Tag Archives: nankeen kestrel

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.

Advertisements

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

11 Aug

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

 Dear Reader;

As I follow the narrow footpath south from the cul-de-sac overlooking Tennyson beach towards the Grange jetty in the distance, I can see a bird of prey hovering just above the houses that spill down to the dunes. The sky is patchy, blue then grey as clouds blow in from the sea and it is difficult to locate the kestrel in the viewfinder. I take a few quick shots and hope for the best.

1

Nankeen kestrel hovering

I am intrigued by the raptor and wait quietly close to a coastal wattle bush watching it patrol along the line of the dunes pausing periodically to hover and scan the terrain below for small animals. The birds in the surrounding scrub are not quite so keen. They head for cover deep in the bushes or under the eaves of the houses twittering their various warning calls.

2

Singing honeyeater in shelter

A lovely little singing honeyeater hides in a dense tangle of branches while spotted doves remain motionless closer to the ground near some dried scrub that matches their subdued colouring. Both species are usually very wary in this dune habitat and hard to approach but I am obviously the lesser of two evils and able to get closer than usual to capture some images.

3

Spooted dove

Continuing along the pathway, I am fascinated by the different architectural elements incorporated in many of the houses. There are domed chapel-like structures, facades of tinted glass and walls with pastel shades of ochre, pink and grey. Just before I reach the jetty the beautiful ‘Marines’ sit alongside the beach. This group of Victorian 3 story terraces was built in 1840 and they dominate the foreshore.

4

At the trail head near Tennyson Beach

 After a wonderful lunch at the Grange Hotel and a walk along the jetty to check out the fishers and look for dolphins, I turn back for home. The wind is getting up so I opt to walk back down the path rather than along the beach front. There are numerous trails down to the sea allowing me deeper penetration into the scrub as well as a quick search for seabirds. On this visit they are few and far between bar a couple seagulls under the jetty.

5

Grange Hotel

6

From track to beach through the dunes

 

Near one of the beach access paths I stop to watch a mudlark foraging in the sand and notice a discarded Besser brick lying in a sunny patch near a patch of early flowering succulents. Much to my surprise there is a bearded dragon lizard perched on it, flattened out to extract every bit of heat from the masonry. These reptiles are not uncommon in the summer but in the winter I would have expected them to be tucked away hibernating until spring.

7

Mudlark foraging along pathway

8 1

Bearded dragon picking up some rays

 

9

Still a few bugs around to eat for the dragon

Predators prey and unseasonal reptiles it has been a rewarding winter’s walk along the dunes enjoying the ocean, good food and quite an assortment of wildlife.

 

Enjoy your winter walks in SA

Cheers

Baz

Hallet Cove….a scrub and coastal walk

3 Apr

The walk from the park’s entrance is striking with the ocean forming a sapphire backdrop to the greens and greys of the scrub. Along the edge of the track stands of eucalypts dominate an understory of acacias, banksias and native grasses. Near the top of the trail, several wattle birds are feeding on a late autumn splash of flowers in the crown of a flowering gum. The largest of all the honeyeaters, these birds have a grating call reminiscent of an out of tune bagpipe.

IMG_0547

View from the park entrance

 

wat 1

Wattle bird

 

 

I scramble further down the track listening to the twittering of scrub birds in the bushes. It is difficult to identify any particular species and almost impossible to photograph them. After walking for a couple of hundred metres, I catch a glimpse of some wrens and miner birds deep in the labyrinth of foliage. Where the trail runs alongside a small creek at the foot of the hill, a singing honeyeater is perched on an exposed branch, finally providing one easy target.

IMG_2486

Singing honeyeater

 

 

Hallet Cove Conservation Park runs parallel to the coast about half an hour’s drive south of the city centre. It encompasses a range of habitats from sclerophyll forest to coastal heath and a classic wave cut platform below the cliff face. In addition to a healthy population of native animals the park has extraordinary geological and marine features that I will explore more fully in a later post. 

IMG_0553 - Copy

The track winds through the scrub near a creek bed

   

 

I meet a group of elderly walkers on a small bridge that crosses the creek where the path starts to climb towards the top of the cliffs. As they tramp across the wooden planks a large water skink runs across, pausing momentarily before disappearing over the edge into the reeds.

IMG_6338

Skink on the bridge

 

 

Climbing southward up the track I take note of the dramatic changes in terrain. The hillside that rises from the cliff tops is dominated by low wind-swept shrubs and grasses and the coastline is defined by the wave cut platform. Near the edge of the cliffs, two magpies are probing the undergrowth with their long, powerful beaks. Suddenly the birds become agitated and take to the air. I look around for the source of their distress and catch sight of a kestrel hovering high above them. But this kestrel has made an error of judgement that soon becomes apparent as the maggies take it on in an aerial dogfight.

IMG_6329

Minding my own business

 

IMG_0672

Kestrel hunting

 

IMG_0683

Not on my turf

 

 

The final section of my trail follows the boardwalk along the top of the cliffs. I can see pacific gulls foraging in the rock-pools on the exposed shore and a colony of cormorants roosting on a rocky outcrop out to sea.

IMG_6347

Cormorants on offshore outcrop

 

 

After following the contours of the hillside for a kilometre the boardwalk slopes down to a stretch of beach, finally terminating at a car park and local eatery…The Boatshed Cafe. Simply grabbing a croissant and soft drink to eat on the beach or choosing a light meal from the excellent menu is an ideal way to wind up a morning stroll.

IMG_0570

Descent to the beach and cafe

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this little adventure

Cheers

Baz

Henley Square……Crabs, Coffee and Coastline

13 Jan

Dear Reader:

The morning is warm and still with hardly a breath of wind. Although the water is not as clear as I would have liked it is worth putting on a mask and flippers to explore the shallows alongside the jetty.

Henley jetty on a summer's day

Henley jetty on a summer’s day (click to enlarge all images)

 

 

As I swim into the shadows beneath one of the jetty piles I can just make out a school of sizeable bream with a few silver whiting scattered amongst them. They are massing near the wooden posts directly below several fishermen who have empty buckets and a look of ‘no luck today’ on their faces.

 

School of bream under the  jetty

School of bream under the jetty

 

 

The wind is strengthening a little which often stirs up the sand and makes underwater photography challenging to say the least. It is time to switch to macro settings and look for small organisms on the sandy bottom. Numerous furrows snake across the undulating sand like roads through desert dunes. I follow one trail and probe the end point gently with my dive knife to see if I can reveal the perpetrator…no luck. But my digging does annoy a swimmer crab half buried in the sand only an arm’s length away. The little creature immediately strikes an aggressive pose angling up towards me with nippers spread and ready to attack.

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

Sand crab, note the swimming paddles on the rear legs and the faint furrow in the sand made by a sea snail

 

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

Anemone, sea squirt and green algae attached to a jetty pile

 

 

I spend a few more minutes exploring the various organisms that cling to the jetty piles. Satisfied with a few close up shots of anemones and sea squirts, I head for the change rooms and outdoor shower to wash off my gear. And then, the all important decision…. which of the beachside al fresco restaurants for coffee and breakfast? Henley Square at the foot of the jetty is one of Adelaide’s favourite beachside haunts where you will invariably find an eclectic collection of walkers, cyclists, fishers and even the odd naturalist; all enjoying the coastal ambience and quality restaurants.

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

Cafe culture on a sunny morning

 

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

Coastal strip of dune vegetation including the pine used as vantage point by a nankeen kestrel

 

 

 

Refuelled and refreshed by my morning dip I walk south along the bikeway that skirts this section of coastline. Between the beach and the path there is a long stretch of low coastal dunes that have been revegetated over the last decade providing an interesting ecosystem that is home to a variety of plant and animal species.

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

Nankeen kestrel in flight. one of the more common raptors that feeds mainly on ground dwellers but will attack other birds

 

 

Several small groups of sparrows and some honeyeaters are flitting through the foliage but they seem extremely nervous. The reason for their apprehension soon becomes obvious as a nankeen kestrel perches on a tall pine tree to survey its hunting zone. The bird of prey, however, does not go unnoticed by a pair of noisy miners that dive bomb the predator and force it to take to the air again.

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more errtic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

Blue bees are a small native species that have a more erratic, zippy flight pattern than common honey bees

 

A spcies of White butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

A species of white butterfly feeding on coastal blooming plants

 

 

The temperature is rising and the chance of spotting larger animals diminishing as the day progresses and they seek shelter from the sun. I turn back towards the jetty and focus my attention on the unique coastal plant life and the bees, wasps and butterflies that feed on the various flowering shrubs. Near one of the sandy tracks that lead down to the water a thick stand of acacias, with delicate blue flowering grasses growing amongst them, is attracting native blue bees and several varieties of butterflies. Tricky images to capture as the bees are speedy, erratic little creatures and the butterflies are only landing on the blossoms for a few seconds.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

Despite their bulk pelicans are graceful in flight.

 

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

Australian pelicans have a wingspan of around 2 metres

 

 

By the time get back to the square I am ready to sit under one of the square’s cafe umbrellas and sip a long cool drink while watching the locals enjoying another warm South Aussie day at the beach. It’s hot now and time to drive home and sort my pictures. I slip the camera strap over my shoulder ready to leave as one final image presents itself. An Australian pelican glides in low over the water and gracefully deposits itself on one of the jetty light poles and glances in my direction…..thanks!!

 

Until we chat again

Baz  

A Bite at Grange

19 Sep

Dear Reader:

A lone silver gull is flying parallel to the shore just above the Norfolk pines that grow along the Grange beach front. Suddenly it veers off course, dipping towards one of the trees and letting out a loud, raucous shriek. This unusual behaviour encourages me to stop and take a closer look through the telephoto lens. And there, perched serenely on the topmost branch is a beautiful nankeen kestrel surveying its stretch of prime coastal real estate.

Nankeen kestrel looking for prey

Nankeen kestrel looking for prey (click all images to enlarge)

 

Nankeen kestrels are small falcons that are widely distributed across the country. They usually live in rural or outback regions where they hover over fields and open bushland preying on small mammals, reptiles and occasionally taking birds in the air; which explains the gull’s nervous disposition. Seeing one in an urban area is a really quite unusual. For the next half an hour I follow the raptor as it patrols the shoreline and dunes moving from tree tops to fence posts to survey its territory.

The Marines, beachside heritage homes

The Marines, beachside heritage homes

 

Grange Beach is just 15 minutes from the centre of Adelaide. An old wooden jetty, classic golden sands and heritage buildings make it an ideal place to go for a walk and grab a bite to eat summer or winter! A walking &cycling trail passes through the area winding between the seafront properties and coastal revegetation zones providing a unique blend natural and urban habitats that encourages a wide variety of wildlife.

Spotted dove

Spotted dove

Singing honeyeater in coastal scrub

Singing honeyeater in coastal scrub

The unfortunately named pigface

The unfortunately named pigface

 

After watching the kestrels I follow the track south. The delicate shrubs and grasses that stabilise the dunes are home to many different bird species from common house sparrows to spotted doves and singing honeyeaters. Although it is a coolish day and the insect life is in short supply a few bees and butterflies are congregating around some early blooming pigface, a common succulent in the dunes.

Grange jetty at low tide showing worm casing encrustaceans

Grange jetty at low tide showing worm casing encrustaceans

 

For a little variety I walk back along the beach. The tide is out exposing concrete-like encrustations of tube worms cemented to the jetty piles. A track leads from the beach to the old kiosk which is now a fashionable restaurant. My day ends with a glass of white, salt and pepper squid with sautéed scallops in the shell accompanied by a generous serve of crusty bread.

Grange Kiosk

Grange Kiosk

 

Until our next adventure

Baz          

Kestrels at the Cape

25 Jul

Dear Reader:

It is late morning on a fine winter’s day and I am leaving the dirt road from Victor Harbor to join the main route back to Adelaide. As I round the curve the descent towards the coast is quite spectacular. From the top of the hill the road drops away sharply providing a panoramic view of open pastures dotted with small dams and patches of native vegetation. A corridor of lazy blue ocean separates the mainland from the island, which appears as a hazy outline on the horizon.

View from the top

View from the top (click to enlarge)

Closer to the coast a dirt track leads to a viewing point alongside a small stand of low trees and bushes. From the elevated position I watch the Sealink ferry crossing Backstairs Passage and stop to take a shot as it docks at the terminal below. While I focus on the ship I can hear the twittering of finches in the nearby scrub and catch a fleeting glimpse of two brightly coloured rosellas gliding into one of the taller bushes.

Rosella feeding in accacia tree

Rosella feeding in acacia tree (click to enlarge)

Sealink ferry docking at Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in background

Sealink ferry docking at Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in background (click to enlarge)

The ferry from Kangaroo Island docks at Cape Jervis on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is one of my favourite places in the South Australia; from the little coastal hamlet you can visit local beaches and dive spots, access the Deep Creek Conservation Park, organise a charter fishing expedition or take a day trip to Kangaroo Island.

Rocky outcrops extending into the sea

Rocky outcrops extending into the sea (click to enlarge)

From the lookout I follow the road down to the lighthouse and park on a track a hundred metres back from the sea. The shoreline is a geology lesson in itself, with weathered ridges of dark rock ‘criss-crossed’ by veins of quartz, jutting into the ocean and patches of coarse sand and fractured rocks abutting the low earthen cliffs. In the distance I can see a line of giant wind turbines silhouetted on a faraway hilltop and the smell of salt air combined with the sound of waves breaking amongst the rocks fills my senses.

Nankeen kestral hovering above beach

Nankeen kestrel hovering above beach (click to enlarge)

As I move up the foreshore, picking my way between the boulders, I can see two  kestrels hovering over the beach. They seem to be systematically working together; one hovers for  a few minutes over the rocks then moves on while the other works the grassy slopes a little further inland. By pure chance they are slowly coming towards me so I lift the camera skyward and try to remain as still as humanly possible until the birds are almost directly above. I fire off a dozen shots and smile at my good fortune.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly (click to enlarge)

Pied crmorant by rockpool

Pied cormorant by rock pool (click to enlarge)

Raven with nesting material

Raven with nesting material (click to enlarge)

My walk provides a few more interesting moments: a cluster of monarch butterflies in a shrub that looks like milkweed, a lone pied cormorant sunning itself on one of the rocky outcrops that reach into the sea and a raven that is tearing up seaweed on the breakwater for nesting material. However, while I sit in the ferry terminal sipping a coffee, watching passengers returning from KI and reviewing my images I realise that it is the kestrels that have really made my day.

Cheers

Baz

%d bloggers like this: