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Cox Scrub Conservation Park’s Wildlife…..Part 1. Entering from Coles Crossing

23 Jan

Old dairy building

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious day for a drive and some wildlife photography. The bitumen road winds past lush farmland and every so often I come across an old building that reminds me of the rich heritage this region of South Australia boasts. I keep a watchful eye out for kangaroos which are often seen grazing near stock and have been known to hop across the road even in the daylight hours. Rosellas and cockatoos fly between the eucalyptus trees fringing the road. I stop to capture an unusual image of two Galahs feeding on an embankment behind a barbed wire fence.

 

Galahs on embankment

I am exploring the Cox Scrub Conservation Park which is around an hour’s drive south of Adelaide’s CBD near Mt Compass and Ashbourne. It is one of the largest parks on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The park has numerous walking trails cutting through stands of Stringy Barks and a dense understory of Banksias and many other native shrubs. There are several entrances to the park and today I am starting at Cole’s Crossing where the Finniss River cuts through the north western perimeter of the conservation park.

 

Coles Crossing

He Coles Crossing track ends at a ford which is too deep to cross in the SUV but a great place to stop and eat lunch. There are small fish in the river and quite a lot of macroinvertebrates (tiny aquatic invertebrates like water boatmen and pond skaters) in the shallow water by the reeds. Several butterfly species are settling amongst exposed sand and pebbles to drink and I can see a Kookaburra perched on a dead tree branch about a hundred metres downstream.

 

Painted Lady

I follow a fence-line which skirts the river. There are numerous small birds twittering in the reeds and high in the canopy of the massive River Gums which tower over the water. I use the extreme telephoto on my Nikon P900 as a bird spotting tool then manage to get a half decent shot of a small honeyeater-like bird which I later identify as a Brown-headed Honeyeater (note to readers…please correct me if I am wrong with this ID).

 

Brown-headed Honeyeater

It has been interesting just pottering around the crossing but I want to enter the park from a different direction and see if there is any variation in the terrain and wildlife. However, that will be my next blog ‘Cox Scrub CP from Ridge and Bull Creek Roads’

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

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

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Morgan Houseboat Cruise…continued…….Day 5 Taylor Flat

14 Dec

Tight against the bank

Morgan Houseboat Cruise…continued…….

Dear Reader

,,,,,,,,Continued from last post…………… Having photographed a frolicking group of goats I head down to the main deck for lunch.

 

Classic dry-land scrub

We have pulled up alongside a fallen tree where there is a short stretch of sandy beach. The bank downstream rises quite sharply and there is dryland scrub all around us. This is difficult country for spotting wildlife as food is scarce and the animals extremely wary.

 

Watchful Sulphur Crests high in the tress…tricky low light situation and the Nikon P900 did well

I take my leave of the group telling them that I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Recently I have taken to wearing an Apple Watch that automatically signals emergency services and selected people if I should fall or need help. A great device for anyone who spends a lot of time alone, or in my case, in remote areas working on my own in the outdoors. Though, to be honest,  I am not totally alone as a pair of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos watch me from the safety of a tall red gum on the river’s edge.

 

Vines amongst the scrub

Machinery from another era

Walking directly east from the boat I notice a well-worn, dirt track that cuts inland then breaks to the right along the river. Several hundred metres along the trail the land is fenced off protecting rows of grapevines and not far away I find the remains of some heavy machinery lying rusted above the riverbank. Perhaps they are the remnants of a pumping station or a hoist for loading cargo on the old paddle steamers which plied these waters in the early part of the last century.

 

Antlion trap

Predator (Antlion) and prey

All around me there are cone shaped depressions in the sandy soil. They are the traps dug by Antlions. Unwary ants or other small, non-flying invertebrates fall down the sides and are unable to climb back out as the soil particles are rounded and slip back down to the centre where the ferocious little predator waits partially buried in the trap itself.

 

Tangle web

Web builder

There are also numerous spider webs in the branches of the low shrubs. They are quite extensive and designed to snare anything that falls into them. It takes me some time to find one of the eight-legged constructors as they are very small compared to their webs. Perhaps it is a colonial effort or a web that is built on each day…..a little more research is needed on this one!

My walk is over and its time to return to the boat for a meal and some good company. Tomorrow is our last day and I’m sure this beautiful river will yield a few more natural surprises as we motor on back to Morgan.  

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/

Houseboat Cruise from Morgan SA…Day 5 Taylor Flat

5 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is early morning. The rest of the boat crew are asleep and I’m catching the first of the sun’s rays. There are fish breaking the water and a few swallows hawking for insects. We are still moored near Caudo Winery and I am reviewing some shots of last night’s sunset. A wonderful end to any day on the river. Today we will be making a short jump along the river to Taylor Flat, tie up for a leisurely lunch before embarking on the final leg back to Morgan.

 

 

 

I climb the stairs to the top deck which houses the spa, barbecue and another set of boat controls. Comfortably ensconced on a chair, my feet up and camera at the ready I scan the passing riverbank for wildlife. During our houseboat journey I have spent many hours doing this and it has become a form of meditation, broken by the occasional exciting moment of discovery.

 

Today is no exception. A small group of wild goats are running parallel to us along a riverside track. They look like young animals; leaping, butting each other and generally cavorting. A truly unexpected moment. Tricky to catch from a moving boat but I use a pre-set 1/4000 TV option and the result is passable. The shot made and a morning well spent it is time for lunch, a chat with friends then……… to be continued in my next post.

Torrens Island

1 Oct

Torrens Island and its causeway entrance are situated over the Torrens Island Bridge at the end of The Grand Trunkway in Port Adelaide; about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The island is closed to the public but the small breakwater and causeway are open. Most of the island is a conservation park with the remaining area housing the power stations and some historic sites.

Road across breakwater looking back at hills

The island if flat and covered with mangroves, samphire and saltbush. The causeway has no vegetation. The mangroves that are accessible from the causeway and road are actually situated on Garden Island. The causeway forms a barrier between the Angas inlet on the left and the warm water outlet from the power station on the right as you face the power station.

Black-shouldered Kite perched on light pole

Numerous fish species including bream, mullet, whiting and Mulloway are attracted to the warm water. In turn, predatory birds such as: herons, pelicans, terns, gulls, cormorants and egrets are found in this area. Small mangrove crabs are found under the rocks in the intertidal region. Dolphins are not uncommon and best spotted from the bridge.  A population of common rats live among the rocks feeding on discarded bait but they are rarely seen during daylight hours.

Little Egret hunting near mangroves

The dominant vegetation seen from the causeway is the Grey Mangrove with small amounts of samphire. At low tide there are seagrass meadows visible through the fencing on the mudflats to the left facing the power station.

Mangrove leaves and fruit….note the waxy top and rough, paler underside where salt crystals accumulate.

Prior to European settlement the mangrove and samphire swamp areas were a rich hunting and gathering region for the local Kaurna people. They would have caught crabs and speared or netted fish as well as collecting shellfish.

Torrens Island power station

Torrens Island was named after Robert Torrens senior who was chairman of the SA Colonisation Commission. Between 1870 and 1980 it was a quarantine station for both animals and people entering the state. During World War 1 the island was used as an internment camp for citizens of German and Austrian backgrounds. Since 1963 much of the island and surrounding water have been protected areas and part of different marine reserves. Three power stations are operating on the island: Torrens Island PS since 1963, Quarrantine PS since 2002 and finally Barker Inlet PS since 2009. All are gas powered.

Fishing as the sun goes down

Fishing from the rocky causeway in the warm water outlet is popular. There are fine views of the ships’ graveyard and its wrecks from the bridge. Tours of the old quarantine facilities can be arranged through the maritime museum in Port Adelaide. In short, quite an interesting place to visit and combine with a day at Port Adelaide.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy destination to visit and is quite suitable for families and seniors.

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/

Rainbow Parrots……..1

2 Aug

As well as continuing to write posts describing South Australia’s best natural and urban destinations and their associated wildlife; I will be posting some shorter pieces focussing entirely on one species or idea.

Dear Reader:

I am sitting on the front porch watching the street’s wildlife. There are a few New Holland Honeyeaters hawking for insects and a small group of Crested Pigeons congregating on the newly mown nature strip. Always a good time to look for food. But it is the brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets in the Hackberry Tree opposite that really catch my attention as they balance on the thin branches to feed on the small, dark berries. 

Hackberries for dinner

These energetic little parrots do not feed quietly; they squawk and chatter to each other as they bounce, balance and flutter amongst the foliage in search of the ripest fruit. And, while these birds feed on the Hackberries another group are tucking into the last blooms of my flowering gums in the backyard.

Blossoms for desset

Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) are smallish parrots with around 30 cms in length wih a wingspan around 40 cms. Their main foods are blossoms, nectar, seeds, fruit and sometimes insects. They have brush like tongues for collecting pollen and sharp beaks capable of biting into fruit and crushing seeds. Rainbow Lorikeets are often considered a nuisance by people who have fruit trees in their yards.

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/

Houseboat Day 5…..At Caudo Winery

2 Jul

Dear Reader:

The gum tree alongside the boat is massive. Its branches extend well over the bank and river. These River Gums are a sanctuary for many species that live along the Murray providing homes for myriad invertebrates, birds, reptiles and even mammals such as bats and possums. At the moment, I can see a Yellow Rosella perched high in the canopy. A long shot but certainly gettable with my Nikon P900.

Yellow Rosella

We have tied up the houseboat at Caudo Winery after a lovely cruise along the river which was quite productive when it came to wildlife; as I mentioned in my last post. The winery is a perfect pause for lunch and wine tasting on a river trip from Morgan, and the staff are both helpful and knowledgeable.

Houseboat and winery outdoor area

After a sip of a local white, I am ostensibly a non-drinker but love a little taste to simply enjoy the flavours, I decided to take an exploratory wander around the grounds. Another Red Gum, even larger than the first, towers over an open paddock on the property’s edge. Peering through the long lens I can make out a Corella nesting in a dead branch. While I am watching the Corella’s mate flies in and they exchange places.

Short-beaked Corella in nesting hole

Turning my attention from the larger animals I start to hunt around under the half-shed bark and understory by the base of the gum trees; always a good place to find insects, spiders and reptiles. I am not disappointed, discovering some beetles and small coppery skink that I have yet to identify.

Pie Dish Beetle species
Unknown skink species

My stroll is brought to a pleasant end when a couple the houseboat crew send me a quick text about pizzas hot from the oven being served in the next few minutes. Pizzas, fine wines, good company a bit of wildlife….a pretty good afternoon on the Murray River.

Cheers

Baz

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

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 Day 4…….On the way to Caudo Winery

1 Jun

Dear Reader:

A dusty track runs parallel to the river about a hundred metres from the water. I catch the sounds of birds calling on the wind. The twittering of small species such as wrens and finches but also the faint call of a Kookaburra. Tiny Copper-Headed Skinks scurry about in the leaf litter and I sit under the shade of a river gum for a few minutes to photograph them. My P900 is an excellent tool for this task and its versatility is tested as I quickly shift to maximum telephoto to shoot a Western Grey Kangaroo as it bounds through the low scrub.

Boat moored on the bank

Walking trail through scrub

We are now four days into our cruise along the Murray from Morgan and heading towards Caldo Winery. About two kilometres from our destination we tie up along the river-bank for a walk and lunch. I have packed a snack and water bottle then headed out towards a significant bend in the river where I can see a small gully edging close to the water. An ideal place for wildlife as it presents a variety of ecological niches in one concentrated area. 

Dragonfly species near river bank

As I continue along the track it bends closer to the river and the wildlife changes in character. There are large dragonflies hovering around the reeds and landing on the loamy soil. I spot a small group of Nankeen Night Herons in a Willow tree overhanging the water. They are wary and hard to photograph but it is the first time I have seen a group of these nocturnal predators which are usually solitary…..possibly an adult with young??

Adult Laughing Kookaburras near nest site

I take a sit and wait approach when I notice a perfect log to rest on. It overlooks the edge of a steep gully which runs down to the river. By pure luck I have chosen well and over the next twenty minutes I am able to observe a pair of Kookaburras and locate their nesting hole in an aged River Gum.

Kookaburra landing in nesting hole with prey in beak

My walk has taken me a couple of kilometres from the boat and it is time to retrace my steps and head back. Shuffling through a deep patch of leaf litter I am startled by a rustle and sharp hiss off to my right. I freeze monetarily and look around. Not a snake but a large Shingleback Lizard which I have disturbed as it forages amongst the litter.

Shingleback lizard in aggressive pose

Dropping to one knee I attempt to photograph the lizard as it moves through the leaf litter but my sudden movement has irritated it and I am confronted by a full on mouth gape and tongue display.

It is time to call it a day and I shoulder arms and walk briskly back to the Houseboat ready for my duties as rope boy as we set off for the winery……..to be continued

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Visit Caudo Winery website

This is an easy trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors with all facilities on board, only a driver’s license required to drive and boat training provided by the company prior to departure.

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/

Secretive South Aussies

1 Mar

Dear Reader:

The diminutive birds look like mottled balls of feathers darting through the undergrowth. It is time to just sit and wait until one settles long enough to let me focus and fire. A keeper arrives and spreads some mealworms across the floor of the enclosure. Temerity is temporarily discarded and the Stubble Quail come out of hiding to feed. The Birds still move quickly as they peck at the mealworms and I must switch the camera to shutter priority which I have permanently set at 1/2000 of a second on my P900.

 

Stubble Quail feeding

Virtually all the photographs for my posts and the books I write are taken ‘in the field’ at the location I am exploring. However, sometimes there are animals that I see, hear or find traces of, but cannot photograph. For some of these species, wildlife parks, museums and zoos are an invaluable resource. Today, I am collecting images from Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills near Crafers and Mount Lofty; about a twenty minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD.

 

Inland Taipan

Near the exit and shop there is a building that houses nocturnal animals and a range of reptiles. Having gained permission to use limited flash photography, it can stress and annoy certain animals, I decide to target venomous snakes. When shooting through glass enclosures it is necessary to angle the flash to prevent the light from bouncing straight back into the lens. Luckily several of the snakes are active in their enclosures.

 

Eastern Brown Snake forked tongue protruding

In several decades of photographing wildlife I have seen very few venomous snakes and those I have encountered have been shy and almost impossible to photograph in any detail. Limiting my attempts because of the flash stress factor, I manage to get a couple of reasonable images of an Inland Taipan and an Eastern Brown Snake with its forked tongue protruding. The forked tongue that all snakes and monitor lizards possess, allows the reptiles to pick up tiny particles emitted by prey and determine direction and distance using a special feature known as the Jacobsen’s organ. The process is much the same as our two ears being set apart determining the direction of a sound based on the intensity and volume being different for each ear. By the way; snakes do not have ears but can feel vibrations through the ground.

 

Princess Parrot

South Australia has many beautiful bird species and it is often difficult to get near some of them in the wild. In addition, some species like Princess Parrots are quite rare or live in extremely remote areas. With this in mind, I stroll through one of the ‘walk-through’ aviaries in search of birds I have not previously encountered or photographed.

 

Ringtail Possum

Most South Australians know and recognise the common Brushtail Possums that frequent urban backyards and sometimes, to the dismay of residents, their roofs. It is the slightly smaller and endearing Ringtail Possum that is less often seen. To this end, I have arranged with an education officer to photograph the ringtail they use in lessons about our native marsupials. She carries the little marsupial out in a hessian sack and places it on a tree branch. I wait for the most natural pose and capture a couple of images.

With possum and possum image safely ‘in the bag’ it is time for lunch and a little retail therapy at the café and souvenir shop. The food is good and I am pleased to say that I find a copy of my last book ‘Discovering Adelaide’s Wildlife’, on the shelf. I never tire of Cleland and will return again in the cooler weather to add to my  ‘hard to get’ wildlife, photographic collection.  

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

These images were taken using a Nikon Coolpix P900 camera

This is an easy excursion which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, parking, restaurant and other facilities on site.

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/

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