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Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

1 Aug

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

Dear Reader:

 The grey butcherbird is perched on a dead branch on the edge of the mangrove swamp. The powerful bird will use this position to dive on prey in the undergrowth snatching up insects, small reptiles and the nestlings of other birds. Large prey will be jammed in the fork of a branch then eaten; which provides a hint as to how butcher birds acquired their name.

 

Grey butcherbird

 

It is sunset and the light is glorious as it defines the mangrove channels against the pale sand. I am on the northern side of Port Germein where a substantial stand of mangroves merges with the shallow beach. Small schools of fish are heading along these waterways towards the ocean as the tide recedes and an odd crab scuttles across the channel.

 

Lovely light

 

 

As I climb back into the 4WD I can hear the calls of several different kinds of honeyeaters in the nearby scrub. With the windows open I drive slowly along the rutted trail until one of the little birds appears in the upper branches of the bushes. Several frames later I have captured a passable image of a spiny cheeked honeyeater calling to its mate. Often shooting from the vehicle is easier as the wildlife seems more accepting of its presence than that of a large two legged creature stalking through the bush.

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater singing

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater in scrub

The next morning I walk in the opposite direction to explore a channel that runs parallel to the shore on the southern perimeter of the township with a spectacular view of the Flinders ranges in the background. There are mangroves and samphire right to the edge of the creek which ends in a dilapidated road bridge that once serviced a crossing into town. A white faced heron is sitting on the weathered planks eyeing the water below for small fish while swallows are nesting under the main span.

 

Look for the heron

 

Mangrove channel and Flinders Ranges

 

 

As I make my way alongside the waterway I notice silken sheet like webs, carpeting the ground between many of the bushes. Some are still glistening from the morning dew. They are used by lattice webbed spiders as a kind of horizontal trap that acts like a sticky labyrinth.

 

Lattice spider web and early morning dew

 

With my mangrove walk completed, I head back into town for a bite at the local cafe. But Port Germein has on last wildlife moment to offer in the form of a wattlebird feeding on some late blooming eucalyptus flowers near the caravan park.

 

Wattlebird feeding on eucalyptus blossom

 

Cheers
BAZ

Footnote

4WD is useful in this area and the walking on the southern edge of town is quite strenuous. The northern reach of mangroves would be suitable for a family or seniors’ excursion.

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.

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

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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.

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

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.

1 1

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.

Barker Inlet and Greenfields Wetlands …a road trip

23 Feb

Barker Inlet and Greenfields Wetlands ….a road trip

Dear Reader:

As I cruise along the highway between Port Adelaide and Salisbury a succession of lagoons, ponds and wetlands flash past my windscreen. Over the last couple of decades this once industrial wasteland has become a haven for wildlife and an integral part of the system converting run off into clean water that flows back into the ocean.

1Torrens Island power station

Torrens island power station looms behind the wetlands

 

There are several parking bays along the way that provide vantage points and access to walking paths into the wetlands. In rather an anomalous environmental scene the first one that I explore has the Torrens Island Power Station as a backdrop. And, a family of maned ducks are sheltering amongst the reeds in the foreground.

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Maned ducks

 

I drive another couple of kilometres to a large siding where two 4WD vehicles with council logos on them are parked by a path into the wetlands. A small group of volunteers are working on clearing weeds, counting bird species and making other environmental observations about the health of the ecosystem.

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Those who care

 

Leaving the voluntary workers to their work I find the next promising entrance and park my car. A sign indicates that we have moved into the Greenfields Wetlands. The track leads to an old bridge then follows an embankment along the edge of a small lake. The twittering of wrens provides a constant sound track as I scan for water fowl and reptiles along the edge of the reeds. There are coots, swamp hens and Pacific black ducks as well as turtles and water skinks along this section of wetland but it is a glorious little blue wren draws the attention of my long lens.

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Male superb blue wren

 

The watercourse ends in a sluice gate that regulates water flow between the ponds and on one side I can see the swirl and splash of large fish feeding in the shallows. They are carp, an unwelcome guest in any ecosystem and their eradication is probably another task for the council and other environmental protection agencies that watch over these important resources.

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Carp feeding in the shallows

 

My final stop, just before the salt pans is particularly fruitful as there is a mixed population of black swans, herons and spoonbills feeding in a shallow lagoon. It is always interesting to observe these quite diverse species with their individual feeding styles and uniquely evolved body parts. Their beaks, legs and feet have developed unique characteristics over time for feeding in the same area but utilising different food sources and therefore not competing.

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A mixed group of waterbirds

 

And, as is so often the case, my thoughts also turn to food. The Watershed Cafe, just over the bridge, is opportunely positioned on another part of the Greenfields system near Mawson Lakes. Sitting on the edge of a reed fringed lake it is the perfect place for coffee and cake at the end of my wetlands drive.

 

Cheer

Baz

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

3 Aug

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

Dear Reader:

It is a cool, overcast afternoon; not ideal for wildlife watching or photography. Nevertheless, I have organised a weekend trip north to Port Augusta to investigate the Arid Zone Botanic Gardens during the winter months. As an added bonus, I hope to explore a shallow mangrove creek some 20kms south of the town that a friend has suggested as an interesting wildlife stop off en route.

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Wedge – tailed eagles are Australia’s largest raptors with a wingspan over 2 metres

1 wedge tail 1. Australia's largest raptor with a wingspan over 2 meters

Wedge-tailed eagle about to fly

1 wedgy takes flight

In flight

 

 

As I approach the Chinaman’s creek junction I notice a pair of wedge-tailed eagles in the skeletal branches of a mallee tree. The birds seem quite relaxed as they survey the low scrub that stretches towards the coast. I let the car roll to a stop and gingerly climb out careful not to let the door bang shut. There is good cover between the birds and myself and I fire off a couple of shots before one bird senses the movement and takes to the air.

2 Galahs iin bush near wheat fields

Galahs in bush near wheat fields

2 Cockatoo near the park's entrance

Cockatoo near the park’s entrance

 

The stretch of unsealed road that stretches towards the coast is flanked on both sides by scrubby farmland that supports sheep and some wheat fields. Small groups of rose breasted cockatoos are perching in the branches alongside the road. They occasionally take flight into the fields to dig out tubers and possibly ravage a few of the crops; lovely birds to watch but not always popular with farmers.

4 Dirt trackinto the coservation park about 5 kms from the highway

Dirt track into the conservation park about 5 Kms from the highway

4 Visitors to the park

Visitors to the park

 

Where the cleared land gives way to forest and denser scrub, a fence and sign announces the Winninowie conservation Park which incorporates Chinaman’s Creek. Despite the remoteness of the area we meet a couple of 4X4s complete with camping trailers and stop to chat with the drivers for a few moments. They have been camping by the creek for a few days and had some success fishing the mangrove flats on the receding tide for whiting and mullet.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

9 Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

 

A few minutes later we pull into the camping area. There is a scattering of permanent shacks and a small jetty that is completely exposed at low tide. I change from shoes to gum boots, from experience I know that this mud sticks like glue, and start to walk along the edge of the little creek. I can hear singing honeyeaters in the mangroves and catch flashes of colour from other unidentifiable species that flit amongst the thick foliage. But the birds are some distance away and the overcast conditions make photography all but impossible.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

 

 

I notice thousands of small burrows honeycombing the edge of the intertidal zone. Each is home to a small shore or mangrove crab. In the creek I can see roving schools of silver baitfish eagerly eyed by a pair of herons that are stalking the fringe of the mangroves.

4 As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

 

Our time at the creek is limited. The clouds are thickening and a few fat raindrops have bounced off my camera lens. As we leave the park has a few more wildlife surprises that make me grit my teeth over the poor lighting conditions. A gorgeous sacred kingfisher perches on a long-dead coastal acacia bush and a group of grazing emus wanders across the saltbush dominated plain. Later, when examining this image in detail I discover that there is another participant in the scene; a grey kangaroo that was feeding close to them.

5 The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

 

It has been an interesting first look at this coastal environment with its varied habitats and I look forward to further visits in the warmer, lighter months ahead.

 

Until next time

Cheers

Baz

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