neck turtle basking

Snake neck turtle basking

Several hours later, in somewhat overcast conditions, I parked my car by the weir alongside the golf course and iconic Red Ochre restaurant at the northern end of Memorial Drive and walked along the path towards the little island. The banks along this part of the lake are thick with tall reeds and both purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens use them for shelter and nest building materials.

Purple swamp hen with chick near reed bed

Purple swamp hen with chick near reed bed

Despite many distractions, I finally reached the section of bank opposite the island and set about photographing the magpie family. The adults were fossicking for grubs in the muddy banks close to where I was sitting and feeding the young as they squawked for food in the crowded nest. Below the nest, a pair of black cormorants perched delicately on a dead branch stretching out the­­ir wings to dry after hunting carp in the lake.

More please

More please

 

Mudlark or Murray magpie forging in the bank for grubs to feed young

Mudlark or Murray magpie forging in the bank for grubs to feed young

 

Little black cormorant drying wings

Little black cormorant drying wings

After about 30 minutes, a large black swan that had been cropping the grass nearby waddled over to keep me company. Swans can be aggressive and this one certainly had something in mind as it settled no more than a metre away and glared at me intently. Over the years I have often observed large groups of birds congregating around a local personality who       I refer to as John Swan. He does not feed them but simply spends time with the birds; perhaps this particular swan mistook me quietly sitting on the bank for John. Finally the swan’s enthusiasm waned and it nonchalantly wandered off to crop the grass leaving me to finish documenting the tiny island’s wildlife community.

What's your problem

What’s your problem

Enjoy the festive season

Cheers

Baz

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