Tag Archives: grey kangaroo

Wilpena…. Three Kangaroos and an Emu

26 Jun

Dear Reader:

The hillside behind the cabin is quite steep and the trail leading to its summit zig-zags between rocky outcrops and stands of native pine. Every so often there are depressions and small caves where the rust coloured soil is littered with roo droppings. From the first ridge, the view back across ‘the pound’ is spectacular with the curved formation of peaks that shape this unique environment clearly evident against the deep blue of an outback sky.

 

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A lone euro with the ranges in the background

Euro nremains below a particularly steep rockface

Euro remains below a particularly steep rockface

 

A little further up the scree slope the sound of scattering rocks provides a tell-tale hint of movement. I freeze, lift the camera and wait; nothing but the thumping sound of a large animal bounding further up the hillside. Only a kangaroo makes that sound and only a hill kangaroo, sometimes called a wallaroo or euro, would be living in this steep terrain.

Classic euro habitat

Classic euro habitat

 

 

There are three species of kangaroos, as well as their smaller wallaby relatives, living in the Flinders Ranges near Wilpena Pound ; a crater shaped geological formation in South Australia’s northern outback region about five hour’s drive from Adelaide. Each species tends to favour slightly different habitats in this arid, semi desert environment though there is inevitably some overlap in their territories.

This euro has a rustier tinge to its fur

This euro has a rustier tinge to its fur

 

Euros are generally solitary and they prefer rocky outcrops. Their fur is thicker than the other two species and can have a slightl reddish tinge. They are quite stocky, robust kangaroos measuring up to 195 cms from head to tip of the tail with both males and females similar in appearance. Red kangaroos prefer the open plains and males can measure 2.4 metres and always have a rusty coat and distinct facial markings. Female red kangaroos have grey fur with a hint of blue shading and are considerably smaller. The third species, the western grey kangaroo, is less common in the ranges; they look more like a lighter built euro with smoother fur. Western greys are gregarious and prefer woodlands. They are the most common species in the southern part of the state.

Western grey kangaroos

Western grey kangaroos

 

From the top of the hillside I work my way back down a steep gully to the lower slopes where a couple of euros are feeding on the grass and small shrubs growing close to the roadside. They let me approach to within fifty metres before twitching their ears nervously and bounding off into a stand of native pines at the base of a steep hillside.

A young euro moments before bounding up into the escarpment after its mother

A young euro moments before bounding up into the escarpment after its mother

Female adult euro bounding up into escarpment

Female adult euro bounding up into escarpment

 

The roadside provides a perfect view of both the rugged escarpments that dominate the terrain and the open grassland that characterizes the entrance to the pound. In the distance I can see the outline of several red kangaroos grazing on the grass near an old restored woolshed that serves as a gallery and function centre. They appear to be quite relaxed and as I approach I notice that it is actually a pair of animals; a large male standing close to a resting female.

Red kangaroo male and female

Red kangaroo male and female

Red kangaroo male and female

Art display in the old woolshed

 

I have been quite lucky on my walk, having seen two of the three local kangaroo species and as if to point out that the landscape is inhabited by more than just marsupials a couple of emus run across the walking trail as I am turning for home.

A pair of emus running alongside a walking trail at Wilpena

A pair of emus running alongside a walking trail at Wilpena

 

Satisfied with my morning’s work I head back to the chalets for a shower and lunch at one of the two dining areas. Chalets, dining areas, a well equipped general store and even a small swimming pool for the summer heat; not really roughing it but on the other hand there is abundant wildlife just a stone’s throw away. SA at its very best.

Accommodation Wilpena

Accommodation Wilpena

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Wild Dog Walk

2 Jan

Wild Dog Walk

Dear Reader:

The drive from Port Augusta to Whyalla is almost gun barrel straight for much of the seventy kilometre journey. Low scrub and salt bush plains dominate the landscape. Small birds occasionally flit across the road and for the keen observer; kangaroos and emus can be spotted foraging in the bush. But first impressions can be misleading and more careful look at this unique environment reveals a plant ecosystem quite different from the eucalyptus dominated vegetation closer to Adelaide.

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Entrance to the park (click to enlarge all images on this post)

 

 

The ground is hard pack red earth and salt bush, acacia and eremophilas form the lower layers beneath canopy of western mayall trees with an occasional eucalypt thrown in for good measure. The affect is a subtle interplay of greens and greys that typifies this harsh but beautiful countryside.

Wild Dog Walk

Myall and eucalypt canopy with shrubs and saltbush understory

 

 

Around 50 kms from Port Augusta and just 10 kms from the outskirts of the steel town of Whyalla, the park is announced by a signpost and bush track that leads off to the right. The trail is part of the Whyalla conservation park and the road leads to a rocky outcrop known as Wild Dog Rocks. A local Aboriginal story relates how a medicine man flung dingos, who had killed a child, off the north eastern edge of the rocks.

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Wild Dog Rocks rising from the bush

 

 

This story and information about the plants in the area is presented as a series of signs along a short trail that circumnavigates the outcrop. The mayall trees, lichens, various shrubs and grasses are all represented and provide the walker with a better understanding of this rugged ecosystem.

Mayall tree

Mayall tree surrounded by salt bush with acacia to the left

 

 

Depending on the season a wide variety of wildlife frequents this arid zone. Parrots, honeyeaters, magpies and delicate little finches are just a few of the birds that live in the dense shrubs and grasses. And if one walks carefully, stops frequently to look and listens for a tell tale rustle there are reptiles to be found, ranging from tiny skinks, large monitors and even the occasional brown snake.

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Australian magpie proclaiming territory

 

 

 

Despite the complexity and diversity of this ecosystem it remains a harsh and unforgiving environment. There is little food and plants bloom infrequently due to the low rainfall. A visitor needs to be patient to locate the wildlife and as always the early morning and late afternoon are when the animals are more active and far more easily encountered.

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Grey kangaroo in saltbush

 

 

 

 

I set aside three hours to explore this park and stopped several times on the way to the rocky outcrop where I walked a couple of hundred metres into the bush and sat quietly for a few minutes. One the first occasion I flushed out a grey kangaroo that paused for a split second to look at me before bounding through the salt bush into the scrub. The second time I watched some butcher birds and a magpie squabbling loudly over territory.

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Spiny cheeked honeyeater feeding in an eremophila

 

 

At Wild Dog Rocks I spent quite a long time watching small birds flitting between some flowering shrubs. Photographing them was challenging to say the least. I noticed that several birds seemed to return frequently to one particular bush allowing me to set up and capture a few long range images. The birds turned out to be spiny cheeked honeyeaters a species I had not seen before.

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Sand goanna or Gould’s monitor foraging through understory

 

 

With evening approaching I made one last foray into the scrub at the foot of the rocks and sat amongst a stand of mayall trees where there was a clear view of a small clearing. After a few minutes I heard the unmistakable rustle of a larger animal moving across the leaf litter. Suddenly a sand goanna appeared, the metre long monitor lizard was moving slowly with its long forked tongue frequently flicking out as it searched for prey. As the goanna approached dozens of locusts, that had been hidden amongst the undergrowth, took flight before they were added to the lizards eclectic menu.

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Almost locust for lunch

 

 

From the park to the city of Whyalla is a short drive. Here you can wash off the red dust and enjoy the pleasantries of hotels, regional shopping, restaurants, coastal activities and a fine golf course.

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The shapes, colours and textures of the arid zone are summed up in this imge

 

 

 

Have a great start to the New Year and I hope you have the chance to explore this interesting region sometime soon.

 

Cheers

Baz

Aldinga Scrub

21 Dec

The tawny frogmouth is absolutely motionless. At first glance, I can’t see the bird even though my guide has pointed out its position. Eventually I locate it amongst the foliage exploiting its extraordinary camouflage and the tactic of remaining statue-still to remain ‘hidden in plain sight’. I am using a long lens which allows me to zoom in close enough to capture the delicate whisker-like structures around its beak; perfect for sensing insects at night. “Sometimes there are two together,” she informs me. “And we’ve had a nest with young.” I make a mental note to ask her to give me a call when that happens; photographing a frogmouth and its chicks would be something special.

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage (Click to enlarge all images on page)

I am on the edge of the Aldinga scrub; a patch of remnant bushland that hints of what this coastal plain would have looked like before the early settlers arrived with their ploughs and sheep. Aldinga and its coastal neighbour Silver Sands are just an hour’s drive from the centre of Adelaide and a favourite haunt of mine for an entirely different reason. No more than a kilometre away is one of my favourite snorkelling destinations. A reef to dive on, long white beaches for swimming and surfing and a patch of scrub to explore; make this an ideal destination for a day trip from the city.

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

I continue to walk along the road that borders the scrub. The houses on the urban side of the track blend in well with the bushland ambience. Obviously the residents have chosen this location because of its natural setting and the gardens are filled with a variety of native plants that attract insects and birds. In a huge gum that towers over the track I can hear the raucous screech of a wattle bird high in the canopy. The largest of all the honeyeaters, wattle birds often feed on leaf bugs and nectar from eucalyptus flowers. This one is hopping between the branches calling loudly while foraging amongst the leaves.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch

A post and wire fence separates the road from the scrub and a host of tiny birds are twittering and flitting between the trees just inside the reserve. I find a likely spot and sit quietly, balancing the camera and lens carefully on my knees. Eventually, one of the tiny birds perches on a bare branch a dozen metres away. I track the fluffy bundle of feathers and take a quick series of shots as it hops and turns before taking flight. Perhaps one frame will freeze its incessant motion and allow me to identify the species. On reviewing the image my best guess is a species of thornbill.

Thornbil species

Thornbill species

I am more than pleased with my stroll along the edge of the scrub. The frogmouth, wattle birds and tiny finch-like birds were more than I expected. But as I turn to walk back to the car I hear the familiar thump of a kangaroo’s powerful back legs hitting the hard packed earth of the track. An adult grey kangaroo and its joey bound across the road and pause by the fence-line. I watch them as they survey the obstacle for a few seconds then the joey squeezes between the strands of wire while the adult clears it with a single bound. They stop and look around before disappearing into the thick scrub.

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

The afternoon light is fading and I have one last stop to make before driving home and it has little to do with wildlife. Opposite the Aldinga pub there is a charming café called the Old Vine. It has a colonial cottage feel about it and the meals are interesting, tasty and sourced from local produce but the main draw card is a citrus tart that is as good as any I have eaten anywhere in the world…and I have sampled quite a few.

 

Come visit

Merry Xmas

Baz

Second Valley ….drive and dive

17 Aug

Dear Reader:

This week’s post is courtesy of a chilly winter dive and a pleasant day’s drive to one of my favourite childhood haunts, Second Valley.

D Second Valley bay on a winter's day

Second Valley bay and beach on a calm winter’s day

 

In 1836 Colonel Light, the founder of Adelaide, was searching for a good location for South Australia’s new capital city. He sailed his ship, the Rapid, into a sheltered bay with a fresh water stream that flowed in from a fertile valley. Light named the bay after the vessel. The second little cove that he discovered was just a few miles north towards the present location of Adelaide and was simply known as Second Valley.

E farmer and dog taking dairy herd across the road near Rapid Bay

Farmer and cattle dog taking dairy herd across the road near Rapid Bay

Second Valley is a one and a half hour drive from the city centre along the Fleurieu  Peninsula’s south coast road. The dairy farms that lie amongst the rolling hills, large expanses of open woodland, and vineyards make it a recreational drive worth undertaking for its own sake. But for the wildlife enthusiast both drive and destination are even more enthralling. The farms and bushland support a healthy population of western grey kangaroos that are often visible from the road. Rosellas, various cockatoos, lorikeets and a host of other bird species are also common throughout the year.

BB Western grey kangaroos near the roadside near Second Valley

Western grey kangaroos by the roadside near Second Valley

However Second Valley’s real charm lies beneath its pristine waters. The sheltered little bay is enclosed by limestone hills and coastal cliffs . It boasts an exquisite little beach and miniature rocky headland which is bisected by an old wooden jetty. Small boats can be launched from the beach but the marine environment is just as easily accessed from the beach, jetty and rocks for shore based divers. It is, in my experience, one of the best scuba and snorkelling locations that I have encountered anywhere in the world. A place where a novice snorkeler can swim amongst shallow rocky reefs in water they can stand up in or a more adventurous diver can swim a short distance and be next to a cliff face that drops away into 10 metres of water.

A squid at nightshowing irridescence

Squid viewed on night dive

Below the water there is a diverse range of habitats to explore ranging from limestone caves and ledges, to rocky reefs, seagrass meadows and open expanses of white rippled sand. There is always a wide selection of marine life to enjoy. Over the years I have encountered everything from huge eagle rays to schools of iridescent squid on a night dive and once I came across an elephant shark lazily gliding across the segrass as it came into the shallow bay to breed.

B large cuttlefish amongst brown algae

Large cuttlefish amongst brown algae

Although the balmy days of summer are the ideal weather for a dip in the ocean the winter months often produce long fine breaks when the sea is calm and visibility excellent. On this particular occasion I was lucky enough to encounter a couple of large cuttlefish under a ledge and a school of silver drummer milled around me on the edge of the rocky outcrop. On any typical dive, either snorkelling or with scuba, I would expect to sight at least 30 different species of fish and a multitude of invertebrates. This dive was no exception.

BB Silver drummer schooling  at the end of the rocky peninsular

Silver drummer schooling at the end of the rocky peninsula

As always I hope you enjoyed the pictures and anecdotes and that they encourage you to come and enjoy our unique scenery and wildlife.

Cheers

Baz

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