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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

Naturally Bonython Park

1 Nov

Naturally Bonython Park

Dear Reader

There are two rainbow lorikeets perched halfway up a red gum. They are exploring a potential nesting hole. First one bird pokes its head in then the other. Their house hunting is accompanied by much squawking, head bobbing and an occasional nip at each other. Just when they seem to have decided that this is the right site, a magpie lands on the branch just above them and both parrots take flight.

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Rainbow lorikeets at nesting hole

 

I am in Bonython Park by the Torrens River; downstream from the weir and opposite the Coca Cola factory on Port Road. Below me cycle and walking trails surround the waterway and a small causeway and larger train bridge cut across the river. The park abuts the holding paddocks for the police greys by the old jail and includes wide expanses of green space, a shallow paddling lake, kiosk and children’s playgrounds.

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Bonython Park Kiosk

 

 

From the recreational area I walk down to the pathway then head back upstream towards the train-bridge and city. The river bank is cloaked in tall reed beds and I can hear numerous small birds moving and calling in the jungle of stalks and leaves. There are several grassy areas that are free from the reeds and they provide opportune places to sit and observe the river’s wildlife.

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Purple swamp hen

 

Coots, moorhens and purple swamp hens are common along this stretch of water. The coots and moorhens tend to be in the water paddling close to the cover of the reeds. The swamp hens are more often seen in amongst the tangle of plants by the bank where they use their elongated feet to walk gingerly on the fallen reeds that form a mat on the water’s surface.

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Downstream view from railway bridge

 

The view from the bridge to the ford provides a good oversight of the river and eucalyptus trees that line the banks. However, the bridge is also a perfect shelter for a number of different animals. Over the years I have watched water rats foraging here and even a fox that was taking shelter during a rain storm. Today it is an eastern water skink that makes an appearance as it forages amongst the old wooden foundations of a pathway that runs under the bridge.

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Eastern water skink

 

Downstream from the bridge there are several islets made from debris that has floated down the river during recent floods. Several pelicans have claimed this territory as a resting place and are squabbling over squatters’ rights. They duel with their beaks, neither giving way, while disturbing a group of black cormorants that are using the same area.

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Pelican agro

 

I am almost back to where I started when I find one last target for my camera. Two swallows are perching on a papyrus stem where they are making forays over the water to hawk insects. Swallows are not the easiest birds to photograph as they are incessantly on the move but this pair has cooperated even though they are still at the extreme range of my equipment.

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Resting swallows

 

Cheers and enjoy the spring

BAZ

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

11 Aug

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

 Dear Reader;

As I follow the narrow footpath south from the cul-de-sac overlooking Tennyson beach towards the Grange jetty in the distance, I can see a bird of prey hovering just above the houses that spill down to the dunes. The sky is patchy, blue then grey as clouds blow in from the sea and it is difficult to locate the kestrel in the viewfinder. I take a few quick shots and hope for the best.

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Nankeen kestrel hovering

I am intrigued by the raptor and wait quietly close to a coastal wattle bush watching it patrol along the line of the dunes pausing periodically to hover and scan the terrain below for small animals. The birds in the surrounding scrub are not quite so keen. They head for cover deep in the bushes or under the eaves of the houses twittering their various warning calls.

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Singing honeyeater in shelter

A lovely little singing honeyeater hides in a dense tangle of branches while spotted doves remain motionless closer to the ground near some dried scrub that matches their subdued colouring. Both species are usually very wary in this dune habitat and hard to approach but I am obviously the lesser of two evils and able to get closer than usual to capture some images.

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Spooted dove

Continuing along the pathway, I am fascinated by the different architectural elements incorporated in many of the houses. There are domed chapel-like structures, facades of tinted glass and walls with pastel shades of ochre, pink and grey. Just before I reach the jetty the beautiful ‘Marines’ sit alongside the beach. This group of Victorian 3 story terraces was built in 1840 and they dominate the foreshore.

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At the trail head near Tennyson Beach

 After a wonderful lunch at the Grange Hotel and a walk along the jetty to check out the fishers and look for dolphins, I turn back for home. The wind is getting up so I opt to walk back down the path rather than along the beach front. There are numerous trails down to the sea allowing me deeper penetration into the scrub as well as a quick search for seabirds. On this visit they are few and far between bar a couple seagulls under the jetty.

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Grange Hotel

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From track to beach through the dunes

 

Near one of the beach access paths I stop to watch a mudlark foraging in the sand and notice a discarded Besser brick lying in a sunny patch near a patch of early flowering succulents. Much to my surprise there is a bearded dragon lizard perched on it, flattened out to extract every bit of heat from the masonry. These reptiles are not uncommon in the summer but in the winter I would have expected them to be tucked away hibernating until spring.

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Mudlark foraging along pathway

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Bearded dragon picking up some rays

 

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Still a few bugs around to eat for the dragon

Predators prey and unseasonal reptiles it has been a rewarding winter’s walk along the dunes enjoying the ocean, good food and quite an assortment of wildlife.

 

Enjoy your winter walks in SA

Cheers

Baz

Aldgate Valley Reserve

14 Apr

Aldgate Valley Reserve

The road from Aldgate to the reserve winds through rural and bush country with charming homes and patches of scrub on either side. I pull off the road near an old bridge that crosses Aldgate Creek and walk along the well marked trail listening to the sounds of birds high in the gum trees. Eventually I catch sight of a pair of eastern rosellas as they fly between the topmost branches.

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Eastern rosella

 

Aldgate is one of the principal towns in the Adelaide Hills. It has a village atmosphere with fine eateries and small, locally owned shops. A fascinating 6 km nature walk runs between Aldgate and its neighbour Mylor. The route passes through the Aldgate Valley where southern brown bandicoots have been reintroduced to their native habitat (little marsupials that superficially resemble rats).

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Aldgate Creek

 

From the road bridge I take the path alongside the creek where I find a small footbridge. Several eastern water skinks have taken up residence amongst the wooden slats and one little fellow, who seems to have regrown the end of his tail, poses nicely for a portrait. Most of these smaller skinks drop their tail if grabbed by a predator. This serves a dual purpose as the tail continues to wiggle after being detached, acting as a decoy.

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Eastern water skink

 

Today I have decided to simply explore the area around the reserve and search out some of the animals that inhabit it. A bandicoot would be nice but as they are timid and mainly nocturnal and I am not holding out much hope. On the right hand side of the bridge there is a small orchard and some benches. Several large magpies are strutting around the area and one sits on the bench and glares at me as I walk through the trees.

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Magpie with attitude

 

 

I spend a little more time sitting by the creek watching finches and wrens darting between bushes but the day is getting chilly and the clouds are rolling in. As I step into the car for the drive back home a solitary kookaburra chortles in the trees nearby. Something seems to have disturbed the bird and I take a closer look and find a koala feeding in an adjacent tree.

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Laughing kookaburra

 

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Does my bum look big up this?

I make one last stop back in Aldgate to drop in at ‘FRED’ for a late lunch. So much to choose from; but the Sicilian ciabatta with wilted greens, haloumi, home-made chutney and caramelised onion cannot be resisted.

1 7 wilted greens aloumi chutney ciabaco sicilian armelised onion

One of many choices

 

Cheers

Baz

PS

I will be travelling for the next month and will not post any articles until mid-late May

Take a look over some of the earlier work and find somewhere to take a walk and enjoy our wonderful wildlife.

Gawler’s Dead Man’s Pass

7 Apr

 Dear Reader:

There are dragonflies and damselflies hovering above the water. Every so often one of the slender damselflies hovers near the bank then attaches itself at right angles to a reed.

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Damselfly

 

The pool of water is left over from the winter rains and sits alongside a causeway that crosses the river just a few hundred metres from Gawler’s main street. The town has a country, colonial feel about it with classic stone buildings and a good smattering of pubs, restaurants and bakeries to fuel up on before exploring the ominously named Dead Man’s Pass.

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Causeway over the Gawler River

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Historic stone buildings in Gawler

 

Well placed signs along the walking and cycling track indicate interesting historical information as well as describing the wealth of fauna that can be encountered along this trail which follows the course of the Gawler River. As I approach a dense clump of reeds I am lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of a red bellied black snake before it disappears into the undergrowth near the river bank.

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Red bellied black snake

 

The edge of the river is bordered by massive red gums that in themselves create a multitude of ecological niches. I sit near the base of one huge tree watching a variety of insects from ants to beetles as they forage along the trunk while a tree skink weaves its way amongst the deeply furrowed bark in search of prey.

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Tree living skink

 

Several metres higher up the tree, a pair of crested pigeons has made a nest on one of the larger limbs. Both birds will share the incubation of the eggs (usually two) which will hatch after about 21 days.

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Crested pigeon

 

The river red gums along the creek also play host to a wide variety of parrot species including cockatoos, rosellas, rainbow lorikeets and the brightly coloured little musk lorikeets. Two of these delightful little birds are checking out a nesting hole where a branch has been removed and I am fortunate enough to capture an image of them contemplating their future real estate.

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Nesting musk lorikeets

 

My morning exploring the park on the outskirts of this charming country town has been most rewarding and I am sure that Gawler’s historical and ecological diversity will be the topic of more posts in the future.

 

Cheers Baz

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