Archive | Wildlife parks and Zoos RSS feed for this section

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.

1-para

Adelaide rosella

2-para

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.

para-5

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.

3-para

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.

4-para

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

 

Port Gawler

2 Jan

Port Gawler

Dear Reader:

The road from highway one to Port Gawler has a rural feel about it. There are crops and glasshouses, sheep and horses. At the same time the flowering gums punctuate the grassy verge attracting a range of parrots.

a

Curious horses

 

Several kilometres pass and I notice the terrain start to change. Pasture gives way to low coastal scrub and tidal channels appear alongside the road. The bird life changes too. Herons, ibises, sandpipers and plovers replace the woodland and urban species I have been observing.

b

Galah

 

Finally the scrub gives way to mangroves and the dense ticket of maritime trees stretch all the way to the nearby ocean. I can hear singing honeyeaters foraging in the foliage and a plethora of insects buzz between the tangled trunks and muddy substrate.

c

Great egret

 

The road is now unsealed and it ends at an old ruined wharf where weathered jetty poles protrude from the water. A little pied cormorant perches on one of them surveying its hunting zone while drying its wings in the sun.

c2

Mangrove forest and tidal creek

f

Mud life

 

I spend the next few minutes exploring the edge of the mangrove swamp watching for mangrove crabs and small molluscs that live around the strange root like protrusions that emerge from mud throughout the forest. They are called pneumatophores and help the trees breathe in the sticky anaerobic mud.

d

Old wharf remains

d2

Little pied cormoranr

 

The temperature starts to climb and I decide it’s time to head back home while a solitary nankeen kestrel hovers over this fascinating tidal wetland watching me drive back to the highway.

g

Nankeen kestrel

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is suitable for families and seniors. However there are no nearby public facilities.

It is also a conservation park with restrictions regarding pets, fires and other activities…check online.

Zoo Portraits

2 Sep

Zoo Portraits

Dear Reader;

The pool is not huge, no place for the third largest land animal on Earth to hide. But in truth, it is hard to see the animal with only its tiny eyes ears and nostrils breaking the surface of the water. Suddenly the massive head emerges and the hippo’s immense jaws open, revealing broken tusk-like teeth. The teeth are used for duelling and protection rather than feeding on the soft grasses it prefers. I had to re-visit the hippo enclosure several times to make this image.

1

Open wide

It is a cold windy day with showers forecast. Not the kind of weather that makes for good nature photography in the field. So, I have decided to spend the morning at the Adelaide Zoo and set myself a photographic task; to capture half a dozen portrait images of mammals. I apologize for temporarily abandoning my usual theme of South Australian wildlife but an occasional foray into the world of exotic species is a nice change.

2

Juggler

 Asian small-clawed otters are social animals that live in the rivers, marshes and estuaries of South East Asia. They are the smallest of all otter species and their name refers to the tiny claws that extend beyond their partially webbed feet. These intelligent little predators are extremely agile in the water twisting and turning in sinuous, fluid movements as they hunt for prey that includes crustaceans, molluscs and fish. The zoo group is a family and the mother ‘Boo’ can often be seen juggling small pebbles, just one example of their playful disposition and an ideal image to capture.

5

A little timid

 White-cheeked gibbons are small, tree living apes that inhabit the rain forests of Vietnam, Laos and southern China. Habitat loss has made them critically endangered. Breeding these beautiful primates in captivity is one way to ensure that their species does not completely disappear from our planet. Male white-cheeked gibbons are black with splashes of white on their faces. Babies of both sexes are always golden/white then change to black with the females regaining the light colouring when they reach maturity at around five years. The image of the infant peering around its mother’s body seems to exemplify the vulnerability of these endangered animals.

6

Contemplating life

Gibbons might be apes but mandrills are monkeys. Monkeys have longer faces, tails in most cases, and often move on all fours with their more dog shaped bodies. Mandrills are one of the largest and most colourful monkey species. They live in the rainforests and wooded savannahs of Africa and like their baboon cousins have enormous canine teeth capable of challenging predators. They will deter leopards in defence of their groups called hordes which can number in the hundreds. Like all primates (apes, monkeys, lemurs and a few others) they are an intelligent, social species and the rather wistful look on this female’s face reflects this. 

7

Life’s tough

It would seem inappropriate not to include one South Australian species in my collection of mammalian portraits but neither kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian Devils, possums or even the usually photogenic koalas were particularly cooperative. When I had all but given up hope I came across a snoozing Australian sea lion with apparently not a care in the world. A photo opportunity not to be missed.

8

Piercings

  My final image of the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, an inhabitant of the Amazonian rainforests, highlights the ways that zoos approach their captive stock. To monitor animal health, breeding status, age and many other characteristics it is necessary to track them individually. Where animals are numerous, hard to handle or distinguish and for many other reasons visible tags are one useful tool.

 Come visit our Z00

Cheers

Baz  

Monarto Zoo’s Native and Exotic Animals

2 Jun

Dear Reader

There’s something wrong with the first few images; lions do not usually recline under eucalyptus trees and my blogs are about South Australian wildlife. However, Monarto Zoo’s impressive array of wildlife and ideal safari setting certainly merit an article or two from this writer.

 

1 edit

Aussie lions

 

When I travelled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to see many of Africa’s iconic species. Unfortunately I never encountered hyenas. As you can see from the following shots of two young animals racing around in a space that could easily be an African veldt, Monarto went some way towards rectifying that disappointment.

 

3 edit

Spotted hyenas

 

Monarto Zoo is about an hour drive from Adelaide along the Princes Highway. It is a vast (1500 hectares) open range zoo with over 50 exotic and native animals, most of them displayed in open range settings. Visitors tour the enclosures in special buses with volunteer guides who provide expert information. There are excellent tourist facilities including a cafe, picnic areas and special ‘behind the scenes’ tours that can be pre-arranged.

 

2 edit

Viewing areas

 

After my predator experiences from the safety of elevated viewing platforms and many other wonderful encounters with plains animals from giraffes to Mongolian wild horses, I had a bite to eat and set off on one of the many walking trails that wind through the park’s natural bushland.

 

6 edit

Walking trails and bushland

 

4 edit

Visitor facilities

 

I now switched my focus from exotic species back to native animals. Along one of the trails that ran through a display on sustainable, native gardens I caught sight of a shingleback lizard. The dry sclerophyll scrub was also home to numerous small common dwarf skinks that I had not encountered before.

 

7 2 edit

Shingleback in native garden area

 

7 1 edit

Common dwarf skink in leaf liitter

 

Emus and grey kangaroos roamed freely in certain regions of the park and in one smaller, closed off area yellow footed rock wallabies enjoyed a boulder strewn habitat. A variety of birds including: honeyeaters, wrens, finches, various parrots as well as the usual suspects like magpies, crows and birds of prey, were also common throughout the trees and open spaces.

 

5 edit

Emus

 

7 3 edit

Yellow footed rock wallaby

 

This unusual combination of exotic animals in extensive natural enclosures alongside bushland that can be accessed by walking trails made my day at Monarto exciting at so many different levels and certainly a special place to visit whatever your wildlife preferences.

 Cheers

Baz

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

29 Sep

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

A small group of grey kangaroos is gathered on the edge of the scrub. The large male seems a little nervous. His ears twitch independently as he hops a few metres closer to where I am balancing the camera on an old jarrah fence post. Keeping the females and a half grown joey behind him, the buck stands up to his full height, giving me a clear warning not to come any nearer to his family.

1 Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

I am walking along the fence-line that separates the township of Marion Bay from the Innes National park. We have hired a little holiday home that sits on the very edge of the township with intimate views of the surrounding grassland and scrub. Each morning, while I am eating breakfast on the verandah, I can see a few odd rabbits and a veritable parade of birdlife amongst the shrubs and trees that make up the garden. My favourites are the diminutive silvereyes that perch in the eucalypts and twitter menacingly at the larger birds that dare to invade their territory.

2 The view from the back verandah

The view from the back verandah

2 Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

 The kangaroos are close to the lower end of the fence-line which runs from the main road up to the coastal cliffs that dominate this section of Marion Bay. As I move towards the coast I nearly step on an ant nest; not just any colony of ants but bulldog ants. These inch long beasties pack quite a bite and are best avoided. Luckily they do not swarm in great numbers like their smaller brethren. Still, photography is undertaken at a respectable distance.

3 Bulldog or inch ant

Bulldog or inch ant

As I approach the top of the cliffs the vegetation changes dramatically. Low scrubby bushes and thick ground covers with patches of tussock like grasses provide an ideal habitat for a range of small birds I can hear them in the thick cover but only catch fleeting glimpses. Then suddenly my luck changes and a glorious little wren hops out and sits on the very fence-line I have been following. In Adelaide I have often photographed superb blue fairy wrens and I am more than thrilled to see them here in this coastal environment. It is only later when I look at the image more carefully that I realise this little wren is actually a variegated fairy wren; a species I have never photographed.

4

Variegated fairy wren

 

 Where the fence meets the edge of the limestone cliffs there is a wooden viewing bay that provides an ideal bird watching platform. In the few minutes that I stand and survey the beach below several species of water birds fly past; including a white faced heron, silver gulls and a pacific gull. Looking back across the scrubby verge towards the rather expensive houses that front the esplanade I start planning my next trip to Marion Bay; perhaps a sea view this time.

5 silver gull in flight

Silver gull in flight

6 Coastal viewing platform with views of cliff and beach

Coastal viewing platform overlooking the beach

 An afternoon stroll along the fence-line completed my thoughts turn to dinner. The award winning Marion Bay Tavern is just the place to head as the sun is setting on my rather fruitful day on the edge of Innes. Made from materials that reflect the area, including corrugated iron, reclaimed jetty pylons and jarrah timbers, the restaurant boasts an eclectic menu specialising in fresh local seafoods. But my choice this evening is a pizza cooked in a wood oven fashioned from a classic old rainwater tank.

IMG_8015

Wood oven South Aussie style

 

Take a drive down to this wonderful area sometime

Cheers

Baz

Check out Geotravelling a new site that I have attached that celebrates the natural, cultural and urban diversity of our planet through my travel photographs.

Belair National Park…Plants and a Pond

25 May

Dear Reader:

It is a mild autumn day and a light wind from the south promises to blow the early clouds away. A cyclist, rugged up against the chilly morning air, pedals through the parking area on her way to the nursery. I have come here in search of plants too, some native grasses and a red flowering gum to fill a vacant spot by my back fence. But there is an ulterior motive as the nursery often attracts a variety of birds and insects from the surrounding bush.

The hills can be chilly in the morning

The hills can be chilly in the morning

 

 

Close to the car park there is a thick growth of native correas and bottle brush. I notice a slight movement in one of the correas that is heavy with pale pink flowers. I change position to get a better line of sight and wait quietly. After a few moments an eastern spinebill appears amongst the leaves busily searching for insects and nectar.

The eastern spinebill belongs to the honeyeater group

The eastern spinebill belongs to the honeyeater group

 

 

Belair National Park is just 13 kms from the city centre in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges. As well as a wonderful native nursery, the park boasts over 20 kms of walking, horse riding and cycling trails covering a range of different environments. Tennis courts, grassed playing fields, barbecues areas and even an adventure playground are dotted throughout the 840 hectare park making it a popular destination for both outdoor enthusiasts and families.

The Belair Naional Park nursery markets wonderful array of native plants as well as an extensive collection of natural history books

The Belair National Park nursery markets a wonderful array of native plants as well as an extensive collection of natural history books

 

The park has quite a few non indigenous species of tree near Old Government House,  which provide lovely autumn colours

The park has quite a few non indigenous species of tree near Old Government House, which provide lovely autumn colours

 

 

From the nursery it is a short five minute drive to Playford Lake. By now the sun has burned off the last remaining clouds and it is sunny and clear; ideal for taking a short walk around the lake. On the edge of the lake several freshwater turtles are basking on a tree root taking in the morning sun. As I approach they slide off with a splash and head into deeper water.

Playford lake at the end of summer

Playford lake at the end of summer

 

Australian  freshwater turtles eat a variety of foods including insect, small fish and yabbies

Australian freshwater turtles eat a variety of foods including insects, small fish and yabbies

 

 

On the other side of the path a patch of tall gums shade a small gully where a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos are squawking in the tree tops and biting the leaves. On closer examination, through the long lens, I suspect they might be scraping insects off them, as eucalypt leaves are not usually a part of their diet.

Sulphur crested cockatoos tend to feed on the ground searching out fallen seeds, berries roots and nuts

Sulphur crested cockatoos usually feed on the ground searching out fallen seeds, berries roots and nuts

 

 

As I work my way back towards the car the terrain changes slightly with a gentle hillside rising up from the path. The snap of branches deeper in the bush suggests a bigger animal and suddenly a large grey kangaroo hops across the path and bounds through the trees. As I try to follow the roo through the viewfinder I catch sight of a fluffy bundle moving slowly up one of the eucalypts. It turns out to be a koala climbing up a slender branch to feed on the tender, outer leaves.

This young koala's mother was feeding a few metres higher in the tree

This young koala’s mother was feeding a few metres higher in the tree

 

 

My 20 minute walk has taken the best part of an hour with all the wildlife stops and I’m ready for a coffee in the hills suburb of Belair before driving home. But one last critter appears to round off my morning in the park. A large blue dragonfly is hovering over a reed patch. I wait for it to land, no luck. It zips from one grassy stalk to the next with manoeuvrability that puts any military helicopter to shame. Then, as if to do me a favour, the elegant little insect lands on the path just a few metres away…. nice one…click..done !!!

Large blue and red dragonflies are quite common around the lake

Large blue and red dragonflies are quite common around the lake

 

 

Cheers

Baz

A Morning at the Zoo with Quinn

27 Feb

Dear reader: 

It is a warm Adelaide morning and the shady paths of the zoo are a labyrinth of intrigue for a nearly three year old. Around every turn there is a new enclosure full of sights, sounds and animals that she had only previously experienced in picture books.

7

A pair of king parrots provide a suitable backdrop for a tiger striped Quinn

 

3

The zoo is situated by the river just over the Frome Road Bridge

 

 

A misty spray of water shrouds the koala and Tasmanian devil enclosures in anticipation of the midday heat. It proves irresistible to our little granddaughter and sends her squealing down the path shouting, “bear, bear, bear!” I stand and watch the ‘really not bears’ as they stoically munch on eucalyptus leaves and fire off a couple of frames. Sometimes the images that can be taken in a zoo are invaluable additions for later projects.

1

A koala chews on eucalyptus leaves that would be inedible even toxic to any other species of marsupial

 

 

Half a vegemite sandwich and an ice cream later a little hand tugs mine and a voice whispers, “ Pop, kangaroo”. She is almost right, as a pair of yellow footed rock wallabies emerge from behind a tree in an open enclosure a few metres away. One of the little marsupials has a joey in its pouch; a difficult image for any photographer to catch in the wild.

6

A young yellow footed rock wallaby peering out from the safety of its mother’s pouch

 

 

The nocturnal house proves to be a real challenge. Try telling a toddler to be quiet as she goes through a dark tunnel lined with glass exhibits featuring bats and other night time wildlife. Near the entrance there are some aquariums which she finds quite fascinating (translate as…actually stops moving for a few seconds) giving me the opportunity to photograph some purple spotted gudgeons, one of our threatened native fish species. Yet another example of the pictorial opportunities that only captive animals can provide the amateur photographer.

2 purple spotted gudgeon

Purple spotted gudgeon are found in South Australia’s freshwater streams and lakes

 

 

Ironically, our final wildlife moment is not one that the Royal Zoological Society can claim credit for. Just as we are leaving and wandering past the hippos, Nan’s favourite exotic animal, we hear a family excitedly chattering about a spider. And there, strung in front of the hippo pool is last night’s tattered web of a sizeable orb weaver with the resident arachnid devouring a hapless dragonfly. Quinn says “yuck”, Nan scoops her up and I click away merrily wishing that I had brought the DSLR instead of popping the point and shoot in my pocket to ensure hands free, child minding capabilities.

4

A large orb weaver makes short work of an unfortunate dragonfly

 

 

By now the temperature is getting into the mid thirties and it is time to leave. She does not want to go. “More animals Pop.” A good sign for the future.

 

Cheers

Baz (and Quinn)

%d bloggers like this: