Tag Archives: Eastern water Skink

Scott Creek Wildlife and History

27 Oct

Dear Reader:

The old cottage has stood sentinel by the Scott Creek Road from the late 1830s. Despite some graffiti, scourge of a modern era, it bears witness to bygone days of hardship and toil. Today a pair of magpies is foraging amongst the overgrown garden and swallows are nesting in the stonework.

Old cottage with lilies in foreground

 The Scott Creek Conservation Park is just 30 kms from Adelaide: a lovely drive along winding hills roads surrounded by scrub and rural properties. It is a haven for a vast number of animals including grey kangaroos, koalas, numerous reptiles and around 150 bird species and that is without considering the insects and spiders. More than enough to delight any photographer. Add an old mine site to this biological diversity and you have the perfect place for a day’s outing exploring some classic South Aussie bushland with a little history thrown in.

Walking trail and bushland

The creek passes under an old bridge. It is overgrown with reeds and bushes with just a trickle of water visible from the banks. Superb blue wrens are darting around in the undergrowth, the males in bright mating plumage are displaying to the duller coloured females. I walk along a fallen tree that spans the creek to get a better vantage point. From my perch I spot an eastern water skink basking on a long dead branch. The little reptile is waiting to pounce on insects, spiders and even smaller lizards.

Eastern water skink

A gravel and dirt path leads up to an old copper and silver mining site. Interpretive signs make for interesting reading about our state’s early mining history and an old abandoned plough adds a certain agricultural touch to the walk.

Old machinery

Numerous parrot species are common throughout the park and a pair of rainbow lorikeets watches me as I walk beneath the massive red gum they are using as a perch. High above I notice the unmistakable slow wing beat of yellow tailed black cockatoos. And the characteristic chiming call of Adelaide rosellas accompanies me while I stroll around the mine site looking for lizards and insects that might use the ruins as a home.

Rainbow lorikeets

 Before climbing into the car for the drive home I take one last look into the higher branches of the trees surrounding the creek. I am rewarded by solitary koala watching me intently from a fork in the trunk. A nice farewell from this lovely patch of South Australian bushland.

Koala climbing

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

 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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Naturally Bonython Park

1 Nov

Naturally Bonython Park

Dear Reader

There are two rainbow lorikeets perched halfway up a red gum. They are exploring a potential nesting hole. First one bird pokes its head in then the other. Their house hunting is accompanied by much squawking, head bobbing and an occasional nip at each other. Just when they seem to have decided that this is the right site, a magpie lands on the branch just above them and both parrots take flight.

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Rainbow lorikeets at nesting hole

 

I am in Bonython Park by the Torrens River; downstream from the weir and opposite the Coca Cola factory on Port Road. Below me cycle and walking trails surround the waterway and a small causeway and larger train bridge cut across the river. The park abuts the holding paddocks for the police greys by the old jail and includes wide expanses of green space, a shallow paddling lake, kiosk and children’s playgrounds.

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Bonython Park Kiosk

 

 

From the recreational area I walk down to the pathway then head back upstream towards the train-bridge and city. The river bank is cloaked in tall reed beds and I can hear numerous small birds moving and calling in the jungle of stalks and leaves. There are several grassy areas that are free from the reeds and they provide opportune places to sit and observe the river’s wildlife.

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Purple swamp hen

 

Coots, moorhens and purple swamp hens are common along this stretch of water. The coots and moorhens tend to be in the water paddling close to the cover of the reeds. The swamp hens are more often seen in amongst the tangle of plants by the bank where they use their elongated feet to walk gingerly on the fallen reeds that form a mat on the water’s surface.

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Downstream view from railway bridge

 

The view from the bridge to the ford provides a good oversight of the river and eucalyptus trees that line the banks. However, the bridge is also a perfect shelter for a number of different animals. Over the years I have watched water rats foraging here and even a fox that was taking shelter during a rain storm. Today it is an eastern water skink that makes an appearance as it forages amongst the old wooden foundations of a pathway that runs under the bridge.

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Eastern water skink

 

Downstream from the bridge there are several islets made from debris that has floated down the river during recent floods. Several pelicans have claimed this territory as a resting place and are squabbling over squatters’ rights. They duel with their beaks, neither giving way, while disturbing a group of black cormorants that are using the same area.

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Pelican agro

 

I am almost back to where I started when I find one last target for my camera. Two swallows are perching on a papyrus stem where they are making forays over the water to hawk insects. Swallows are not the easiest birds to photograph as they are incessantly on the move but this pair has cooperated even though they are still at the extreme range of my equipment.

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Resting swallows

 

Cheers and enjoy the spring

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.

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

Waterfall Gully’s Aquatic Skinks

27 Apr

In the driest state on the driest continent water is, as you can imagine, the most precious of commodities. To be entirely honest, Adelaide has a wonderful climate but in summer we can go for many weeks without a drop of rain. During this time the few spring fed creeks that flow down from hills become a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife.  

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Waterfall above the creek

Frogs, native fish, fresh water crustaceans, aquatic lizards and certain bird species all need this permanent source of water. The spectacular little falls that have carved out Waterfall Gully on the city’s eastern fringe feeds one of the few environments where water dependent wildlife can survive the harsh summer months. At the foot of the falls; a restaurant, walking trails, and car parking sit adjacent to the creek making it a wonderful place for hikers, casual visitors and naturalists alike. 

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A spotted marsh frog amongst the reeds

 After a particularly dry start to autumn I decided to drive out to Waterfall Gully to assess how the wildlife was coping with the conditions. A friend told me that he used to see quite lot of water skinks in the area years ago. I had only caught the occasional glimpse of the little lizards while cycling around the Torrens Lake in the city or on the banks of the Murray. This seemed like the perfect time to try to get some better images of these fascinating little reptiles. 

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The creek provides a secure environment for many creatures including snakes, lizards, frogs and fish

Water skinks, actually the eastern water skink (Eulamprus quoyii) grows to around 30cms in length. They hunt for small invertebrates in and around permanent water. These lizards are territorial and males and females look alike. Up to 9 well developed young are born in the summer. They are common prey for Kookaburras, snakes and feral cats. Like most skinks, eastern water skinks can drop their tail when grabbed as an escape strategy and often have shortened or partly re-grown tails.

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Eastern water skink basking on a rock in the late afternoon

 On my first trip I drove up the narrow road to Waterfall Gully and parked the car close to the creek below the falls. Within a few minutes I had spotted my first lizard. It was sitting on a flat rock in the middle of the creek and had a substantial part of its tail missing. Around one in ten of the skinks that I saw that afternoon were missing parts of their tails.

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This little lizard got away but not without losing part of its tail

 As I walked towards the waterfall I noticed that the skinks were quite abundant throughout the creek and its banks. Some were tucked into the undergrowth while others were foraging amongst leaves and twigs that had accumulated between the rocks in the creek bed. I did not see any swimming though a few were partially immersed in water, apparently waiting for prey.

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An eastern water skink foraging in the creek bed

 I returned to Waterfall Gully several times over the next few weeks to watch the water skinks and try to capture some better images. On my last excursion I sat quietly by a section of creek for over half an hour watching the lizards, small birds and insects that lived there. The wildlife had survived the ‘big dry’ quite well it seemed.

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Perhaps I’ll focus on the insects next time

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