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Commissariat Point’s Beachside Wildlife

25 Oct

Dear Reader:

The boat is high and dry on the turning tide. Time for a stroll along the shoreline. A little exploration of the intertidal zone.

Tide is Out

Commissariat Point is a ten-minute drive south of Port Augusta near the army testing and training grounds. It is a community of shacks, some quite opulent, where a few owners live permanently while others visit or rent on weekends and holidays.

Shacks, scrub and windfarm in the evening light

These upper reaches of the Spencer Gulf are also lined with one of the State’s truly wonderful trees, the Grey Mangrove. Mangroves live between high and low water and have many adaptations to help them survive this challenging environment. They produce aerial roots called pneumatophores which help the plant to breathe in the sticky mud that is common along the shoreline. Their leaves are shiny on one side and secrete salt particles on the other.

Grey Mangroves

Mangrove leaves

There is quite a lot of seaweed around the high tide mark. It has been deposited on the beach during winter storms and is home to a variety of animals. There are worms, crabs, insects and even small lizards in this unusual habitat which retains moisture below the sun-dried outer layers.

Gecko species in seaweed

Just above the high tide mark lies a thin line of vegetation which is tolerant to the windy and salty conditions. I am quite surprised to discover some Flax Lilies growing here. The delicate flowers are attracting a few buzz-pollinating native Blue Bees. The term buzz pollinating refers to their ability to spread pollen through the high frequency beat of their wings.

Blue-banded Bee on Flax Lily

The light is starting to fade and the tide is coming in as my walk draws to an end. A few wading birds are coming closer to the shore with the incoming water and I try my luck at photographing them in the soft light. A nice way to finish my initial exploration of this tiny settlement at the head of Spencer Gulf.

Heron using feet to help scare out fish and other small animals

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with parking but no other facilities. It is dog friendly.

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/

Title Kangaroo Island….Day 2 Lesueur Conservation Park

30 Jul

Rosenberg’s Monitor a little upset

Dear Reader:

Grey clouds are shrouding the sky this morning and a cool wind is sweeping in from the sea. I check the weather app and there doesn’t seem to be any rain forecast for the day though the light will be poor.  My Sony RX10 has the larger sensor of my two cameras and seems the obvious choice for today’s jaunt through the nearby Lesueur Conservation Park.

 

Wildlife and Farm life

The unsealed road from the lodge towards Lesueur has been recently graded which makes travelling a little easier and I reach the turn off to the park in a few minutes. There is low scrubby forest to my left and verdant grazing land on the right. To my surprise, a flock of sheep near a small water hole are sharing their territory with Black Swans. A sweep with the telephoto also reveals a few Masked Lapwings and Grey Currawongs in the paddock.

 

Pea flower species

Blue Cockatoo Orchid

I make the signposted turn to Lesueur CP and a little way down the road I notice a cage trap set under a grass tree; I assume it is for feral cats which are a threat to all Australian wildlife from reptiles to birds. Today there are very few animals around which is fairly typical in cool overcast conditions and I decide to fossick around in the scrub adjacent to the road. The first thing I notice is the proliferation of flowering plants including native pea flower species and delicate blue orchids.

 

Grey Fantail and Silvereye

Red-browed Finch

There are small birds high in the trees but they are hard to identify. I come across a deep rut in the road which is partially filled with water. The vehicle scares several small birds away which are using the pool as a bathing area. After driving a several hundred metres down the track I leave the car and approach the ‘bird bath’ stealthily through the scrub. Taking up a position about fifty metres away I wait and within ten minutes they return. Long shots on a cloudy day do not make for award winning images but they do help me identify these small birds as; Silvereyes, Grey Fantails and Red-browed Finches. Meanwhile a large centipede is burrowing through the leaf litter next to the log I am sitting on. Telephoto to macro in a split second supports my use of bridging cameras in some circumstances.

 

Rosenberg’s Monitor (like all monitor lizards it has a forked tongue similar to that of a snake)

Centipede species

The wildflowers, centipede and small bird species have made the excursion into the park interesting and I am sure it is worth another visit on a more amenable day. I leave the park and take another randomly chosen track which takes me away from the coastal fringe. Five minutes along this route I see the flattened shape of a large lizard by the side of the road. I stop and take a closer look hoping it has not been injured or killed by a car. As I approach the goanna/monitor which instantly informs me of my error with a hiss and quick, aggressive lunge. I take a couple of shots and usher the animal away from the road.

 

Creek scene

 

View from the lodge

A little further on, the road passes over a small creek which is picturesque even on a dull day. It then intersects with another road, which my GPS informs me, leads back towards ‘Seadragon Lodge’( see link below for more information) where I started my day’s adventure. By now the clouds have shifted and patches of blue sky are brightening up the day. Time to relax, put a log in the combustion heater and sort through my images while enjoying the view across the gully to the ocean.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Seadragon Lodge……  https://seadragonlodge.com.au/

This is an easy drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors and the lodge is wonderful with magnificent views and abundant wildlife.

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 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/

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/

Charleston Conservation Park……Coming Back from a Burn

1 May

Dear Reader:

Despite the blackened and scarred bush there are glimmers of hope in the landscape. Grass trees can survive the worst of the worst bushfires and some Banksias and other native species need fire to regenerate successfully. And, where there are plants the animals follow. Sitting atop the burnt spire of a grass tree (Xanthoria sp) I notice a female Superb Fairy Wren and my companion David points out a Male in full breeding plumage. Wildlife amongst the devastation.

Superb Fairy Wren male….photo by David Morris
Superb Fairy Wren female

I am exploring the Charleston Conservation Park, on Bell Springs Road in the Adelaide Hills about 7 Kms north of Lobethal and near the little town of Charleston. This small park of 54 hectares and bounded by open farmland on all sides, was devastated by recent bushfires but it is starting to show signs of re-vegetation. It is both sad and fascinating to walk around the park and look at the new life that is emerging amongst the burnt trees and undergrowth. However, the open, burnt bushland makes it easy to see animals though they are scarce, wary and hard to photograph. If you visit take a camera with a good telephoto.

Track along the park perimeter

We follow the track which runs around the edge of the park. It is separated from the surrounding farmland by a fence with a few surviving trees and bushes along the perimeter. In the distance I spot a mob of kangaroos feeding alongside cattle. These animals would have inhabited the park before the bushfires and will again as the understory and scrub develops, providing them with food and shelter.

Mob on the fenceline

A few hundred meters along the primary track that circumnavigates the park we take a smaller trail leading to a rocky outcrop. David stops abruptly and points, “Snake and it’s a big one, just a few metres in front of me.“ I can just make out the shape as it slides into a gap between the rocks; a sizeable Red Bellied Black Snake. Time to be a little more cautious in our movements. Later, we encounter another large Red-bellied Black on the gravel path. This snake is remarkably relaxed and we are to get some decent close-up images.

Snake ahead….enlarge and look at centre below and left of large rock
Red-bellied Black Snake

Further along the main track I notice numerous Monarch Butterflies landing on plants growing near the fence line. I focus on one of the insects while David point out a pair of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters feeding in a native pine.

Yellow -faced Honeyeater……photo David Morris
Monarch or Wanderer buterfly

Quite unexpectedly we hear the strident sound of Laughing Koookaburras. A pair has landed in a badly burnt eucalypt. They look surreal against the devastated background. Getting close enough to photograph them in this open environment is difficult; finally I settle for a long distance shot stretching my Nikon P900 to its limits.    

Laughing Kookaburras

Nodding Vanilla Lily

There are many signs of life emerging in the blackened landscape including: mosses, lily flowers, and patches of, what appear to be, acacia plants. Only time will tell how much the new environment will reflect the past as many non-native species will quickly colonise the vacant spaces; most notably grasses and windblown weeds. However, with some help from park rangers and volunteers this small area of remnant bushland may be able to regain much of its former beauty.   

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk and drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors. It is not dog friendly due to its status as a a conservation park.

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

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

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

Houseboat Adventures Morgan Day 1

2 Jan

Dear Reader:

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

 

Emus at distance

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

 

Books and bric a brac

Sandra at the helm

 

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

 

Whale vertebrate fossils

 

Our boat docked

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

 

Wharf, cliffs and old paddle-steamer being restored

 

Eastern Water Skink

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

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

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

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

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

Robe, a South Eastern Wonder

11 Apr

Dear Reader:

It is early evening and I am walking along the beach looking for traces of animals washed up on the high tide. An old 4WD is slowly making its way towards the far end of the bay; probably some fishers preparing for an evening’s angling. 

 

Four wheel sunset

I am exploring some of the terrain in the state’s south east around Robe. I have been here on several occasions; as a marine science student examining the difference between marine life in this cooler thermocline and later as a snorkeler catching crayfish. The region is significantly different to Adelaide’s coastal environment. Not only is the water cooler and deeper close to the shore but also the limestone nature of the coast makes for quite different seascapes. 

 

Sea Sweep love the rough oxygenated water

The charming coastal township of Robe is a lovely destination. The centre of the cray-fishing industry in South Australia; it is built around a sheltered marina. The town is a mixture of heritage buildings converted into small businesses such as cafes, craft shops and accommodation and some later modern residences and shops. There is an excellent caravan and camping area and the town is close to wineries, coastal conservation areas and farmland. All of which make it an ideal tourist destination. 

 

Sheltered marina

Nearby Nora Creina Bay is a perfect example of the rugged limestone coast which the region is named after. The rocks are sharp and pitted with hardy coastal plants clinging to any area which is sheltered or can trap water. Below the surface of the bay lies a myriad of small caves and crevices that support an abundance of marine life. There are holiday shacks in the area and a sheltered bay where cray boats often anchor.

 

Limestone coastal environment

 

Even the drive down to Robe was a wonderful experience as I was able to enjoy the wonders of the Coorong National Park which flanks the highway for around 100 kms. There are numerous trails that wind into the area which is characterised by shallow lagoons, steep sand hills and low scrub. These iconic environments host a wide variety of wildlife and I was lucky enough to see numerous birds of prey and several different reptile species as well as a diverse selection of wading bird species that migrate here to feed during the harsh northern hemisphere winters. 

 

Brown falcon

 

Bearded Dragon

The sun has almost disappeared and the beach is empty and to be perfectly honest it is getting just a little chilly. It is definitely time to head back into town and try some of that fresh caught cray washed down with a local wine. 

 

Local Rock Lobster locally called Crayfish

Cheers and stay safe in these unpredictable days

Baz

Equipment

The land images were taken with a Canon Eos system

The underwater shot was taken with a Canon Powershot G7 and U/W housing

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 field notes 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

Wilpena Wildlife

4 Oct

Wilpena Wildlife

Dear Reader:

There is a sleepy lizard, or shingleback, staring back at me from the rocky ledge where it is sheltering. These harmless lizards eat a wide variety of foods from vegetation and berries to insects and snails. They are one of the most common reptiles in the Flinders Ranges; an ancient mountain range, about a five hour drive from Adelaide.

 

Sleepy lizard

 

I am staying at Wilpena Pound in the heart of the ranges. The hills that encircle this outback resort and campground are just a two minute walk away from my chalet and contain a plethora of wildlife, geological and botanical treasures.

 

Typical scenery

 

The lizard is just one of the animals that I encounter as I walk from my chalet towards the park’s entrance. The sun is dropping low in the sky and in the soft light I can see a group of emus feeding on a grassy plain that extends from the distant hills.

 

Arvo emus

 

As the emus move off I startle a female grey kangaroo with a joey at heel. The two marsupials look at me for a split second before bounding away into the scrub; grey blurs against a subtle canvass of brown and green.

 

Roos in flight

 

My day ends with a meal in the Wilpena Pound Restaurant watching a couple of roos feeding on the lawns and listening to the call of kookaburras.

 

Come and see the Flinders; you will not be disappointed!

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

There are easy walks and drives which are quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby. Dogs are not permitted in the National Park.

 

See more South Australian of my stories and photographs 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 to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Scott Creek Wildlife and History

27 Oct

Dear Reader:

The old cottage has stood sentinel by the Scott Creek Road from the late 1830s. Despite some graffiti, scourge of a modern era, it bears witness to bygone days of hardship and toil. Today a pair of magpies is foraging amongst the overgrown garden and swallows are nesting in the stonework.

Old cottage with lilies in foreground

 The Scott Creek Conservation Park is just 30 kms from Adelaide: a lovely drive along winding hills roads surrounded by scrub and rural properties. It is a haven for a vast number of animals including grey kangaroos, koalas, numerous reptiles and around 150 bird species and that is without considering the insects and spiders. More than enough to delight any photographer. Add an old mine site to this biological diversity and you have the perfect place for a day’s outing exploring some classic South Aussie bushland with a little history thrown in.

Walking trail and bushland

The creek passes under an old bridge. It is overgrown with reeds and bushes with just a trickle of water visible from the banks. Superb blue wrens are darting around in the undergrowth, the males in bright mating plumage are displaying to the duller coloured females. I walk along a fallen tree that spans the creek to get a better vantage point. From my perch I spot an eastern water skink basking on a long dead branch. The little reptile is waiting to pounce on insects, spiders and even smaller lizards.

Eastern water skink

A gravel and dirt path leads up to an old copper and silver mining site. Interpretive signs make for interesting reading about our state’s early mining history and an old abandoned plough adds a certain agricultural touch to the walk.

Old machinery

Numerous parrot species are common throughout the park and a pair of rainbow lorikeets watches me as I walk beneath the massive red gum they are using as a perch. High above I notice the unmistakable slow wing beat of yellow tailed black cockatoos. And the characteristic chiming call of Adelaide rosellas accompanies me while I stroll around the mine site looking for lizards and insects that might use the ruins as a home.

Rainbow lorikeets

 Before climbing into the car for the drive home I take one last look into the higher branches of the trees surrounding the creek. I am rewarded by solitary koala watching me intently from a fork in the trunk. A nice farewell from this lovely patch of South Australian bushland.

Koala climbing

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

 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

Brownhill Creek’s Koalas and Bird Life

22 Jan

Dear Reader:

The scrub is quite thick along the river bank and I can hear the movements of small animals against the background sigh of the wind through the towering eucalypts. Lizards, perhaps small mammals but more likely wrens, finches and other little birds are foraging in the undergrowth. Finally, a diminutive female blue wren emerges from the cover to search for seeds in a clearing. The opportunity to take a quick shot is momentary.

 

Female blue wren

Common garden skink

 

Brownhill Creek is one of several waterways that drain the south eastern aspect of the Mount Lofty Ranges. It has shallow pools that retain water in the hotter months and flows freely in the cooler ones. There is thick undergrowth along the creek bed that ranges into open scrubland on the surrounding hillsides. A paved road follows the creek eastward with numerous sidings that enable access to the water along narrow dirt tracks.

 

koala

 

I stop in one of the lay-bys where there is a significant clearing surrounded by several eucalypts. Using the long lens I scan the forks in the canopy for koalas. The bear-like marsupials eat a range of gum leaves and these trees look to be one of the preferred species. Luck is with me as I spot a large male using its double-thumbed prehensile grip to move along a branch.

Silvereye

 

Adelaide rosella

Ravens

 

Further along the road a small bridge crosses the creek and there is a large stand of eucalyptus and evergreen trees spreading both limbs and branches across the creek. A wide variety of birds are feeding on blossoms, fruit and insects. I manage to photograph silver-eyes, Adelaide rosellas and a pair of raucous ravens.

Laughing kookaburra

 

Dragonfly species

 

My drive along Brownhill creek has been quite exceptional and I decide to make one last foray down to the creek near the caravan park.  I can hear a kookaburra calling and some flowering plants along the creek seem to be attracting both butterflies and dragonflies. With a little luck I might just capture a few more images to complete my creek-side safari.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive but the tracks along the creek are more difficult.

 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 or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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