Tag Archives: outback

Jupiter’s Wildlife

2 Oct

Dear Reader:

Before I have even climbed out of the car I notice a flight of cockatoos gliding low towards the grassy oval where they settle to feed on tubers and roots. Then from the trail head I spot a pair of tawny frogmouths high in one of the stringy barks that dominate the area. These fascinating owl-like birds are nocturnal and use the fine whiskery feathers to locate prey in the dark. Their camouflage is superb making them appear to be an extension of the branches they cling to during the daylight hours.

 

Tawny frogmouth

 

I am exploring the trails around the heritage listed Jupiter Creek Gold Diggings. They are located in the Kuitpo Forest area and were mined intermittently between the 1860s and 1930s. The diggings are now a heritage site and a great place to go for an historic and wildlife wander.

 

Bush trail near the car park

 

Today the weather is a little on the bleak side; not characteristic of South Australia’s habitually warm spring season. But the light adds softness to the bushland setting while providing many photographic challenges as I try trying to capture acceptable images of the constantly moving wildlife.

 

Grey currawong

 

A little further along one of the trails that leads to the diggings I hear the bell-like chimes of a grey currawong. Eventually the bird flies between some trees and I am able to get a clear shot as it perches high in the branches framed by a rare patch of blue sky.

 

Female scarlet robin

 

There are many small birds flitting between the branches and amongst the wattle and pea bushes that form the mid story. I catch glimpses of fairy wrens, tree creepers and even a crescent honeyeater. Eventually a female scarlet robin lands on the trunk of a large eucalypt and begins to forage between the layers of bark for grubs, spiders and insects. In the low light I have to steady the camera against a branch to make the shot.

 

Leaf curling spider web

 

Leaf curling spider emerging

Although only the first vestiges of Spring have graced the state a few insects and spiders are emerging from their winter dormancy. Numerous webs are strung between the lower branches of bushes and trees. Curled leaves are suspended in many of the webs in what, at first, seems a random fashion. However, closer examination shows this web and leaf combination is home to leaf-curling spiders that use silk to draw in the sides of the elongated eucalypt leaves to form a tubular shelter.

 

Common brown butterfly camouflaged

 

A few species of flowering plants are beginning to bloom in the leaf litter and under story and the contrast between them and a well camouflaged common brown butterfly provides a striking image.

 

Gums in low light

 

Today I have only wandered a little way along the trail that leads to the old diggings but I am determined to return later in spring to investigate more of this fascinating area. For now I shall climb back into the car and head for ‘Fred’, a charming little restaurant in Aldgate a just a few kilometres down the road and the home of some of Adelaide’s best lunch time treats. I’ll try the croque monsieur….then go for another walk in the wild to work off the calories!!!!

 

 Cheers Baz

 

Additional notes

There are some challenging areas when walking the trails around the mine site. A signposted area near the oval with basic shelters provides maps and diagrams of the area.

 

 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. 

The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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Whyalla to Point Lowly…a top coastal drive

16 May

Dear Reader:

The road from Whyalla to the Point Lowly intersection has dense mallee scrub on both sides. Kangaroos are not uncommon but hard to spot amongst the grey, green foliage. Sometimes a kite or eagle can be seen gliding on a thermal, scouring the scrub for prey.

Low Scrub Whyalla

Classic scrub with acacia in bloom

 

 

 

As I turn right and head towards the coast the landscape changes. The trees and bushes give way to stretches of saltbush and dried out shallow salt pans. Not much can survive in this country but I have seen emus foraging along these coastal badlands. I am not disappointed; catching sight of a fully grown male with his adolescent chicks just a few hundred metres from the fence-line.

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Adult emu with a half grown chick in saltbush

 

 

The road turns quite sharply heading back down the peninsula. The salt bush landscape reverts back to low coastal scrub. This ecosystem is characterised by acacias and smaller eucalypts where various parrots, wrens and honeyeaters are feeding along the edge of the road. A sandy track leads down to the beach where a small group of shacks nestle into the scrub, all with a wonderful view back across the shallow gulf to Whyalla.

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Red track, green scrub and blue coast

 

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Whyalla across the bay

 

 

After my beach side detour I drive back onto the main road and continue on to my destination. Point Lowly and the associated LPG gas complex of Point Bonython are part of the 12 kilometre Freycinet trail that winds around Fitzgerald Bay. The trail which is ideal for cycling, walking or driving, features interpretive signs that explain Aboriginal and European history as well geological and biological features.

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Point Lowly lighthouse

 

9

Gulls and cormorants

 

 

However, my trip today is simply exploratory and I will leave the trail for another time. Just a wander around the lighthouse, shoreline and nearby scrub will suffice. And the local sights more than live up to expectations. A mixed group of gulls and cormorants is roosting on a rocky outcrop while a pacific gulls glides above the inshore rockpools. Near the lighthouse a glorious little wood swallow perches on the guttering of a local shack expectantly watching a family BBQ.

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Pacific gull hunting

 

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Wood swallow on guttering

 

 

My appetite whetted for the next visit I turn the car and head back.

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz

Red Earth Wildlife

28 Jun

Dear Reader

South Australia’s capital Adelaide is a wonderful starting point for long country drives that take you through a variety of landscapes ranging from seemingly endless wheat fields to rugged coastline and dense bushland. The  city sits in the curve of the Mount Lofty Ranges. It has a fine Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cool wet winters. However, as you travel further west both the terrain and the climate change dramatically. The grassy plains and forests give way to saltbush, desert and scrubland. Even the earth beneath your feet looks different, the browns and greys turn to a rusty red, a signature feature of this iron rich land.

AB Bush track and old sheep fencing near Whyalla

Bush track and old sheep fencing near Whyalla

I have travelled west on many occasions to visit family on the Eyre Peninsula. They live in Whyalla, the state’s largest city after Adelaide. Whyalla lies on the coast and is a steel making centre where the iron rich rock that paints the landscape its terra cotta shades is mined, processed and exported to all corners of the globe. The city is well positioned for exploring the rugged Eyre Peninsula and has good accommodation as well as excellent fishing and interesting mangrove stands along the shallow foreshore. However, it is the nearby rugged bush landscape and hardy desert creatures that carve out an existence from it, that never fail to inspire me when I visit.

AB Different layers of arid scrub on Eyre Peninsula

Different layers of arid scrub on Eyre Peninsula

My last visit a little, at the end of this summer, was particularly rewarding. We had been without significant rain for well over a month which often brings the wildlife closer to the town where there is casual water and food, albeit not quite their natural diet, around parks and other public spaces. As many desert animals are crepuscular or nocturnal they tend to head back into the shelter of the surrounding bush during the day when the light is better for photography. This behaviour results in a narrow window of opportunity, during the early morning and late afternoon, for wildlife watching.

AE desert scrub near Whyalla

Red Kangaroo in semi desert terrain near Whyalla

 

A morning drive along one of the narrow bush tracks, used by local farmers to repair fencing, brought me to a large clearing and a brief encounter with a huge male red kangaroo. He was alone and grazing on some low shrubs and grasses and moved slowly into the bush as I approached. Several of the smaller grey coloureds females bounded across the track as I moved further along the trail and I caught a passing glimpse of an emu way picking its way through some stands of Myall trees. For the next hour the wildlife viewing was much the same, a few roos in the distance and the occasional bird of prey and flights of parrots flushed out of the surrounding bush.

hite-browed Wood Swallow perched near its nest in a fence post

White-browed Wood Swallow perched near its nest in a fence post

 

Later in the evening I drove along a different trail and had to engage low ratio 4WD to scramble my SUV across some steep shale covered sections. But it was well worth it when I climbed out and walked slowly through a particularly promising section of scrub. Crouching low in the bushes I spotted a couple of white browed wood swallows, a species I had never photographed and certainly a beautiful little bird and one superbly adapted to this green grey outback country.  

AF Tawny frogmouths group camouflagedin Myall Scrub in the late afternoon

Tawny frogmouths group camouflaged in Myall Scrub in the late afternoon

 

Satisfied with my afternoon’s work, I checked the ground for ants, scorpions or other pain inducing critters, sat down under an old, weathered Myall tree and pulled out my drink bottle. Sitting quietly in the bush is a treat for a city guy and I was going to enjoy some time alone before driving back for dinner.  However, it turned out that I was not alone in my choice of resting places. Perched on one of the branches, no more than three metres from away, was a family of tawny frogmouths; an insectivorous, nocturnal species unique to Australia that has an owl like appearance and the most amazing camouflage that I have ever seen. The birds were seeing out the daylight hours in the shade and paid me no heed as remaining still is a crucial part of their survival strategy. A final series of images to end an amazing morning in the bush.

Cheers

Baz

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