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Mildura to Trentham Estate Winery….part 2…..Around the Winery

18 Jun

Moored at the winery

 

Dear Reader:

We arrived at Trentham Estate Winery around 1.00 pm. After tying up and sprucing up, as we are eating at the winery, we wander ashore to indulge in a little pre-lunch wine tasting. Our meal is served under a large marquis with wonderful views of the river and surrounding countryside.

 

Coffee by the river

 

A sipbefore lunch

 

The Duck Breast in a Hoisin sauce is moist and cooked to perfection and coffee, dessert and good company make the afternoon fly. However, before the light disappears I take a walk upstream to explore the properties and bushland alongside the winery.

 

Peaceful Dove by the water

As I edge along the bank I notice Anhingas, Black Ducks (not the source of lunch) and some unusual doves. I wait behind a large river gum and manage to snag a shot of these smallish, striped birds which turn out to be Peaceful Doves.

 

Grey Butcherbird

 

Laughing Kookaburra

 

Further along the pathway I hear the first few notes of a Kookaburra’s call. The bird is perched on a dead tree branch and the Nikon P900’s telephoto is stretched close to maximum extension. In a thorny bush below the tree, I can just make out the outline of a Grey Butcherbird. Despite waiting for the bird to emerge I settle for an image taken through the branches; not a portrait shot but certainly a realistic one.

 

Yellow Rosella

 

Male and female Red-rumped Parrots

 

Parrots are feeding high in the trees which makes focussing difficult. There seems to be two distinct groups. Scanning the branches, I recognise Yellow Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots. Both are beautiful birds which I rarely see in SA. 

 

Boatel coming in to dock

The light is beginning to fade and it’s time to get back to the boat. When I reach the mooring I can hardly miss the opulent vessel parked a little further on. It is called ‘Boatel’ for obvious reasons and is a luxury version of our houseboat constructed by the same company ‘All Seasons’.

However, our craft has luxury enough for this photographer and I am about to sit back and relax with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

Until my next blog, enjoy our wonderful wildlife and countryside.

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/

Trentham winery

https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g255355-d1752428-Reviews-Trentham_Estate_Winery_Restaurant-Mildura_Victoria.html

 

Houseboat 2022 Mildura to Trentham Winery….part 1

4 Jun

Houseboat sunset

For any regular followers:

(I am stepping outside my usual SA destinations posts to recount part of my latest houseboat adventure from Mildura. The town is on the Murray River just over the border from the SA Riverland towns of Renmark, Berri and Barmera). The terrain and wildlife are much the same as the Riverland

Dear Reader:

It has been a long drive from Adelaide to Mildura and with the unpacking finished and the boat moved to its new mooring on the Mildura Quay it is time to enjoy a glass of wine, sit back on a comfy couch and admire a glorious river sunset.

Pond by the quay

Purple Swap Hen

Coffee time

The next morning is all business. Sandra checks the maps, two couples take a quick walk up to the local shops to purchase a few extras and Pete stows the fishing gear and coolers on the rear deck. The weather is fine so I wander over to the recreation area opposite which has a lovely pond used to rear protected, native fish species. The pond is a perfect place to take some close-up shots of the aquatic birds I will encounter along the river. In addition, the little coffee shop alongside the pond is ideal for an early morning ‘cuppa’ and a calorie laden treat for breakfast.

Swallows on outboard by Peter Zab using iPhone

Back on the houseboat we’re waiting for everyone to come aboard. I watch the swallows hawking for insects alongside the boat. They are incredibly fast and acrobatic and never seem to slow down. Pete notices a pair resting on the small outboard motor of our attached dinghy and zeroes in on them with his iPhone.

Sandra at the helm

Ropes are untied, Sandra opens the throttles and blasts the reversing horn…we are off; cruising around 7km/hr. I climb the stairs to the top deck and take up a position near the front, ready to brace my camera against a fibreglass side panel. From this position I am able to sight a target coming towards me from the riverbanks on either side of the boat. It is tricky photography and stretches the Nikon P900’s capabilities to the limit.

View of Whistling Kite from the boat

Whistling Kite through the telephoto

Our destination is Trentham winery about 10 kms away by river. The scenery along the way is classic Murray River scrub with Mallee trees, a few errant Willows and billabongs dotted with massive dead River Gums protruding like bony, grey fingers. At the top of one fading gum, I spot a Whistling Kite and further along the river there is an Australian Pelican perched on an old tree stump. My final shot for the morning, as the winery is just around the bend, an Anhinga or Snake-bird drying its wings after hunting in the river………….to be continued…. 

Anhinga drying wings

Australian Pelican and rosella

Please comment on this story if you find Houseboat posts interesting.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy holiday which is quite suitable for families and active seniors as tying up the boat requires some mobility and strength. Only a driver’s license is required to operate a houseboat and instruction is given prior to use.

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/

For more information about Trentham Winery go to:

https://www.visitvictoria.com/regions/The-Murray/eat-and-drink/Wineries/Trentham-Estate-Winery

Hindmarsh Island ……Part 1

29 Mar

 

Hindmarsh Island ……Part 1

Dear Reader:

The bridge over the Murray River to the island is sleek and modern. Where it terminates there is a small layby and a short track going back under the concrete stanchions. A line of posts edges into the river. Probably part of the old ferry structures. Every few minutes, Australian Pelicans land on the old wooden posts and rails resting or watching for prey in the water.

 

Hindmarsh Island Bridge

After a while, the pelicans move off and land in the water near a reed patch. Another bird joins them and they start to swim in a roughly circular formation. They seem to be hunting; possibly herding small fish. My thoughts are confirmed when the birds tighten the circle and simultaneously dip their heads and long beaks into the water. The manoeuvre is repeated several times. Their movements are very graceful, almost like watching synchronised swimming or ballerinas with fluffed up tutus.

 

Pelicans up

Pelicans down

I am on Hindmarsh Island; Kumerangk in the language of the First Nations People who live in this area, the Ngarrindjeri. The island is an hour and a half drive SE of Adelaide near the town of Goolwa. It is flat and low with extensive areas of pasture, some scrub and a modern housing development with associated marina. There are numerous roads both paved and dirt criss-crossing the island. Hindmarsh Island is significant both in South Australia’s settler history and Ngarrindjeri history and culture and the creation of the bridge was the subject of friction between First Nations People and the SA government.

 

Fishing the channel

I continue driving for another ten minutes, past the marina turnoff on my right then the take one of several unsealed roads to my left which brings me to a shoreline where there is a small group of houses. Two fishermen are working the channel and I stop and chat with them for a few minutes about the marine and terrestrial wildlife in the area.

 

Orb weaver at work

Lovely, golden grass and patches of coastal scrub carpet this area and offer shelter to a range of animals. I spot some wrens and other small birds and catch a fleeting glimpse of a reptile near the muddy shore. Lizard or snake? Not sure. However, it is an Orb Weaver spider constructing its complex web that intrigues me. I watch the industrious little animal for some time and capture some reasonable close-up images.

 

Lapwing, Ibis, swans

My next stop is a couple of kilometres down the sealed road at a small group of shacks. There are short jetties poking out into the channel and most of them seem to be favourite roosting areas for both Black and Pied cormorants. Where the muddy shoreline and Samphire swamp meet, I can see numerous wading birds including: Spoonbills, Pied Stilts, Sandpipers and Masked Lapwings. In the slightly deeper water, a large flock of Black Swans are feeding.

 

Fascinating ecosytem

 

The morning’s drive and my initial exploration of the island have been quite productive and after I find a place to sit and have a bite to eat, provisioned from one of Goolwa’s many fine bakeries, I will head over to the Murray Mouth and Mundoo Channel to continue my day at Hindmarsh Island…………to be continued.

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors. Hindmarsh Island is dog friendly except for the Conservation Parks.

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/

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/

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