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Bridle Track Wildlife

6 Nov

Dear Reader:

A grey kangaroo pricks up its ears and turns to face us. Half hidden in the grass and further camouflaged by its subtle colouring, the wary marsupial stares for a few more seconds before bounding away towards the shelter of a nearby stand of stunted gum trees.

 

 

I put the camera back on the passenger seat, raise the window and continue up the rugged track towards the top of the ridge. The vehicle ahead of me has already reached a farm gate and my companions have opened it in readiness. There are a few sheep in the area grazing on the steep hillsides and we have to be careful to maintain good relationships with the farmers who kindly allow the public to traverse their land.

 

 

I am driving along the Bridle 4WD track in the foothills of the Southern Flinders Ranges between Port Pirie and Melrose. This is red earth country with deep ravines, open expanses of pasture and small patches of scrub clinging to the windswept hills. Sporadic rocky outcrops dot the landscape and it is here that one can search for different species such as reptiles and a range of invertebrates.

 

 

We stop alongside one such outcrop near the top of the ridge and enjoy a wonderful view across hills and bushland to the Spencer Gulf in the hazy distance. I bend down and dislodge a couple of flat rocks and a small skink darts out and freezes in the long grass. Carefully replacing its rocky home I leave the little reptile to its own devices after snapping a quick shot.

 

 

The descent towards the coast is quite steep and we need to put the vehicles in low range. We stop occasionally to take a closer look at some of the eucalypts that grow in isolated patches providing nesting sites for some of the many parrot species that populate this part of the state. Ring neck parrots, galahs and rosellas are just a few of the species we encounter.

 

 

 

Back on the plains we leave the main trail and take a well graded dirt road back to the highway. A beautifully marked black shouldered kite watches us from a skeletal branch where it is perched to surveying the landscape for prey.

 

 

Our final farewell to this bleak but beautiful part of South Australia is the forlorn whistle of a freight train as it clatters over a crossing on the endless tracks that cover the thousands of kilometres between the west and east coasts of Australia.    

 

 

 

Cheers

Baz

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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

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

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.

 

Winery Wildlife

2 May

Winery Wildlife

 Dear Reader:

The male superb blue wren is extremely active as he darts between the bushes foraging for insects and seeds in the undergrowth. The iridescent blue plumage is striking. Nearby, a duller, grey coloured female twitters excitedly as the male approaches. Yet her adoration is a somewhat of a scam as their so-called monogamy is far from the truth. The promiscuous wrens will get a little avian action behind their mates’ backs if the chance arises while maintaining an outward appearance of togetherness.

 

Superb blue wren

 

I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the manicured gardens that grace the Jacobs Creek Winery in the Barossa Valley. After a superb lunch of chilli marinated prawns accompanied by an award winning white wine I am about to wander down the nature trail that leads from the restaurant and wine centre along the creek and into some nearby bushland.

 

Wine centre

 

Balcony view

There are both magpies and cockatoos calling from the lower branches of some magnificent river gums with finches twittering in the thick bushes alongside the trail. But it is a diminutive, silent creature that catches my eye. A delicate jewel spider has spun a web in a wattle bush and the brilliant colours and intricate body patterns of the little arachnid are quite outstanding; even on this relatively cloudy day.

 

Jewel spider

 

 

 

Nature trail

 

Galah

 

Near the small bridge where the trail and creek intersect I notice a group of small birds in a tree some distance away. They look a little like wood swallows but the colour is not right. I am familiar with most of the birds that inhabit this region and do not often come across a species that I don’t quickly recognise. Therefore, I leave this small task to you ‘Dear Reader’. If someone can identify them for me I would be most grateful.

 

Unknown birds

 

Closer shot of unknown bird

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

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

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.

Port Gawler

2 Jan

Port Gawler

Dear Reader:

The road from highway one to Port Gawler has a rural feel about it. There are crops and glasshouses, sheep and horses. At the same time the flowering gums punctuate the grassy verge attracting a range of parrots.

a

Curious horses

 

Several kilometres pass and I notice the terrain start to change. Pasture gives way to low coastal scrub and tidal channels appear alongside the road. The bird life changes too. Herons, ibises, sandpipers and plovers replace the woodland and urban species I have been observing.

b

Galah

 

Finally the scrub gives way to mangroves and the dense ticket of maritime trees stretch all the way to the nearby ocean. I can hear singing honeyeaters foraging in the foliage and a plethora of insects buzz between the tangled trunks and muddy substrate.

c

Great egret

 

The road is now unsealed and it ends at an old ruined wharf where weathered jetty poles protrude from the water. A little pied cormorant perches on one of them surveying its hunting zone while drying its wings in the sun.

c2

Mangrove forest and tidal creek

f

Mud life

 

I spend the next few minutes exploring the edge of the mangrove swamp watching for mangrove crabs and small molluscs that live around the strange root like protrusions that emerge from mud throughout the forest. They are called pneumatophores and help the trees breathe in the sticky anaerobic mud.

d

Old wharf remains

d2

Little pied cormoranr

 

The temperature starts to climb and I decide it’s time to head back home while a solitary nankeen kestrel hovers over this fascinating tidal wetland watching me drive back to the highway.

g

Nankeen kestrel

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is suitable for families and seniors. However there are no nearby public facilities.

It is also a conservation park with restrictions regarding pets, fires and other activities…check online.

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