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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mangrove forest and tidal creek

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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.

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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.

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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.

Patowolonga’s Cormorants

1 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious spring day, not a breath of wind to ruffle the placid expanse of water that stretches out in front of me. By the breakwater there is a gathering of little black cormorants paddling alongside the rocky barrier. Every few minutes, one of the birds dives and swims out into the deeper water to hunt. Cormorants use both wings and feet to navigate underwater. Their aquatic speed and agility combined with specially adapted eyes and serrated beaks make them formidable fishers.

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Black cormorant

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Black cormorant diving

 

I am walking around the Patawolonga from Glenelg towards the first road and foot-bridge. This man-made lake extends between Glenelg and West beach for around 1.5 kilometres and serves as a flood mitigation system. The area also incorporates a berths for larger boats and lock that lead on to Holdfast Shores Marina an upmarket, shopping, restaurant and residential complex.

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View from the bridge

 

When I reach the bridge there is a spectacular view back down the lake towards Glenelg that takes in the old replica ship The Buffalo which brought some of South Australia’s first colonists and governor ashore. The extensive grassed areas that run alongside ‘The Pat’ are shaded by eucalypts and Norfolk pines which attract a wide range of common urban birds. Today there are numerous crested pigeons foraging in the grass as well as wagtails and swallows demonstrating their sophisticated aerial acrobatics as they hunt for insects nearer the water.

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Crested pigeon

 

From the western end of the bridge I walk back towards Glenelg along the edge of the marina. There are several fishermen casting for bream and I stop and chat with them. Apparently a small pod of dolphins has been in the area over the last few days. Not great for fishing but wonderful for those who simply enjoy the wildlife. The rocks along this part of the Patawolonga have a healthy cover of small molluscs and occasionally I catch sight of small schools of baitfish in the shallows.

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periwinkles at low water

 

The path stops near a dive shop and I have to walk around the lake past neatly kept houses. When I reach the lock I can see dozens of swallows hawking insects. A few have settled on the glass and steel partitions that enclose some of the nearby units to rest for few minutes before resuming their hunting sorties.

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resting swallow

 

The lock is not being used by any of the local boaties and I am able to walk across to finish my circuit of the lake, watched intently by yet another cormorant. This time it is a pied cormorant, perched high on a railing. The bird is drying its wings before it too dives back into the water for lunch while I head for nearby Jetty Road with similar intent.

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Pied cormorant drying wings on lock

 

 

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 through Victoria Park

14 Sep

A Walk through Victoria Park

 Dear Reader;

The little musk lorikeet has been hovering around the small opening in the trunk of a red gum for a few minutes. Suddenly another lorikeet appears and disappears down into the tree. They are obviously nesting here. I walk closer to the tree and listen. From deep inside I can hear the plaintive calls of the young chicks demanding food.

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Musk lorikeet

 I am walking around the old Victoria Park Racecourse which is now a recreation area bounded by gracious old houses, a creek, walking trails and stands of massive old gums as well as a variety of native shrubs and bushes. It is a wonderful space for people to enjoy a bike ride, walk or run, exercise their dog off lead or even fly model planes.

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Historic old racecourse stand

 

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Avenue of gums on the western perimeter

 From the car park at the south western edge of the park I take the path towards Greenhill Road which winds through a copse of massive old gums and thick tangles of bushes. There are white cheeked rosellas high in the branches and one pair seem to be staying close to a hollowed out limb some 10 metres above the ground. I’ll come back at another time and see if they have chosen it for a nesting site.

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Huntsman spider in bark crevice

 To get a better idea of the bird life I decide to spend a little time sitting quietly on a fallen log deep amongst the trees and bushes. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the aforementioned log is also home to a large huntsman spider that scuttles for cover as my ‘butt’ approaches.

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White cheeked rosella

While the spider and I share our seating arrangements, a wide range of birds including- miners, mudlarks, crows, magpies and galahs-are active in the scrub around me. Wonderful for a photographer to capture some images; not so good for a spider who features on many of their menus.

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Police greys

Bidding adieu to ‘Boris’, I continue along the pathway. To my delight, my final encounter is not with native wildlife but a pair of police greys being ridden through the parklands.

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Spiny wattle variety with feeding fly

 Spend some time in our parklands during the spring. It really is the best time to enjoy the wildlife.

 

Cheers

Baz

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

11 Aug

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

 Dear Reader;

As I follow the narrow footpath south from the cul-de-sac overlooking Tennyson beach towards the Grange jetty in the distance, I can see a bird of prey hovering just above the houses that spill down to the dunes. The sky is patchy, blue then grey as clouds blow in from the sea and it is difficult to locate the kestrel in the viewfinder. I take a few quick shots and hope for the best.

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Nankeen kestrel hovering

I am intrigued by the raptor and wait quietly close to a coastal wattle bush watching it patrol along the line of the dunes pausing periodically to hover and scan the terrain below for small animals. The birds in the surrounding scrub are not quite so keen. They head for cover deep in the bushes or under the eaves of the houses twittering their various warning calls.

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Singing honeyeater in shelter

A lovely little singing honeyeater hides in a dense tangle of branches while spotted doves remain motionless closer to the ground near some dried scrub that matches their subdued colouring. Both species are usually very wary in this dune habitat and hard to approach but I am obviously the lesser of two evils and able to get closer than usual to capture some images.

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Spooted dove

Continuing along the pathway, I am fascinated by the different architectural elements incorporated in many of the houses. There are domed chapel-like structures, facades of tinted glass and walls with pastel shades of ochre, pink and grey. Just before I reach the jetty the beautiful ‘Marines’ sit alongside the beach. This group of Victorian 3 story terraces was built in 1840 and they dominate the foreshore.

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At the trail head near Tennyson Beach

 After a wonderful lunch at the Grange Hotel and a walk along the jetty to check out the fishers and look for dolphins, I turn back for home. The wind is getting up so I opt to walk back down the path rather than along the beach front. There are numerous trails down to the sea allowing me deeper penetration into the scrub as well as a quick search for seabirds. On this visit they are few and far between bar a couple seagulls under the jetty.

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Grange Hotel

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From track to beach through the dunes

 

Near one of the beach access paths I stop to watch a mudlark foraging in the sand and notice a discarded Besser brick lying in a sunny patch near a patch of early flowering succulents. Much to my surprise there is a bearded dragon lizard perched on it, flattened out to extract every bit of heat from the masonry. These reptiles are not uncommon in the summer but in the winter I would have expected them to be tucked away hibernating until spring.

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Mudlark foraging along pathway

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Bearded dragon picking up some rays

 

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Still a few bugs around to eat for the dragon

Predators prey and unseasonal reptiles it has been a rewarding winter’s walk along the dunes enjoying the ocean, good food and quite an assortment of wildlife.

 

Enjoy your winter walks in SA

Cheers

Baz

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