Tag Archives: galah

Winery Wildlife

2 May

Winery Wildlife

 Dear Reader:

The male superb blue wren is extremely active as he darts between the bushes foraging for insects and seeds in the undergrowth. The iridescent blue plumage is striking. Nearby, a duller, grey coloured female twitters excitedly as the male approaches. Yet her adoration is a somewhat of a scam as their so-called monogamy is far from the truth. The promiscuous wrens will get a little avian action behind their mates’ backs if the chance arises while maintaining an outward appearance of togetherness.

 

Superb blue wren

 

I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the manicured gardens that grace the Jacobs Creek Winery in the Barossa Valley. After a superb lunch of chilli marinated prawns accompanied by an award winning white wine I am about to wander down the nature trail that leads from the restaurant and wine centre along the creek and into some nearby bushland.

 

Wine centre

 

Balcony view

There are both magpies and cockatoos calling from the lower branches of some magnificent river gums with finches twittering in the thick bushes alongside the trail. But it is a diminutive, silent creature that catches my eye. A delicate jewel spider has spun a web in a wattle bush and the brilliant colours and intricate body patterns of the little arachnid are quite outstanding; even on this relatively cloudy day.

 

Jewel spider

 

 

 

Nature trail

 

Galah

 

Near the small bridge where the trail and creek intersect I notice a group of small birds in a tree some distance away. They look a little like wood swallows but the colour is not right. I am familiar with most of the birds that inhabit this region and do not often come across a species that I don’t quickly recognise. Therefore, I leave this small task to you ‘Dear Reader’. If someone can identify them for me I would be most grateful.

 

Unknown birds

 

Closer shot of unknown bird

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

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

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Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

3 Apr

Apex Park….. A noisy walk on an autumn evening

 Dear Reader:

I can hear the bird chirping deep in the reeds that surround the waterway. Pointing the long lens towards the sound I scan the thick tangle of bulrushes; nothing! Then I catch the slightest movement deeper in, closer to the water. Success, I squeeze the shutter release and smile inwardly. Reed warblers are hard to see at the best of times and this is only the second image I have captured. Reviewing it on the screen I notice that the bird has its beak open. ‘Yes’, my reed warbler is warbling.

 

Reed warbler

 

I am walking around a lovely little wetland called Apex Park, just off Sir Donald Bradman Drive near the airport. Having grabbed a bite to eat at the Ikea store, along with a few items for my studio, I have parked in alongside the little pond and am taking a slow walk around the tracks and boardwalks that surround it.

 

General view

 

Viewing platform

My next stop is a viewing platform close to a long dead tree that seems to be providing a good vantage point for a cormorant and several resting swallows. As I steady the camera a young willie wagtail lands on a skeletal branch and starts to sing. It seems to be a day for birdsong; nice theme for a series of images.

 

Willie wagtail

 

Geese

And the world of bird acoustics does not seem to be letting up. A pair of geese cruise across the water honking as they paddle and the musk lorikeets high in a eucalypt by the water’s edge are making ‘one hell of a racket’.

 

Galahs

 

When I get back to my starting point I sit alongside the pond and enjoy a moments silence, and it is a moment for right on cue a pair of galahs start to squabble over a nesting hole. 

Cheers

Baz

Additional information

This is quite a short walk with no steep gradients. There are toilets, a playground, benches and shelter in the vicinity.

Port Gawler

2 Jan

Port Gawler

Dear Reader:

The road from highway one to Port Gawler has a rural feel about it. There are crops and glasshouses, sheep and horses. At the same time the flowering gums punctuate the grassy verge attracting a range of parrots.

a

Curious horses

 

Several kilometres pass and I notice the terrain start to change. Pasture gives way to low coastal scrub and tidal channels appear alongside the road. The bird life changes too. Herons, ibises, sandpipers and plovers replace the woodland and urban species I have been observing.

b

Galah

 

Finally the scrub gives way to mangroves and the dense ticket of maritime trees stretch all the way to the nearby ocean. I can hear singing honeyeaters foraging in the foliage and a plethora of insects buzz between the tangled trunks and muddy substrate.

c

Great egret

 

The road is now unsealed and it ends at an old ruined wharf where weathered jetty poles protrude from the water. A little pied cormorant perches on one of them surveying its hunting zone while drying its wings in the sun.

c2

Mangrove forest and tidal creek

f

Mud life

 

I spend the next few minutes exploring the edge of the mangrove swamp watching for mangrove crabs and small molluscs that live around the strange root like protrusions that emerge from mud throughout the forest. They are called pneumatophores and help the trees breathe in the sticky anaerobic mud.

d

Old wharf remains

d2

Little pied cormoranr

 

The temperature starts to climb and I decide it’s time to head back home while a solitary nankeen kestrel hovers over this fascinating tidal wetland watching me drive back to the highway.

g

Nankeen kestrel

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is suitable for families and seniors. However there are no nearby public facilities.

It is also a conservation park with restrictions regarding pets, fires and other activities…check online.

Cobbler Creek…Love is in the Air

29 Jan

Cobbler Creek…Love is in the Air

Dear Reader:

The two noisy miner birds have been flying backwards and forwards through the box gums for the last ten minutes. Eventually the male sees his chance and lands on the branch next to the female. She chirps a half hearted protest or perhaps encouragement and he seizes the moment. Mating takes just a few seconds and they go back to their previous pattern of fly and follow.

1 1

Miner 1

 

1 2

Miner birds 2

 

I am watching the birds and their courtship antics in the Cobbler Creek Recreation Park; an area of open-woodland, near the end of Bridge Road in Salisbury East. Cobbler Creek stretches up into Tea Tree Gully where it can be easily accessed from Atlantis Avenue which joins the two branches of the Golden Way. Dropping in at the Tea Tree Gully shopping mall to collect some food then exploring the creek after picnicking on the grassed area, where Atlantis joins ‘The Way’ near Spring Hill, is a nice option.

2 mallee box gums

Salisbury East entrance

 

 

After spending a little more time watching the bird life at the western end of the creek I take a short drive up to Spring Hill in TTG. This part of the creek lies in a more urban setting where the waterway is dominated by huge red gums. There are numerous parrots in the trees and they too seem to be in a rather affectionate mood. For a while I focus on a pair of Rose Breasted Cockatoos (Galahs) which are quite intrigued by a tree hollow that has the makings of a future family home. Between real estate outings they preen themselves and each other as well as squawking and hopping between branches. Occasionally they hang upside down with wings flapping madly and crests erect.

4 off golden way past shopping centre

In Tea Tree Gully

5

Galahs

 

But the Galah couple do not have the neighbourhood to themselves. An equally amorous pair of corellas is occupying an adjacent tree and they too seem to have spied the potential nest site. Not to be outdone by their Galah cousins they engage in some serious necking and cooing.

3

Corellas

 

Yes, it seems that along Cobbler Creek; love is definitely in the air.

Cheers

Baz

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

Marion’s Warraparinga wetlands

24 Jan

Dear Reader:

There is a Kookaburra high in the red river gum near the entrance to the Warraparinga wetlands. It chortles out its laughing call alerting just about every wild creature in the area. However, the main purpose of its famous laugh is proclaiming to other kookaburras whose turf it is and how eligible one is for mating. As I sit and listen I cannot help but wonder what the original people who inhabited this land thought about these iconic Australian birds and the other animals that lived here.

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree

A kookaburra sits in the old gum tree (click to enlarge all images in this post)

 

For tens of thousands of years before European settlement the Kaurna people roamed the Adelaide plains and south coast. They used both forest and grasslands to hunt for kangaroos, possums and birds. The creeks and wetlands provided turtles, yabbies and fish. Reeds and other plants were a source of food, medicinal remedies and the raw materials for weaving and building.

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

A timeline describing aspects of Kaurna culture

 

 Although Aboriginal peoples used symbols, they never developed writing. Their laws, ideas, family histories and seasonal maps were passed from one generation to the next by a series of stories some of which are referred to as Dreaming Stories and often relate to spirit ancestors. One such story is that of Kulutuwi a young boy who is killed by his stepbrothers and carried to his resting place by his uncle Tjilbruke. It describes how the tears that Tjilbruke shed formed the little creeks along the Fleurieu Peninsula. Warraparinga, which comes from the Kaurna warri parri and means windy place by the river is on Sturt Creek near the start of the Tjilbruke trail in the suburb of Marion. It is a wetland complex and home to the Living Kuarna Cultural Centre which has interpretive displays, an art gallery, performing space and cafe.

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

The creek flowing freely after summer rain

 

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

An acrobatic white plumed honeyeater feeding on small insects

 

 Leaving the kookaburra to its vocal gymnastics, I walk through a sculpture garden and down to the creek which is flowing quite swiftly as it has rained heavily in the last week. The rain has also stimulated some plants to flower and there is a healthy population of insects in the bushes and trees. The typical ‘wick wicky’ call alerts me to several white plumed honeyeaters that are energetically picking off lerps and ants high in the tall eucalyptus trees by the water. I spend a good ten minutes trying to get a definitive shot that shows their hunting strategies.

Galah feeding on the ground

Galah feeding on the ground

 

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

Rose breasted cockatoo or galah performing beak maintenance duties

 

In the same stand of trees both rosellas and cockatoos are sheltering amongst the foliage. The cockies are particularly interesting as they have been feeding on the ground pulling up tubers and searching for seeds then returning to the trees to wipe their beaks on the branches; whether to clean, sharpen or what?…I am not sure.

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

Reeds by the banks of a small lake help filter out pollutants

 

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

Purple swamp hens are often seen using their huge feet to climb over reeds

 

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

Eurasian coots are found in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe

 

 The trail is well defined and leads me past several different ecosystems. One of these is a chain of ponds that are surrounded by reeds. South Australia’s urban wetlands have been developed to help filter storm water run-off and improve the health of our creeks but they also serve as a wonderful habitat for water birds. Eurasian coots, purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens are all feeding close to the reeds and these birds would have been part of the diet of the Kaurna people who hunted along the nearby Sturt Creek.

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

The lobby of the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

 

Having spent a couple of hours exploring the trails and stopping to capture a representative batch of images, I wind up back at the cultural centre for a well earned cup of coffee and a pastry. In the next room there is a wonderful display of indigenous art and a timeline displaying the history of the Kuarna people. It seems a fitting and reflective way to end my first visit to this rather special park in the heart of Adelaide’ southern suburbs.

 

Until our next adventure

BAZ

A Walk to the Falls

12 Jul

Dear Reader

Last Saturday was a classic Adelaide winter’s day. It had rained the night before and a fine patina of dew decorated the shrubs in my garden. The sky was clear and despite a chill in the morning air it promised to be sunny and dry; perfect conditions for a walk in the park. Not any park though. My park of choice was a little conservation reserve nestled in the foothills about 20 minutes from the city centre. Like Waterfall Gully,  Morialta Conservation Park is graced by a series of waterfalls and steep walking trails that cut through a variety of classic bush habitats.

AB Typical sandstone and eucalypt bushland within the park

Typical sandstone and eucalypt bushland within the park

 The drive took me a little longer than expected as I was waylaid by the smell of freshly cooked pastries emanating from a little bakery. My rucksack now stocked with enough calories to sustain my upcoming physical endeavours and probably those of the next week, I pulled into the little car park alongside the creek, hung a camera from my shoulder and set off up the southernmost trail. The sun was still low in the sky and only the southern face of the steep-sided valley benefited from it.  I had walked just a few metres and was emerging from the shade when I noticed some walkers standing below a tall eucalyptus tree pointing excitedly at one of the higher branches. I followed their obvious line of sight and there, nestled into the fork between trunk and branch was a fairly large koala doing what koalas do best ….stretching out and resting.

AC Koala in tree near the trailhead

Koala in tree near the trailhead

The koala was an unexpected and encouraging start to the day and after spending few minutes watching it I started up the trail with a fair degree of optimism. Winter is never the best time for wildlife. Plants have fewer flowers and fruits and the insects that are attracted to them are in short supply. Of course there is always an up-side when it comes to nature and the damp ground makes it easier for some bird species to fossick for grubs and worms. A pair of blue wrens seemed to be making the best of these conditions, madly hopping from one tree branch to the next then down onto the ground in a never ending search for food. Their constant motion and the morning light gave me only a few half-chances to capture some images and no hope of freezing their motion completely. I did manage a couple of shots that showed some of the obvious differences between the male and female of this species.

AI Male blue wren

Male blue wren

AH Female blue wren

Female blue wren

A little further up the track I stopped and sat on a large boulder and scanned the undergrowth for insects or lizards. There was nothing to be seen or heard but I did notice some honeydew plants growing amongst the grasses near a rocky outcrop. These delicate little plants have tiny inverted cups radiating from their stems. The cups are fringed by small filaments and have sticky, viscous fluid in the centre. Unwary insects are trapped in the sweet heart of the cups and the filaments close on them to seal their fate. The unfortunate bug is then digested by its ‘vegetable’ captor providing essential nutrients that other plants might get from the soil.

AG Honeydew plant

Honeydew plant

 

Colourful wrens, cute koalas and carnivorous plants had provided quite a range of wildlife in the first kilometre or so of my walk. As expected, the wildlife had not been prolific but there always seemed to be something around the next bend if I took the time to pause and use all of my senses. The next few kilometres were enjoyable but largely uneventful. A few honeyeaters flitted between late flowering shrubs, a magpie nervously snatched a drink from the creek while a squadron of miner birds squabbled in a stand of acacia bushes. It was not until I was almost back to the car park and walking below some tall, pale eucalyptus trees that bordered the creek that my next significant encounter occurred.

AD Magpie drinking from the creek below the falls

Magpie drinking from the creek below the falls

A small group of rainbow lorikeets had gathered on the branches of a massive gum tree about 10 metres off the ground. They were screeching loudly and seemed quite agitated. I moved away so as not to scare them and sat quietly in the cover of some thick bushes watching closely through my long lens. The source of their consternation soon became obvious; a pair of galahs had commandeered a nesting hole in the trunk of the tree. Over the next half an hour I witnessed a heated real estate battle develop as a continual rotation of chattering rainbows tried to dislodge their larger rivals. Eventually the galahs moved off and one of the rainbow lorikeets immediately flew down and started to peck around the perimeter of the nest hole.

A A pair of rainbows watching galahs at nest site

A pair of rainbows watching galahs at nest site

AF Inspecting the new proerty

Inspecting the new property

I finished my walk sitting on the edge of the creek with a cappuccino from the coffee van that plies its trade on the weekend and a pastry from my stash. Not a bad way to spend a sunny winter’s day for any wildlife enthusiast.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

 

Cheers

Baz  

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