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Birdwood’s Cromer Conservation Park…….Part 2

11 Mar

Classic Cromer scrub

Dear Reader:

This is my second visit to the Cromer CP. Unlike my first wander around this unique patch of South Aussie scrub the immediate weather is not treating me in a kindly fashion with low clouds and mist forecast for the morning then clearing as the day progresses. Not great for detailed photography but it might add a different atmosphere to my images.

Roos in the fields

Close up shot from car

As I drive along the road from Birdwood I am forced to a stop to avoid a small group of Western Grey Kangaroos bounding in front of the car. They settle in a field and start to graze only looking up as I power down the window for a shot.

Thornbill species?

Treecreeper sp or Sitella sp

I enter the park from an unmarked gate on the far corner of the park about 1 km from the main entrance. A barely visible track runs into scrub which is dominated by two distinct types of eucalypts. The taller trees have smooth bark while the other’s is rougher and darker. There are small noisy birds flitting about in the canopy and despite the poor light I get a couple of shots at distance thanks to the extreme range of my Nikon P900. A bit of Photoshopping later suggests one is a variety of thornbill and the other a sitella or treecreeper species (any ID feedback would be welcome).

Cockies Galahs) in the mist

The track disappears after a few hundred metres and just where it peters out there is a small mound surrounded by old, rusted fencing. I take a closer look and discover, what appears to be,  a well or perhaps mine digging. There are several smaller unfenced depressions in the area and in one I catch a glimpse of a Blue Tongue Lizard just before it quickly disappears into the undergrowth. The sudden movement startles a pair of Galahs perched high above me. Despite the poor light I manage to capture a rather atmospheric image of the parrots.

Unknown skink species possibly a slider

To my delight the sun is starting to burn off the low cloud and blue skies allow for faster shutter speeds and more depth of field. I decide to turn my attention to the smaller animals inhabiting the park. Under a fallen log, I discover a plethora of life; roaches, a centipede plus a lovely striped skink, possibly a slider species. It has tiny legs and a long slender body for living in the leaf litter and under rocks and fallen branches. Further examination of the shot reveals a small spider by its tail.

Bakery delights at Birdwood

It is time to leave the park on this, my second visit, but I shall return in spring to witness the emergence of delicate wildflowers, birds building nests and roos breeding. Now it is time to obey the urges of my stomach clock and enjoy the calorific delights of the local bakery. So much to choose from but my walk in Cromer Conservation Park might justify my indulgence.     

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors but care must be taken because of the pristine nature of the scrub and the possibility of snakes in the warmer months.

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/

Birdwood’s Cromer Conservation Park… Part 1

26 Feb

Cromer Conservation Park… Part 1

Dear Reader:

Red and Pink Gums as well as Long Leafed Box trees tower above me. They echo with birdsong which ranges from the twittering of finches and pardalotes to the raucous calls of lorikeets. My Nikon P 900 has a phenomenal telephoto and I use it to scan the treetops in the hope of identifying the birds and capturing an image or two.

Eventually I spot a Red Wattlebird and a Musk Lorikeet close enough to photograph. The silhouette of the wattlebird calling is a particularly pleasing image. While I continue to search the foliage for a makeable shot I watch a pair of Adelaide Rosellas flit between trees and high above me a kestrel is circling.

My destination today is the Cromer Conservation Park about 5 Kms from Birdwood. This small, fenced off section of bush is all that remains of the original scrub that once blanketed this part of the ranges. As such, it is an important repository of endemic plant and animal species. Indeed, over 100 bird species have been recorded in the park and I am sure plant and invertebrate tallies would also be high.

As I walk slowly along the main pathway near the boundary fence I notice another faint track winding into the scrub. I step cautiously and stop to listen every few paces. There is a rustle in the bush a dozen metres ahead and a Western Grey Kangaroo suddenly appears. We both freeze. I slide the Nikon up the rapid release strapping to eye level and take a wide angle shot for context then a close-up. The second click of the camera alerts the roo which swivels its ears, looks in my direction, then bounds away.

The sun is well up, the day is warming and with a rise in temperature the sounds of the scrub also change. Cicadas start to buzz and Fairy Wrens twitter in and around the grass trees which seem to be the centre of their territories. My morning walk is almost over therefore I decide to focus on the smaller plants and animals surrounding me. Although it is late summer there are still a few plants in bloom. The delicate, little Flax Lilies growing along this trail catch my attention. However, my final image for today is of a tiny speckled spider living under the bark of a long dead gum tree…….to be continued

Cox Scrub Conservation Park’s Wildlife…..Part 2 From Ridge and Bull Creek Roads

7 Feb

 

Track near Ridge Road entrance to Cox Scrub

Dear Reader:

After my initial foray into Cox Scrub from Coles crossing, today, I am entering the park from Ridge and Bull Creek roads. The Ridge Road entrance leads me to a long straight track which separates nearby farmland from the park. The scrub here is thick and quite difficult to penetrate. I can hear the chirping of wrens and other small birds but they are hard to spot and constantly moving.

 

Classic Cox Scrub vegetation

I employ a sit and wait strategy. The trick is to find a comfortable place with a good view of the surrounding area and not too many bushes and trees in line of sight. A tough ask as the sun must be in the right direction; silhouettes and side lit animals do not make great pictures.

 

Heliotrope Moth on melaleuca blossom

Having chosen a spot alongside a flowering Melaleuca tree I make sure my Nikon P900 is on a moderate telephoto setting. I might only get a split   second to make a shot with no time to zoom in closer. I am trying for bird images however I also stay tuned to the close undergrowth and bushes listening for a tell-tale rustle of leaves or the hum of an insect. For the first ten minutes the only animals I encounter are invertebrates; a moth on the Melaleuca flowers and a dragonfly resting on the sandy soil. Eventually a scubwren lands in a nearby tree and a pair of Crested pigeons start foraging on in the understory. Sighting that make my wait worthwhile.

 

Scrubwren species

There are clouds moving in from the south west and I decide to drive to my next destination before I lose the light or it begins to rain. Several walking trails start at the Bull Creek entrance. The tracks are wide and easy to walk but the scrub is still quite dense with less large trees than the last track. A kilometre along the trail I find a clearing where there seems to be quite a lot of bird activity. It’s time for stop, sit and wait, again.

 

Golden Whistler

This time I am rewarded within a few minutes. A beautiful Golden Whistler perches in stubby eucalypt about twenty metres away. Its characteristic call (loud sharp whistles ending in a whip-crack note) echoes through the bush. The bird is quite active and I set the camera to shutter priority firing at 1/2000 th of a second. The clearing seems to attract a number of different bird species and I watch a pair of Grey Fantails hawking for insects before returning to a perch on a fallen branch. There are also kangaroo droppings and several termite nests have been ravaged by Echidnas.

 

Grey Fantail

Though I would like to stay for a few more minutes, the first drops of rain start to spatter on my jacket. I tuck my camera into its waterproof case and head back to the car. It is time for lunch, and the Mount Compass Bakery beckons. A chicken and vegetable pie with a custard tart to follow. A fitting end to my morning’s work.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk/drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors.

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/

Cox Scrub Conservation Park’s Wildlife…..Part 1. Entering from Coles Crossing

23 Jan

Old dairy building

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious day for a drive and some wildlife photography. The bitumen road winds past lush farmland and every so often I come across an old building that reminds me of the rich heritage this region of South Australia boasts. I keep a watchful eye out for kangaroos which are often seen grazing near stock and have been known to hop across the road even in the daylight hours. Rosellas and cockatoos fly between the eucalyptus trees fringing the road. I stop to capture an unusual image of two Galahs feeding on an embankment behind a barbed wire fence.

 

Galahs on embankment

I am exploring the Cox Scrub Conservation Park which is around an hour’s drive south of Adelaide’s CBD near Mt Compass and Ashbourne. It is one of the largest parks on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The park has numerous walking trails cutting through stands of Stringy Barks and a dense understory of Banksias and many other native shrubs. There are several entrances to the park and today I am starting at Cole’s Crossing where the Finniss River cuts through the north western perimeter of the conservation park.

 

Coles Crossing

He Coles Crossing track ends at a ford which is too deep to cross in the SUV but a great place to stop and eat lunch. There are small fish in the river and quite a lot of macroinvertebrates (tiny aquatic invertebrates like water boatmen and pond skaters) in the shallow water by the reeds. Several butterfly species are settling amongst exposed sand and pebbles to drink and I can see a Kookaburra perched on a dead tree branch about a hundred metres downstream.

 

Painted Lady

I follow a fence-line which skirts the river. There are numerous small birds twittering in the reeds and high in the canopy of the massive River Gums which tower over the water. I use the extreme telephoto on my Nikon P900 as a bird spotting tool then manage to get a half decent shot of a small honeyeater-like bird which I later identify as a Brown-headed Honeyeater (note to readers…please correct me if I am wrong with this ID).

 

Brown-headed Honeyeater

It has been interesting just pottering around the crossing but I want to enter the park from a different direction and see if there is any variation in the terrain and wildlife. However, that will be my next blog ‘Cox Scrub CP from Ridge and Bull Creek Roads’

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk and drive which is quite suitable for families.

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

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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/

Torrens Island

1 Oct

Torrens Island and its causeway entrance are situated over the Torrens Island Bridge at the end of The Grand Trunkway in Port Adelaide; about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The island is closed to the public but the small breakwater and causeway are open. Most of the island is a conservation park with the remaining area housing the power stations and some historic sites.

Road across breakwater looking back at hills

The island if flat and covered with mangroves, samphire and saltbush. The causeway has no vegetation. The mangroves that are accessible from the causeway and road are actually situated on Garden Island. The causeway forms a barrier between the Angas inlet on the left and the warm water outlet from the power station on the right as you face the power station.

Black-shouldered Kite perched on light pole

Numerous fish species including bream, mullet, whiting and Mulloway are attracted to the warm water. In turn, predatory birds such as: herons, pelicans, terns, gulls, cormorants and egrets are found in this area. Small mangrove crabs are found under the rocks in the intertidal region. Dolphins are not uncommon and best spotted from the bridge.  A population of common rats live among the rocks feeding on discarded bait but they are rarely seen during daylight hours.

Little Egret hunting near mangroves

The dominant vegetation seen from the causeway is the Grey Mangrove with small amounts of samphire. At low tide there are seagrass meadows visible through the fencing on the mudflats to the left facing the power station.

Mangrove leaves and fruit….note the waxy top and rough, paler underside where salt crystals accumulate.

Prior to European settlement the mangrove and samphire swamp areas were a rich hunting and gathering region for the local Kaurna people. They would have caught crabs and speared or netted fish as well as collecting shellfish.

Torrens Island power station

Torrens Island was named after Robert Torrens senior who was chairman of the SA Colonisation Commission. Between 1870 and 1980 it was a quarantine station for both animals and people entering the state. During World War 1 the island was used as an internment camp for citizens of German and Austrian backgrounds. Since 1963 much of the island and surrounding water have been protected areas and part of different marine reserves. Three power stations are operating on the island: Torrens Island PS since 1963, Quarrantine PS since 2002 and finally Barker Inlet PS since 2009. All are gas powered.

Fishing as the sun goes down

Fishing from the rocky causeway in the warm water outlet is popular. There are fine views of the ships’ graveyard and its wrecks from the bridge. Tours of the old quarantine facilities can be arranged through the maritime museum in Port Adelaide. In short, quite an interesting place to visit and combine with a day at Port Adelaide.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy destination to visit and is quite suitable for families and seniors.

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/

About Port Gawler

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

For the rest of this year I will be posting occasional articles exploring some destinations along Adelaide’s coastline. They will include notes on: terrain, vegetation, common animals, history( First Nations and European) and other attractions. Port Gawler is the first in this series.

Introduction

Port Gawler is about 30 kms north-west of Adelaide’s CBD along Port Wakefield Road, Highway 1. The road from the main highway to Port Gawler has some fertile pastureland flanking it as well as mangrove and salt bush closer to the coast.

Fertile farmland on the drive into Port Gawler

 

Terrain

The seafront is dominated by Grey Mangroves with areas of samphire and low scrub alongside. An extensive beach area of shell grit and mud is exposed at low tide for hundreds of metres. Where the Gawler River meets the beach there is a channel. Seagrasses cover the sub-tidal region further out to sea. 

Samphire, saltbush and wetlands

Wildlife

Mangrove stands are important nursery areas for many recreational fish species such as King George Whiting, mullet species and Black Bream. Numerous marine snails, bivalves, crabs, sponges and other invertebrates live in the complex mangrove jungle and seagrass meadows. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and small spiders are common terrestrial invertebrates.

Masked Lapwing

Bird life in this area is prolific and includes many shore birds such as herons, oyster catchers, Black Swans, Cormorants, ibises, gulls and stilts as well as numerous migratory species including plovers and other small waders from as far away as Mongolia. Warblers, flycatchers and honeyeaters live in the dense foliage of the mangroves and are easy to recognise by their calls but hard to spot. The density of smaller birds also attracts some raptors including Nankeen Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites. There are foxes, hares, lizards and snakes in the surrounding pasture and scrub. 

Nankeen kestrel hovering

 

Vegetation

The dominant plant in this region is the Grey Mangrove which grows close to the shore and extends into the shallow intertidal zone. The tubular structures that push through the mud are part of the root system called pneumatophores. They help the plant to absorb oxygen. Samphire, saltbush, pigface and other low growing hardy plants are found around the shoreline. Large amounts of seaweed are often washed up on the shore during the winter months. It is dead Posidonia or strapweed, a common sea grass along our coastline.

Grey Mangroves at low tide showing channel and pneumataphores

Mangrove fruits

History

First Nations

This was a rich area for the indigenous Kaurna people whose coastal lands stretched from Port Wakefield in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. They fished, hunted and collected shellfish and crabs from the estuary and used reeds for constructing a variety of products including fish nets and baskets.

Blue Crab

European settlement

Port Gawler was named in 1867 Governor Henry Young most likely for the earlier Governor, George Gawler. It was surveyed in 1869 and a large property of 4000 acres named Buckland Park was established along the river. The township and Lisbon Wharf became an important shipping point for grain and other produce with over 100 shallow draft ships called ketches taking their cargo to Port Adelaide. In 1920 fire destroyed the wharf and it was never rebuilt as a nearby rail link to Port Adelaide was constructed.

Remains of the old wharf system

Other notes e.g. attractions facilities

There is no township only a boat ramp, toilet block and shelter with interpretive information. Port Gawler marks the beginning of the Saphire Coast, a shallow mangrove and mud flat dominated stretch of coastline incorporating the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary-Winaityinaityi PangkaraThere is a nearby off-road hire park for 4WD, motor bikes and go-carts. Bird watching, fishing are popular along this part of the coast. From September to April, large numbers of Blue Crabs are caught in the shallows.

I hope you enjoyed this description and plan a visit to Port Gawler in the near future. Next month’s blog I will return to my personal account style. Until then…..enjoy and protect the natural world and all it offers.

Cheers

Baz

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

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

Rainbow Parrots……..1

2 Aug

As well as continuing to write posts describing South Australia’s best natural and urban destinations and their associated wildlife; I will be posting some shorter pieces focussing entirely on one species or idea.

Dear Reader:

I am sitting on the front porch watching the street’s wildlife. There are a few New Holland Honeyeaters hawking for insects and a small group of Crested Pigeons congregating on the newly mown nature strip. Always a good time to look for food. But it is the brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets in the Hackberry Tree opposite that really catch my attention as they balance on the thin branches to feed on the small, dark berries. 

Hackberries for dinner

These energetic little parrots do not feed quietly; they squawk and chatter to each other as they bounce, balance and flutter amongst the foliage in search of the ripest fruit. And, while these birds feed on the Hackberries another group are tucking into the last blooms of my flowering gums in the backyard.

Blossoms for desset

Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) are smallish parrots with around 30 cms in length wih a wingspan around 40 cms. Their main foods are blossoms, nectar, seeds, fruit and sometimes insects. They have brush like tongues for collecting pollen and sharp beaks capable of biting into fruit and crushing seeds. Rainbow Lorikeets are often considered a nuisance by people who have fruit trees in their yards.

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

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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/

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