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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

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Jupiter’s Wildlife

2 Oct

Dear Reader:

Before I have even climbed out of the car I notice a flight of cockatoos gliding low towards the grassy oval where they settle to feed on tubers and roots. Then from the trail head I spot a pair of tawny frogmouths high in one of the stringy barks that dominate the area. These fascinating owl-like birds are nocturnal and use the fine whiskery feathers to locate prey in the dark. Their camouflage is superb making them appear to be an extension of the branches they cling to during the daylight hours.

 

Tawny frogmouth

 

I am exploring the trails around the heritage listed Jupiter Creek Gold Diggings. They are located in the Kuitpo Forest area and were mined intermittently between the 1860s and 1930s. The diggings are now a heritage site and a great place to go for an historic and wildlife wander.

 

Bush trail near the car park

 

Today the weather is a little on the bleak side; not characteristic of South Australia’s habitually warm spring season. But the light adds softness to the bushland setting while providing many photographic challenges as I try trying to capture acceptable images of the constantly moving wildlife.

 

Grey currawong

 

A little further along one of the trails that leads to the diggings I hear the bell-like chimes of a grey currawong. Eventually the bird flies between some trees and I am able to get a clear shot as it perches high in the branches framed by a rare patch of blue sky.

 

Female scarlet robin

 

There are many small birds flitting between the branches and amongst the wattle and pea bushes that form the mid story. I catch glimpses of fairy wrens, tree creepers and even a crescent honeyeater. Eventually a female scarlet robin lands on the trunk of a large eucalypt and begins to forage between the layers of bark for grubs, spiders and insects. In the low light I have to steady the camera against a branch to make the shot.

 

Leaf curling spider web

 

Leaf curling spider emerging

Although only the first vestiges of Spring have graced the state a few insects and spiders are emerging from their winter dormancy. Numerous webs are strung between the lower branches of bushes and trees. Curled leaves are suspended in many of the webs in what, at first, seems a random fashion. However, closer examination shows this web and leaf combination is home to leaf-curling spiders that use silk to draw in the sides of the elongated eucalypt leaves to form a tubular shelter.

 

Common brown butterfly camouflaged

 

A few species of flowering plants are beginning to bloom in the leaf litter and under story and the contrast between them and a well camouflaged common brown butterfly provides a striking image.

 

Gums in low light

 

Today I have only wandered a little way along the trail that leads to the old diggings but I am determined to return later in spring to investigate more of this fascinating area. For now I shall climb back into the car and head for ‘Fred’, a charming little restaurant in Aldgate a just a few kilometres down the road and the home of some of Adelaide’s best lunch time treats. I’ll try the croque monsieur….then go for another walk in the wild to work off the calories!!!!

 

 Cheers Baz

 

Additional notes

There are some challenging areas when walking the trails around the mine site. A signposted area near the oval with basic shelters provides maps and diagrams of the area.

 

 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. 

The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Hills Face Koalas

1 Jun

Hills face Koalas

 Dear Reader:

I drive up the gravel track to a parking lot surrounded by massive eucalypts where several narrow trails lead up the bush-clad hillsides. Wanderer butterflies are feeding on the blossoms of several small groundcovers and a kookaburra is serenading us from somewhere in the deeper recesses of the scrub. But it is a lone koala that grabs my attention as it stretches full length along a tree limb.

 

 

Today is koala day. The sun is out and I am going to drive along the hill’s face to some of my favourite destinations and look for these fascinating marsupials, while trying to capture some images that demonstrate their lifestyle. My first encounter is at Anstey’s Hill Reserve in Tea Tree Gully where I have often seen koalas along the various trails that wind through the area.

 

 

From Anstey’s I drive to Morialta Falls Park. Koalas are often spotted along the road to the central gathering area where the walking trails start. And, as if on cue, I notice an animal nestled in the branches of gum tree growing across the creek. Unlike my first sighting this one is climbing, quite vigorously-for a koala- into the higher branches and is not in the mood to be photographed. Koalas are generally slow moving, laid back animals as the nutritional value of the leaves they eat is low and energy expenditure must be carefully rationed.

 

 

The Mount Osmond walking trails in Burnside are another of my favourite koala haunts. I am not disappointed and manage to spot half a dozen koalas in the trees alongside the path that leads to an old quarry. But it is a lone animal that continues my ongoing koala narrative as it walks on all fours between the trees. It is rare to see them walking on the ground as it is here that they are most vulnerable.

 

 

In Mitcham, the road that follows Brownhill creek has numerous lay-bys and koalas are often observed in this area. And my final shot of a koala demonstrating its perfectly adapted hand with two opposable thumbs for climbing and grasping leaves is a fitting way to end my observations of these uniquely Australian animals.

 Cheers

Baz

 

 

Winery Wildlife

2 May

Winery Wildlife

 Dear Reader:

The male superb blue wren is extremely active as he darts between the bushes foraging for insects and seeds in the undergrowth. The iridescent blue plumage is striking. Nearby, a duller, grey coloured female twitters excitedly as the male approaches. Yet her adoration is a somewhat of a scam as their so-called monogamy is far from the truth. The promiscuous wrens will get a little avian action behind their mates’ backs if the chance arises while maintaining an outward appearance of togetherness.

 

Superb blue wren

 

I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the manicured gardens that grace the Jacobs Creek Winery in the Barossa Valley. After a superb lunch of chilli marinated prawns accompanied by an award winning white wine I am about to wander down the nature trail that leads from the restaurant and wine centre along the creek and into some nearby bushland.

 

Wine centre

 

Balcony view

There are both magpies and cockatoos calling from the lower branches of some magnificent river gums with finches twittering in the thick bushes alongside the trail. But it is a diminutive, silent creature that catches my eye. A delicate jewel spider has spun a web in a wattle bush and the brilliant colours and intricate body patterns of the little arachnid are quite outstanding; even on this relatively cloudy day.

 

Jewel spider

 

 

 

Nature trail

 

Galah

 

Near the small bridge where the trail and creek intersect I notice a group of small birds in a tree some distance away. They look a little like wood swallows but the colour is not right. I am familiar with most of the birds that inhabit this region and do not often come across a species that I don’t quickly recognise. Therefore, I leave this small task to you ‘Dear Reader’. If someone can identify them for me I would be most grateful.

 

Unknown birds

 

Closer shot of unknown bird

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is quite an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with toilets, parking and other facilities nearby.

Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

3 Apr

Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

 Dear Reader:

I can hear the bird chirping deep in the reeds that surround the waterway. Pointing the long lens towards the sound I scan the thick tangle of bulrushes; nothing! Then I catch the slightest movement deeper in, closer to the water. Success, I squeeze the shutter release and smile inwardly. Reed warblers are hard to see at the best of times and this is only the second image I have captured. Reviewing it on the screen I notice that the bird has its beak open. ‘Yes’, my reed warbler is warbling.

 

Reed warbler

 

I am walking around a lovely little wetland called Apex Park, just off Sir Donald Bradman Drive near the airport. Having grabbed a bite to eat at the Ikea store, along with a few items for my studio, I have parked in alongside the little pond and am taking a slow walk around the tracks and boardwalks that surround it.

 

General view

 

Viewing platform

My next stop is a viewing platform close to a long dead tree that seems to be providing a good vantage point for a cormorant and several resting swallows. As I steady the camera a young willie wagtail lands on a skeletal branch and starts to sing. It seems to be a day for birdsong; nice theme for a series of images.

 

Willie wagtail

 

Geese

And the world of bird acoustics does not seem to be letting up. A pair of geese cruise across the water honking as they paddle and the musk lorikeets high in a eucalypt by the water’s edge are making ‘one hell of a racket’.

 

Galahs

 

When I get back to my starting point I sit alongside the pond and enjoy a moments silence, and it is a moment for right on cue a pair of galahs start to squabble over a nesting hole. 

Cheers

Baz

Additional information

This is quite a short walk with no steep gradients. There are toilets, a playground, benches and shelter in the vicinity.

Para Wirra Wildlife

2 Mar

Para Wirra Wildlife

Dear Reader:

There is a small group of lorikeets high in one of the taller eucalypts that overhangs the track. Several birds fly down to the ground and start to forage amongst the bushes and groundcovers. A closer look shows them to be Adelaide Rosellas, a sub group of the crimson rosella. One bird in particular struts across the ground towards me and despite the low light conditions I manage to fire off a frame.

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Adelaide rosella

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Strutting his stuff

 

I am walking along one of the many trails that cuts through Para Wirra National Park near Gawler about an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The park has a wonderful array of wildlife as well as excellent shelter and barbecue facilities situated in several convenient  locations including a small lake close to the park entrance.

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Trio of emus

Leaving the parrots to their own devices I continue along the trail towards the ‘Devils Nose’ a prominent lookout a few kilometres ahead. There is an abundance of leaf litter on the ground and every so often I can hear the rustle of small skinks amongst the bark and twigs. Suddenly a crashing of branches and leaves permeates the air as three emus emerge from the scrub and head up the nearby hillside.

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Crescent honeyeater

 

I come to a sign-posted junction of trails and decide that today is about slow and stealthy not a long walk. Heading back towards the car by retracing my route I take a little more time to wait and watch where I think there might be wildlife. Near a thick patch of scrub I am well rewarded when a beautiful crescent honeyeater lands amongst some branches just a few metres from me.

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Striated pardalote

 

Back at the lay-by where I have parked the 4WD I take out some well earned lunch bought from one of Gawler’s many superb little bakeries, pop the cork on a bottle of cider and sit on a conveniently placed wooden bench beneath a spreading eucalypt. Not two bites in and I hear an unfamiliar bird call and glance up into the tree to identify the ‘perp’. And there sits a lovely striated pardalote, with half its body tucked into a nesting hole…….what a way to end my walk!!!

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

1 Feb

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

Dear Reader:

The road meanders up the slope of the hill from the freeway exit past houses and a plant nursery towards a school nestled in the scrub. A few metres back, a footpath shadows the road. I can hear small birds twittering among the bushes and as I walk the trail nature seems to have re-established itself despite the occasional sound of a passing car.

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Yellow thornbill

 

Tall eucalypts and a few pines cut the light to a minimum and I have to work hard to focus my camera on the birds that live in the shadows. Eventually I spot a tiny yellow thornbill hopping between the branches. I fire off a half dozen frames, one is reasonable.

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Crimson Rosella

 

A little further along the path I can hear the single piping note of a crimson rosella. The sound seems to emanate from the top of a tall pine closer to the road. It takes a few minutes to find the bird but the soft light and beautiful plumage render a gentle image in the viewfinder.

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Classy meals, great service

 

 

I am in Crafers, a charming little hill’s town, just off the South Eastern Freeway about 15 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD. The town is set amongst lush bushland with tall eucalypts and a smattering of introduced pine trees dominating its skyline.

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Grey currawong

 

The trail cuts and curves through the trees skirting some lovely homes and bush gardens that in themselves are drawcards for wildlife. A grey currawong catches my eye as it flies into a stringy bark tree and starts to sharpen its beak on a branch.

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Unknown small skink species

 

I stop near the school and chat to some of the adults who are dropping their children off. They tell me that koalas are common in the area and sometimes echidnas trundle through the undergrowth. With this information in mind I find a spot on the hillside opposite and spend twenty minutes just waiting and watching. No koalas or echidnas today but a there are small brown skinks hunting in the leaf litter.

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Interesting entrance to B&B

 

Shouldering my camera I walk back down into Crafers on the opposite side to the trail taking in the country ambience and imagining what it would be like to live here. I pass an intriguing guest house and stop at the local hotel for a meal. All in all…..a pretty good morning.  

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families although the road does a have a reasonable incline which is mediated by the winding trail.

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