Tag Archives: Australian water rat

Dry Creek by the Junction

31 May

Dry Creek by the Junction

Dear Reader:

Yes, an ant is an ant, but in Australia some ants are just that little bit more! Inch ants or bulldog ants live up to their name and reputation. Solitary hunters that still live in communal nests they have a fearsome bite and relentless disposition. This one is hunting late on a cool autumn afternoon scouring a eucalypt trunk for prey. I watch carefully as it systematically probes under the bark for any hapless invertebrate that is sheltering or hibernating. Seeing a bulldog ant at this time of year seems strange, perhaps a late burst of warm weather woke the colony up. The vagaries of nature are always fascinating.

 

Bulldog ant hunting

 

I am exploring the section of Dry Creek which flows between the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Nelson Road through to Walkley’s Road. It can be accessed behind ‘The Junction’ shopping centre. The creek twist and turns along this part of its length and is bordered by walking and bike trails. There are some deep pools, a ford and a small footbridge which all facilitate wildlife viewing and photography. Throw in a nice bakery at the shopping area and you have the makings of a perfect walk.

 

Dry Creek

 

The little footbridge which spans the river is an ideal place to watch for wildlife. It is high on the banks and provides a good vantage point for peering into the treetops. Today it is the surface of the water that catches my attention. The tell-tale V shaped ripples of a water rat swimming across the creek are an unexpected bonus on my walk. I have rarely seen the elusive little rodents in Dry Creek and to know that they are present is quite a treat. Water rats or rakalis are a native species with a broad head, webbed feet and a white tip to the tail. They feed on aquatic insects, yabbies, molluscs, frogs and small fish.

 

Australian water rat swimming

 

 

 

Further along the path there is a break in the bushes and trees that envelop the sides of the creek and I can get good access to the water’s edge.  A little pied cormorant is sitting on a log directing its gaze into a long pool before continuing to hunt amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. On my walk back I see the same bird with its wings outstretched drying them between forays into the creek to hunt. Cormorants do not have waterproofing oils to protect their plumage like some waterbirds and therefore must continually dry out their feathers.   

 

 

little pied cormorant

 

Near one of the fords there are some massive river red gums shading the creek bed and I can hear the raucous screech of lorikeets in the highest branches. A quick look through the telephoto lens helps me to identify them as musk lorikeets. These social little birds seem to have found something to feed on in the canopy. There are no blossoms on the trees so I can only assume that it is some form of insect life.

 

Musk lorikeet

 

My walk has been most rewarding as I have encountered a wide range of animals from aquatic mammals and predatory insects through to brightly coloured parrots in the treetops. Only the bakery to go and I can mark today down as more than a little successful.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 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

Advertisements

Once Around the Lake

2 Jul

Dear Reader;

The ‘little pied cormorant’ is perched precariously on a branch overlooking the lake. It has been fishing for the last ten minutes and I have watched the bird continually diving under the water to pursue small fish before swallowing them when it surfaces. When the cormorant has finished the afternoon hunt it will spread out its wings to help dry them before finding a suitable place to roost.

1 1 b

Little pied cormorant

 

It is a mild winter afternoon and I am strolling around the Torrens Lake between the Frome Road Bridge and the new footbridge that links the city to the Adelaide oval. I have walked this circuit many times stopping at the zoo cafe for coffee, or dining at Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant in the evening. Each time I manage to encounter a different assortment of wildlife depending on the season, time and weather.

1 4 red

Jolley’s and Popeye pleasure craft

 

 

In front of Jolley’s a fisherman is casting for carp and earning the close attention of several Australian pelicans. One bird in particular is waiting to see if it can capitalise on his skills. Pelicans are common throughout the year. Sometimes they hunt individually catching small carp in their flexible, pouched beaks and at other times they work together to round up a school of fish.

1 2  red

Fishing buddies

 

A little further along the embankment a pair of dusky moorhens and a Eurasian coot are feeding on the edge of the water. Coots are adept at diving and they are able to squeeze the water out of their feathers to decrease their buoyancy which makes foraging underwater easier. Both species tend to stay close to the reeds which provide both shelter and a safe place for nesting.

1 3 red

Eurasian coot and dusky moorhens

 

While I am watching this little group I notice the characteristic V shaped ripples of an Australian water rat heading towards the far bank. Water rats are shy and hard to photograph in the wild and I am pleased to fire off one or two quick frames before it disappears into a tangle of undergrowth and reeds.

1 5 red

Australian water rat

 

I cross over the Adelaide Oval footbridge to the northern side of the Torrens enjoying an uninterrupted view of the water, parklands and riverside buildings including the Convention Centre and Festival Theatre. A young family are manoeuvring their paddle boat near the fountains and black cormorants are drying their wings on the ‘paper-boat’ sculptures in the centre of the lake.

1 6 1 red

View from Adelaide Oval footbridge

 

Near the Frome Road Bridge several swans are swimming majestically along the edge of the manicured lawns to the delight of some children cycling along the path with their parents. The birds are very large with a wingspan approaching two metres and they can be quite formidable when there are cygnets around. On the bank, another bird is using its long flexible neck to preen the feathers on its back and side.

1 6 red

Black swan

 

My walk concludes by the Frome Road Bridge where I indulge in a well earned cup of coffee at the Wisteria Cafe. Providing a wide range of snacks and casual meals, the cafe can be accessed from both inside and outside the zoo at the southern end of the bridge. It provides a lovely parkland setting alongside a small creek that runs through the Botanic Gardens and into the lake.

1 7 red

Frome Road Bridge by the zoo

 

Cheers and enjoy a winter walk

Baz

Torrens Lake…..Down by the Weir

2 Nov

(Naturallysouthaustralia.com response to feedback and article)

Thank you for your comments regarding my change of style to a field notes format. Most people seemed to prefer the original recount genre and therefore I will return to writing in this manner.

 

Torrens Lake….Down by the Weir

Dear Reader:

From the walkway where I am standing I can see the V shaped ripples of an Australian water rat swimming towards the concrete lattice work at the foot of the weir. I am always excited by the chance to photograph these elusive mammals and despite the overcast conditions I am in a good position to get a few nice pictures; if the little creature cooperates just a tad.

1 The usual view of a water rat, a V shaped trail that quickly disappears nto the reeds

The usual view of a water rat, a V shaped trail that quickly disappears into the reeds

3

Just sitting here enjoying the view

 

When the rakali (another name for the water rat) reaches the reeds instead of disappearing, as usually happens, it dives under the concrete barriers and hauls itself onto the flat surface. After settling for a few seconds it has a quick look around, grooms its fur then slides back into the water. Oh yes; there is a god of wildlife photography.

6

Popeye does a U turn at the weir

5

Below the Weir where ratty lives

10

Great places to dine

 I am at the end of the Torrens Lake by the Weir. It is a place where cycling and walking tracks converge, the iconic Popeye makes its turn for home and the par 3 golf course begins. There are also free city bikes at the little kiosk and the Red Ochre/River Cafe restaurant complex which provides excellent dining and wonderful views across the lake towards the city.

7

Moorhens in love

On my way to a coffee before heading home I can’t help but notice a pair of dusky moorhens delicately tripping across the top of the spillway. They follow each other for some time, apparently with amorous intent. Yes, spring is in the air.

8

Miner getting a bite to eat the hard way

9

I simply loved the colour and motion

 

Noisy miner birds are common along the river bank (not to be confused with the introduced Indian Mynah that plagues Sydney) and a small group are feeding close to the weir. One particular bird hangs from a slender eucalyptus branch as it gathers nectar from the blossoms then kicks off in flight. A nice couple of images to finish my walk by the water.

 

Enjoy the spring weather and our wildlife

Cheers

Baz

Fur, Feathers and Football

2 Aug

Dear Reader:

Winter in Adelaide brings its own special pleasures. The hills lose their brownish tinge, the sea is wilder, different flowers are in bloom and the wildlife changes as some species head to warmer climes and others replace them. But to many Adelaideans, winter also heralds the footy (AFL) season and a rather spectacular upgrade to the already picturesque Adelaide oval has added a new dimension to the watching this uniquely Australian sport. The venue has also brought up to 50 000 spectators to the banks of the Torrens Lake on a weekly pilgrimage to support their teams.

IMG_4018

Footy fans on the new bridge to the stadium

Today the crowd is flowing over the lake on the glass and steel bridge with their silver, black and teal scarves whipping in the breeze while I am under it with the teal wing flashes of a black duck locked into my viewfinder. Just a few moments earlier I had also been on the receiving end of a severe telling off from a pied cormorant that took exception to my presence near its favourite fishing spot on the river bank.

P1010199

Black duck

P1010228

Get away from my patch

I had cycled into town just prior to the match to take some pictures of the new stadium to promote it as one of the many attractions the city boasts. As I walked along the river bank I was distracted by the abundance of winter wildlife and the various animals’ indifference to the huge influx of people above them. And the thought occurred to me; if a few fans arrived early or stayed later they could take in some of the natural wonders that the city has to offer as well as enjoying the sport.

wrat3

Australian water rat heading back into the lake.

Leaving the cormorant to its protestations, the duck to its scratching and the crowd to their game, I decide to work my way along the eastern bank of the lake towards the weir. No more than two meters in front of me I can see the tell tale V shape ripples of an Australian native water rat hunting close to the dock that fronts the rowing club. The little mammal hops up on the wooden edge every few minutes to eat a freshwater mussel, yabbie or frog that it has caught. An extraordinary encounter with a very shy Australian native mammal.

IMG_4073

Australian pelican foraging along the bank

IMG_4067

Black swan in nest made from twigs, reeds and debris

Closer to the weir the reeds are quite dense providing a perfect habitat for Australian pelicans and black swans. The pelicans forage along the banks for fish and invertebrates while the swans have constructed a nest alongside some protective netting that is being used to re establish native aquatic plants.

My winter walk along the Torrens has been more than a little rewarding and I am looking forward to a cup of coffee at the little café by the weir where I will check on the footy scores while I can still hear the  intermittent roars of the crowd in the background.

Until next time

Cheers

Baz

Misty Morning Rats

9 Jun

 This year, the first few days of winter have been a little cloudy with a light mist over the city in the early hours. It is the kind of weather that encourages a cup of coffee, at the Par 3 Cafe by the Torrens Weir, before my weekend bike ride around the river trail. But the cool quiet mornings do have one distinct advantage. Some of the more reclusive creatures that inhabit the river banks seem a little less wary and easier to find; most notably…The Australia water rat…one of my favourite species.

 

AFF Torrens Weir in winter feeding the river below

Torrens weir in winter feeding the river below

 

As you can imagine, misty mornings, shy wildlife and carrying a camera on a bike does present a few challenges. My digital SLR and long lens are too heavy and the low light conditions push the compact super zoom that I can comfortably wear on my hip, to its absolute limits. Consequently, please excuse a couple of the rather grainy images that I have included later in this post. However, the mere fact that I was able to capture these pictures encourages me to share them and their story with you.

 

AA Willy Wagtail lookin for insects amongst the reeds

Willy wagtail looking for insects amongst the reeds

 

 

Over the many years that I have walked or cycled around our permanent creeks and wetlands I have only caught the occasional glance of Australian water rats. The tell tale ‘V’ shaped wake that they leave and their low profile in the water make them unmistakable. Unfortunately, after a brief appearance they invariably dive or disappear into the tangle of reeds and grasses on the water’s edge. It is also quite easy to confuse them with common rats, which swim well and often live close to waterways. Unlike their terrestrial cousins, water rats are a little more robust have a slightly blunter face with a heavier covering of whiskers. Their back feet are also webbed and they have a white tip to the tail.

 

AG Common rat scavenging close to the river

Common rat scavenging close to the river

 

Back to my tale of coffee and misty mornings; last Saturday I had cycled from home to the weir and was peddling along the track that runs south above the river when I noticed a classic ‘V’ shaped wake in the water. I quickly dismounted, whipped off my helmet and gloves and pulled out my camera. The water rat swam upstream diving periodically and I was able to walk slowly along the trail watching it for around 5 minutes. Eventually it disappeared into the undergrowth near the bank but not before another one paddled close by affording me a rather unique photo opportunity. However, as I mentioned at the start of this piece, the light conditions were far from perfect and my target animals were the best part of a 100 metres away. A lot of frames and little Photoshop produced the two images you can see here.

AC Australian Water Rat sheltering under the bank edit 2

Australian water rat sheltering under the bank

 

AD Australian water rats swimming across the river

Australian water rats swimming across the river

Encouraged, I returned the next day and sat quietly on the bank for the best part of an hour, hoping for a repeat performance. I did see one water rat for a brief moment but I could not focus rapidly enough to get a clear image. At this point, the coffee beckoned and I cycled back to the weir stopping a couple of times on the way to enjoy the winter’s early scattering of leaves on the river bank and watch a pair of silver gulls wading in the water cascading over the sluice gates.

 

AH Early winter leaves on the river bank

Autumn leaves on the river bank

AE Australian silver gull looking for prey in the overflow

Australian silver gull foraging in the overflow

Now that I know there are several water rats in the area I am determined to travel the same path on foot over the next few months with my DSLR to see if I can improve on these pictures. But for now I am thrilled to have seen the little animals foraging in the wild and to have captured a few simple images.

 

Until next time

Baz

%d bloggers like this: