Tag Archives: South Australian wetlands

Weeroona’s Wildlife

10 Aug

Dear Reader:

The roadside view makes the pair of ibis look like some multi headed ying-yang version of a bird as one looks up while the other dips its beak into a puddle. They are part of a larger group that has been feeding in the samphire wetlands that border the road to the island.

 

Pair of ibis

 

Strictly speaking Weeroona island is more like a raised peninsula; cut off from the mainland by swampy ground that only floods in severe weather conditions coupled with high tides. Situated between Port Pirie and Port Germein (about two hours drive from Adelaide) the island is a weekend destination for many locals. There are a wide variety of dwellings from beachside shacks to luxury homes scattered around the island. Surrounded by stands of mangrove and with stretches of beach mudflat and cliffs the periphery of this tiny island is a Mecca for coastal wildlife.

 

Island life

 

As I reach the island I notice a small park with children’s play equipment, shelter and barbecues. Nearby there is a boat ramp and a walking trail that skirts the mangroves. A school of mullet are feeding in the shallows and I can hear the calls of mangrove warblers and herons in the tangles of trunks and leaves that crowd the water’s edge. The view from the park back across the mainland to the lower Flinders is spectacular with low clouds enveloping the crest of the hills.

 

Mangrove channel

 

Driving around the island only takes a few minutes but there are several minor roads and tracks leading down to the sea that are well worth exploring. Along one small trail I have an uninterrupted view of the skeletal remains of an old fishing boat and a mixed accumulation of pied and black cormorants on a small exposed beach.

 

What a wreck

 

It has been a brief but exhilarating drive around the little island and I will make sure to set more time aside on my next foray into the area. But Weroona leaves me with one final avian gift. Just as I am about to drive back to the main highway a pair of masked lapwings decide to walk along the path near the walkway. Today the light is good and I manage to get a nice detailed shot of one of these wary coastal birds purposefully strutting along the gravel track.

 

Masked lapwing

 

 

Cheers

Baz

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Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

25 Jun

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is bounding along the small levy that cuts across a shallow clay pan near the edge of a tidal flat. It stops monetarily and twitches its mobile ears, looks around, then continues on its way into the scrub alongside the raised earthen mound. I get a few seconds to make a shot and the wary marsupial is gone.

Grey kangaroo

 I am exploring the coastal fringe of Whyalla South Australia’s third most populous city. The steel and regional centre is situated near the head of Spencer Gulf on the Eyre Peninsula about 450 kms from Adelaide. The area is a mixture of mangrove, tidal flats, sandy beach and some small industrial areas that enclose substantial freshwater pools. Several roads lead down towards the coast from the Lincoln Highway and some of the terrain requires 4WD.

Garden centipede

Egyptian beetle 

I take the vehicle across one of the mud flats and have to fight to keep from getting bogged. Slipping the SUV into low range and slowly sliding across the surface I wrestle with the steering until the wheels grip sand on the edge of the levy. Relieved, I get out and survey the quagmire of clay-like debris stuck to the wheel arches. But my close call has led me to a cosy little depression amongst the scrub and I decide to move a few fallen branches and search for invertebrates. After a few minutes I unearth a rather large garden centipede and a few Egyptian or ‘cellar beetles’ as well as some different ant species. After a little macro photography I carefully replace their homes.

Australian pelicans 

Another dirt road takes me past the rifle club and some large freshwater ponds that have attracted a small group of pelicans. The birds appear to be simply congregating and socialising between short forays into the water to feed. Along the edge of the water there are several different species of small waders including dotterels and plovers but they are wary and take flight when I approach.

Crested pigeons 

The scrub alongside the mangrove patches is also home to a variety of birds including singing honeyeaters and fantails. One scrubby eucalypt that has managed to endure decades of salty onshore winds provides shelter for a trio of crested pigeons a species that I often see found foraging in the coastal bush.

View from Hummock Hill 

I head back onto the highway drive back into the city and up to a local lookout. Hummock Hill is a fitting place to end my exploration of Whyalla’s coastal fringe. The site of the first settlement in 1901 it provides panoramic views of the city, coast and surrounding bushland. Hummock Hill also served as a gun emplacement during the Second World War and has lately been developed as an historic site; lovely place to simply take in the rugged beauty that this area has to offer.

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

Dry Creek by the Junction

31 May

Dry Creek by the Junction

Dear Reader:

Yes, an ant is an ant, but in Australia some ants are just that little bit more! Inch ants or bulldog ants live up to their name and reputation. Solitary hunters that still live in communal nests they have a fearsome bite and relentless disposition. This one is hunting late on a cool autumn afternoon scouring a eucalypt trunk for prey. I watch carefully as it systematically probes under the bark for any hapless invertebrate that is sheltering or hibernating. Seeing a bulldog ant at this time of year seems strange, perhaps a late burst of warm weather woke the colony up. The vagaries of nature are always fascinating.

 

Bulldog ant hunting

 

I am exploring the section of Dry Creek which flows between the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Nelson Road through to Walkley’s Road. It can be accessed behind ‘The Junction’ shopping centre. The creek twist and turns along this part of its length and is bordered by walking and bike trails. There are some deep pools, a ford and a small footbridge which all facilitate wildlife viewing and photography. Throw in a nice bakery at the shopping area and you have the makings of a perfect walk.

 

Dry Creek

 

The little footbridge which spans the river is an ideal place to watch for wildlife. It is high on the banks and provides a good vantage point for peering into the treetops. Today it is the surface of the water that catches my attention. The tell-tale V shaped ripples of a water rat swimming across the creek are an unexpected bonus on my walk. I have rarely seen the elusive little rodents in Dry Creek and to know that they are present is quite a treat. Water rats or rakalis are a native species with a broad head, webbed feet and a white tip to the tail. They feed on aquatic insects, yabbies, molluscs, frogs and small fish.

 

Australian water rat swimming

 

 

 

Further along the path there is a break in the bushes and trees that envelop the sides of the creek and I can get good access to the water’s edge.  A little pied cormorant is sitting on a log directing its gaze into a long pool before continuing to hunt amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. On my walk back I see the same bird with its wings outstretched drying them between forays into the creek to hunt. Cormorants do not have waterproofing oils to protect their plumage like some waterbirds and therefore must continually dry out their feathers.   

 

 

little pied cormorant

 

Near one of the fords there are some massive river red gums shading the creek bed and I can hear the raucous screech of lorikeets in the highest branches. A quick look through the telephoto lens helps me to identify them as musk lorikeets. These social little birds seem to have found something to feed on in the canopy. There are no blossoms on the trees so I can only assume that it is some form of insect life.

 

Musk lorikeet

 

My walk has been most rewarding as I have encountered a wide range of animals from aquatic mammals and predatory insects through to brightly coloured parrots in the treetops. Only the bakery to go and I can mark today down as more than a little successful.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 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

Whyalla’s Wildlife Oasis

5 Dec

Dear Reader:

The red-necked avocets are searching for food along the shoreline of the little lake. They use their characteristically upwards curved beak to probe for tiny crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates. Avocets employ two different feeding strategies. Where the water is clear the birds pick their prey from the surface but in muddy areas they sweep their bills across the sediment flushing out tiny animals to feed on.

 

Red-necked avocet

 

I am walking around the freshwater lake that is the centrepiece of Whyalla’s newly created wetlands. The area has been carefully developed over the last few years with the aid of local community groups. There are significant stands of reeds, grasses and shrubs throughout the park providing a habitat for a range of wading birds including: stilts, ibises, plovers, dotterels as well as larger species such as pelicans and cormorants. Barbecues, a playground, benches, toilets and sheltered areas make this both an ideal family destination and wildlife oasis in the dry desert countryside that surrounds Whyalla.

 

Wetlands view

 

 

Further along the trail clumps of native grasses and flax lilies provide shelter and food for quite different kinds of wildlife. Native blue bees flit between the blossoms where their vibrating wings shake loose pollen. Hidden strategically in the grass blades, a well camouflaged dragon lizard waits patiently for any unwary bee or other insect to venture within its kill zone.

 

Blue banded bee

 

Dragon waiting

The extensive grassed areas provide yet another habitat for those animals that prefer to feed or congregate in open spaces. Parrots, ibises and ducks often relish these open areas but today it is a flock of black-tailed native hens that are foraging on the grass. They are nervous and hard to approach and getting a reasonable shot takes a little patience.

 

Black-tailed native hens

 

 

 

As my walk draws to a close I notice two delicate little waders close to each other as they feed along the shoreline. A black-winged stilt with its needle-like beak and a smaller red-kneed dotterel are both feeding in the same area but their different beak shapes means that they are not in competition.

 

Dotterel and stilt

 

The wetlands are just off the Lincoln Highway at the southern end of Whyalla. From there it is a short drive into the town or down to the marina which is famous for the pods of dolphins that come up to the walkways to help themselves to any fish discarded by anglers returning to the marina……or perhaps just to enjoy the company of another intelligent species.

 

Next stop

 

Take a drive out west sometime and enjoy this unique part of our State

Cheers

Baz  

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 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 or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Naturally Bonython Park

1 Nov

Naturally Bonython Park

Dear Reader

There are two rainbow lorikeets perched halfway up a red gum. They are exploring a potential nesting hole. First one bird pokes its head in then the other. Their house hunting is accompanied by much squawking, head bobbing and an occasional nip at each other. Just when they seem to have decided that this is the right site, a magpie lands on the branch just above them and both parrots take flight.

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Rainbow lorikeets at nesting hole

 

I am in Bonython Park by the Torrens River; downstream from the weir and opposite the Coca Cola factory on Port Road. Below me cycle and walking trails surround the waterway and a small causeway and larger train bridge cut across the river. The park abuts the holding paddocks for the police greys by the old jail and includes wide expanses of green space, a shallow paddling lake, kiosk and children’s playgrounds.

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Bonython Park Kiosk

 

 

From the recreational area I walk down to the pathway then head back upstream towards the train-bridge and city. The river bank is cloaked in tall reed beds and I can hear numerous small birds moving and calling in the jungle of stalks and leaves. There are several grassy areas that are free from the reeds and they provide opportune places to sit and observe the river’s wildlife.

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Purple swamp hen

 

Coots, moorhens and purple swamp hens are common along this stretch of water. The coots and moorhens tend to be in the water paddling close to the cover of the reeds. The swamp hens are more often seen in amongst the tangle of plants by the bank where they use their elongated feet to walk gingerly on the fallen reeds that form a mat on the water’s surface.

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Downstream view from railway bridge

 

The view from the bridge to the ford provides a good oversight of the river and eucalyptus trees that line the banks. However, the bridge is also a perfect shelter for a number of different animals. Over the years I have watched water rats foraging here and even a fox that was taking shelter during a rain storm. Today it is an eastern water skink that makes an appearance as it forages amongst the old wooden foundations of a pathway that runs under the bridge.

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Eastern water skink

 

Downstream from the bridge there are several islets made from debris that has floated down the river during recent floods. Several pelicans have claimed this territory as a resting place and are squabbling over squatters’ rights. They duel with their beaks, neither giving way, while disturbing a group of black cormorants that are using the same area.

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Pelican agro

 

I am almost back to where I started when I find one last target for my camera. Two swallows are perching on a papyrus stem where they are making forays over the water to hawk insects. Swallows are not the easiest birds to photograph as they are incessantly on the move but this pair has cooperated even though they are still at the extreme range of my equipment.

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Resting swallows

 

Cheers and enjoy the spring

BAZ

Modbury’s Three Bridge Walk

1 Aug

Modbury’s Three Bridge Walk

 Dear Reader:

There are ibises along the banks of the pond and high in a river gum. One pair seems to be concentrating on a particularly dense area in the crown of the tree. I look more closely through the telephoto lens. It is a nest, barely discernible amongst branches. Closer inspection reveals a pair of chicks nestled against one of the parents while the other has left in search.

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Ibis nest camouflaged in gum tree

 

I am walking along the pathway that runs from Montague Road to McIntyre Road behind the little complex of shops that includes Katmandu, Bunnings and Subway; just a few hundred metres before TTP. It is best to park next to the creek appropriately behind the outdoor shop then walked over a small traffic bridge to Victoria road. After a hundred metres, head left over the footbridge that crosses Dry Creek past a large pond where the ibises gather.

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The pond near Montague Road

 

3a

Walking and cycling track along Dry Creek

 

Leaving the ibises to their domestic duties I follow the creek using a small track along the bank. Alternatively a new concrete path traverses the same route. There are waterfowl along the creek which is flowing quite fast after heavy winter rains. In a slightly calmer stretch where a curve in the creek creates a sheltered pool a pair of black ducks, recognisable only by their upturned tails, are feeding on the bottom.

3a2

Black ducks feeding

4a

Along the secluded detour

 

After a couple of hundred meters I come to the third bridge which crosses the creek and bends back to the car park and lunch. However, alongside the bridge there is another rough dirt track that leads into the scrub emerging at a lovely secluded section of the creek. As I follow this trail I come across a variety of smaller birds including some New Holland honeyeaters that are perched in the reeds and a flock of musk lorikeets squawking high in a huge red gum near the trail junction.

3a3

Third bridge over the creek

3b

New Holland honeyeater in reeds

 

I back track to the bridge, cross it, turn left following the main watercourse and stop to photograph a small waterfall that has developed in the creek. From here the track branches left running alongside a steep banked gully with very little water in it. Back at the car park I can get some lunch, shop for outdoor gear or find some hardware to occupy the remainder of the day.

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Little rapid or waterfall

 

Not a bad way to spend a winter’s morning

Cheers

Baz

Aldgate Valley Reserve

14 Apr

Aldgate Valley Reserve

The road from Aldgate to the reserve winds through rural and bush country with charming homes and patches of scrub on either side. I pull off the road near an old bridge that crosses Aldgate Creek and walk along the well marked trail listening to the sounds of birds high in the gum trees. Eventually I catch sight of a pair of eastern rosellas as they fly between the topmost branches.

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Eastern rosella

 

Aldgate is one of the principal towns in the Adelaide Hills. It has a village atmosphere with fine eateries and small, locally owned shops. A fascinating 6 km nature walk runs between Aldgate and its neighbour Mylor. The route passes through the Aldgate Valley where southern brown bandicoots have been reintroduced to their native habitat (little marsupials that superficially resemble rats).

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Aldgate Creek

 

From the road bridge I take the path alongside the creek where I find a small footbridge. Several eastern water skinks have taken up residence amongst the wooden slats and one little fellow, who seems to have regrown the end of his tail, poses nicely for a portrait. Most of these smaller skinks drop their tail if grabbed by a predator. This serves a dual purpose as the tail continues to wiggle after being detached, acting as a decoy.

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Eastern water skink

 

Today I have decided to simply explore the area around the reserve and search out some of the animals that inhabit it. A bandicoot would be nice but as they are timid and mainly nocturnal and I am not holding out much hope. On the right hand side of the bridge there is a small orchard and some benches. Several large magpies are strutting around the area and one sits on the bench and glares at me as I walk through the trees.

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Magpie with attitude

 

 

I spend a little more time sitting by the creek watching finches and wrens darting between bushes but the day is getting chilly and the clouds are rolling in. As I step into the car for the drive back home a solitary kookaburra chortles in the trees nearby. Something seems to have disturbed the bird and I take a closer look and find a koala feeding in an adjacent tree.

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Laughing kookaburra

 

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Does my bum look big up this?

I make one last stop back in Aldgate to drop in at ‘FRED’ for a late lunch. So much to choose from; but the Sicilian ciabatta with wilted greens, haloumi, home-made chutney and caramelised onion cannot be resisted.

1 7 wilted greens aloumi chutney ciabaco sicilian armelised onion

One of many choices

 

Cheers

Baz

PS

I will be travelling for the next month and will not post any articles until mid-late May

Take a look over some of the earlier work and find somewhere to take a walk and enjoy our wonderful wildlife.

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