Tag Archives: crested pigeon

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

25 Jun

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is bounding along the small levy that cuts across a shallow clay pan near the edge of a tidal flat. It stops monetarily and twitches its mobile ears, looks around, then continues on its way into the scrub alongside the raised earthen mound. I get a few seconds to make a shot and the wary marsupial is gone.

Grey kangaroo

 I am exploring the coastal fringe of Whyalla South Australia’s third most populous city. The steel and regional centre is situated near the head of Spencer Gulf on the Eyre Peninsula about 450 kms from Adelaide. The area is a mixture of mangrove, tidal flats, sandy beach and some small industrial areas that enclose substantial freshwater pools. Several roads lead down towards the coast from the Lincoln Highway and some of the terrain requires 4WD.

Garden centipede

Egyptian beetle 

I take the vehicle across one of the mud flats and have to fight to keep from getting bogged. Slipping the SUV into low range and slowly sliding across the surface I wrestle with the steering until the wheels grip sand on the edge of the levy. Relieved, I get out and survey the quagmire of clay-like debris stuck to the wheel arches. But my close call has led me to a cosy little depression amongst the scrub and I decide to move a few fallen branches and search for invertebrates. After a few minutes I unearth a rather large garden centipede and a few Egyptian or ‘cellar beetles’ as well as some different ant species. After a little macro photography I carefully replace their homes.

Australian pelicans 

Another dirt road takes me past the rifle club and some large freshwater ponds that have attracted a small group of pelicans. The birds appear to be simply congregating and socialising between short forays into the water to feed. Along the edge of the water there are several different species of small waders including dotterels and plovers but they are wary and take flight when I approach.

Crested pigeons 

The scrub alongside the mangrove patches is also home to a variety of birds including singing honeyeaters and fantails. One scrubby eucalypt that has managed to endure decades of salty onshore winds provides shelter for a trio of crested pigeons a species that I often see found foraging in the coastal bush.

View from Hummock Hill 

I head back onto the highway drive back into the city and up to a local lookout. Hummock Hill is a fitting place to end my exploration of Whyalla’s coastal fringe. The site of the first settlement in 1901 it provides panoramic views of the city, coast and surrounding bushland. Hummock Hill also served as a gun emplacement during the Second World War and has lately been developed as an historic site; lovely place to simply take in the rugged beauty that this area has to offer.

Cheers

Baz 

 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

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Patowolonga’s Cormorants

1 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious spring day, not a breath of wind to ruffle the placid expanse of water that stretches out in front of me. By the breakwater there is a gathering of little black cormorants paddling alongside the rocky barrier. Every few minutes, one of the birds dives and swims out into the deeper water to hunt. Cormorants use both wings and feet to navigate underwater. Their aquatic speed and agility combined with specially adapted eyes and serrated beaks make them formidable fishers.

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Black cormorant

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Black cormorant diving

 

I am walking around the Patawolonga from Glenelg towards the first road and foot-bridge. This man-made lake extends between Glenelg and West beach for around 1.5 kilometres and serves as a flood mitigation system. The area also incorporates a berths for larger boats and lock that lead on to Holdfast Shores Marina an upmarket, shopping, restaurant and residential complex.

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View from the bridge

 

When I reach the bridge there is a spectacular view back down the lake towards Glenelg that takes in the old replica ship The Buffalo which brought some of South Australia’s first colonists and governor ashore. The extensive grassed areas that run alongside ‘The Pat’ are shaded by eucalypts and Norfolk pines which attract a wide range of common urban birds. Today there are numerous crested pigeons foraging in the grass as well as wagtails and swallows demonstrating their sophisticated aerial acrobatics as they hunt for insects nearer the water.

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Crested pigeon

 

From the western end of the bridge I walk back towards Glenelg along the edge of the marina. There are several fishermen casting for bream and I stop and chat with them. Apparently a small pod of dolphins has been in the area over the last few days. Not great for fishing but wonderful for those who simply enjoy the wildlife. The rocks along this part of the Patawolonga have a healthy cover of small molluscs and occasionally I catch sight of small schools of baitfish in the shallows.

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periwinkles at low water

 

The path stops near a dive shop and I have to walk around the lake past neatly kept houses. When I reach the lock I can see dozens of swallows hawking insects. A few have settled on the glass and steel partitions that enclose some of the nearby units to rest for few minutes before resuming their hunting sorties.

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resting swallow

 

The lock is not being used by any of the local boaties and I am able to walk across to finish my circuit of the lake, watched intently by yet another cormorant. This time it is a pied cormorant, perched high on a railing. The bird is drying its wings before it too dives back into the water for lunch while I head for nearby Jetty Road with similar intent.

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Pied cormorant drying wings on lock

 

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby.

A Walk in the Botanic Gardens

17 Jun

Dear Reader:

Australian magpies are fascinating birds, gregarious and intelligent with rather an aggressive streak during the nesting season. This one seems a little out of tune to the seasons, it’s not really the time to be constructing a nest at the beginning of winter but here it is collecting material for just that purpose.

 

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Magpie nesting behaviour

 

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Hoverfly

Botanical gardens are wonderful places to observe wildlife especially in the winter months when some animals’ natural habitats can be bereft of food while others will have moved on to the proverbial ‘ greener pastures’. The incredible variety of plants in the gardens ensures that something is always flowering or fruiting which in turn leads to a food web that supports a range of wildlife from birds and mammals to insects and spiders.

 

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Photographer at work

 

Our Botanical Gardens also draws in another species; the nature photographer (Homo sapiens cameralis) and they often migrate great distances to enjoy our wildlife. The gentleman in the picture was a visitor from Asia who was keen to photograph Australian native plants and we had an interesting conversation about the unique ecosystems that he might visit in South Australia.

 

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The lake near the kiosk and restaurant

 

My excursions often include a place to eat and have a break and there are several in the Botanic Gardens. On this occasion I simply sat by the quaint little lake and enjoyed a light snack from the kiosk but more elaborate and substantial meals are available from Cafe Fibonacci and the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. The gardens also house a museum of economic botany, Victorian era palm house, the bicentennial conservatory and many other specialised areas.

 

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Eastern rosella

 

Walking around the lake is always a pleasure and in the warmer months giant carp feed near the banks and freshwater turtles are commonly seen basking on the surface. Today, there are several cormorants drying their wings and a lone rosella foraging for seeds amongst the bare limbs of a tree that sits on a small island in the lake.

 

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Crested pigeon

 

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Maned ducks feeding near the creek

 

From the lake I head east towards the Bicentennial Conservatory crossing over a small creek where a pair of maned ducks and a crested pigeon are foraging in the lush grass that borders the waterway.

 

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Self portrait in glass

 

My last encounter is with another one of those hominid species that frequent the gardens. Indeed, it is my own reflection as I pause to photograph the fascinating glass sculpture entitled ‘Cascade’ by Australian artist Sergio Redegalli,  which dominates the southern end of the conservatory.

 

Cheers

Baz

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

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

17 Sep

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

 

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is huge, a fully grown male with a couple of smaller females close by, half hidden in the scrub. As I approach, he rises up to his full height and eyes me with intent. I take half a step closer and he turns and shuffles closer to the fence. Then, with a single, effortless bound he clears it and disappears into the scrub further down the hillside.

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Fully grown male, grey kangaroo

 

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Up and over

I am in an older part of Normanville on a hillside behind the beach houses and new developments. Large blocks of land are quite common here. Some still retain vestiges of the original pre-farming vegetation. Landowners with an interest in wilderness conservation have re-established endemic plants on many plots that in turn attract a plethora of native wildlife from ‘roos’ and kookaburras to colourful rosellas and even the odd echidna.

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Grevillea species growing under the pink gums

 

Near the top of this particular block there is a stand of gnarled old pink gums where little crescent honeyeaters and several grey currawongs are sheltering from the light showers that are sweeping in from the sea a couple of kilometres away.

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Grey currawong in pink gum

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Crescent honeyeater sheltering from rain

 

Beneath the canopy of the trees there is a wide variety of native shrubs and ground covers that support both small birds and insects. Despite the cool weather I manage to find some shield bugs amongst the berries and flowers of a pink Geraldton wax bush. And in the branches above them a crimson rosella is calling to its mate in anticipation of a warmer spring day when they will be searching for nesting holes.

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

 

From the scrubby hillside I drive back down to the coast stopping in at the Normanville Hotel for a locally caught seafood meal; calamari, whiting and scallops. The beach is only five minutes from the hotel and I park where a coastal pathway sweeps around to Carrickalinga heads, an area that I frequently dived during my youth.

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Late afternoon view of Carrickalinga heads from Normanville

 

The sun is getting low now and there are sparrows and honeyeaters settling in for the night in the bushes that flank the path. I can just make out a cormorant resting on the rocky foreshore shaking water from its wings before finding a place to roost. Sometimes this half light produces some of the more striking images that I have captured in the wild and today is no exception. I find a pair of crested pigeons perching on a skeletal branch with the grey sea and sky as their backdrop. They are my final memory of yet another memorable day spent enjoying South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

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Crested pigeons near walking trail to Carrickalinga

 

Take a drive down the coast sometime and enjoy this special place and its wildlife!!!

Cheers

Baz

Brougham Park on a Winter’s Afternoon

7 Jun

Dear Reader:

It is late in the afternoon and a bit on the chilly side. Grey skies and showers have alternated all day with patches of blue and occasional bursts of sunshine through the clouds. My car is parked in O’Connell Street where I am meeting friends in an hour for a bite to eat then a movie at the art deco Piccadilly Theatre. Typically, and despite the weather, I have arrived a tad early with camera in hand, hoping that I might encounter a little urban wildlife.

O'Connell street has a woderful collectionof cafes and restaurants

O’Connell street has a woderful collectionof cafes and restaurants

 

At the end of O’Connell St the road curves down into the city through a little patch of parkland. Asphalt paths cross this little green oasis which is dotted with tall eucalypts, pines and several large Moreton Bay Figs. I can hear parrots calling in the tree tops and eventually I spot a rainbow lorikeet shuffling along a branch high in the crown of one of them. With a flourish of feathers, a second bird appears and the parrots start to preen and gently peck at each other. They seem to be a mating pair settling in for the night. Nearby a lone eastern rosella appears to be looking on with a touch of sad envy…anthropomorphic, I know.

Just dropped in to say Hi

Just dropped in to say Hi

A lone eastern rosella sillhouetted against the late afternoon sky

A lone eastern rosella sillhouetted against the late afternoon sky

 

I sit and watch the birds for a few minutes while scanning the rest of the tree with my telephoto lens when I notice the furry coat of a possum wedged in a hollow. I toss a couple of pebbles against the branch. The brown patch moves and a tail appears for a second as the owner moves further into the tree; definitely a possum, probably a brush tail as they are far more common than their ring tail cousins.

Daytime view of a brushtail possum

Daytime view of a brushtail possum

Parkland possums forage at night

Parkland possums forage at night

 

On the eastern side of the park the imposing facade of the Brougham Place Uniting Church is framed by the massive leaves of an old fig tree. There are birds flitting though the foliage but in the afternoon shadows it is impossible to identify, let alone photograph them.

Brougham Place Uniting Church across park

Brougham Place Uniting Church across park

 

Before heading back up to my parked car I walk further down Brougham Place alongside a red brick wall that cordons off one of the area’s classic old mansions. A tangle of olive tree branches straddle the top of the wall and deep in their shadows a pair of crested pigeons are finding a sheltered place to roost.

Classic homes and businesses surround the park

Classic homes and businesses surround the park

Crested pigeons in olive tree

Crested pigeons in olive tree

Even on a cloudy winter’s afternoon, Adelaide has yet again delivered a memorable wildlife experience; a fascinating and ever-changing urban ecosystem available to anyone who takes a few moments out of their busy day to stop and look.

 

Thanks for reading my work

Cheers

Baz

An Urban Billabong

29 Sep

Dear Reader:

The word billabong looms large in Australian folklore. It is where ‘a jolly swagman’ met his untimely end and mythical beasties called ‘bunyips’ supposedly emerge from the water to devour unwary campers. In reality, billabongs are freshwater wetlands that flood when river levels are high then become more isolated in the dry season. They are essentially backwaters that provide a refuge for many different species of animals as well as being popular locations for camping and fishing.

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Still, dark waters of an urban billabong

 

In South Australia the lower reaches of the Murray River has many lovely billabongs that have provided me with many a peaceful afternoon’s wildlife watching and photography. However, the trail that runs along the banks of Adelaide’s Torrens River also incorporates a little billabong which is tucked behind the upmarket suburb of St Peters, just a stone’s throw from the CBD. It was rehabilitated in the mid eighties and over the intervening years various community and government groups have overseen its care and maintenance.

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A mosaic of the rainbow serpent reflects the importance that Aboriginal people attached to billabongs

 

Last weekend, I packed my little super-zoom camera, hopped on the bike and pedalled up to the billabong to take stock of the wildlife. It has been a long wet winter and I was hoping that the warmth of the first few weeks of spring would stimulate some wildlife activity. I was not entirely disappointed. As I approached the little wooden landing that fronts the water, a pair of amorous crested pigeons pranced and displayed to each other. Close to a patch of reeds a mother black duck was tending a pair of fluffy little ducklings.

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Courting crested pigeons

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A pair of black swans nibble the water side vegetation

 

During the winter months the landscape may be verdant but few of the native shrubs flower and the insects that rely on the blossoms are rare. Now the billabong was clearly beginning to emerge from its winter blues and life was starting to reassert itself. As well as the hormonal pigeons and baby ducks a colony of colonial spiders had constructed a silken trap in an acacia bush and delicate little purple chocolate lilies were emerging from their winter dormancy.

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Chocolate lily

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Colonial spiders construct a complex web in a wattle bush

 

As spring turns to summer I am sure the wildlife will continue to flourish and I look forward to revisiting and reporting back to you.

Cheers

Baz      

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