Tag Archives: Murray River

Houseboat Day 2 Lizards and Falcons

30 Jan

Dear Reader:

The cliffs rise steeply from the river’s surface. There are definite divisions in the strata indicating various periods in geological time. Tree roots, wind, water and the sun have weathered the rocky surface creating shallow caves, overhangs and depressions providing shelter for a variety of wildlife.

 

Typical limestone cliff scenery

We are travelling upstream from Morgan in our rented houseboat towards the little township of Cadell. Named after Francis Cadell, an early steamship navigator and explorer, the town sits in the Cadell Valley which is a Citrus and grape growing region. There is accommodation, a general store, second-hand shops, heritage centre and a ferry crossing.

 

Murray River Ferry at Cadell

The ochre coloured cliffs are home to numerous bird species but photographing them from a moving boat is challenging. I pick out what appears to be a family of raptors huddled in a narrow space near the cliff top and train the powerful lens of my Nikon P900 on the group. It is difficult to get a clear image. Nevertheless, I fire off half a dozen frames to work on later.

 

Fleeting glimpse of a raptor family on the cliff……shot from a moving boat at about 120 metres

Further down the river I notice some larger birds of prey. One is perched near a nest and the other sits on a eucalyptus branch overhanging the water. *They are either young White Breasted Sea Eagles or a juvenile kite species, possibly Whistling Kites.  

 

Eagle or Kite…..let me know please

The reeds and branches that line the edge of the river are home to a variety of waterbirds including: Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamp Hens, Pied Cormorants and Anhingas often called Snake birds. I focus on an Anhinga resting on a fallen branch.

 

Anhinga perching….note the webbed feet and spear-like beak

We moor the boat near a wide bend in the river and set up for an evening barbecue. I take a walk along the river bank and find a quiet place to sit and wait for the wildlife to appear; an approach that often pays dividends. I can hear the twittering of wrens and finches the rustling of other small animals in the undergrowth. Several small skinks appear on a log but they are too quick and timid for me to get a clear image. Moments later a Shingleback lizard emerges from leaf litter. Unaware of my presence the lizard comes quite close to me. When I lift the camera to get a shot it turns to face me, opens its mouth wide extending it bright blue tongue in a defensive display.

 

Shingleback or Sleepy lizard

Leaving the lizard to its meanderings in search of food and with a similar thought in mind I return to the boat for our evening barbecue. Full of steak, sausage and salad I go back through the days images and to my delight and surprise the raptors I photographed turn out to be Peregrine Falcons.

 

Peregrine Falcon at distance on the cliff face

Two days out and I have encountered quite a lot of wildlife. Who knows what the next day will bring.

Cheers

Baz

*If anyone can identify these birds please contact me and I will change the text accordingly

Additional notes

This is an easy boat trip which is quite suitable for families and seniors and only a current driving licence is required to operate a houseboat.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat Adventures Morgan Day 1

2 Jan

Dear Reader:

The road is ‘dead set’ straight for kilometre after kilometre. Expanses of saltbush and mallee scrub border the highway. While driving I scan the bush for wildlife. Crows perch on branches, an occasional parrot flies in front of the vehicle and there is the inevitable road-kill. I ease my foot onto the brake and pull over. Hundreds of meters across the saltbush, on the woodland fringe, I can see a pair of emus. My Nikon P900 is an excellent tool for locating an image at this range but even the 83X zoom is challenged when it comes to getting a good clear shot.

 

Emus at distance

I am driving to Morgan, an historic town on the River Murray about 160 kms from Adelaide. Morgan was a busy river port during the 1800s with hundreds of paddle steamers delivering goods prior to the advent of railways and more recently motor vehicle transport. However, this colourful history has given rise to Morgan’s current attractions; heritage docks, museum, renovated paddle steamer, historic trails and two wonderful, old pubs.

 

Books and bric a brac

Sandra at the helm

 

I am meeting friends for a week-long houseboat trip exploring this stretch of the river. Each afternoon we will pull into the bank at a different location, stay there overnight then head off again in the morning. For my companions it is an ideal way to spend some down time away from their busy lives. For me, it means long walks to explore and photograph each location, editing images and writing up notes as well as capturing images from the boat as it cruises along.

 

Whale vertebrate fossils

 

Our boat docked

Before we leave Morgan I take a stroll along the river bank towards the old wharf. It seems like a good place to look for animals that thrive close to human habitation. I can see swallows hawking across the water and picking off insects in the air but they rarely settle and photographing them in flight takes a better photographer than me. However, I do manage to spot a beautiful Eastern Water Skink catching the late afternoon sun.

 

Wharf, cliffs and old paddle-steamer being restored

 

Eastern Water Skink

Pleased with my final image, I head back to the boat for dinner and a pleasant evening socialising with friends before we set off up-stream in the morning to another location and a fresh adventure.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Only a driving license is required to operate a houseboat. We used Foxtail Houseboats and were more than pleased with their level of service.

Please pass on this blog title/contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Houseboat 2

14 Jul

Houseboat 2 

Dear Reader:

Following up my last post I would like to continue my review of our houseboat trip along the Murray from Mildura.

Our boat

 

Some of the most spectacular features of Murray cruising are the glorious sunsets. A few clouds a little dust in the air and suddenly dusk is transformed into a spectacular light show. Throw in some red cliffs and the results are unbelievable. It can seem like the whole sky is on fire.

Sunset on fire

 

Colour abounds in other ways too. Some of the most striking parrots inhabit the woodlands and scrub that border the river. My favourites are the rosellas which can be wary and difficult to get near enough to photograph. Luckily this yellow rosella was too absorbed in feeding to take much notice of me.

 

Yellow Rosella feeding

 

We passed by several little towns on our trip and each bore witness to the Murray’s heyday when the river was the main form of transport between the states and a flotilla of paddle steamers plied their trade along its length. Today these classic country towns support local dry land farming and serve as tourist hubs.

Wentworth, historic building

 

Colourful parrots are not the only birds that inhabit the river bank. There are some serious predators too. Pelicans fish singularly or in groups along the shallow banks and both whistling kites and white bellied sea eagles perch on overhanging branches to hone in on prey with their incredible eyesight. On the mammalian side there are water rats that hunt for molluscs along the river bank as well as introduced foxes and wild cats. And from a reptilian perspective a variety of lizards from water skinks to goannas and snakes live in the reed beds and tangled branches that line the waterway.   

Eastern water skink

 

 Travelling along the river would not be complete without a little fishing. Carp abound and some of them are quite large but most fishers hope for a catch of native fish such as Callop and Cod which are much rarer. On this trip ‘Pete” who had fished the river for years caught his first Murray Cod; a beautiful 65 cm specimen which was duly released though the smile on his face took the best part of a week to disappear.

At last

 

And so ends my discourse on Murray house-boating for this year. But, stick around for a further twelve months a there will be another trip to report on.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 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

Just Cruising 1

1 Jun

Just Cruising 1

Dear Reader:

There is a white faced heron picking its way precariously along the bow rail of the boat; probably heading for the shrimp bucket. In the meantime, two welcome swallows are resting on the mooring rope while they take a rest from their aerial, acrobatic insect hunts. These are two of the animals that make our houseboat a temporary home as we journey along the river.

 

Curious Heron

 

To date my blogs have always been about South Australia but the next few posts will stray just a little from my own state and take you just over the border to Mildura in Victoria. From this thriving community I will share some observation taken on a week-long houseboat trip along the Murray. The wildlife and scenery are much the same as in SA as we are cruising along a section of the river which runs close to all three states SA, Victoria and NSW.

 

Typical riverside scenery

 

Houseboats are a wonderful way to explore the river. They come in all shapes and sizes from luxury models with saunas, ensuite bathrooms and satellite television through to old fashioned paddle sided boats with two rooms and a basic kitchen. We travelled in rather luxurious style which I can fully recommend; and travelling in a group certainly made it a reasonably inexpensive holiday option.

 

A classic

 

Wildlife along the river is seasonal and dependent on a variety of conditions such as drought and ambient river levels. The long dry that we have experienced this year meant that the wildlife was sporadic and took a little effort to locate. However, as we varied our moorings between townships and bush there was always something to see when I took a walk and looked carefully.

What the????

 

At a bush mooring near the confluence of the Darling and Murray I spent a couple of hours walking through the scrub bordering the river. Whilst sitting on a log near a clump of acacia bushes some small bugs with ‘eye-lash- like’ antennae caught my attention. I spent a good half hour trying to get a reasonable shot. Sometimes the little things can be the most interesting and challenging to photograph.

 

Nesting Apostle bird

 

The rewards of exploring a new and unfamiliar region are many including the chance to encounter species that are rarely observed or at the best seen fleetingly at home. An apostle bird nesting in the eucalypts that shaded our mooring at Coomeala was a prime example. Locals told me that they are quite common but it was the first time I had seen one and to capture and image of it nesting was quite a thrill.

Sandra gets the double

 

There were many more encounters on this trip and they certainly warrant further posts under the heading ‘Just Cruising’ which seems to capture the mood of my week exploring the mighty Murray while relaxing with friends.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy excursion which is quite suitable for families and seniors with toilets, barbecues and numerous facilities aboard.

 

 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 try to attach a new image and notes to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

One ‘Ticked Off ‘ Tiger Snake

16 Feb

 Field Notes

Dear reader

Sometimes life gets a little too busy and the pressures of work and family don’t allow me time to sit down, sort through my notes and put together a polished article. So I have simply edited my field notes in the hope that they will stand alone as an enjoyable account of my brush with one of Australia’s deadliest reptiles.

Setting

Late Summer, midday, on the banks of the river Murray near Mannum about 100kms NE of Adelaide. A smallish town, good pub with excellent view of river and great meals. Some nice antique and bric-a-brac shops, historic paddle steamer and houseboats to hire.

Notes

  • A pleasant drive from the city through the foothills.
  • Parts of the countryside is still green from good winter rains.
  • The rain shadowed plains on the other side of the ranges are quite dry and you can see the course of the river from the granite outcrops near Palmer.

    Clssical Murray river environment showing billabongs

    Clssical Murray river environment showing billabongs

  • We crossed the river on the Mannum ferry and drove along the edge of one of the billabongs.
  • Several small boats and a kayaker cruised past enjoying the sheltered environment away from the main channel.
  • The river level is high and there is quite a lot of debris along the bank.
  • There are numerous waterbirds foraging in the shallows and some parrots in the trees and I spotted a water skink on a concrete jetty near a bed of reeds.

    Pelicans feeding in the shallows near reeds

    Pelicans feeding in the shallows near reeds

  • I decided to explore a tangle of reeds and driftwood that was caught in the roots of one of the large river gums that grow on the edge of the bank.
  • As I pushed through some of the reeds I heard the distinct rustle of a fairly large animal moving away from me.
  • A sizeable tiger snake shot out from under a small log to my right and headed towards the water.
  • I froze momentarily so as not to alarm it unduly and steady myself to take a picture if it stopped-as opposed to freezing because it scared the .#$%%^&&  out of me.
  • Tiger snakes are one of the top ten most venomous snakes on the planet and can be rather aggressive when threatened. They feed on a variety of small riverside animals ranging from frogs and lizards to mice and birds. A large tiger snake can measure up to 2 metres. There are several varieties and the namesake stripes are not always obvious.
  • The snake paused after a few seconds and turned to face me.
  • It was about 3-4 metres away but looked unnervingly close through the telephoto lens.
  • The reptile had moved into the shadows and a quick review of my shots revealed a mottled and shady image.
  • I popped up the flash and fired another couple of frames.
  •  The snake did not like that and reared into a strike position as the second burst of light was emitted.
  • The results were startling, a Tiger Snake, mouth agape and fangs visible.

    Tiger snake striking

    snake striking

  • Time to leave and not annoy the tiger anymore
  • We continued to drive along the river bank track enjoying the scenery and had no more serious reptilian encounters other than a couple more skinks

    Water Skink near the river bank

    Skink near the river bank

  • Stopped  at the Pretoria Hotel on the banks of the main river
  • Great food, plenty of it and a glorious view of the river from the glass fronted dining room
  • Some pelicans feeding close to the river bank
  • Crossed back on the ferry then drove along the river towards Walker Flats to take in the views of the cliffs and an interesting stretch of Mallee scrub.

    Crossing the Murray at Mannum on the ferry

    Crossing the Murray at Mannum on the ferry

  • We have previously observed wombats here, foraging near the road in the late afternoon.
Wombat in sandy terrain within Mallee scrub near the river
Wombat in sandy terrain within Mallee scrub near the river

Cheers

Baz

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