Tag Archives: Flinders ranges

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

1 Aug

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

Dear Reader:

 The grey butcherbird is perched on a dead branch on the edge of the mangrove swamp. The powerful bird will use this position to dive on prey in the undergrowth snatching up insects, small reptiles and the nestlings of other birds. Large prey will be jammed in the fork of a branch then eaten; which provides a hint as to how butcher birds acquired their name.

 

Grey butcherbird

 

It is sunset and the light is glorious as it defines the mangrove channels against the pale sand. I am on the northern side of Port Germein where a substantial stand of mangroves merges with the shallow beach. Small schools of fish are heading along these waterways towards the ocean as the tide recedes and an odd crab scuttles across the channel.

 

Lovely light

 

 

As I climb back into the 4WD I can hear the calls of several different kinds of honeyeaters in the nearby scrub. With the windows open I drive slowly along the rutted trail until one of the little birds appears in the upper branches of the bushes. Several frames later I have captured a passable image of a spiny cheeked honeyeater calling to its mate. Often shooting from the vehicle is easier as the wildlife seems more accepting of its presence than that of a large two legged creature stalking through the bush.

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater singing

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater in scrub

The next morning I walk in the opposite direction to explore a channel that runs parallel to the shore on the southern perimeter of the township with a spectacular view of the Flinders ranges in the background. There are mangroves and samphire right to the edge of the creek which ends in a dilapidated road bridge that once serviced a crossing into town. A white faced heron is sitting on the weathered planks eyeing the water below for small fish while swallows are nesting under the main span.

 

Look for the heron

 

Mangrove channel and Flinders Ranges

 

 

As I make my way alongside the waterway I notice silken sheet like webs, carpeting the ground between many of the bushes. Some are still glistening from the morning dew. They are used by lattice webbed spiders as a kind of horizontal trap that acts like a sticky labyrinth.

 

Lattice spider web and early morning dew

 

With my mangrove walk completed, I head back into town for a bite at the local cafe. But Port Germein has on last wildlife moment to offer in the form of a wattlebird feeding on some late blooming eucalyptus flowers near the caravan park.

 

Wattlebird feeding on eucalyptus blossom

 

Cheers
BAZ

Footnote

4WD is useful in this area and the walking on the southern edge of town is quite strenuous. The northern reach of mangroves would be suitable for a family or seniors’ excursion.

Port Germein ….A Long Walk Out to Sea…Field Notes

8 Mar

General description of location

Port Germein is a  small country town just north of Port Pirie which is  a major regional centre about 2½ hours from Adelaide

Lies near the top of Spencer Gulf and is in the shadow of the Southern Flinders Ranges.

Town has a pub with excellent food, a general store and campground

Small local population of around 250

A long jetty, once used to load grain clippers, it extends from the shore to over a mile out to sea and most of the beach is exposed at low tide

Good fishing, crabbing and general coastal wildlife walks

6 jetty and ranges red

View back to the ranges from the end of the jetty

Notes

Season:

Late summer

Weather:

Mild morning temperature around 18 ºC at 0900.

Forecast temperature 35°C later in the day

No wind and clear skies

5 blue bee red

Blue bee on coastal heath

While walking from the house where I am staying to the jetty I spot some blue bees, an Australian native species, feeding on a coastal bushes with small blue flowers

They tend to feed on blue and white blossoms

Note to self

Identify some of the coastal vegetation before next PT Germein post

3 blue swimmer crab red

Blue Swimmer crab in net

I stroll along the jetty and notice a variety of small wading birds feeding on the sand/mud flats, some are searching out small pools of residual water

A young couple near the end of the jetty are crabbing and they have caught half a dozen Blue Swimmer Crabs which are common at this time of year

A group of Pied Cormorants and Common Terns are perching on some battered poles which remind us that the jetty was once longer

A family have used a tractor to tow out a small boat and launch it as the tide comes in

The view from the end of the jetty of the foreshore and Ranges is spectacular.

 

12end  of jetty red

Terns and Cormorants at the end of the jetty

I return to the shore and walk along coastal path that weaves between low bushes and stretches of beach

There are honeyeaters and finches in the bushes and a Ring Necked Parrot preens itself on a branch

Near a rocky outcrop close to a garden I come across a Bearded Dragon sunning itself

There are also quite a few White Plumed Honey Eaters feeding on blossoms in Eucalypt trees that grow in gardens near the coastal walk

After sipping nectar some are hawking for insects.

5 white plumed honeyeater red

White Plumed Honeyeater feeding in eucalyptus tree near the foreshore

A ten minute walk from the end of town, the coastal scrub and samphire give way to stands of mangrove and a whole new coastal ecology emerges

A White Faced Herons stalk small fish and crustacean in the shallow channels and a White Browed babbler fluffs up its feathers in one of the mangrove trees

These mangroves are part of a south Australian system that marks the southernmost extent of mangrove communities in the world

Small fish can be seen schooling in some of the deeper channels

This is a nursery area for many commercial species.

8 mangrove pool red

Mangrove pool

15

White Faced Heron hunting in the mangroves

I head back to town for a schnitzel and a beer at the local pub and the promise of a drive to Telowie or Port Germein Gorge in the afternoon to look for rock wallabies and eagles.

Cheers

Baz

Moralana Trail-Outback Wildlife With A Little History Thrown In

2 Nov

Dear Reader:

The sky is endless blue, interrupted by just a few cotton-wool clouds. High above the ranges I can see the outline of a wedge tail eagle spiralling on a thermal as it searches for prey. Once these majestic raptors were a common sight throughout the Flinders but with the decimation of the rabbit population their numbers have dropped. Today they hunt for more indigenous prey; wallabies, lizards and road kill from the many tracks that meander through the ranges. As I carefully steer the vehicle around another corrugated, gravelly bend, I catch site of a kangaroo standing motionless in the long grass. Easing to a stop, I wind down the window and take a closer look through a telephoto lens. The powerful, compact body and rusty brown tinge to its fur immediately mark it as a euro or hill kangaroo; a species that lives amongst the rocky outcrops rather than on the plains.

a Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

 

I am driving the Moralana trail, a 30 km dirt track that cuts across the Flinders Ranges, 40 kms south of the iconic bush resort of Wilpena Pound. The track is flanked by the jagged peaks of the pound on one side and the Elder Ranges on the other.  It is an easy drive compared to the trails that follow the gorges further north yet there is a proliferation of wildlife ranging from flocks of cockatoos to echidnas and several species of kangaroos.

b Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

 

We leave the euro feeding on some low bushes and continue our drive. A few kilometres further on, half hidden amongst a stand of pale barked eucalypts, I notice a rough cut log corral by the roadside. Closer examination reveals a plaque explaining that the structure is a restored ‘cueing’ or shoeing station. In the 1870s it serviced the bullock trains that hauled native pine logs which were then cut for the construction of the overland telegraph. The corral is just one of the many historic sites that remind us of the hardy pioneers who lived and worked in the Flinders during the state’s early years. After a long day’s driving, the cueing station seems a perfect place to stop for a late lunch and enjoy home baked meat pies and sausage rolls, purchased earlier in the day at a country bakery on the drive from Adelaide.

c Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

 

The afternoon sun is dropping low in the sky and it is unwise to drive these tracks in the evening as the roos become more active and 50 kgs of kangaroo smashing into a vehicle does neither animal nor car much good. I ease my foot down on the accelerator, the dust billows behind us and we continue our journey along the track. We catch sight of more kangaroos in the distance; they are probably western greys or reds. Suddenly, a pair of emus emerge from thick scrub alongside the road and for a few minutes the huge birds keep pace with the car before heading back into the bush. According to the map we are only a few kilometres from the junction with the Wilpena road when we slow for a broad, dry watercourse that cuts across the road. I turn the car into the creek and engage 4WD. We bump and slide over the round pebbles and avoid the larger boulders as we drive a couple of hundred metres along the creek and venture out for a final forage in the bush. We are not disappointed. On the dried out bank, wedged into a tight crack between some flat rocks, we come across a sleepy lizard which, judging from the snail shells close to its refuge, has made this little niche its home base for some time.

d A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

 

The sun is low now, the light soft but Moralana has one more moment in store for us. Close to the junction with the bitumen road, a small herd of wild horses are grazing near the fence-line. Whether these are true brumbies (Australian wild horses) or stock that is herded periodically for riding, I am not sure… but whatever their origin the very presence of these elegant animals was the perfect parting gift.

e Wild horses grazing near a creekline

Wild horses grazing

 

From the Flinders

Regards

Baz

 

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

Brachina’s Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies

14 Jan

Dear Reader

Today I would like to take you on a brief trip through time n one of my state’s most spectacular environments.

Hundreds of millions of years ago sediments were deposited on an ancient seabed. Over the following millennia, the sediments were compressed to form layers of rocks. In turn, the rocks were uplifted and folded creating a formidable mountain range. Eventually, the relentless action of wind, heat and water wore down the mountains and carved deep gorges through them. The result of this timeless process is the Flinders Ranges, one of the world’s oldest geological formations. Rising from the semi desert landscape some 400 Kms NE of Adelaide; they are a pleasant day’s drive through the rolling hills and open plains of the mid north’s wine and wheat districts.

Flinders Ranges emerging from arid plains as seen from the Leigh Creek Road

I have visited the Flinders many times and the rugged beauty and abundance of wildlife throughout the area never fails to impress me. However, on my most recent excursion I had a specific location and target in mind. Brachina Gorge crosses the ranges from east to west cutting through the layers of rock and revealing a unique insight into our planet’s ancient history. The 30 kms of rutted dirt track is crossed by several creeks and the geological history is traced by a series of interpretive signs. But Brachina’s rock formations are more than a glimpse into the past; they are home to one of Australia’s most beautiful marsupials-the yellow footed rock wallaby.

Layers of sedimentary rock in Brachina Gorge

Small populations of yellow footed rock wallabies (Petrogale Xanthopus) are found in rugged areas of northern South Australia. Like all wallabies they use their long tails for balance rather than locomotion. Their fur is thick especially on the feet where it provides cushioning and grip in the precipitous terrain they prefer. Yellow footed rock wallabies grow to around 60 cms in height and weigh7-13 Kgs They feed on vegetation such as grasses and forbes and sometimes graze on trees and shrubs during hard times. They are mainly active during the late afternoon and early morning.

Yellow footed rock wallaby with joey in pouch

I entered the gorge from the Leigh Creek road on the western aspect of the ranges; and slipped my SUV into high range as there had been a little rain and the track was a little tricky. The flat terrain, where the creek flows out of the hills, quickly gave way to steep sloping rock walls and bush covered hillsides that characterise the Flinders’ gorges. After a few kilometres I stopped by a shallow pool of semi permanent water where a variety of grasses and low bushes were growing along the water’s edge. A jumble of rocks had fallen from the cliff face above creating some small caves and easy access to the shallow pools of water, the perfect environment for these agile little marsupials.

Classic yellow footed rock wallaby environment

For the best part of an hour I sat amongst the vegetation, camera in hand watching and listening. The light was beginning to fade a little and I my optimism was dwindling with it. Eventually I caught sight of a slight movement high above the rock-fall as a wallaby hopped from one boulder to the other-a long shot even with the 24X lens. I shifted my position to get a better angle and to my delight and embarrassment noticed a yellow foot feeding by the creek not 5 metres from where I was crouched. It must have been there for some time and seemed oblivious or indifferent to my presence.

Yellow footed rock wallaby feeding

For the next ten minutes I watched and waited as the wallaby nibbled on the grasses and bushes surrounding the creek. I squeezed off quite a few shots and was about to call it a day when a second animal hopped onto a flattish boulder and stared pointedly at me. As I moved slightly it froze and gave me ample opportunity to capture a few more images. Sadly, I was reminded why these exquisite little animals came so close to extinction. Early settlers hunted them for their pelts and found them easy prey as their first reaction to a threat is to freeze and ironically, rely on camouflage provided by their subtly shaded fur.

Yellow footed rock wallabies showing camouflage in afternoon light

By the time I had finished photographing the wallabies, the sun was low in the sky and driving along bush tracks at night is not the safest of activities as kangaroos, emus, cattle and sheep seem to be drawn to headlights. I packed up and headed on to Wilpena an hour’s drive to the west. A sophisticated tourist development in a natural amphitheatre of towering cliffs, it would provide the perfect base to hunt for yellow footed rock wallabies in some other locations.

The track through Brachina Gorge with Wilpena in background

Cheers

Baz

%d bloggers like this: