Tag Archives: Emu

Para Wirra Wildlife

2 Mar

Para Wirra Wildlife

Dear Reader:

There is a small group of lorikeets high in one of the taller eucalypts that overhangs the track. Several birds fly down to the ground and start to forage amongst the bushes and groundcovers. A closer look shows them to be Adelaide Rosellas, a sub group of the crimson rosella. One bird in particular struts across the ground towards me and despite the low light conditions I manage to fire off a frame.

1-para

Adelaide rosella

2-para

Strutting his stuff

 

I am walking along one of the many trails that cuts through Para Wirra National Park near Gawler about an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The park has a wonderful array of wildlife as well as excellent shelter and barbecue facilities situated in several convenient  locations including a small lake close to the park entrance.

para-5

Trio of emus

Leaving the parrots to their own devices I continue along the trail towards the ‘Devils Nose’ a prominent lookout a few kilometres ahead. There is an abundance of leaf litter on the ground and every so often I can hear the rustle of small skinks amongst the bark and twigs. Suddenly a crashing of branches and leaves permeates the air as three emus emerge from the scrub and head up the nearby hillside.

3-para

Crescent honeyeater

 

I come to a sign-posted junction of trails and decide that today is about slow and stealthy not a long walk. Heading back towards the car by retracing my route I take a little more time to wait and watch where I think there might be wildlife. Near a thick patch of scrub I am well rewarded when a beautiful crescent honeyeater lands amongst some branches just a few metres from me.

4-para

Striated pardalote

 

Back at the lay-by where I have parked the 4WD I take out some well earned lunch bought from one of Gawler’s many superb little bakeries, pop the cork on a bottle of cider and sit on a conveniently placed wooden bench beneath a spreading eucalypt. Not two bites in and I hear an unfamiliar bird call and glance up into the tree to identify the ‘perp’. And there sits a lovely striated pardalote, with half its body tucked into a nesting hole…….what a way to end my walk!!!

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Advertisements

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

3 Aug

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

Dear Reader:

It is a cool, overcast afternoon; not ideal for wildlife watching or photography. Nevertheless, I have organised a weekend trip north to Port Augusta to investigate the Arid Zone Botanic Gardens during the winter months. As an added bonus, I hope to explore a shallow mangrove creek some 20kms south of the town that a friend has suggested as an interesting wildlife stop off en route.

1 wedge tail 2

Wedge – tailed eagles are Australia’s largest raptors with a wingspan over 2 metres

1 wedge tail 1. Australia's largest raptor with a wingspan over 2 meters

Wedge-tailed eagle about to fly

1 wedgy takes flight

In flight

 

 

As I approach the Chinaman’s creek junction I notice a pair of wedge-tailed eagles in the skeletal branches of a mallee tree. The birds seem quite relaxed as they survey the low scrub that stretches towards the coast. I let the car roll to a stop and gingerly climb out careful not to let the door bang shut. There is good cover between the birds and myself and I fire off a couple of shots before one bird senses the movement and takes to the air.

2 Galahs iin bush near wheat fields

Galahs in bush near wheat fields

2 Cockatoo near the park's entrance

Cockatoo near the park’s entrance

 

The stretch of unsealed road that stretches towards the coast is flanked on both sides by scrubby farmland that supports sheep and some wheat fields. Small groups of rose breasted cockatoos are perching in the branches alongside the road. They occasionally take flight into the fields to dig out tubers and possibly ravage a few of the crops; lovely birds to watch but not always popular with farmers.

4 Dirt trackinto the coservation park about 5 kms from the highway

Dirt track into the conservation park about 5 Kms from the highway

4 Visitors to the park

Visitors to the park

 

Where the cleared land gives way to forest and denser scrub, a fence and sign announces the Winninowie conservation Park which incorporates Chinaman’s Creek. Despite the remoteness of the area we meet a couple of 4X4s complete with camping trailers and stop to chat with the drivers for a few moments. They have been camping by the creek for a few days and had some success fishing the mangrove flats on the receding tide for whiting and mullet.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

9 Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

 

A few minutes later we pull into the camping area. There is a scattering of permanent shacks and a small jetty that is completely exposed at low tide. I change from shoes to gum boots, from experience I know that this mud sticks like glue, and start to walk along the edge of the little creek. I can hear singing honeyeaters in the mangroves and catch flashes of colour from other unidentifiable species that flit amongst the thick foliage. But the birds are some distance away and the overcast conditions make photography all but impossible.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

 

 

I notice thousands of small burrows honeycombing the edge of the intertidal zone. Each is home to a small shore or mangrove crab. In the creek I can see roving schools of silver baitfish eagerly eyed by a pair of herons that are stalking the fringe of the mangroves.

4 As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

 

Our time at the creek is limited. The clouds are thickening and a few fat raindrops have bounced off my camera lens. As we leave the park has a few more wildlife surprises that make me grit my teeth over the poor lighting conditions. A gorgeous sacred kingfisher perches on a long-dead coastal acacia bush and a group of grazing emus wanders across the saltbush dominated plain. Later, when examining this image in detail I discover that there is another participant in the scene; a grey kangaroo that was feeding close to them.

5 The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

 

It has been an interesting first look at this coastal environment with its varied habitats and I look forward to further visits in the warmer, lighter months ahead.

 

Until next time

Cheers

Baz

Whyalla to Point Lowly…a top coastal drive

16 May

Dear Reader:

The road from Whyalla to the Point Lowly intersection has dense mallee scrub on both sides. Kangaroos are not uncommon but hard to spot amongst the grey, green foliage. Sometimes a kite or eagle can be seen gliding on a thermal, scouring the scrub for prey.

Low Scrub Whyalla

Classic scrub with acacia in bloom

 

 

 

As I turn right and head towards the coast the landscape changes. The trees and bushes give way to stretches of saltbush and dried out shallow salt pans. Not much can survive in this country but I have seen emus foraging along these coastal badlands. I am not disappointed; catching sight of a fully grown male with his adolescent chicks just a few hundred metres from the fence-line.

1

Adult emu with a half grown chick in saltbush

 

 

The road turns quite sharply heading back down the peninsula. The salt bush landscape reverts back to low coastal scrub. This ecosystem is characterised by acacias and smaller eucalypts where various parrots, wrens and honeyeaters are feeding along the edge of the road. A sandy track leads down to the beach where a small group of shacks nestle into the scrub, all with a wonderful view back across the shallow gulf to Whyalla.

2

Red track, green scrub and blue coast

 

3

Whyalla across the bay

 

 

After my beach side detour I drive back onto the main road and continue on to my destination. Point Lowly and the associated LPG gas complex of Point Bonython are part of the 12 kilometre Freycinet trail that winds around Fitzgerald Bay. The trail which is ideal for cycling, walking or driving, features interpretive signs that explain Aboriginal and European history as well geological and biological features.

6

Point Lowly lighthouse

 

9

Gulls and cormorants

 

 

However, my trip today is simply exploratory and I will leave the trail for another time. Just a wander around the lighthouse, shoreline and nearby scrub will suffice. And the local sights more than live up to expectations. A mixed group of gulls and cormorants is roosting on a rocky outcrop while a pacific gulls glides above the inshore rockpools. Near the lighthouse a glorious little wood swallow perches on the guttering of a local shack expectantly watching a family BBQ.

8

Pacific gull hunting

 

12

Wood swallow on guttering

 

 

My appetite whetted for the next visit I turn the car and head back.

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz

Robe…..raptors, reptiles and rough roads

7 Feb

Dear Reader:

To be entirely honest, the track hadn’t looked too difficult. My tyres were suitably deflated and the little Suzuki had a punchy V6 motor. What the hell! I backed up onto the hard packed dirt road, gunned the motor and headed up the sand dune towards the beach, scaring the daylights out of a pair of emus that had been feeding in the coastal scrub.

A pair of emus feeding in the coastal scrub

A pair of emus feeding in the coastal scrub

 

 

Marker posts driven into the sand had indicated the route was suitable for 4WD but I lost a little traction on the climb and one wheel slipped off the trail. The car slid, the sand pushed up hard underneath and there I was, stuck. Over the next half an hour I tried every way I could think of to get free from the sand trap; brush under the wheels, digging out some of the sand wedged under the chassis and swearing in several languages; all to no avail. I wasn’t going anywhere.

The edge of a coastal dune

The edge of a coastal dune

 

 

Feeling rather stupid and just a tad worried, it was 40C and though I had a water bottle and my mobile phone, it was a good hour’s walk back to the main road. Furthermore, I couldn’t remember seeing any signs of habitation when I had driven from Robe into the Little Dip Conservation Park earlier in the day. But my choices were somewhat limited and so, with my camera slung over my shoulder, I started off to get some help.

Numerous frehwater lakes in the the conservaion park provide a haven for wildlife

Numerous frehwater lakes in the the conservaion park provide a haven for wildlife

 

 

Within half an hour of trudging along the sandy trail I realised this was going to be a hard walk. Every 30 minutes I found a little shade took a sip out of the bottle and rested for 5. Eventually I reached the junction of the trail and the main road back to town. Sitting quietly in the shade of a park information sign, I sipped on my water bottle and waited for a few minutes in the hope that another vehicle might be heading my way. No such luck, but a rather feisty bearded dragon did saunter across the road and give me a long hard stare before disappearing into the scrub.

Bearded dragons tend to freeze when threatened relying on their camouflage to avoid predators

Bearded dragons tend to freeze when threatened relying on their camouflage to avoid predators

 

 

Suitably unrefreshed and distinctly grumpy, I started along the road back to Robe. Earlier in the day and in stark contrast to my present predicament, I had been enjoying a civilised meal of local crayfish and salad in a boutique restaurant. After a couple of kilometres I noticed a swamp harrier that had settled on a fence line after scanning the fields for prey. The fence ended  in a cattle grid  near a long driveway that led to a farmhouse that I had not seen earlier. It was one of those typically Australian country homes, old sandstone with return verandahs that spoke of generations of farmers that worked this rugged landscape.

A swamp harrier rests on a fence post

A swamp harrier rests on a fence post

 

 

It turned out that I was in luck. The farmer, who was tired of rescuing inexperienced off roaders, kindly offered me a drink and some sandwiches. When I told him I was in the park photographing wildlife for a children’s book on reptiles he shared some of the interesting encounters with native animals he had experienced recently. Ten minutes turned into a couple of hours and because of our mutual interest in natural history, he offered to use the farm truck to haul me off the dune.

The kindness of strangers

The kindness of strangers

 

As we approached my SUV I noticed the curved imprint of a large snake that had taken shelter under the front of the vehicle. Now that would have made a good shot!!

A brown snake flicks out its forked tongue to pick up chemical signals given off by prey.

A brown snake flicks out its forked tongue to pick up chemical signals given off by prey.

 

 

With the car back on track we sat in the scrub and had a cold drink before I headed back for a shower and a good night’s rest. Offering to pay for my rescue did not seem appropriate. Instead, I promised to send him some copies of the wildlife books I had recently written for his grandchildren and to stop in for coffee the next time I headed down to Robe and the limestone coast.

Many of Robe's restaurants, galleries and B&Bs are based in classic old buildings

Many of Robe’s restaurants, galleries and B&Bs are housed in classic old buildings

 

 

Until our next excursion

BAZ

PS

I think the raptor is a swamp harrier; any help on this identification would be appreciated

B

Arkaroola’s Emus

19 Apr

Dear reader 

This last week has been quite exciting. Old friends visited from Texas and, as is our custom, we headed to one of the most remote areas of the state to indulge our passion for wildlife and wild places. My choice was Arkaroola a place that I had visited many years ago on an indigenous cultures study tour and an environment I was eager to experience again.  

Arkaroola is a world heritage listed site in the northern Flinders Ranges 600kms north of Adelaide. It is a landscape of harsh granite peaks and deep, enchanting gorges; a favourite haunt for off road drivers, bush walkers and naturalists. Despite its isolation, facilities at the visitor centre are first class providing accommodation, a restaurant, supplies and fuel.

C Dry creek bed near Arkaroola with Sturt Desert Pea in the foreground

Dry creek bed near Arkaroola with Sturt Desert Pea in the foreground

The road from Wilpena in the southern part of the ranges to Arkaroola is largely unsealed and traverses an iconic selection of Australian arid zone bushland ranging from wide brown plains and grassland to forested scrub. The road is traversed by numerous ephemeral creeks some of which wind back into interesting rocky gorges. Each time I have driven this route the wildlife that I have encountered has been different; flocks of parrots and red kangaroos one year, sightings of a variety of lizards and raptors another. However, it was my last drive north that was most memorable.

B Driving to Arkaroola

Driving to Arkaroola

The first section of the road from the classical little outback town of Blinman with its pub, art gallery and general store, was largely uneventful. A few wedge tailed eagles soared on thermals in the distance and a couple of small flocks of corellas and galahs screeched at us as they took flight from larger eucalypts in the dry creek beds. The only kangaroos were road kill victims.

A Blinman    the last outpost before a long bush drive

Blinman the last outpost before a long bush drive

Around 50 kms north of the town we drove a little way up one of the creek beds clattering over the flat rock and sand in 4WD then parked in the shade of some taller gum trees for a bite to eat. Almost immediately, a male Eeu guiding his procession of chicks, emerged from behind some bushes where they had been feeding. As we approached he sauntered off up the creek with feathery rump swaying and his little family ‘in tow’.

EA Male emu with brood of young stripy chicks

Male emu with brood of young stripy chicks

Emus are the world’s third largest bird after the African ostrich and Australasian cassowary; they grow to a height of 2 metres and can weigh almost 40 kgs. Emus run at speeds over 60 kph. This bird had to be a male as only males incubate the eggs and care for the young.

A Emu bad hair day

Emu bad hair day

This was the first of many encounters over the next few days. Perhaps the most unforgettable was just a few kilometres outside of Arkaroola. We were rounding a sharp bend in the road when a pair of emus suddenly appeared on the road hurtling towards us. The pair seemed oblivious to our presence and wholly engrossed in some kind of emu ‘high jinks’. They pushed and shoved at each other while still running, one falling sideways, rolling over then leaping into the air to continue the game. We skidded to a halt and watched them cavort privileged to see such a candid display of exuberant animal behaviour. After a minute or so they settled down and wandered up a rocky together slope feeding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The boys are back in town

Our final emu encounter occurred near one of the few permanent waterholes in the region. Two large birds suddenly appeared from the scrub and ran alongside the vehicle for a couple of hundred metres then abruptly cut across us and headed for a stand of tall eucalypts. We pulled over and walked slowly down to the trees and watched them join up with another group and start drinking. In the soft evening light, the scene was really quite unforgettable and the Emus though aware of our presence, did not seem uncomfortable allowing us to capture some memorable images.

D Group of Emus at waterhole in the evening

Group of emus at waterhole in the evening

Cheers

Baz

%d bloggers like this: