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Breakout Creek’s Herons

22 Jun

 

Dear Reader

It is a typically South Australian winter’s afternoon; cool, clear and sunny with a light breeze coming off the ocean.

5 heron poised to strike

Grey faced heron poised to strike….click to enlarge image

4 heron and yabbie

Heron and yabbie (freshwater crayfish)….click to enlarge image

 

The white faced heron is hunting amongst the shallow reed beds and rocks along the edge of the river bank. It moves slowly, carefully placing each of its long, spindly legs before freezing to stare into the water in search of prey. The long neck coils back slowly and then with disarming speed the dagger beak flashes into the water to snatch an unsuspecting yabbie. The bird rearranges the unlucky crawfish in its beak then strides onto the causeway to enjoy its catch.

3 white faced heron in flight

White faced heron in flight….click to enlarge image

 

Over the next few minutes I watch the heron as it continues to hunt in the same area. I am trying to capture some images that depict its hunting style but the wader is becoming more nervous and eventually takes to the air.

Breakout Creek looking south

Breakout Creek looking south….click to enlarge image

 

I am at Breakout Creek, a section of the Torrens where the river broadens and significant environmental work has been done to improve aquatic habitats. Over the years I have seen water rats, lizards, frogs, possums as well as a wide variety of birds in this area. It is a favourite destination when I go for a bike ride along Linear Park and one that I would recommend to any visitor who enjoys the outdoors and a little mild exercise. Free bikes are available at the weir near the golf course and the ride to Breakout Creek and back is an easy one hour pedal.

7 greater egret

Greater egret….click to enlarge image

 

From the causeway I cycle back towards the city for a couple of hundred metres then dismount where the reeds are thickest. Between a small island and the bank a lone greater egret is hunting, half concealed by the brush. Like the grey face the egret uses its long bill to snatch small prey from the water and while I am watching it snaps up several small fish.

2 Nankeen night heron

Nankeen night heron….click to enlarge image

 

Close by the reed bed some tall eucalypts overhang the creek and, as luck would have it, there is a far more unusual heron roosting in the topmost branches. The nankeen night heron is a nocturnal hunter and it spends the days resting before hunting for its prey when the sun goes down. This one is becoming a little more active as it is now late afternoon. Night herons are one of my favourite birds and though they are not exactly rare along the river seeing one is a bit of a treat.

6 red ochre grill

Red ochre grill….click to enlarge image

 

Three herons in one day (egrets are a kind of heron )……nice; but the day is not done and I have planned to meet a friend for dinner at the Red Ochre Grill, a fabulous restaurant adjacent to the weir, golf course and bike hire station where I started my ride. Their menu, which sources local ingredients and is a kind of upmarket take on the bush tucker concept, is certainly something to look forward to.

 

Until next time

Baz    

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Golf Course Birdies

9 Mar

Dear Reader

Adelaide has a diverse collection of golf courses. They wind along the coast, straddle the hills face and even overlook the heart of the city. Their well-watered fairways, native bushes and towering trees provide an attractive habitat for a wide variety of wildlife ranging from kangaroos and possums to waterfowl and colourful parrots.

Well watered fairways and a diverse collection of shrubs and trees provide an enticing array of niches for different bird species

Well watered fairways and a diverse collection of shrubs and trees provide an enticing array of environments for wildlife

This week’s story comes from one of the two inner city courses that stretch between the Torrens Lake and the fine old villas and tree-lined streets of North Adelaide. They are back to back public courses that are used by walkers, golfers and, of course, the occasional wildlife photographer.

An Adelaide rosella nonchalently feeds on seeds as a golfer strolls past

An Adelaide rosella nonchalantly feeds on seeds as a golfer strolls past

My morning walk started around eight and my quarry was the various groups of cockatoos that I had noticed feeding on the fairways earlier in the week. Although the birds are up and about just after dawn the light is not really conducive to capturing quality images in the early hours. As I strolled past the clubhouse towards one of the greens near the end of the course I heard the unmistakeable chatter of galahs (rose-breasted cockatoos). A quick glance around the area and I discovered half a dozen birds in a nearby patch of rough using their powerful, curved beaks to dig out tubers and crack open fallen seeds.

Galah searching for seeds amongst leaf litter below pine trees 2

Galah searching for seeds amongst leaf litter below pine trees

After a few minutes I left the cockies to their morning meal and moved across the course to a stand of tall, pale Eucalypts. As I scanned the canopy for movement several of the feeding birds flew onto a branch and started to groom each other. This was an unusual behaviour that I had not previously observed in galahs though I am sure these gregarious parrots interact socially in many ways. Perhaps they were a nesting pair and an older offspring. The grooming continued for a few minutes then escalated into a good natured session of sparring with beaks and wings that looked remarkably like a wrestling match.

Galahs socialising after flying into a Eucalyptus tree

Galahs socialising after flying into a Eucalyptus tree

My final cockatoo encounter was with a small group of little corellas near the car parking area. They were using their powerful beaks and claws to break up pine cones and extract the seeds. The birds seemed oblivious to me as they worked away at their hard won meal and I was able to sit and watch them for some time.

Little Corella demolishing a pine cone

Little corella demolishing a pine cone

Cheers

Baz

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