Archive | Murray River RSS feed for this section

Murray Bridge’s Rocky Gully Wetlands (Part 1)

4 Jan

Eastern Water Skink

Dear Reader:

We are standing on a culvert above a long, narrow canal which is used to channel water from one part of the swampy wetland to another. Despite the coolness of the day an Eastern Water Skink is lying on the concrete edge soaking up what little warmth it harbours.

David taking a panoramic shot

Today, David and I are exploring the Rocky River Wetlands; a series of shallow pools fed by urban run-off and the nearby Preamimma Creek. This low-lying area has been developed by local volunteers into a significant wetland supporting a wide diversity of native flora and fauna. Sanders Walk is a 1.8 Km loop around the wetland. Named in honour of the man who instigated this reclamation project and turned a salty wasteland into a wonderful, local biosphere. It is both wheelchair accessible and dog friendly.

Pelican Colony

Pelican flyby with silos

From the culvert we follow a levy which provides views across the wetland with both the town and the Murray River in the distance. A colony of Australian Pelicans occupies a small island while a lone bird flies past the massive wheat silos. They provide me with a couple of nice photo ops featuring wildlife in an urban setting.

Western Grey Kangaroos feeding on floodplain

The clouds are starting to roll in and there is a sniff of rain in the air. We decide it’s time to head back to the car. However, one last scene begs my attention. In the distance, on the low scrubby plains closer to the river, there is a small mob of Western Grey Kangaroos grazing. They are just in range of my P900 on full extension.

A pair of Pacific Black Ducks hunker down as the rain comes in

Then the rain belt hits us. Waterproofs zipped up and cameras protected we beat a hasty retreat. I will return in a few days when the sun is out as there is so much more to see. Now its Murray Bridge for lunch or that lovely little bakery in Hahndorf? Spoilt for choice!

Cheers

Baz

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Morgan Houseboat Cruise…continued…….Day 5 Taylor Flat

14 Dec

Tight against the bank

Morgan Houseboat Cruise…continued…….

Dear Reader

,,,,,,,,Continued from last post…………… Having photographed a frolicking group of goats I head down to the main deck for lunch.

 

Classic dry-land scrub

We have pulled up alongside a fallen tree where there is a short stretch of sandy beach. The bank downstream rises quite sharply and there is dryland scrub all around us. This is difficult country for spotting wildlife as food is scarce and the animals extremely wary.

 

Watchful Sulphur Crests high in the tress…tricky low light situation and the Nikon P900 did well

I take my leave of the group telling them that I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Recently I have taken to wearing an Apple Watch that automatically signals emergency services and selected people if I should fall or need help. A great device for anyone who spends a lot of time alone, or in my case, in remote areas working on my own in the outdoors. Though, to be honest,  I am not totally alone as a pair of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos watch me from the safety of a tall red gum on the river’s edge.

 

Vines amongst the scrub

Machinery from another era

Walking directly east from the boat I notice a well-worn, dirt track that cuts inland then breaks to the right along the river. Several hundred metres along the trail the land is fenced off protecting rows of grapevines and not far away I find the remains of some heavy machinery lying rusted above the riverbank. Perhaps they are the remnants of a pumping station or a hoist for loading cargo on the old paddle steamers which plied these waters in the early part of the last century.

 

Antlion trap

Predator (Antlion) and prey

All around me there are cone shaped depressions in the sandy soil. They are the traps dug by Antlions. Unwary ants or other small, non-flying invertebrates fall down the sides and are unable to climb back out as the soil particles are rounded and slip back down to the centre where the ferocious little predator waits partially buried in the trap itself.

 

Tangle web

Web builder

There are also numerous spider webs in the branches of the low shrubs. They are quite extensive and designed to snare anything that falls into them. It takes me some time to find one of the eight-legged constructors as they are very small compared to their webs. Perhaps it is a colonial effort or a web that is built on each day…..a little more research is needed on this one!

My walk is over and its time to return to the boat for a meal and some good company. Tomorrow is our last day and I’m sure this beautiful river will yield a few more natural surprises as we motor on back to Morgan.  

Cheers

Baz

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Houseboat Cruise from Morgan SA…Day 5 Taylor Flat

5 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is early morning. The rest of the boat crew are asleep and I’m catching the first of the sun’s rays. There are fish breaking the water and a few swallows hawking for insects. We are still moored near Caudo Winery and I am reviewing some shots of last night’s sunset. A wonderful end to any day on the river. Today we will be making a short jump along the river to Taylor Flat, tie up for a leisurely lunch before embarking on the final leg back to Morgan.

 

 

 

I climb the stairs to the top deck which houses the spa, barbecue and another set of boat controls. Comfortably ensconced on a chair, my feet up and camera at the ready I scan the passing riverbank for wildlife. During our houseboat journey I have spent many hours doing this and it has become a form of meditation, broken by the occasional exciting moment of discovery.

 

Today is no exception. A small group of wild goats are running parallel to us along a riverside track. They look like young animals; leaping, butting each other and generally cavorting. A truly unexpected moment. Tricky to catch from a moving boat but I use a pre-set 1/4000 TV option and the result is passable. The shot made and a morning well spent it is time for lunch, a chat with friends then……… to be continued in my next post.

Houseboat Day 5…..At Caudo Winery

2 Jul

Dear Reader:

The gum tree alongside the boat is massive. Its branches extend well over the bank and river. These River Gums are a sanctuary for many species that live along the Murray providing homes for myriad invertebrates, birds, reptiles and even mammals such as bats and possums. At the moment, I can see a Yellow Rosella perched high in the canopy. A long shot but certainly gettable with my Nikon P900.

Yellow Rosella

We have tied up the houseboat at Caudo Winery after a lovely cruise along the river which was quite productive when it came to wildlife; as I mentioned in my last post. The winery is a perfect pause for lunch and wine tasting on a river trip from Morgan, and the staff are both helpful and knowledgeable.

Houseboat and winery outdoor area

After a sip of a local white, I am ostensibly a non-drinker but love a little taste to simply enjoy the flavours, I decided to take an exploratory wander around the grounds. Another Red Gum, even larger than the first, towers over an open paddock on the property’s edge. Peering through the long lens I can make out a Corella nesting in a dead branch. While I am watching the Corella’s mate flies in and they exchange places.

Short-beaked Corella in nesting hole

Turning my attention from the larger animals I start to hunt around under the half-shed bark and understory by the base of the gum trees; always a good place to find insects, spiders and reptiles. I am not disappointed, discovering some beetles and small coppery skink that I have yet to identify.

Pie Dish Beetle species
Unknown skink species

My stroll is brought to a pleasant end when a couple the houseboat crew send me a quick text about pizzas hot from the oven being served in the next few minutes. Pizzas, fine wines, good company a bit of wildlife….a pretty good afternoon on the Murray River.

Cheers

Baz

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Houseboat Day 4…….On the way to Caudo Winery

1 Jun

Dear Reader:

A dusty track runs parallel to the river about a hundred metres from the water. I catch the sounds of birds calling on the wind. The twittering of small species such as wrens and finches but also the faint call of a Kookaburra. Tiny Copper-Headed Skinks scurry about in the leaf litter and I sit under the shade of a river gum for a few minutes to photograph them. My P900 is an excellent tool for this task and its versatility is tested as I quickly shift to maximum telephoto to shoot a Western Grey Kangaroo as it bounds through the low scrub.

Boat moored on the bank

Walking trail through scrub

We are now four days into our cruise along the Murray from Morgan and heading towards Caldo Winery. About two kilometres from our destination we tie up along the river-bank for a walk and lunch. I have packed a snack and water bottle then headed out towards a significant bend in the river where I can see a small gully edging close to the water. An ideal place for wildlife as it presents a variety of ecological niches in one concentrated area. 

Dragonfly species near river bank

As I continue along the track it bends closer to the river and the wildlife changes in character. There are large dragonflies hovering around the reeds and landing on the loamy soil. I spot a small group of Nankeen Night Herons in a Willow tree overhanging the water. They are wary and hard to photograph but it is the first time I have seen a group of these nocturnal predators which are usually solitary…..possibly an adult with young??

Adult Laughing Kookaburras near nest site

I take a sit and wait approach when I notice a perfect log to rest on. It overlooks the edge of a steep gully which runs down to the river. By pure luck I have chosen well and over the next twenty minutes I am able to observe a pair of Kookaburras and locate their nesting hole in an aged River Gum.

Kookaburra landing in nesting hole with prey in beak

My walk has taken me a couple of kilometres from the boat and it is time to retrace my steps and head back. Shuffling through a deep patch of leaf litter I am startled by a rustle and sharp hiss off to my right. I freeze monetarily and look around. Not a snake but a large Shingleback Lizard which I have disturbed as it forages amongst the litter.

Shingleback lizard in aggressive pose

Dropping to one knee I attempt to photograph the lizard as it moves through the leaf litter but my sudden movement has irritated it and I am confronted by a full on mouth gape and tongue display.

It is time to call it a day and I shoulder arms and walk briskly back to the Houseboat ready for my duties as rope boy as we set off for the winery……..to be continued

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Visit Caudo Winery website

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Houseboat 3 Hogwash Bend

31 Mar

Dear Reader:

As we slow the boat and glide slowly towards the riverbank, I spot a pair of Ospreys perched high in the canopy of a massive Red Gum overhanging the river. One takes flight and circles some forty metres above us. I slip the Nikon P900 into sports mode opting for fast shutter speeds over depth of field and fire off a half dozen frames. Hopefully, something will turn out right.

Osprey in flight

It is a glorious blue-sky day. I can think of no place better to be than on the river with good friends and time to do what we please and go where the mood takes us. This morning we are tying up in the Hogwash Bend Conservation Park about 8 Kms east of Cadell.

Houseboat moored

The eagles leave and their air space is replaced by two Australian Pelicans that seem to be utilising a thermal rising off the land. They ride the updraft then slowly descend and land on the water a short distance from our moored craft. Boats often equate to fishing and small discarded carp that are pelican bite size. These glorious birds, with wingspans well over 2 metres, are common companions on the river.

Pelican near houseboat

Having spent a few minutes photographing the pelicans I turn my attention to the park. This is a part of the river where there are a variety of habitats from small billabongs and creeks to cliffs and flat grassy areas. I search a rockface exposed by erosion and find numerous fossils encased in the rough limestone matrix.

Gastropod fossils
Classic Murray scenery

Near the low cliffs there is a wide expanse of low bushes and grasses; ideal habitat for kangaroos. I have noticed a lot of kangaroo droppings on this trip though I have only caught a few fleeting glimpses of the animals themselves. I find a likely spot where I can watch the widest sweep of the terrain, a sit and wait strategy. Luck is on my side. Some ten minutes into my vigil I hear the bushes rustling off to my right and notice a roo feeding. My line of sight is obscured and I change position slightly. The kangaroo’s sensitive ears twitch and it turns towards me. A few seconds to shoot and the nervous animal bounds off.

Western Grey

I have been exploring the park for a couple of hours and it is time to return to the boat for lunch before we change location. For me, it is a chance to scan the shoreline as we cruise along. There are herons and egrets hunting in the shallows. Both Anhingas (snake birds) and cormorants perch on half submerged tree roots and dry their wings after hunting underwater. Occasionally, another craft passes by and we smile and wave sharing a moment that is unique to those who enjoy cruising along this mighty waterway.

Anhinga drying wings

Passing by
Tells a story

I hope these paragraphs and images inspire or a least suggest to you ‘Dear Reader’ that a houseboat adventure might be a reasonable proposition for your next holiday.

Cheers

Baz

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat Day 2 Lizards and Falcons

30 Jan

Dear Reader:

The cliffs rise steeply from the river’s surface. There are definite divisions in the strata indicating various periods in geological time. Tree roots, wind, water and the sun have weathered the rocky surface creating shallow caves, overhangs and depressions providing shelter for a variety of wildlife.

 

Typical limestone cliff scenery

We are travelling upstream from Morgan in our rented houseboat towards the little township of Cadell. Named after Francis Cadell, an early steamship navigator and explorer, the town sits in the Cadell Valley which is a Citrus and grape growing region. There is accommodation, a general store, second-hand shops, heritage centre and a ferry crossing.

 

Murray River Ferry at Cadell

The ochre coloured cliffs are home to numerous bird species but photographing them from a moving boat is challenging. I pick out what appears to be a family of raptors huddled in a narrow space near the cliff top and train the powerful lens of my Nikon P900 on the group. It is difficult to get a clear image. Nevertheless, I fire off half a dozen frames to work on later.

 

Fleeting glimpse of a raptor family on the cliff……shot from a moving boat at about 120 metres

Further down the river I notice some larger birds of prey. One is perched near a nest and the other sits on a eucalyptus branch overhanging the water. *They are either young White Breasted Sea Eagles or a juvenile kite species, possibly Whistling Kites.  

 

Eagle or Kite…..let me know please

The reeds and branches that line the edge of the river are home to a variety of waterbirds including: Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamp Hens, Pied Cormorants and Anhingas often called Snake birds. I focus on an Anhinga resting on a fallen branch.

 

Anhinga perching….note the webbed feet and spear-like beak

We moor the boat near a wide bend in the river and set up for an evening barbecue. I take a walk along the river bank and find a quiet place to sit and wait for the wildlife to appear; an approach that often pays dividends. I can hear the twittering of wrens and finches the rustling of other small animals in the undergrowth. Several small skinks appear on a log but they are too quick and timid for me to get a clear image. Moments later a Shingleback lizard emerges from leaf litter. Unaware of my presence the lizard comes quite close to me. When I lift the camera to get a shot it turns to face me, opens its mouth wide extending it bright blue tongue in a defensive display.

 

Shingleback or Sleepy lizard

Leaving the lizard to its meanderings in search of food and with a similar thought in mind I return to the boat for our evening barbecue. Full of steak, sausage and salad I go back through the days images and to my delight and surprise the raptors I photographed turn out to be Peregrine Falcons.

 

Peregrine Falcon at distance on the cliff face

Two days out and I have encountered quite a lot of wildlife. Who knows what the next day will bring.

Cheers

Baz

*If anyone can identify these birds please contact me and I will change the text accordingly

Additional notes

This is an easy boat trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors and only a current driving licence is required to operate a houseboat.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Houseboat Adventures Morgan Day 1

2 Jan

Dear Reader:

The road is ‘dead set’ straight for kilometre after kilometre. Expanses of saltbush and mallee scrub border the highway. While driving I scan the bush for wildlife. Crows perch on branches, an occasional parrot flies in front of the vehicle and there is the inevitable road-kill. I ease my foot onto the brake and pull over. Hundreds of meters across the saltbush, on the woodland fringe, I can see a pair of emus. My Nikon P900 is an excellent tool for locating an image at this range but even the 83X zoom is challenged when it comes to getting a good clear shot.

 

Emus at distance

I am driving to Morgan, an historic town on the River Murray about 160 kms from Adelaide. Morgan was a busy river port during the 1800s with hundreds of paddle steamers delivering goods prior to the advent of railways and more recently motor vehicle transport. However, this colourful history has given rise to Morgan’s current attractions; heritage docks, museum, renovated paddle steamer, historic trails and two wonderful, old pubs.

 

Books and bric a brac

Sandra at the helm

 

I am meeting friends for a week-long houseboat trip exploring this stretch of the river. Each afternoon we will pull into the bank at a different location, stay there overnight then head off again in the morning. For my companions it is an ideal way to spend some down time away from their busy lives. For me, it means long walks to explore and photograph each location, editing images and writing up notes as well as capturing images from the boat as it cruises along.

 

Whale vertebrate fossils

 

Our boat docked

Before we leave Morgan I take a stroll along the river bank towards the old wharf. It seems like a good place to look for animals that thrive close to human habitation. I can see swallows hawking across the water and picking off insects in the air but they rarely settle and photographing them in flight takes a better photographer than me. However, I do manage to spot a beautiful Eastern Water Skink catching the late afternoon sun.

 

Wharf, cliffs and old paddle-steamer being restored

 

Eastern Water Skink

Pleased with my final image, I head back to the boat for dinner and a pleasant evening socialising with friends before we set off up-stream in the morning to another location and a fresh adventure.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Only a driving license is required to operate a houseboat. We used Foxtail Houseboats and were more than pleased with their level of service.

Please pass on this blog title/contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

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

Houseboat 2

14 Jul

Houseboat 2 

Dear Reader:

Following up my last post I would like to continue my review of our houseboat trip along the Murray from Mildura.

Our boat

 

Some of the most spectacular features of Murray cruising are the glorious sunsets. A few clouds a little dust in the air and suddenly dusk is transformed into a spectacular light show. Throw in some red cliffs and the results are unbelievable. It can seem like the whole sky is on fire.

Sunset on fire

 

Colour abounds in other ways too. Some of the most striking parrots inhabit the woodlands and scrub that border the river. My favourites are the rosellas which can be wary and difficult to get near enough to photograph. Luckily this yellow rosella was too absorbed in feeding to take much notice of me.

 

Yellow Rosella feeding

 

We passed by several little towns on our trip and each bore witness to the Murray’s heyday when the river was the main form of transport between the states and a flotilla of paddle steamers plied their trade along its length. Today these classic country towns support local dry land farming and serve as tourist hubs.

Wentworth, historic building

 

Colourful parrots are not the only birds that inhabit the river bank. There are some serious predators too. Pelicans fish singularly or in groups along the shallow banks and both whistling kites and white bellied sea eagles perch on overhanging branches to hone in on prey with their incredible eyesight. On the mammalian side there are water rats that hunt for molluscs along the river bank as well as introduced foxes and wild cats. And from a reptilian perspective a variety of lizards from water skinks to goannas and snakes live in the reed beds and tangled branches that line the waterway.   

Eastern water skink

 

 Travelling along the river would not be complete without a little fishing. Carp abound and some of them are quite large but most fishers hope for a catch of native fish such as Callop and Cod which are much rarer. On this trip ‘Pete” who had fished the river for years caught his first Murray Cod; a beautiful 65 cm specimen which was duly released though the smile on his face took the best part of a week to disappear.

At last

 

And so ends my discourse on Murray house-boating for this year. But, stick around for a further twelve months a there will be another trip to report on.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Just Cruising 1

1 Jun

Just Cruising 1

Dear Reader:

There is a white faced heron picking its way precariously along the bow rail of the boat; probably heading for the shrimp bucket. In the meantime, two welcome swallows are resting on the mooring rope while they take a rest from their aerial, acrobatic insect hunts. These are two of the animals that make our houseboat a temporary home as we journey along the river.

 

Curious Heron

 

To date my blogs have always been about South Australia but the next few posts will stray just a little from my own state and take you just over the border to Mildura in Victoria. From this thriving community I will share some observation taken on a week-long houseboat trip along the Murray. The wildlife and scenery are much the same as in SA as we are cruising along a section of the river which runs close to all three states SA, Victoria and NSW.

 

Typical riverside scenery

 

Houseboats are a wonderful way to explore the river. They come in all shapes and sizes from luxury models with saunas, ensuite bathrooms and satellite television through to old fashioned paddle sided boats with two rooms and a basic kitchen. We travelled in rather luxurious style which I can fully recommend; and travelling in a group certainly made it a reasonably inexpensive holiday option.

 

A classic

 

Wildlife along the river is seasonal and dependent on a variety of conditions such as drought and ambient river levels. The long dry that we have experienced this year meant that the wildlife was sporadic and took a little effort to locate. However, as we varied our moorings between townships and bush there was always something to see when I took a walk and looked carefully.

What the????

 

At a bush mooring near the confluence of the Darling and Murray I spent a couple of hours walking through the scrub bordering the river. Whilst sitting on a log near a clump of acacia bushes some small bugs with ‘eye-lash- like’ antennae caught my attention. I spent a good half hour trying to get a reasonable shot. Sometimes the little things can be the most interesting and challenging to photograph.

 

Nesting Apostle bird

 

The rewards of exploring a new and unfamiliar region are many including the chance to encounter species that are rarely observed or at the best seen fleetingly at home. An apostle bird nesting in the eucalypts that shaded our mooring at Coomeala was a prime example. Locals told me that they are quite common but it was the first time I had seen one and to capture and image of it nesting was quite a thrill.

Sandra gets the double

 

There were many more encounters on this trip and they certainly warrant further posts under the heading ‘Just Cruising’ which seems to capture the mood of my week exploring the mighty Murray while relaxing with friends.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy excursion which is quite suitable for families and seniors with toilets, barbecues and numerous facilities aboard.

 

 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 to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

%d bloggers like this: