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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.

1 white winged chough red

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.

2 The view from the back verandah

The view from the back verandah

2 Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

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.

3 Bulldog or inch ant

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.

5 silver gull in flight

Silver gull in flight

6 Coastal viewing platform with views of cliff and beach

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.

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

3 Aug

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

Dear Reader:

It is a cool, overcast afternoon; not ideal for wildlife watching or photography. Nevertheless, I have organised a weekend trip north to Port Augusta to investigate the Arid Zone Botanic Gardens during the winter months. As an added bonus, I hope to explore a shallow mangrove creek some 20kms south of the town that a friend has suggested as an interesting wildlife stop off en route.

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Wedge – tailed eagles are Australia’s largest raptors with a wingspan over 2 metres

1 wedge tail 1. Australia's largest raptor with a wingspan over 2 meters

Wedge-tailed eagle about to fly

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In flight

 

 

As I approach the Chinaman’s creek junction I notice a pair of wedge-tailed eagles in the skeletal branches of a mallee tree. The birds seem quite relaxed as they survey the low scrub that stretches towards the coast. I let the car roll to a stop and gingerly climb out careful not to let the door bang shut. There is good cover between the birds and myself and I fire off a couple of shots before one bird senses the movement and takes to the air.

2 Galahs iin bush near wheat fields

Galahs in bush near wheat fields

2 Cockatoo near the park's entrance

Cockatoo near the park’s entrance

 

The stretch of unsealed road that stretches towards the coast is flanked on both sides by scrubby farmland that supports sheep and some wheat fields. Small groups of rose breasted cockatoos are perching in the branches alongside the road. They occasionally take flight into the fields to dig out tubers and possibly ravage a few of the crops; lovely birds to watch but not always popular with farmers.

4 Dirt trackinto the coservation park about 5 kms from the highway

Dirt track into the conservation park about 5 Kms from the highway

4 Visitors to the park

Visitors to the park

 

Where the cleared land gives way to forest and denser scrub, a fence and sign announces the Winninowie conservation Park which incorporates Chinaman’s Creek. Despite the remoteness of the area we meet a couple of 4X4s complete with camping trailers and stop to chat with the drivers for a few moments. They have been camping by the creek for a few days and had some success fishing the mangrove flats on the receding tide for whiting and mullet.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

9 Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

 

A few minutes later we pull into the camping area. There is a scattering of permanent shacks and a small jetty that is completely exposed at low tide. I change from shoes to gum boots, from experience I know that this mud sticks like glue, and start to walk along the edge of the little creek. I can hear singing honeyeaters in the mangroves and catch flashes of colour from other unidentifiable species that flit amongst the thick foliage. But the birds are some distance away and the overcast conditions make photography all but impossible.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

 

 

I notice thousands of small burrows honeycombing the edge of the intertidal zone. Each is home to a small shore or mangrove crab. In the creek I can see roving schools of silver baitfish eagerly eyed by a pair of herons that are stalking the fringe of the mangroves.

4 As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

 

Our time at the creek is limited. The clouds are thickening and a few fat raindrops have bounced off my camera lens. As we leave the park has a few more wildlife surprises that make me grit my teeth over the poor lighting conditions. A gorgeous sacred kingfisher perches on a long-dead coastal acacia bush and a group of grazing emus wanders across the saltbush dominated plain. Later, when examining this image in detail I discover that there is another participant in the scene; a grey kangaroo that was feeding close to them.

5 The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

 

It has been an interesting first look at this coastal environment with its varied habitats and I look forward to further visits in the warmer, lighter months ahead.

 

Until next time

Cheers

Baz

Tea Tree Gully’s Camellia Nursery

5 Jul

Dear Reader:

It is a cool crisp morning, and to be perfectly honest, I am not in the mood for a long drive. Instead, I have decided to visit a local nursery just a few kilometres away, where the North East Road starts its climb into the Adelaide Hills.

1a Newman's nursery

Newman’s nursery front entrance

 

As I park the car next to the entrance I am immediately struck by the contrast in lighting conditions. The path following the little creek that leads from ‘Newman’s Camellia’ nursery to the ‘Tea Tree Gully Hotel’ is in deep shade whereas the hills on the opposite side of the road are bathed in sunlight. An afternoon walk might have offered better lighting for photography but the wildlife always seems more active in the morning.

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The path begins

 

Climbing out of the car I glance up at the hillside above the little creek and to my surprise and delight I notice the hunched outline of a koala wedged between the branches of a huge gum tree; not what I was expecting this close to a suburban area.

1a koala in tree

Koala in tree

 

The trail starts just a few metres from the nursery entrance and meanders alongside the small watercourse for a mere 500 metres before broadening to a neatly manicured lawn enclosed by trees and shrubs. A varied collection of plants flank the path; including arum lilies, several lovely camellias, indigenous wattles and melaleucas as well as the ever-present, towering eucalypts.

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A rogue camellia alongside the path

 

Small birds are continually flitting through the bushes though I am only able to catch fleeting glimpses of them. Some are definitely female blue wrens and I suspect that the tiniest ones are thornbills. Eventually, a small brownish bird settles in a low, flowering shrub some 50 metres away. I fire off a series of shots which, on review, reveal a glorious eastern spinebill.

1a Eastern spinebill  foraging in shrubs

Eastern spinebill foraging in flame heath bush

 

At the end of the trail half a dozen magpies are foraging for grubs in the well tended lawns. Several enormous gums tower over the grass and a pied currawong is perched on one of the topmost branches with a seed pod hanging from its beak. Another bird joins it, they seem nervous, jumping between branches before flying off, possibly to a nesting site.

1a Currawong with food approaching nest

Currawong approaching nest with food

The walk back is equally eventful with both rosellas and lorikeets feeding on berries in the scrub along the edge of the trail but capturing a sharp image in the shadows and overcast conditions is somewhat challenging.

1a Tapas on the terrace

Tapas

 

 

Newman’s nursery has a charming little restaurant with both inside and alfresco dining areas which afford a fine view of the hillside on the other side of the road. While I enjoy the delights of a tapas snack I notice several tiny finches feeding on the liquid amber trees that decorate the front of the nursery. From my outside table the birds are just within camera range and using the long lens I am able to identify them as European goldfinches.

 

1a European goldfinch in liquid amber tree

European goldfinch in liquid amber tree

 

Until next time

Baz

A Morning at the Zoo with Quinn

27 Feb

Dear reader: 

It is a warm Adelaide morning and the shady paths of the zoo are a labyrinth of intrigue for a nearly three year old. Around every turn there is a new enclosure full of sights, sounds and animals that she had only previously experienced in picture books.

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A pair of king parrots provide a suitable backdrop for a tiger striped Quinn

 

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The zoo is situated by the river just over the Frome Road Bridge

 

 

A misty spray of water shrouds the koala and Tasmanian devil enclosures in anticipation of the midday heat. It proves irresistible to our little granddaughter and sends her squealing down the path shouting, “bear, bear, bear!” I stand and watch the ‘really not bears’ as they stoically munch on eucalyptus leaves and fire off a couple of frames. Sometimes the images that can be taken in a zoo are invaluable additions for later projects.

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A koala chews on eucalyptus leaves that would be inedible even toxic to any other species of marsupial

 

 

Half a vegemite sandwich and an ice cream later a little hand tugs mine and a voice whispers, “ Pop, kangaroo”. She is almost right, as a pair of yellow footed rock wallabies emerge from behind a tree in an open enclosure a few metres away. One of the little marsupials has a joey in its pouch; a difficult image for any photographer to catch in the wild.

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A young yellow footed rock wallaby peering out from the safety of its mother’s pouch

 

 

The nocturnal house proves to be a real challenge. Try telling a toddler to be quiet as she goes through a dark tunnel lined with glass exhibits featuring bats and other night time wildlife. Near the entrance there are some aquariums which she finds quite fascinating (translate as…actually stops moving for a few seconds) giving me the opportunity to photograph some purple spotted gudgeons, one of our threatened native fish species. Yet another example of the pictorial opportunities that only captive animals can provide the amateur photographer.

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Purple spotted gudgeon are found in South Australia’s freshwater streams and lakes

 

 

Ironically, our final wildlife moment is not one that the Royal Zoological Society can claim credit for. Just as we are leaving and wandering past the hippos, Nan’s favourite exotic animal, we hear a family excitedly chattering about a spider. And there, strung in front of the hippo pool is last night’s tattered web of a sizeable orb weaver with the resident arachnid devouring a hapless dragonfly. Quinn says “yuck”, Nan scoops her up and I click away merrily wishing that I had brought the DSLR instead of popping the point and shoot in my pocket to ensure hands free, child minding capabilities.

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A large orb weaver makes short work of an unfortunate dragonfly

 

 

By now the temperature is getting into the mid thirties and it is time to leave. She does not want to go. “More animals Pop.” A good sign for the future.

 

Cheers

Baz (and Quinn)

Wynne Vale Dam Walk

17 Feb

The sulphur crested cockatoos are perched up high in the river gums that surround the dam. Their loud and raucous calls fill the air and drown out the sounds of the other birds that live and feed around the water’s edge. Every few minutes some of the large, white parrots fly down into the acacia bushes that grow along the pathway in search of food. They tear off some of the brown, elongated pods and fly back into the higher branches where they manipulate them with their feet and beaks to extract the seeds.

Acacia pods with seeds exposed

Acacia pods with seeds exposed

 

Sulphur crested cockatoo eating acacia seeds

Sulphur crested cockatoo eating acacia seeds

 

 

Wynne Vale Dam is just a fifteen minute bike ride north of Tea Tree Plaza along the Dry Creek trail which can be easily accessed from the bridge over Ladywood Road near the Modbury Hotel. It is a great way to break up the shopping chores or get some exercise after lunching at one of the nearby hotels and restaurants. The small lake is part of a stormwater reclamation and creek improvement project and is surrounded by a track with viewing platforms, interpretive signs and a sizeable earthen dam on the southern edge.

Wynne Vale Dam from the viewing platform

Wynne Vale Dam from the viewing platform

 

 

After watching the birds feeding for a few minutes I climb back on my bike and cycle round to the other side of the dam. Leaving the pathway I shift the mountain bike into low gear and pedal along an exposed stretch of the embankment bumping over a tangle of roots that radiate from a stand of partly submerged trees. Their skeletal trunks and branches are the perfect vantage points for a white faced heron to scope out its prey and a freshwater turtle to bask in a patch of early morning sunshine. White faced herons are quite common along the banks but the turtle is a more unusual sighting.

White faced heron survey its kill zone

White faced heron surveys its kill zone

 

Short necked turtle on a tree branch

Short necked turtle on a partially submerged tree branch

 

 

Just as I start to move off to my next location I catch site of a medium sized bird roosting high in one of the old willows that overhang the water. It is a nankeen night heron. Easily recognised by their cinnamon plumage and shorter powerful, beaks these herons tend to stay hidden during the day feeding in the morning, evening and sometimes at night; a behaviour that is referred to as crepuscular.

In the winter months the water level rises considerably covering the embankment

In the winter months the water level rises considerably covering the embankment

 

Nanakeen night herons feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish

Nankeen night herons feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish

 

 

After photographing the heron I cycle around the lake once more to make sure that I haven’t missed anything too obvious then head back down the western side of the creek. Where the dam ends and the creek re-emerges there is a line of exceptionally tall river gums. And there, right in my line of vision, are two koalas climbing up into the branches. Koalas, nankeen night herons and a turtle on one short ride. Not a bad morning’s work.

A pair of koalas climbing. Probably an adult fmale and mature joey.

A pair of koalas climbing. Probably an adult female and mature joey.

 

 

Thanks for reading this post.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Tell a friend who might be interested.

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

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