Tag Archives: Dragonfly

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

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North Adelaide……the lion circuit

8 May

Dear Reader:

It is a mild sunny morning and I am enjoying one of my favourite bike rides. Starting at The Lion Hotel I ride away from the city along Melbourne Street to the Park Terrace intersection. The street is an eclectic mixture of cafes and niche retailers selling anything from clothes to antiques and Persian rugs.

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Classic old building converted into shops and galleries

 

 

Crossing Park terrace I wind my way through narrow streets and past some lovely old homes to intersect the path that runs alongside the Torrens River before it hits the city proper. The river has cut a narrow gorge through the ochre coloured rocks and tall eucalypts dominate the trail. A pair of rainbow lorikeets is fussing around a nesting hole and one bird takes flight as I dismount to take a closer look.

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Rainbow lorikeets nesting

 

 

A wooden boardwalk descends towards the river and the weir that controls the water flow. Common pigeons can often be seen foraging along the steep hillside early in the mornings. I think that the clay might supplement their diet and aid digestion.

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Boardwalk trail along the river

 

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Common pigeon feeding on cliff-side

 

 

Where the walkway levels out a small bridge splits the trail with one path leading back into the city and the other north east to the foothills. I head for the city. The track is flatter here and I pass numerous joggers and other cyclists all enjoying the fine weather.

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Foot and cycle crossing near St Peters

 

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Large dragonfly resting in a bottle brush near the river bank

 

Just past the little foot bridge the path sweeps under the much larger Hackney Road Bridge that carries the majority of traffic into the eastern side of the city. Here, the river widens, slows and becomes the Torrens Lake. As if to herald the change, a graceful snowy egret stands sentinel-like amongst the reeds watching for prey. Further along the waterway, a great cormorant perches close by with similar intent. These larger predatory water birds seem to indicate a greater abundance of prey in the lake.

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Signage explains Aboriginal connections and other historical facts

 

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Great Cormorant perching on the lake behind the zoo

 

egret edit

Egret hunting in reeds

 

 

Although the path follows the lake right along the northern edge of the city, I only ride a couple of hundred metres further to the Frome Road Bridge. Pausing briefly to take in the view of the lake, city and zoo from the top of the bridge, I turn right and head past the playing fields riding parallel to Mackinnon Parade through an avenue of massive, stately eucalypts. Cyclists, joggers and football players of all codes share this green space with cockatoos and other parrots that squawk in the trees and feed in the grass.

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Cockatoo foraging on the oval near McKinnon Parade

 

 

Left near the end of the tree line and I’m back where I started and ready for coffee or breakfast at The Lion.

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Back at The Lion

 

 

A brilliant way to spend the morning!!

Try it some time!!!

Cheers

Baz

Burnside’s Hidden Creek

6 May

Dear Reader: 

The wattle bird seems to be totally absorbed and indifferent to my presence as it feeds on the tiny white lerps that dot the leaves of a creek-side eucalyptus tree. Usually these large members of the honeyeater group are quite nervous and hard to approach. This one, however, is determined to provide me with a ringside display of its acrobatic ability as it hangs upside down and hops from branch to flimsy branch in pursuit of its lunch. The tiny white lerps look like an arborial version of measles. In fact they are the early stage of a parasitic bug called a psyllid, an introduced insect pest that sucks the ‘juice’ from the trees.

A wattle bird pecks tiny insects from the leaves of a blue gum near the river bank

A wattle bird pecks tiny insects from the leaves of a blue gum near the river bank.

 

I am walking along the banks of second creek in the Michael Perry Botanical Reserve. This charming little park is easily accessed from a small lane called Andrew’s Walk at the southern end of Hallet Road, in the hills face suburb of Burnside. The shady banks, trickling stream and little ponds have a European flavour to them affording a cool retreat in the drier summer months. Before setting off on my short walk to investigate the creek’s wildlife I made a couple of crucial stops to provision my pack for a bite to eat on the river bank. At the nearby Stoneyfell Winery I found a fine bottle of white while ‘Taylor Blend’, a fashionable little eastern suburbs coffee shop on Hallett Road, provided a wide selection of gourmet paninis and local beesting cake. When one has to sit by a river bank for an hour or so to wait for the wildlife it might as well be done in style.

The brook cascades over a small ford made from slate and sandstone rocks

The brook cascades over a small ford made from slate and sandstone rocks

 

Leaving the wattle birds to finish their meal I work my way along the creek, pausing frequently to try and catch sight of the small birds that I can hear chirping and rustling deep in the cover of the reed beds. Without warning a grey faced heron explodes from the tangle of branches a couple of metres in front of me. The birds wheels in flight and settles on a branch high in a nearby pine tree where it can keep a sharp eye on its human intruder. As I point the camera at the perching water bird I catch site of a pair of Kookaburras in a huge eucalypt further up the opposite embankment. Two predatory birds; now it’s time to take a look for the prey animals that sustain them.

A white faced heron watches the creek from its vantage point in a pine tree

A white faced heron watches the creek from its vantage point in a pine tree

 

The first interesting small animal that I notice is a water skink which is sunning itself on a log. Being mid autumn I am surprised to see a reptile as most would now be ‘dug in’ for the winter months ahead. As I sit quietly and prepare to watch the lizard, a green eyed dragonfly lands on a boulder in the middle of the creek. And, where the water has formed a small clear pool I can see tiny fish or tadpoles swimming close the reeds and water striders skating across the surface: like my lunch, a gourmet larder for a range of feathered predators.

A water skink basking on a log amongst the reeds

A water skink basking on a log amongst the reeds

A dragonfly pauses for a moment on a warm rock in the creek

A dragonfly pauses for a moment on a warm rock in the creek

 

A fence marks the end of the reserve and I cross the creek to return on the northern bank. The tiny reed birds still elude me but in a shady stretch of water a single black duck is swimming against the current as it dabbles for food. A common enough species in southern Australia but the light is particularly good and on reviewing the shot it seems to encapsulate the mood of this lovely little waterway.

Black duck are common along the waterway

Black duck are common along the waterway

 

Until the next time

Baz

A Sunday Walk…….Hackney Street Bridge

1 Mar

Dear reader

South Australia’s wild expanses are vast and the wildlife fascinating  in these remote areas but the cities and towns have their own natural features and often the wildlife is equally prolific and interesting in these urban spaces.

The River Torrens flows from the Adelaide hills through the city and on to the coast. It is an effective wildlife corridor supporting a wide range of animals and plants. The government of South Australia, along with local councils and interested wildlife groups, have crafted the aptly named ‘Linear Park’ along the urban sector of the waterway. It is defined by a narrow strip of bushland that runs along the river from the hills suburb of Athelstone to its outlet at Henley Beach. Walking or cycling along sections of this trail is a great way to experience the wildlife of the region. In some areas there are also interpretive references and information about the Kaurna People; the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the Adelaide plains.

Bubble fountains installed in the river help reduce algal blooms in the hot summer months

Bubble fountains installed in the river help reduce algal blooms in the hot summer months

The section of park that runs between the two bridges spanning Hackney and Frome roads is one of my favourite haunts. Although it is on the very fringe of the city centre there is a surprising amount of wildlife for the careful observer to enjoy. My last walk along this section of the river was an early morning jaunt on a Sunday. I shared the path with a few cyclists and joggers all blissfully unaware of the interesting creatures that they were passing.

Cyclist crossing linear park behind the Zoo

Cyclist crossing linear park behind the Zoo

Several stands of large eucalypts overhang this part of the river providing perfect roosting sires for great cormorants. This particular morning several of the birds were puffing out their neck feathers and jockeying for position on some bare branches trying to catch the first rays of the sun filtering through the canopy. As I walked along the bank they started to stretch their wings and glide down to the water to begin the morning’s hunt for fish, frogs and occasional water kkink.

Great Cormorants roosting in trees overhanging the Torrens Lake

Great cormorants roosting in trees overhanging the Torrens Lake

And there were quite a few nervous skinks for the cormorants to set their sights on. Amongst the tall papyrus reeds that grow along much of the bank, I could hear the rustle of the little reptiles as they scurried into the dense matt of stalks and grasses. Eventually one of the lizards decided that freezing was a better escape strategy and I was able to capture an image before it too, disappeared into the reeds. The area seemed to have quite a large population of lizards so I adopted a sit and wait policy. A few minutes later my patience was rewarded when I noticed two cormorants fishing close to the reeds.  After several failed attempts one of the birds emerged with either a slender fish or a lizard firmly clamped in its hooked beak which it then dispatched with a quick gulp.

A water skink freezes in the undergrowth near the river bank

A water skink freezes in the undergrowth near the river bank

 

The first half an hour of my walk had taken me along the western bank up to the Frome Road Bridge. From there I crossed the river and walked back along the opposite side. Small groups of Pacific and maned ducks were feeding close to the bank and a small Australian grebe was having an energetic wash in a sheltered pool.  But it was a colourful dragonfly that really caught my attention as it flitted over the water eventually settling on the branch of a gum tree. One brief moment for a photo op and it was gone.

Dragonfly on eucalyptus branch

Dragonfly on eucalyptus branch

My final wildlife encounter was with a couple of mudlarks that had built a cup shaped mud nest in one of the taller eucalypts that grew out from the bank. One of these territorial little birds was aggressively defending its territory against a large raven that had landed too close to their nesting site. The other bird was perched on a branch peering into the bushes near the water in search of prey.

A Mudlark perches on a branch watching for insects

A mudlark perches on a branch watching for insects

 

Insects, reptiles, birds and a good walk; not a bad way to spend the morning- just one final touch, breakfast in one of Adelaide’s parkland bistros a few minute’s drive from the river.

Cheers

Baz

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