Tag Archives: Adelaide Hills

Hills Face Koalas

1 Jun

Hills face Koalas

 Dear Reader:

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 Cheers

Baz

 

 

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

1 Feb

Crafers…soft light and pretty birds

Dear Reader:

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

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Yellow thornbill

 

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

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Crimson Rosella

 

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

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Classy meals, great service

 

 

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

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Grey currawong

 

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

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Unknown small skink species

 

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

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Interesting entrance to B&B

 

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

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park

12 Nov

 

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park 

Dear Reader:

There is a rainbow lorikeet around fifty metres away from me. The excitable little bird has inverted its body to dip its feathery tongue into a tube shaped eremophila blossom.  Several other species of birds including new Holland honeyeaters and wattle birds are feeding in the same garden beds where there is a smorgasbord of flowers to choose from. Clever planting also attract a variety of butterflies which feed on the nectar and help to pollinate plants by transferring pollen.

 

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Rainbow lorikeet feeding

 

I am walking around the Wittunga Botanical Gardens near Blackwood in Adelaide’s foothills, just a twenty minute drive from the CBD. The busy little township is nestled into bushland where koalas and myriad bird species are common visitors. There are several hotels, bakeries and restaurants in the area and the Belair National Park and Golf course make this an ideal day trip for city residents.

 

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Old church and soldiers’ memorial in Blackwood

 

Leaving the flower beds behind I venture down to the lake that is the central feature of the park. It is surrounded by massive gum trees and there are crows, honeyeaters and a kookaburra perched in some of the branches that overhang the water. But it is a tiny head that emerges from the lake that draws my attention as I watch a Macquarie short-necked turtle swim towards the shore. The side-plate sized reptile clambers up on to a fallen branch and positions itself to catch some warming sunlight.

 

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Central lake and gardens

 

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Macquarie freshwater turtle

 

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Pacific black ducks

At the end of a long cool, wet summer the lake is full of new life. I spot purple swamp hens tending their fluffy black chicks near the reed beds. Several species of frogs are calling; probably spotted marsh frogs and common froglets or perhaps a potty bonk. Two Pacific black ducks are preening their feathers near the water’s edge and Eurasian coots appear to be amorously pursuing each other further from the bank.

 

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Ra venfeeding, they are often mistakenly called crows

 

Various pathways meander around the lake and I choose one that cuts through a stand of massive red gums. A lone raven is strutting around the perimeter of one tree pecking at the bark which is cracked and sloughing off the trunk. The bark of most eucalypts is an important environment for many smaller animals. Insects and spiders find shelter and breed there while larger predators such as birds and lizards find it a fertile hunting ground.

 

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Koala portrait shot

 

Having enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake while indulging my passion for both wildlife and plants in general I walk back to the car park by way of a small stand of gums that run along the northern edge of the gardens. They are the kind of trees that might be attractive to koalas and I know that these endearing marsupials are common in the Blackwood area. Sure enough, there is one wedged between two branches in what I can only describe as the perfect koala portrait pose; a nice way to finish my walk.

 

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Lesser-wanderer butterfly

 

Enjoy our city and suburban parks in spring as they really are some of the best in the world.

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.

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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.

An Autumn Walk and Drive Around Stirling

21 Mar

Dear Reader:

There are ravens in the tree near the restaurant. We call them crows in SA but the birds that live around Adelaide are usually little or Australian ravens. True crows are found much further north in outback regions. The birds are feeding on some autumn berries in a deciduous tree by the roadside. Every so often, one of the more adventurous gang members swoops down and reconnoitrers the outdoor tables for any tasty leftovers.

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Raven disguised as crow

 

I am sitting in Rubys Organic cafe in the hills town of Stirling, a twenty minute drive from the city along the south-eastern freeway. This charming town of around 3000 people has a distinctly English feel about it. As well as native trees the town has numerous European species and the cooler climate makes it ideal for plants such as azaleas and camellias.

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Healthy, interesting and tasty

 

After a healthy and delicious (gf) lunch of salmon croquettes and a pumpkin and bean salad, I drive out to the golf course on the outskirts of the town. At the end of the aptly named Golflinks road I park the car and walk into the Mt George Conservation Park. Tall stringybarks dominate this section of the walking trail which is part of Adelaide renowned Heysen Trail. Some of the trunks are blackened from earlier fires though most are still alive and bearing new growth. There is a proliferation of native groundcovers including heaths, grevillias and even some tiny orchids and lilies sheltered in the understory.

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One of the many small plants growing in the understory, probably a heath

 

Walking through the forest is enjoyable but most of the bird life is high in the trees and hard to photograph so I return to the car, drive back and head along Old Carey Gully Road to the Mt George turn off. At the little picnic area, pleasantly situated by a small dam, I rejoin the track which is now part of the Pioneers Womens Trail. It runs over a small bridge where I pause to look into the creek bed in search of water skinks or perhaps a water rat (rakali). To my surprise I catch a fleeting glimpse of a small rat-like creature hopping across a pool on a fallen log. It is a southern brown bandicoot, a marsupial, not a rat at all. It pauses for a brief moment on its makeshift bridge and I take a shot. Photographically, the results are somewhat mediocre but in terms of satisfaction as a naturalist, it is a special moment.

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Bridge on trail crossing Cox Creek

 

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Unbelievable to get a photo of a bandicoot especially in daylight hours

 

But the bandicoot is not my last marsupial. To really ‘make my day’ I spot two koalas, probably a mother and joey, perched on a slender eucalypt overhanging the creek bed.

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Mum and youngster

 

 

I started with lunch in Stirling and I decide to finish with a visit to Aptos Cruz; one of my favourite hills art galleries.

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Aptos Cruise gallery from the top floor

 

However, on the short drive back to the town nature provides one last surprise when a deer bounds out across the road then pauses amongst the singed trunks of the gums on the edge of the roadside

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Oh dear, wrong continent!!!

Cheers

Baz

Clarendon…A Bend in the River

15 Jan

Clarendon…A Bend in the River 

Dear Reader:

From where I am standing, half hidden amongst the reeds, I can see that the river is quite high after some recent rainfall and the water fowl are making the best of it. Both maned and Pacific black ducks are dabbling along the sheltered banks. Any ducklings seem to have reached maturity and left the area though some of the other water birds such as purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens are still tending their chicks.

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Maned ducks

 

 

Riverbend Park is exactly what its name implies. Situated at Clarendon, just a two minute walk from the main street, it is a glorious little reserve with an abundance of habitats and wildlife. There are steep cliffs, reed beds, deep pools and shallow riffles. Wildlife aside, the township with its colonial feel, lovely old homes and good eateries, is a destination in itself and certainly worth the forty minute drive from the city.

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Bend in the river

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Classic old home

 

As I stroll along the well grassed banks of the park I notice several species of honeyeaters flitting across the water. The birds seem to be attracted to a huge river gum, gorging themselves on the insects sheltering beneath its peeling layers of bark. Positioning myself behind a nearby bench I rest the camera on a bean bag for stability and fire off a few shots, eventually capturing an image of a white plumed honeyeater hunting for bugs.

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Plumed honeyeater

 

 I follow a well worn dirt road downstream from the car park towards some crumbling cliffs that rise up from the river bank. Unable to go any further, I sit and wait for a while with the camera resting on my lap. There is movement in the undergrowth all around me and after a few minutes I catch sight of a small water skink making its way down to the water.

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Water skink

 

After spending a couple of hours in the park, it’s time to indulge in lunch at the local bakery. I take the short walk over the ford then up a well worn path to the main street. Half way up the path I can hear the high pitched twittering of blue wrens. Back out with the camera for one last time! The decision is justified as both a male and female leave the shelter of the bushes to forage on the ground for their avian version of my long anticipated lunch.

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Female blue wren

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male blue wren

 

Cheers

And

Enjoy the New Year!

Baz

Athelstone … a river walk…field notes and images

15 Oct

Athelstone … a river walk…field notes and images

 

Dear Reader: I hope that you enjoy the field notes and images from my day exploring the lower reaches of the Torrens Gorge near Athelstone. I will be using this style from now on as it allows me to share more observations and thoughts with you.

 

Spring 12/10/2015

A cool morning with a little cloud cover and patches of blue sky

Drove from city to Gorge Road intersection then to Athelstone, approx 20 minutes

Stopped in at bakery to get steak pie, apple tart and fruit juice

Photographed historic community centre, lovely roses on display

Spoke to history officer

Quite a few colonial buildings in the area worth visiting

Started walk from the mining road 2.8 Kms from Athelstone Council chambers, just past stone and fibre house on RHS of main road, parked near the causeway (ford)

Followed old, narrow bitumen road along left bank of Torrens heading up the gorge (upstream) towards historic aquaduct

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Council chambers

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Stone and fibre home by turn off

 

Trail to aquaduct only 800 meters

Not going to walk off impending lunch this way

Walked slowly, stop, look and wait

Can hear small birds twittering in scrub to the left

Several little wrens fossicking in leaf litter

They appear to be different species as one has a blue tail

All are females as fairy wren males of the most common species have patches of bright blue plumage

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Female superb fairy wren

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Male superb fairy wren

 

Koala in dense foliage of a non native tree, unusual

There are several gums nearby, perhaps this tree is shadier

Tree creeper (possibly white throated) feeding probing for insects on a eucalyptus tree, seems to be favouring old and dead branches

Note the huge feet for gripping and providing stability

Hard to get a clear shot

Switch to shutter priority to stop action 1/1600 should do

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Koala

White throated treecreeper

White throated treecreeper

 

Reach the aquaduct

Note the signage about its history

State listed heritage item in 1980

Operated continuously for 138 years carrying water from Hope Valley Reservoir

There is a deep pool below

Scan the edge of the water and several logs for fresh water turtles…nothing

A water skink is basking on one of the flat rocks

As I approach and take a couple of shots it disappears into the undergrowth

I have often photographed these little reptiles and never seen one in the water swimming

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Aquaduct

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Eastern water skink

 

Start return walk to car

Expansive views of the gorge rising on the SE side

Several cyclist ride past on the main road above the river

They use the steep road for training

Concentrate on the other side of the path on return walk

Yellow tail black cockatoos fly above

See and hear a lot of Rosellas in taller trees

Manage to get a shot of a crimson feeding on berries in tree top

Stop to look at interesting gum trunk with red sap oozing from it

Like the colours and texture

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Bark patterns and gum resin

Back at car

Drive to park about 1 kilometre out of Athelstone to walking trails in parkland area, still has Torrens flowing through

Lunch on a bench watching some magpies haggling over territory

A Good morning’s work

Cheers

Baz

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