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Sandra’s Back Garden

24 Oct

Sandra’s Back Garden

 Dear Reader:

Sometimes it is both a challenge and simply fun to take out a camera and explore the wildlife of a familiar patch of land…..and gardens are one of the best places to do this. A surprising amount of wildlife resides in our own gardens.  A close look might reveal anything from fascinating insects that live in our flower beds to nocturnal geckos sheltering in a shed.

Marbled Gecko…a nocturnal inhabitant

 

Probably a Katydid, a relative of crickets and locusts

 

Sandra lives in the hills face suburb of Tea Tree Gully and a variety of birds and other animals regularly visit her garden. Some, like possums and foxes, are nocturnal and only leave traces of their comings and goings. Others, like magpies and butterflies are around in the daylight hours making the far easier targets for a photographer.

 

Tabbi breakfast

 

Each morning after breakfast Sandra throws the remains of her Weetbix onto the back lawn. This daily offering is greatly appreciated by two of the local cats as well as a small group of Noisy Miners.

 

Young Noisy Miner

 

Later in the day an apple and an orange are ritually sacrificed on two nails driven into an old tree stump; Blackbirds, New Holland Honeyeaters and the occasional Rainbow Lorikeet enjoy these treats.

 

Blackbird takes a look around……..

                                                                 

 

 

 

 

….gets the apple

That about covers the back garden’s feeding program. None of the food is in sufficient quantities to interrupt the animals’ natural feeding cycles or harmful to their diet. However, it does make sitting under the back veranda with a cup of tea rather an interesting experience.

In another post I will explore the equally charming world of the front garden.

 Cheers

Baz

 See more South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

 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 try to attach a new image and notes each month.

Pondalowie’s Beachside Birdlife

6 Feb

Pondalowie’s Beachside Birdlife

 Dear Reader:

A lone Pacific gull stands on the beach amongst strands of washed up seaweed. It stares at the ocean for a while watching another gull wheeling and soaring above the waves then nonchalantly wanders along the tidal fringe foraging for invertebrates or whatever the sea has deposited.

 

Pacific gull

 

The long white sands of Pondalowie Bay are home to many species of birds and a fertile food source for many others. A leisurely four hour drive from Adelaide to this picturesque Bay on the western extremity of the Innes National Park is a favourite haunt of naturalists, fishers, divers and holiday makers. In fact; any traveller who enjoy that hint of wildness in their getaways will find this a wonderful destination.

 

Classic peninsula coastal landscape

 

Further along the beach several species of tiny waders including dotterels, plovers and sand pipers scurry along the retreating waterline searching for tiny invertebrates such as worms, crustaceans and molluscs. Their little legs seem to rotate as they forage giving them the appearance of wind up clockwork toys.

 

Double banded plover-non breeding plumage

 

Swallows normally live further inland amongst the scrub and trees. However, the proliferation of insects infesting the beds of weed that are strewn along the high tide line has attracted quite a large number of these colourful little aerial hunters. Some are perched on driftwood as they rest between their forays above the weed while others perch in bushes close to the beach.

Swallow

 

In all honesty, my favourite beach dwellers are the oystercatchers. There are two species on the beach pied and sooty and it is a pair of sooties that I spend a few minutes focussing on. They use their long chisel shaped beaks to probe the sand or scrape molluscs off rocks and prise them apart. The bird closest to me has snagged a turban shell and is proceeding to split it open and consume the unfortunate critter within.

 

Sooty oystercatcher

 

From Pondalowie it is a good half hour drive back to Marion Bay where we are staying in a cliff-side holiday home and dinner at the local pub that serves the best pizzas and seafood I have eaten in a long time.    

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities at Marion Bay and Pondalowie. The trails leading from the main park road down to beaches and into the scrub are more arduous.

 

 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 or tablet.

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.

 

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park

12 Nov

 

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park 

Dear Reader:

There is a rainbow lorikeet around fifty metres away from me. The excitable little bird has inverted its body to dip its feathery tongue into a tube shaped eremophila blossom.  Several other species of birds including new Holland honeyeaters and wattle birds are feeding in the same garden beds where there is a smorgasbord of flowers to choose from. Clever planting also attract a variety of butterflies which feed on the nectar and help to pollinate plants by transferring pollen.

 

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Rainbow lorikeet feeding

 

I am walking around the Wittunga Botanical Gardens near Blackwood in Adelaide’s foothills, just a twenty minute drive from the CBD. The busy little township is nestled into bushland where koalas and myriad bird species are common visitors. There are several hotels, bakeries and restaurants in the area and the Belair National Park and Golf course make this an ideal day trip for city residents.

 

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Old church and soldiers’ memorial in Blackwood

 

Leaving the flower beds behind I venture down to the lake that is the central feature of the park. It is surrounded by massive gum trees and there are crows, honeyeaters and a kookaburra perched in some of the branches that overhang the water. But it is a tiny head that emerges from the lake that draws my attention as I watch a Macquarie short-necked turtle swim towards the shore. The side-plate sized reptile clambers up on to a fallen branch and positions itself to catch some warming sunlight.

 

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Central lake and gardens

 

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Macquarie freshwater turtle

 

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Pacific black ducks

At the end of a long cool, wet summer the lake is full of new life. I spot purple swamp hens tending their fluffy black chicks near the reed beds. Several species of frogs are calling; probably spotted marsh frogs and common froglets or perhaps a potty bonk. Two Pacific black ducks are preening their feathers near the water’s edge and Eurasian coots appear to be amorously pursuing each other further from the bank.

 

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Ra venfeeding, they are often mistakenly called crows

 

Various pathways meander around the lake and I choose one that cuts through a stand of massive red gums. A lone raven is strutting around the perimeter of one tree pecking at the bark which is cracked and sloughing off the trunk. The bark of most eucalypts is an important environment for many smaller animals. Insects and spiders find shelter and breed there while larger predators such as birds and lizards find it a fertile hunting ground.

 

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Koala portrait shot

 

Having enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake while indulging my passion for both wildlife and plants in general I walk back to the car park by way of a small stand of gums that run along the northern edge of the gardens. They are the kind of trees that might be attractive to koalas and I know that these endearing marsupials are common in the Blackwood area. Sure enough, there is one wedged between two branches in what I can only describe as the perfect koala portrait pose; a nice way to finish my walk.

 

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Lesser-wanderer butterfly

 

Enjoy our city and suburban parks in spring as they really are some of the best in the world.

Cheers

Baz

A North Adelaide Garden Safari

30 Sep

A north Adelaide garden safari 

Dear Reader

There is a tiny spider on the daisy petal. It waits patiently for prey to approach. In an instant the little arachnid pounces and ensnares an unfortunate fly that has wandered too close. The spider drags its victim onto a nearby leaf, binds it in silk and proceeds to enjoy its lunch.

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Flower spider on daisy blossom

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Gotcha

 

I am wandering around the streets of North Adelaide exploring the local gardens and their early spring blooms. However, my real focus is the multitude of little invertebrates such as beetles, spiders, caterpillars that revel in the warmer weather and emerging flowers. To that end I have set my camera on macro and ramped up my observation skills to detect these well camouflaged and often minuscule creatures.

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Bee feeding on cat mint

 

A little further down the road a feline loving resident has planted some cat mint. Today it is not the local ‘mogs’ that are enjoying the plant but honey bees. Half a dozen are hovering around the purple flowers periodically settling to extract the nectar and unwittingly collect pollen to distribute.

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Woolly bear caterpillar

 

In one particular cottage garden the front fence is dominated by a huge yellow euryops bush, a kind of yellow daisy. It seems to be a favourite food for a myriad of mini beasts. A woolly bear caterpillar has munched its way through both leaves and flowers as it prepares to enter the next phase of its life as a chrysalis before eventually morphing into a tiger moth.

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There are many different species of ladybirds

 

Before heading into O’Connell Street and a well earned cup of coffee at one of a dozen restaurants I want to find one last iconic insect species. My chance comes when I notice a tiny spec of red and black on a deep purple native hibiscus flower. It is a ladybug, a familiar insect to both adults and children alike. Despite its benign appearance ladybugs are fierce predators demolishing a plethora of insects that are considered to be garden pests. 

Enjoy our spring gardens and their wildlife

Cheers

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

Xmas Gums

26 Dec

Xmas Gums

Dear Reader;

The New Holland honeyeater is perched on the topmost branch of the white flowering gum in my backyard. Every few minutes it takes to the air and chases an insect that has inadvertently flown too close to its ‘operating zone’. But hawking for prey like this takes an energy toll on the little bird, requiring frequent refuelling at the nectar rich flowers that also serve to attract its insect prey.

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New Holland honeyeater

 

This is just one of the little wildlife scenarios that play themselves out during the Christmas season in the gum trees that grace my backyard. The smaller tree comes into flower in early December reaching its peak around Xmas day. The larger tree has flowered earlier but seems to harbour a wealth of tiny leaf and bark insects throughout the early summer months. Together, they attract a wide range of birds providing an interesting holiday spectacle; especially if one has scored a new camera from Santa.

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A tale of two gums

 

New Holland honeyeaters aren’t the only species of honeyeater that feeds in my garden. The more timid white plumed variety also samples the blossoms and hawk for insects. However, at this time of year they are almost finished raising their final brood for the season and the young ones are being schooled in the art of bug catching by the adults. Peering through my long lens into the shadows of the taller tree I am lucky enough to capture two images of a chick waiting for food then being fed a bug by its parent.

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White plumed honeyeaters

 

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Have a bug or two junior

 

In a wonderful coincidence, there is also a family of wattle birds in the same tree and a fully fledged chick is sitting on a branch demanding to be fed. I watch carefully, trying to time my shots to coincide with the exact moment the adult shoves some insect offering down its waiting gullet. Of course, some leaves get in the way and the light intensity drops at the crucial moment but that’s wildlife photography.

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Wattle bird and chick

 

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A gullet full of whatever

 

With a Xmas drink and a mince pie resting on the outdoor table next to my cameras I scan the foliage of the smaller tree for a final shot or two. Two colourful creatures oblige; a rainbow lorikeet is tearing apart a blossom emerging from a gum nut and a swallowtail butterfly is probing the mature flowers for nectar.

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Rainbow lorikeet

 

6 Dingy swallowtail

Dingy swallowtail

 

Cheers and Seasons greetings

Until next year

Baz

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