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Barrow Beach’s Dragons

26 Nov

It is a mild afternoon; a nice time for a drive down to one of my favourite outdoor destinations. Not well known or easily accessed, Barrow’s Beach is a half hour drive from Port Pirie and about fifteen minutes from Port Germein. A Google Earth hunt will best describe how to access the area, but beware; depending on weather and your desire for adventure, 4WD is recommended.

 

Typical terrain

 

We are scouting the beach for fishing spots and enjoying some wildlife photography at the same time. As we come off the track onto the beach I notice a group of Rose Breasted Cockatoos (Galahs) fossicking in the seaweed that has been washed up during stormy weather and high tides. Worth a shot as this is not their usual environment.

 

Beachside cockies

 

Further along the beach where the sand is quite tricky to negotiate a mixed flock of Pied Cormorants and Common Terns are resting on a sand bar. As we approach they take flight creating a lovely image as they pass low across the shallow water with the muted outline of the Flinders Ranges as a backdrop.

 

Formation flying

 

It seems that our drive is turning out to be more about wildlife than fishing. And our next few encounters highlight that idea. My fishing partner and driver Geoff traverses the beach and heads a back along a pot holed track overgrown with  wiry bushes and stunted trees . We stop several times to explore likely areas where reptiles, shore birds and even the odd kangaroo might be hiding.

 

Stay away

 

Kangaroos and shore birds do not seem to be on the menu in this area but we do flush out three separate species of lizards; a Shingleback, Bearded Dragon and a little Painted Dragon. Wonderful to see so many kinds of lizards in such a short period of time.

 

Glimpse of a dragon

 

Bearded dragon

Our trip is not ended and there is still much to see among the mangroves and little channels that flow through them but I shall leave that part of my adventure for another post in the future.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is a challenging drive with no facilities available. However once at the location walking is easy enough.

See more South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

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

 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 each month.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Hickory’s Run

20 Sep

Hickory’s Run

Dear Reader:

There is a Ringneck Parrot somewhere in the river gum alongside the creek. I can recognise its distinct call. Positioning myself just behind some bushes near the trunk I scan the topmost branches. Finally I find the bird, a little obscured by leaves but just visible enough for a shot.

 

Ringneck Parrot

 

I am at a lovely little cafe and olive farm between Wirrabara and Laura in South Australia’s mid north; about a two and a half hour drive from Adelaide. Hickory’s Run Oliveria and Cafe sits alongside the Rocky River and serves light meals as well as displaying art work in the surrounding garden.

 

Rocky River

 

From the property I can access the river and I take some time to walk along the banks searching for any aquatic animals that might be in the area. There is a Laughing Kookaburra well camouflaged in a branch overhanging the water and a pair of Black Ducks is feeding along the edge of the creek. Both Dragonflies and Damselflies are flitting across the surface but they are too hard to photograph.

 

Laughing Kookaburra

 

My companions call out that lunch has arrived and I leave the creek to enjoy a well presented dish of lasagna with some home fried wedges and salad.

 

Lunch

 

 

 

The area is well known for produce and we stop in the little town of Wirrabara on the way back to the city and walk around the farmers market that is held on every third Sunday of the month. Fine food, some wildlife and a little shopping-not a bad way to end our weekend jaunt to the mid north.

 

Local products

 

 Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with toilets parking and other facilities nearby. It is dog friendly.

 

See more South Australian stories on Weekend Notes

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

 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

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

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

25 Jun

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is bounding along the small levy that cuts across a shallow clay pan near the edge of a tidal flat. It stops monetarily and twitches its mobile ears, looks around, then continues on its way into the scrub alongside the raised earthen mound. I get a few seconds to make a shot and the wary marsupial is gone.

Grey kangaroo

 I am exploring the coastal fringe of Whyalla South Australia’s third most populous city. The steel and regional centre is situated near the head of Spencer Gulf on the Eyre Peninsula about 450 kms from Adelaide. The area is a mixture of mangrove, tidal flats, sandy beach and some small industrial areas that enclose substantial freshwater pools. Several roads lead down towards the coast from the Lincoln Highway and some of the terrain requires 4WD.

Garden centipede

Egyptian beetle 

I take the vehicle across one of the mud flats and have to fight to keep from getting bogged. Slipping the SUV into low range and slowly sliding across the surface I wrestle with the steering until the wheels grip sand on the edge of the levy. Relieved, I get out and survey the quagmire of clay-like debris stuck to the wheel arches. But my close call has led me to a cosy little depression amongst the scrub and I decide to move a few fallen branches and search for invertebrates. After a few minutes I unearth a rather large garden centipede and a few Egyptian or ‘cellar beetles’ as well as some different ant species. After a little macro photography I carefully replace their homes.

Australian pelicans 

Another dirt road takes me past the rifle club and some large freshwater ponds that have attracted a small group of pelicans. The birds appear to be simply congregating and socialising between short forays into the water to feed. Along the edge of the water there are several different species of small waders including dotterels and plovers but they are wary and take flight when I approach.

Crested pigeons 

The scrub alongside the mangrove patches is also home to a variety of birds including singing honeyeaters and fantails. One scrubby eucalypt that has managed to endure decades of salty onshore winds provides shelter for a trio of crested pigeons a species that I often see found foraging in the coastal bush.

View from Hummock Hill 

I head back onto the highway drive back into the city and up to a local lookout. Hummock Hill is a fitting place to end my exploration of Whyalla’s coastal fringe. The site of the first settlement in 1901 it provides panoramic views of the city, coast and surrounding bushland. Hummock Hill also served as a gun emplacement during the Second World War and has lately been developed as an historic site; lovely place to simply take in the rugged beauty that this area has to offer.

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

Bridle Track Wildlife

6 Nov

Dear Reader:

A grey kangaroo pricks up its ears and turns to face us. Half hidden in the grass and further camouflaged by its subtle colouring, the wary marsupial stares for a few more seconds before bounding away towards the shelter of a nearby stand of stunted gum trees.

 

 

I put the camera back on the passenger seat, raise the window and continue up the rugged track towards the top of the ridge. The vehicle ahead of me has already reached a farm gate and my companions have opened it in readiness. There are a few sheep in the area grazing on the steep hillsides and we have to be careful to maintain good relationships with the farmers who kindly allow the public to traverse their land.

 

 

I am driving along the Bridle 4WD track in the foothills of the Southern Flinders Ranges between Port Pirie and Melrose. This is red earth country with deep ravines, open expanses of pasture and small patches of scrub clinging to the windswept hills. Sporadic rocky outcrops dot the landscape and it is here that one can search for different species such as reptiles and a range of invertebrates.

 

 

We stop alongside one such outcrop near the top of the ridge and enjoy a wonderful view across hills and bushland to the Spencer Gulf in the hazy distance. I bend down and dislodge a couple of flat rocks and a small skink darts out and freezes in the long grass. Carefully replacing its rocky home I leave the little reptile to its own devices after snapping a quick shot.

 

 

The descent towards the coast is quite steep and we need to put the vehicles in low range. We stop occasionally to take a closer look at some of the eucalypts that grow in isolated patches providing nesting sites for some of the many parrot species that populate this part of the state. Ring neck parrots, galahs and rosellas are just a few of the species we encounter.

 

 

 

Back on the plains we leave the main trail and take a well graded dirt road back to the highway. A beautifully marked black shouldered kite watches us from a skeletal branch where it is perched to surveying the landscape for prey.

 

 

Our final farewell to this bleak but beautiful part of South Australia is the forlorn whistle of a freight train as it clatters over a crossing on the endless tracks that cover the thousands of kilometres between the west and east coasts of Australia.    

 

 

 

Cheers

Baz

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

1 Aug

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

Dear Reader:

 The grey butcherbird is perched on a dead branch on the edge of the mangrove swamp. The powerful bird will use this position to dive on prey in the undergrowth snatching up insects, small reptiles and the nestlings of other birds. Large prey will be jammed in the fork of a branch then eaten; which provides a hint as to how butcher birds acquired their name.

 

Grey butcherbird

 

It is sunset and the light is glorious as it defines the mangrove channels against the pale sand. I am on the northern side of Port Germein where a substantial stand of mangroves merges with the shallow beach. Small schools of fish are heading along these waterways towards the ocean as the tide recedes and an odd crab scuttles across the channel.

 

Lovely light

 

 

As I climb back into the 4WD I can hear the calls of several different kinds of honeyeaters in the nearby scrub. With the windows open I drive slowly along the rutted trail until one of the little birds appears in the upper branches of the bushes. Several frames later I have captured a passable image of a spiny cheeked honeyeater calling to its mate. Often shooting from the vehicle is easier as the wildlife seems more accepting of its presence than that of a large two legged creature stalking through the bush.

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater singing

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater in scrub

The next morning I walk in the opposite direction to explore a channel that runs parallel to the shore on the southern perimeter of the township with a spectacular view of the Flinders ranges in the background. There are mangroves and samphire right to the edge of the creek which ends in a dilapidated road bridge that once serviced a crossing into town. A white faced heron is sitting on the weathered planks eyeing the water below for small fish while swallows are nesting under the main span.

 

Look for the heron

 

Mangrove channel and Flinders Ranges

 

 

As I make my way alongside the waterway I notice silken sheet like webs, carpeting the ground between many of the bushes. Some are still glistening from the morning dew. They are used by lattice webbed spiders as a kind of horizontal trap that acts like a sticky labyrinth.

 

Lattice spider web and early morning dew

 

With my mangrove walk completed, I head back into town for a bite at the local cafe. But Port Germein has on last wildlife moment to offer in the form of a wattlebird feeding on some late blooming eucalyptus flowers near the caravan park.

 

Wattlebird feeding on eucalyptus blossom

 

Cheers
BAZ

Footnote

4WD is useful in this area and the walking on the southern edge of town is quite strenuous. The northern reach of mangroves would be suitable for a family or seniors’ excursion.

Port Augusta…Arid Lands Botanic Gardens

7 Dec

Dear Reader:

The sand monitor, a kind of goanna, is raised slightly off the ground and peering intently towards me. It doesn’t seem too perturbed by my presence. In fact, I am probably the more excited of the two. It is my first encounter with one of these lizards which can reach a length of around 1.5 metres. Like all monitors, the sand goanna has a forked tongue like a snake allowing it to use scent to detect the distance and direction of its prey. A closer examination through my camera lens reveals that this animal has been injured at some time and is missing part of its front right foot.

Sand monitor

Sand monitor

 

I am in the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just a few kilometres out of Port Augusta near the head of the gulf. The gardens showcase many of the diverse dry-land ecologies that SA has to offer. Unlike most parks this one is not fenced and the animals that venture into its proximity are wild. Despite its natural status the gardens are well serviced by a modern visitor centre and cafe.

The view from the head of the gulf

The view from the head of the gulf

 

Leaving the sand monitor to its own devices, I walk around the edge of the encroaching scrub towards the extensive eremophila plantings at the back of the centre. Several zebra finches are perched in the branches of a skeletal tree overlooking a small artificial waterhole. I search for the right image, eventually finding a male and female settled on a dead branch; perfectly demonstrating the difference between the sexes.

male and female zebra finches

male and female zebra finches

Purple eremophila

Purple eremophila

 

After spending some time exploring the eremophila shrubs with all their subtle floral variations, I walk around to the northern edge of the gardens. This area includes habitat zones where interpretive signs explain adaptations to climate and terrain as well as Aboriginal use of plants as foods and medicines. While I am reading about how sugarwoods are used as sweeteners and their amazing regenerative powers after bushfires, I hear a rustle in the undergrowth. Only a few metres from where I am standing a pair of or shinglebacks are following each other closely between the ground-covers. Sleepy lizards, as they are sometimes known, are essentially solitary reptiles which can only mean that it is mating season.

 

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

 

Whenever I visit these extraordinary gardens I conclude my day with a little culinary treat; a light meal, ice cream or scones with jam and cream. But these are no ordinary delicacies. Many of the flavours are created from the landscape with a distinctly ‘bush tucker’ nuance such as quandong ice cream and native herb flavoured damper.

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

 

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz  

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