Tag Archives: rosella

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

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Birds with Attitude

3 Dec


Dear Reader:

There were magpies scattered through the little park. I had seen them high in the trees and foraging nervously amongst the undergrowth. Every time I came close to one it would fly off and perch on a branch and watch me suspiciously. Suddenly, a small group of what I surmised must be sub-adults because of their grey flecked backs, decided to congregate in the understory just a few metres away from where I was sitting. They warbled and strutted and then seemed to organise themselves into a group.

E Magpie with attitude

The magpie strut

 

The birds moved in a skirmish line through the leaf litter chasing butterflies and raking through the ground with their powerful beaks. Every so often one would lift up its head and gulp down a grub then return to the hunt. I was perched on a fallen tree branch, clearly in their way but the birds just kept coming closer, brimming with the confidence that youth and inexperience bestows on many species including our own.

D Magpie with grub

Magpie about to swallow grub

 

Australian magpies (Gymnorina tibicen) are actually a member of the butcherbird family. They are medium sized, robust birds growing to around 44 cms in length with powerful stabbing beaks that are used for digging out ground based prey and for defence. Magpies live in groups of 2-24 birds with distinct social stratification- several high status females usually breed with a dominant male and the remainder live on the periphery helping to protect nests. They are extremely territorial during the breeding season and many a cyclist, golfer or innocent pedestrian crossing the parklands will tell tales of being attacked by dive bombing magpies.

F Magpie cleaning beak

Magpie cleaning beak while foraging

 

My far less adventurous magpie moment occurred inside a little conservation park in Burnside, one of Adelaide’s more affluent eastern suburbs quite close to the hills face. The park is classic scrub reminiscent of the way the plains would have been before European settlement. Tall eucalypts and native pines dominate the upper story and a variety of low bushes including spiky acacias form the mid range vegetation. Being the end of spring, there were still quite a few flowering plants amongst the leaf litter and fallen branches. And when I sat quietly and watched intently it was possible to catch glimpses of tiny brown skinks searching for prey in the jumbled layer of leaves and bark.

C Adelaide rosellas

Adelaide rosellas on the track near the park entrance

 

However, magpies were not the only birds using the park. As I entered through a side gate I watched a pair of Adelaide rosellas nibbling grass seeds on the path a mere 20 metres away. And the usual suspects; noisy miners, new Holland honeyeaters and some tiny, twittering finches, all added to the sounds and sights of my walk in the park.

B Meadow argus butterflies

Meadow argus butterflies

 

Cheers

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  

Adelaide’s Parkland Rosellas

4 May

Dear Reader Adelaide’s CBD is surrounded by parklands. They are a place for workers to enjoy during a lunch break or cyclists and joggers to traverse on the daily commute. They set the tone for the city and also provide a natural backdrop to the everyday business of the state’s vibrant capital. They were conceived by the city’s founder and first governor Colonel Light and are still treasured and protected by those who live in the city and inner suburbs.

AA bike linear park

Bike riding through the parklands

The ecology of the parklands like the commerce of the city has its own rules and hierarchy. magpies and miner birds aggressively mark out and defend their territories, brushtail possums enjoy the nightlife and screeching rainbow lorikeets seem to know everyone’s business.

AB Noisy Miner feeding on a banksia bloom

Noisy miner feeding on a banksia bloom

One of my favourite animals in this urban ecosystem is the elegant and colourful eastern rosella. They are found throughout the Adelaide and Mount Lofty region and seem to have a preference for open woodland where they can find suitable nesting holes, preferably in old growth trees. There has been a pair raising their young in a white cedar in front of my home this year and when I go for an evening walk I can hear the young ones deep in the tree calling to the adults.

AC Male and Female Adelaide Rosellas feeding

Male and female eastern rosellas feeding

Adelaide rosellas are around 35 cms in length with females being slightly smaller with a faintly orange cast to their plumage and less defined markings. They create a nest up to a metre deep within a tree hollow. Both parents feed the young. Rosellas are mainly seed eaters and feed mainly on the ground.

AD Adelaide Rosella on parkland fencepost feeding on wild grain heads

Eastern rosella on parkland fencepost feeding on wild grain heads

For me, one of the attractions of rosellas is their is its truly unique South Australian connection.  Indeed one particular type, the Adelaide rosella,  only occurs within a few dozen kilometres of the city. It is actually a hybrid of the yellow rosella which inhabits the Murray River valley and the crimson rosella which is more prevalent in the south east of the state.

AE Social interaction between Adelaide Rosellas above nesting hole

Social interaction between eastern rosellas above nesting hole

If you walk through the parklands during the spring and summer months it is not difficult to observe these colourful rosellas exhibiting a full range of behaviours from feeding to nesting and mating.

AF Adelaide Rosella perched on nesting hole entrance

Eastern rosella perched on nesting hole entrance

Cheers Baz

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