Tag Archives: sacred kingfisher

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

3 Aug

Chinaman’s Creek on a cloudy day

Dear Reader:

It is a cool, overcast afternoon; not ideal for wildlife watching or photography. Nevertheless, I have organised a weekend trip north to Port Augusta to investigate the Arid Zone Botanic Gardens during the winter months. As an added bonus, I hope to explore a shallow mangrove creek some 20kms south of the town that a friend has suggested as an interesting wildlife stop off en route.

1 wedge tail 2

Wedge – tailed eagles are Australia’s largest raptors with a wingspan over 2 metres

1 wedge tail 1. Australia's largest raptor with a wingspan over 2 meters

Wedge-tailed eagle about to fly

1 wedgy takes flight

In flight



As I approach the Chinaman’s creek junction I notice a pair of wedge-tailed eagles in the skeletal branches of a mallee tree. The birds seem quite relaxed as they survey the low scrub that stretches towards the coast. I let the car roll to a stop and gingerly climb out careful not to let the door bang shut. There is good cover between the birds and myself and I fire off a couple of shots before one bird senses the movement and takes to the air.

2 Galahs iin bush near wheat fields

Galahs in bush near wheat fields

2 Cockatoo near the park's entrance

Cockatoo near the park’s entrance


The stretch of unsealed road that stretches towards the coast is flanked on both sides by scrubby farmland that supports sheep and some wheat fields. Small groups of rose breasted cockatoos are perching in the branches alongside the road. They occasionally take flight into the fields to dig out tubers and possibly ravage a few of the crops; lovely birds to watch but not always popular with farmers.

4 Dirt trackinto the coservation park about 5 kms from the highway

Dirt track into the conservation park about 5 Kms from the highway

4 Visitors to the park

Visitors to the park


Where the cleared land gives way to forest and denser scrub, a fence and sign announces the Winninowie conservation Park which incorporates Chinaman’s Creek. Despite the remoteness of the area we meet a couple of 4X4s complete with camping trailers and stop to chat with the drivers for a few moments. They have been camping by the creek for a few days and had some success fishing the mangrove flats on the receding tide for whiting and mullet.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide

9 Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher

Momentary glimpse of a sacred kingfisher


A few minutes later we pull into the camping area. There is a scattering of permanent shacks and a small jetty that is completely exposed at low tide. I change from shoes to gum boots, from experience I know that this mud sticks like glue, and start to walk along the edge of the little creek. I can hear singing honeyeaters in the mangroves and catch flashes of colour from other unidentifiable species that flit amongst the thick foliage. But the birds are some distance away and the overcast conditions make photography all but impossible.

6 Chinaman's creek jetty at low tide

Chinaman’s creek jetty at low tide



I notice thousands of small burrows honeycombing the edge of the intertidal zone. Each is home to a small shore or mangrove crab. In the creek I can see roving schools of silver baitfish eagerly eyed by a pair of herons that are stalking the fringe of the mangroves.

4 As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up

As a pair of emus head towards the trees a grey kangaroo pops its head up


Our time at the creek is limited. The clouds are thickening and a few fat raindrops have bounced off my camera lens. As we leave the park has a few more wildlife surprises that make me grit my teeth over the poor lighting conditions. A gorgeous sacred kingfisher perches on a long-dead coastal acacia bush and a group of grazing emus wanders across the saltbush dominated plain. Later, when examining this image in detail I discover that there is another participant in the scene; a grey kangaroo that was feeding close to them.

5 The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background

The creek at low tide with mangrove forest and Flinders Ranges in the background


It has been an interesting first look at this coastal environment with its varied habitats and I look forward to further visits in the warmer, lighter months ahead.


Until next time



The Art of Nature

17 May

The metallic sculpture sits in the middle of a shady pool. The polished industrial surface in stark contrast to the delicate blue kingfisher that the artist has crafted to pose, lifelike, on its extremity. But it seems that the artist has done the job too well as the supposedly fabricated kingfisher suddenly takes to the air. I have rarely seen sacred kingfishers in the hills and to find one conveniently posed on a sculpture in a pond is simply too good to believe.

2 sacred kingfisher - Copy

Sacred kingfisher….. click to enlarge


I am strolling around ‘The Cedars’ the privately owned property near the tourist hamlet of Hahndorf in the Adelaide hills which is open to the public and host many art displays throughout the year. It was home to South Australia’s most famous artist, Sir Hans Heysen. The German born Heysen moved to SA in 1884 at age 7 where he was inspired by the beautiful and rugged countryside of the Adelaide Hills. He painted rural and landscape scenes for over 70 years in many SA locations before his death in 1968 The home and studio are set in 60 hectares of open woodland and scrub and wandering amongst the bush it is not difficult to see how the area inspired him.

5 heysen studio - Copy

Heysen’s studio….. click to enlarge


From ‘shady pool’ I climb the gentle slope above Heysen’s studio to explore a stand of Eucalypts. I can hear the warbling of magpies and screech of lorikeets. Half way up the incline I notice another piece of art work. Several crows are balanced on a table peering into glass specimen jars full of postcards. Nearby a pair of genuine, organic crows are perched in some bushes searching for food with their piercing blue eyes. In reality, the birds we commonly refer to as crows are more likely to be Australia ravens as the true crows are usually found further north in drier conditions.

3 crows - Copy

Crow art

IMG_3620 red

Crow/Raven….. click to enlarge


A little further along the trail I discover yet another art work hidden in the scrub: a pair of dung beetles rolling a globe. This piece seems to reflect on the state of the planet as seen by one artist. From this site I take a short walk to the house where Hans Heysen and later his daughter Nora lived and worked. The well kept garden features an eclectic mix of native and exotic flowering plants, the perfect place to find some beetles though not the dung variety which are more typical of Africa not Australia. After a little searching amongst the agapanthus, roses and native species I discover a brown flower beetle crawling across an agapanthus blossom.

P1080531 copy

Dung beetles….. click to enlarge

2 brown flower beetle on white agapanthus (2) red

Brown flower beetle….. click to enlarge


My walk has been both entertaining and informative with each animal species mirrored by a piece of art: a lovely way to spend an autumn afternoon.


Until our next adventure


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