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Hills Face Koalas

1 Jun

Hills face Koalas

 Dear Reader:

I drive up the gravel track to a parking lot surrounded by massive eucalypts where several narrow trails lead up the bush-clad hillsides. Wanderer butterflies are feeding on the blossoms of several small groundcovers and a kookaburra is serenading us from somewhere in the deeper recesses of the scrub. But it is a lone koala that grabs my attention as it stretches full length along a tree limb.

 

 

Today is koala day. The sun is out and I am going to drive along the hill’s face to some of my favourite destinations and look for these fascinating marsupials, while trying to capture some images that demonstrate their lifestyle. My first encounter is at Anstey’s Hill Reserve in Tea Tree Gully where I have often seen koalas along the various trails that wind through the area.

 

 

From Anstey’s I drive to Morialta Falls Park. Koalas are often spotted along the road to the central gathering area where the walking trails start. And, as if on cue, I notice an animal nestled in the branches of gum tree growing across the creek. Unlike my first sighting this one is climbing, quite vigorously-for a koala- into the higher branches and is not in the mood to be photographed. Koalas are generally slow moving, laid back animals as the nutritional value of the leaves they eat is low and energy expenditure must be carefully rationed.

 

 

The Mount Osmond walking trails in Burnside are another of my favourite koala haunts. I am not disappointed and manage to spot half a dozen koalas in the trees alongside the path that leads to an old quarry. But it is a lone animal that continues my ongoing koala narrative as it walks on all fours between the trees. It is rare to see them walking on the ground as it is here that they are most vulnerable.

 

 

In Mitcham, the road that follows Brownhill creek has numerous lay-bys and koalas are often observed in this area. And my final shot of a koala demonstrating its perfectly adapted hand with two opposable thumbs for climbing and grasping leaves is a fitting way to end my observations of these uniquely Australian animals.

 Cheers

Baz

 

 

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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

Spring Gully…Wildlife and Wineries

20 Jul

Spring Gully…Wildlife and Wineries

Dear Reader;

There are two white winged choughs in the eucalyptus tree about a hundred metres away. The birds are quite wary, flying deep into the woodland every time I approach. Choughs are often mistaken for crows but closer examination reveals a curved beak and rusty coloured eyes in these juveniles, red in adults, as well as white patches on the wings. The birds seem to be quite communal and there are at least a dozen scattered amongst the trees.

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White winged choughs

 

I am driving through the Spring Gully Conservation Park about five kilometres from the little hamlet of Sevenhills in the Clare Valley. Where the road to the park leaves the main highway we have ‘dined’ at a local bakery on coffee and one of the best vanilla slices ever to clog an artery. This crossroad also leads to the renowned Skillagolee restaurant and winery where we have booked an afternoon tea.

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Red stringy barks

 

 Leaving the choughs to their socialising I park a little further along the road by a fire track then walk along a bush trail. The view of the plains beyond; with rare red stringy barks, as well as yacca or grass trees and bush lilies in the foreground, is breathtaking. There are numerous trails leading off the main track, one winds down to a creek and waterfall. However, the afternoon is drawing to close and we are simply doing a quick drive through in preparation for some bush walking later.

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Argus species butterfly

 

 

Afternoon tea is superb, scones and a cheese platter, followed by a pleasant time tasting some of the excellent Clare Valley wines. Now the sun is low in the sky and it is time to drive down to the Jesuit winery at Sevenhills where altar wine is produced amongst other table vintages.

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Sevenills monastery

 

As we drive along the entrance road to the monastery and vineyard we are lucky enough to catch sight of a group of grey kangaroos feeding along the fence line by the vines. I have often seen roos here on previous trips and it is an image I was hoping to capture.

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Grey kangaroos at dusk in vineyard

 

 With the evening sun backlighting the trees that surround a sacred grotto, kangaroos in a vineyard and a flight of pink and grey cockatoos settling in the trees to roost it is hard to imagine a more idyllic way to start our weekend trip through the Clare Valley.

Cheers

Baz

An Autumn Walk and Drive Around Stirling

21 Mar

Dear Reader:

There are ravens in the tree near the restaurant. We call them crows in SA but the birds that live around Adelaide are usually little or Australian ravens. True crows are found much further north in outback regions. The birds are feeding on some autumn berries in a deciduous tree by the roadside. Every so often, one of the more adventurous gang members swoops down and reconnoitrers the outdoor tables for any tasty leftovers.

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Raven disguised as crow

 

I am sitting in Rubys Organic cafe in the hills town of Stirling, a twenty minute drive from the city along the south-eastern freeway. This charming town of around 3000 people has a distinctly English feel about it. As well as native trees the town has numerous European species and the cooler climate makes it ideal for plants such as azaleas and camellias.

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Healthy, interesting and tasty

 

After a healthy and delicious (gf) lunch of salmon croquettes and a pumpkin and bean salad, I drive out to the golf course on the outskirts of the town. At the end of the aptly named Golflinks road I park the car and walk into the Mt George Conservation Park. Tall stringybarks dominate this section of the walking trail which is part of Adelaide renowned Heysen Trail. Some of the trunks are blackened from earlier fires though most are still alive and bearing new growth. There is a proliferation of native groundcovers including heaths, grevillias and even some tiny orchids and lilies sheltered in the understory.

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One of the many small plants growing in the understory, probably a heath

 

Walking through the forest is enjoyable but most of the bird life is high in the trees and hard to photograph so I return to the car, drive back and head along Old Carey Gully Road to the Mt George turn off. At the little picnic area, pleasantly situated by a small dam, I rejoin the track which is now part of the Pioneers Womens Trail. It runs over a small bridge where I pause to look into the creek bed in search of water skinks or perhaps a water rat (rakali). To my surprise I catch a fleeting glimpse of a small rat-like creature hopping across a pool on a fallen log. It is a southern brown bandicoot, a marsupial, not a rat at all. It pauses for a brief moment on its makeshift bridge and I take a shot. Photographically, the results are somewhat mediocre but in terms of satisfaction as a naturalist, it is a special moment.

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Bridge on trail crossing Cox Creek

 

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Unbelievable to get a photo of a bandicoot especially in daylight hours

 

But the bandicoot is not my last marsupial. To really ‘make my day’ I spot two koalas, probably a mother and joey, perched on a slender eucalypt overhanging the creek bed.

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Mum and youngster

 

 

I started with lunch in Stirling and I decide to finish with a visit to Aptos Cruz; one of my favourite hills art galleries.

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Aptos Cruise gallery from the top floor

 

However, on the short drive back to the town nature provides one last surprise when a deer bounds out across the road then pauses amongst the singed trunks of the gums on the edge of the roadside

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Oh dear, wrong continent!!!

Cheers

Baz

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

29 Sep

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

A small group of grey kangaroos is gathered on the edge of the scrub. The large male seems a little nervous. His ears twitch independently as he hops a few metres closer to where I am balancing the camera on an old jarrah fence post. Keeping the females and a half grown joey behind him, the buck stands up to his full height, giving me a clear warning not to come any nearer to his family.

1 Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

I am walking along the fence-line that separates the township of Marion Bay from the Innes National park. We have hired a little holiday home that sits on the very edge of the township with intimate views of the surrounding grassland and scrub. Each morning, while I am eating breakfast on the verandah, I can see a few odd rabbits and a veritable parade of birdlife amongst the shrubs and trees that make up the garden. My favourites are the diminutive silvereyes that perch in the eucalypts and twitter menacingly at the larger birds that dare to invade their territory.

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The view from the back verandah

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Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

 The kangaroos are close to the lower end of the fence-line which runs from the main road up to the coastal cliffs that dominate this section of Marion Bay. As I move towards the coast I nearly step on an ant nest; not just any colony of ants but bulldog ants. These inch long beasties pack quite a bite and are best avoided. Luckily they do not swarm in great numbers like their smaller brethren. Still, photography is undertaken at a respectable distance.

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Bulldog or inch ant

As I approach the top of the cliffs the vegetation changes dramatically. Low scrubby bushes and thick ground covers with patches of tussock like grasses provide an ideal habitat for a range of small birds I can hear them in the thick cover but only catch fleeting glimpses. Then suddenly my luck changes and a glorious little wren hops out and sits on the very fence-line I have been following. In Adelaide I have often photographed superb blue fairy wrens and I am more than thrilled to see them here in this coastal environment. It is only later when I look at the image more carefully that I realise this little wren is actually a variegated fairy wren; a species I have never photographed.

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Variegated fairy wren

 

 Where the fence meets the edge of the limestone cliffs there is a wooden viewing bay that provides an ideal bird watching platform. In the few minutes that I stand and survey the beach below several species of water birds fly past; including a white faced heron, silver gulls and a pacific gull. Looking back across the scrubby verge towards the rather expensive houses that front the esplanade I start planning my next trip to Marion Bay; perhaps a sea view this time.

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Silver gull in flight

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Coastal viewing platform overlooking the beach

 An afternoon stroll along the fence-line completed my thoughts turn to dinner. The award winning Marion Bay Tavern is just the place to head as the sun is setting on my rather fruitful day on the edge of Innes. Made from materials that reflect the area, including corrugated iron, reclaimed jetty pylons and jarrah timbers, the restaurant boasts an eclectic menu specialising in fresh local seafoods. But my choice this evening is a pizza cooked in a wood oven fashioned from a classic old rainwater tank.

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Wood oven South Aussie style

 

Take a drive down to this wonderful area sometime

Cheers

Baz

Check out Geotravelling a new site that I have attached that celebrates the natural, cultural and urban diversity of our planet through my travel photographs.

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.

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Fully grown male, grey kangaroo

 

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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.

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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

Walkerville’s Bickle Reserve…..Fairies in the Garden

4 Sep

Fairies in the Garden

Dear Reader:

As I have categorically stated in several of my posts, “I am no botanist”. I love gardening and appreciate the wonderful diversity of South Australia’s flora but remembering all the different classifications, names and botanical intricacies is just a little too much like hard work. Instead, I rely on a couple of field guides to common plants in the Adelaide area, phone a friend or simply make reference to those yellow bushes or tall straight eucalypts. Hopefully, this gap in my naturalistic armoury will be narrowed as I write more nature posts, though the signs are not promising. So: it is with some trepidation that I lead into the following piece …….

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Pink fairy (Caladenia species)

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The Torrens near Bickle Park

 ….It is a cool winter’s day, slightly overcast and I am on my knees examining a glorious little patch of native orchids. Most are pink fairies but there is one tiny delicate bloom, the size of a little finger nail, called a gnat or mosquito orchid. Nearby several of the flat prostrate leaves indicate where other orchids will appear in the near future.

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Gnat orchid (Cyrtostylis species)

All of these species are endemic to the area and though a few might have grown naturally, most are the result of a dedicated group of volunteers who are revegetating this area which is part of the Vale Park Wildflower Walk. The section I am exploring is alongside the Torrens River just east of the autobahn bridge near the Bickle Reserve. Several of the Vale Park group are holding an open morning and explaining the importance and biology of the plants they have established.

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Chatting about orchids

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Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia)

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Purple swamp hen

As I listen to information about the relationship of certain fungi in the soil to the propagation of orchids and marvel at the spidery native clematis and hardenbergia that are climbing up some eucalypts (big tall ones) I notice a pair of purple swamp hens foraging in the long grass by the river. Leaving the group I pursue the birds and make my way along the bank where there are also dusky moorhens in the reeds and crested pigeons feeding near the bikeway.

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Dusky moorehen

Rejoining the group I chat about the importance of maintaining our wild heritage for future generations and learn about Aboriginal use of some types of native plants including orchids. Predictably in this group I encounter another wildlife photographer and the conversation fluctuates between nature and the lenses we have used for different purposes.

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An occasional visitor

In the course of our conversations one of the replanting team asks me if I have any images from the area and I remember that on a bike ride along this part of the linear park trail I had photographed a koala high in the largest eucalypt overshadowing the orchid beds. But, in keeping with my botanical prowess I forget to ask what kind of species it is (probably a tall, straight one).

Until the next journey into SA’s natural wonders

Cheers

Baz

PS

Check out Geotravelling a new site that I have attached that celebrates the natural, cultural and urban diversity of our planet through my travel photographs.

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