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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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Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

20 May

Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

 Dear Reader:

Eucalyptus trees overhang the dirt road that leads to the falls. Tiny wrens and even tinier thornbills twitter and flit amongst the branches and leaves. Occasionally pairs of rosellas fly out from the foliage. From the parking area I can see bush clad hills and open farmland rising all around and the sound of running water provides a pleasant background melody.

 

1

Driving into the falls

 

1a thornbill species probably yellow rumped

Thornbill species probably yellow rumped

 

Hindmarsh Falls are about 12 kms north of Victor Harbor towards Mt Compass on the Adelaide Road and are clearly signposted. The walk to the falls is easy and the path down to the viewing platform has rails and steps.

2

Path to the falls through scrub

 

I make my way along the trail that descends to a lookout point where I can see the water tumbling down dark boulders to a small pool below. There are kangaroo droppings on the forest floor and some of the trees show signs of a recent fire.

2a

Falls and pool

 

The birds are very wary here and difficult to photograph. I concentrate on other aspects of the area’s natural history. Bright orange fungal growths adorn some of the fallen logs and striking yellow Banksia flowers lend splashes of colour to the browns, greys and greens so typical of our bushland. I spend some time just watching the water. In the driest state on the driest continent watching a waterfall is always good for the soul. Near the edge of the pool I catch a glimpse of a grey kangaroo slowly edging through the scrub. Not clear enough to take a picture but interesting to watch how the ‘roo’ leans forward onto its front legs then pushes with its tail when travelling at slow speeds.

4a

Common orange fungus on fallen log

 

4

Banksia flowers

 

 

As I climb back up the incline towards the recreation area I notice a wattle bird perched on a branch scouring the leaves and limbs for insects to pick off. And in the sharp native grasses that border the creek near the picnic area I come across a fascinating little diamond weevil crawling along one of the blades. Hopefully, not to become a victim of the ever- vigilant wattle bird.

5 diamond weevil

Diamond weevil

 

7

Wattle bird

My trip to the falls has been interesting and though there has not been an over abundance of wildlife it is, after all, the middle of the day. And on that note I occupy one of the benches and tuck into pasty, lamington and a bottle of OJ bought en route at one the many excellent, local bakeries.

 

 

Nice to be back

Cheers

Baz

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

17 Sep

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

 

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is huge, a fully grown male with a couple of smaller females close by, half hidden in the scrub. As I approach, he rises up to his full height and eyes me with intent. I take half a step closer and he turns and shuffles closer to the fence. Then, with a single, effortless bound he clears it and disappears into the scrub further down the hillside.

2 roo

Fully grown male, grey kangaroo

 

3roo

Up and over

I am in an older part of Normanville on a hillside behind the beach houses and new developments. Large blocks of land are quite common here. Some still retain vestiges of the original pre-farming vegetation. Landowners with an interest in wilderness conservation have re-established endemic plants on many plots that in turn attract a plethora of native wildlife from ‘roos’ and kookaburras to colourful rosellas and even the odd echidna.

IMG_7906

Grevillea species growing under the pink gums

 

Near the top of this particular block there is a stand of gnarled old pink gums where little crescent honeyeaters and several grey currawongs are sheltering from the light showers that are sweeping in from the sea a couple of kilometres away.

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Grey currawong in pink gum

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Crescent honeyeater sheltering from rain

 

Beneath the canopy of the trees there is a wide variety of native shrubs and ground covers that support both small birds and insects. Despite the cool weather I manage to find some shield bugs amongst the berries and flowers of a pink Geraldton wax bush. And in the branches above them a crimson rosella is calling to its mate in anticipation of a warmer spring day when they will be searching for nesting holes.

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

 

From the scrubby hillside I drive back down to the coast stopping in at the Normanville Hotel for a locally caught seafood meal; calamari, whiting and scallops. The beach is only five minutes from the hotel and I park where a coastal pathway sweeps around to Carrickalinga heads, an area that I frequently dived during my youth.

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Late afternoon view of Carrickalinga heads from Normanville

 

The sun is getting low now and there are sparrows and honeyeaters settling in for the night in the bushes that flank the path. I can just make out a cormorant resting on the rocky foreshore shaking water from its wings before finding a place to roost. Sometimes this half light produces some of the more striking images that I have captured in the wild and today is no exception. I find a pair of crested pigeons perching on a skeletal branch with the grey sea and sky as their backdrop. They are my final memory of yet another memorable day spent enjoying South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

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Crested pigeons near walking trail to Carrickalinga

 

Take a drive down the coast sometime and enjoy this special place and its wildlife!!!

Cheers

Baz

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf

26 Jul

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf 

Dear Reader:

I am in the little parking area at the Newland Head Conservation Park, just a twenty minute drive from Victor Harbor. On the grassy verge near a stand of pink gums, a small group of red-browed finches are feeding on seeds. It is a wonderful way to start my late afternoon exploration of this diverse coastal park.

2 Red-browed finches like to live in thick ndergrowth

Red-browed finches like to live in thick undergrowth

 

 

A series of trails branch out from this sheltered camp ground. They wind through the scrub providing access to the beach and rock climbing areas or simply wind through the scrub that lies behind a series of coastal dunes.

3 coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casuarina trees

Coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casurina trees

 

I choose a trail that runs parallel to the dunes. It is dominated by coastal acacia bushes where a variety of small birds flit amongst the foliage chattering and calling to each other. I fire off a few shots in the low light conditions to try and identify the species. One bird is definitely a grey fantail the other is bouncing on the thin branches as it feeds on seed pods. Perhaps it is a robin or thornbill species; hard to tell but that is the challenge of wildlife photography in these conditions.

 

 

What is it a thornbill or a robin

What is it a thornbill or a robin?

Grey fantails

Grey fantails are often found in coastal scrub

 

From the campground the road descends towards the beach. To the right a seasonal creek spreads into a shallow lake behind a set of dunes that are continually eroded by wind and water. I pull the car into a siding and walk along the edge of the lake. The wildlife here is quite prolific. A pair of kangaroos bound out of the scrub in front of me and there are black swans, coots and several duck species on the water. In one small bush, growing amongst the long grass, silvereyes are feeding on berries.

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

 

As I approach the beach I can hear the roar of the surf over the car’s motor. This is a classic southern beach with white water breaks that stretch several hundred metres out to sea. In the afternoon light the sand is pale gold contrasting the darker figures of anglers casting for salmon from the beach. There are silver gulls crowding around their bait buckets and several of their larger cousins, Pacific gulls, are patrolling the edge of the surf.

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to moluscs and even other birds

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to molluscs and even other birds

 

 

It has been a rewarding afternoon at ‘Waits’ and I have enough time to drive back to Victor Harbor and enjoy an afternoon meal sitting on the decking of the Whalers restaurant enjoying a wonderful view of Encounter Bay. And, at this time of year, even the chance of a whale sighting.

bluff vh

Dinner overlooking the bluff

 

I hope you take the time to enjoy this lovely bit of our coastline sometime in the near future.

 

Cheers Baz

Aldinga Scrub

21 Dec

The tawny frogmouth is absolutely motionless. At first glance, I can’t see the bird even though my guide has pointed out its position. Eventually I locate it amongst the foliage exploiting its extraordinary camouflage and the tactic of remaining statue-still to remain ‘hidden in plain sight’. I am using a long lens which allows me to zoom in close enough to capture the delicate whisker-like structures around its beak; perfect for sensing insects at night. “Sometimes there are two together,” she informs me. “And we’ve had a nest with young.” I make a mental note to ask her to give me a call when that happens; photographing a frogmouth and its chicks would be something special.

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage (Click to enlarge all images on page)

I am on the edge of the Aldinga scrub; a patch of remnant bushland that hints of what this coastal plain would have looked like before the early settlers arrived with their ploughs and sheep. Aldinga and its coastal neighbour Silver Sands are just an hour’s drive from the centre of Adelaide and a favourite haunt of mine for an entirely different reason. No more than a kilometre away is one of my favourite snorkelling destinations. A reef to dive on, long white beaches for swimming and surfing and a patch of scrub to explore; make this an ideal destination for a day trip from the city.

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

I continue to walk along the road that borders the scrub. The houses on the urban side of the track blend in well with the bushland ambience. Obviously the residents have chosen this location because of its natural setting and the gardens are filled with a variety of native plants that attract insects and birds. In a huge gum that towers over the track I can hear the raucous screech of a wattle bird high in the canopy. The largest of all the honeyeaters, wattle birds often feed on leaf bugs and nectar from eucalyptus flowers. This one is hopping between the branches calling loudly while foraging amongst the leaves.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch

A post and wire fence separates the road from the scrub and a host of tiny birds are twittering and flitting between the trees just inside the reserve. I find a likely spot and sit quietly, balancing the camera and lens carefully on my knees. Eventually, one of the tiny birds perches on a bare branch a dozen metres away. I track the fluffy bundle of feathers and take a quick series of shots as it hops and turns before taking flight. Perhaps one frame will freeze its incessant motion and allow me to identify the species. On reviewing the image my best guess is a species of thornbill.

Thornbil species

Thornbill species

I am more than pleased with my stroll along the edge of the scrub. The frogmouth, wattle birds and tiny finch-like birds were more than I expected. But as I turn to walk back to the car I hear the familiar thump of a kangaroo’s powerful back legs hitting the hard packed earth of the track. An adult grey kangaroo and its joey bound across the road and pause by the fence-line. I watch them as they survey the obstacle for a few seconds then the joey squeezes between the strands of wire while the adult clears it with a single bound. They stop and look around before disappearing into the thick scrub.

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

The afternoon light is fading and I have one last stop to make before driving home and it has little to do with wildlife. Opposite the Aldinga pub there is a charming café called the Old Vine. It has a colonial cottage feel about it and the meals are interesting, tasty and sourced from local produce but the main draw card is a citrus tart that is as good as any I have eaten anywhere in the world…and I have sampled quite a few.

 

Come visit

Merry Xmas

Baz

Ingalalla Falls

13 Dec

Dear Reader;

Ingalalla falls does not actually cascade down the dark boulders to the pools below. This is South Australia where water is scarce and in the summer months rain is a rare blessing. But it is a waterfall and as such attracts a varied collection of wildlife as well as providing a few interesting walks and the perfect setting to enjoy a picnic in the bush.

Yankalilla's main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible

Yankalilla’s main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible (click on all images to enlarge)

 

 

The falls are about 10 kilometres off the main south road near the coastal hamlets of Normanville and Yankalilla. Both towns have superb little bakeries where one can quickly stock up on a range of ‘goodies’. My choice for this expedition included a gourmet chicken, potato and cheese pie with a generous serve of bee-sting cake (a legacy of our early German settlers) to follow.

Ingalalla falls desceding into the creek

Ingalalla falls descending into the creek

 

 

The dirt road from Normanville passes through a mixture of open bushland and wheat fields with a superb links golf course near the main highway. And just few kilometres down the track I noticed a boulder with a metal plaque that celebrated the life of a local settler, mariner and pastoralist William Field, adding an unexpected historical perspective to the day.

A little bit of history

A little bit of history

 

Where the native scrub started to merge with pine plantations, a small signposted track leads to a sheltered camping area complete with a simple shelter and scattering of wooden benches and tables. From there, a walking trail follows the little creek to the falls. On the right side of the path a steep hillside covered with bracken, native shrubs and tall stringy barked eucalypts rises abruptly from the creek.

Bushland trail characterised by  eucalypts, bracken and low bushes (2)

Walk to the falls showing eucalypts, bracken and low bushes

 

 

The rustle of leaves and chirping calls indicated that the thick cover was home to many small bird species but the dense foliage made identifying them somewhat difficult. Eventually, I adopted the sit still and wait strategy which yielded results as a yellow faced honeyeater and grey fantail soon came within camera range.

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

 

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

 

 

Although it was a mild day for summer, a few insects were active around the creek. Both dragon and damsel flies hovered amongst the reeds and several species of butterflies alternately fed on small flowering shrubs and rested amongst the leaf litter.

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

 

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

 

 

The rest of my walk was equally rewarding with a pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos making a sudden appearance in one of the nearby pine trees and a couple of wester grey kangaroos bounding across the track as we drove back to the road with the late afternoon light enhancing the golden wheat fields.

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this recollection

Drop me a line with any suggestions, criticisms or compliments

All are welcome

 

Baz

The Old Talisker Mine

15 Nov

The view from the top of the hill is spectacular. Soft winter pasture still covers the ground in sharp contrast to the spiky Xantheria or grass plants that characterize the harsh coastal scrub and the blue of Baxter’s Passage and hazy profile of Kangaroo Island beckon on the horizon.

 

Backstair's passage and Kangaroo Island

Backstair’s passage and Kangaroo Island (double click to enlarge all images on this page)

 

As I get out of the 4WD to capture this image I notice a pair of western grey kangaroos on the edge of the scrub no more than 20 meters from the vehicle. They are wary, ears twitching and sniffing the air. One is considerably larger than the other. They are probably a mother with a joey at heel and her pouch looks a little enlarged suggesting that she may have another little one tucked away. There could even be two in the pouch; one permanently attached to the nipple while the other simply enjoys the ride. In good times kangaroos can multiply quickly.

Western greys by the track

Western greys by the track

 

 

I am in the Talisker National Park about an hour and a half journey from the city and 10 kms from Cape Jervis at the toe of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The park centres around a series of bush trails that surround an abandoned silver and lead mine dating from the 1860s. Old machinery, buildings and shafts add an historic dimension to an area rich in scenery and wildlife.

Crushing house and old boiler

Crushing house and old boiler

 

 

From my cliff top lookout I backtrack along the dirt roads to the entrance of the old Talisker mine site. The walking trail to the mine is not too steep but the scrub on both sides is dense and full of life. In both the treetops and bushes I can hear the calls of wrens and honeyeaters. Eventually one of the delicate little birds pauses on a branch to announce its territory.

Crescent honeyeater

Crescent honeyeater

 

 

The track ends in a small clearing where the rusted remains of crushers, boilers and old buildings mark the main site. They are all that is left of a mine that once was the workplace of dozens of miners and supported a community of 300 souls at nearby Silverton; now also long gone.

Pied currawong

Grey currawong

 

 

The buildings are surrounded by a forest of eucalypts and I can hear the more distinctive movements of a larger animal in the branches on the far side of the crushing plant. I focus my long lens on the area and start to search for the perpetrator, expecting another roo or even a possum disturbed from its daytime sno0ze. But it is a large crow-like bird that I spot amongst the leaves and branches, a pied currawong, a relative of the white backed magpies that are so common on the plains where I live. Currawongs are a group that I have rarely photographed successfully as they tend to be a little more wary than their magpie cousins.

Bush track surrounded by eucalypt forest near the park entrance

Leaving the park along a bush track

 

 

It has been quite a long day walking, driving and stalking wildlife and the ruins are a great place to sit and unpack a well anticipated lunch picked up at the local Yankalilla bakery; nothing flash, just a steak and mushroom pie and an indulgent apricot tart to round off the meal. Good South Aussie ‘tucker’ to fuel up for the walk up the hill and drive home.

 

Cheers

Baz                  

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