Tag Archives: South Australian wetlands

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

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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

 

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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.

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Black ducks feeding

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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.

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Third bridge over the creek

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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.

Gawler’s Dead Man’s Pass

7 Apr

 Dear Reader:

There are dragonflies and damselflies hovering above the water. Every so often one of the slender damselflies hovers near the bank then attaches itself at right angles to a reed.

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Damselfly

 

The pool of water is left over from the winter rains and sits alongside a causeway that crosses the river just a few hundred metres from Gawler’s main street. The town has a country, colonial feel about it with classic stone buildings and a good smattering of pubs, restaurants and bakeries to fuel up on before exploring the ominously named Dead Man’s Pass.

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Causeway over the Gawler River

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Historic stone buildings in Gawler

 

Well placed signs along the walking and cycling track indicate interesting historical information as well as describing the wealth of fauna that can be encountered along this trail which follows the course of the Gawler River. As I approach a dense clump of reeds I am lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of a red bellied black snake before it disappears into the undergrowth near the river bank.

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Red bellied black snake

 

The edge of the river is bordered by massive red gums that in themselves create a multitude of ecological niches. I sit near the base of one huge tree watching a variety of insects from ants to beetles as they forage along the trunk while a tree skink weaves its way amongst the deeply furrowed bark in search of prey.

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Tree living skink

 

Several metres higher up the tree, a pair of crested pigeons has made a nest on one of the larger limbs. Both birds will share the incubation of the eggs (usually two) which will hatch after about 21 days.

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Crested pigeon

 

The river red gums along the creek also play host to a wide variety of parrot species including cockatoos, rosellas, rainbow lorikeets and the brightly coloured little musk lorikeets. Two of these delightful little birds are checking out a nesting hole where a branch has been removed and I am fortunate enough to capture an image of them contemplating their future real estate.

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Nesting musk lorikeets

 

My morning exploring the park on the outskirts of this charming country town has been most rewarding and I am sure that Gawler’s historical and ecological diversity will be the topic of more posts in the future.

 

Cheers Baz

Clarendon…A Bend in the River

15 Jan

Clarendon…A Bend in the River 

Dear Reader:

From where I am standing, half hidden amongst the reeds, I can see that the river is quite high after some recent rainfall and the water fowl are making the best of it. Both maned and Pacific black ducks are dabbling along the sheltered banks. Any ducklings seem to have reached maturity and left the area though some of the other water birds such as purple swamp hens and dusky moorhens are still tending their chicks.

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Maned ducks

 

 

Riverbend Park is exactly what its name implies. Situated at Clarendon, just a two minute walk from the main street, it is a glorious little reserve with an abundance of habitats and wildlife. There are steep cliffs, reed beds, deep pools and shallow riffles. Wildlife aside, the township with its colonial feel, lovely old homes and good eateries, is a destination in itself and certainly worth the forty minute drive from the city.

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Bend in the river

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Classic old home

 

As I stroll along the well grassed banks of the park I notice several species of honeyeaters flitting across the water. The birds seem to be attracted to a huge river gum, gorging themselves on the insects sheltering beneath its peeling layers of bark. Positioning myself behind a nearby bench I rest the camera on a bean bag for stability and fire off a few shots, eventually capturing an image of a white plumed honeyeater hunting for bugs.

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Plumed honeyeater

 

 I follow a well worn dirt road downstream from the car park towards some crumbling cliffs that rise up from the river bank. Unable to go any further, I sit and wait for a while with the camera resting on my lap. There is movement in the undergrowth all around me and after a few minutes I catch sight of a small water skink making its way down to the water.

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Water skink

 

After spending a couple of hours in the park, it’s time to indulge in lunch at the local bakery. I take the short walk over the ford then up a well worn path to the main street. Half way up the path I can hear the high pitched twittering of blue wrens. Back out with the camera for one last time! The decision is justified as both a male and female leave the shelter of the bushes to forage on the ground for their avian version of my long anticipated lunch.

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Female blue wren

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male blue wren

 

Cheers

And

Enjoy the New Year!

Baz

Athelstone … a river walk…field notes and images

15 Oct

Athelstone … a river walk…field notes and images

 

Dear Reader: I hope that you enjoy the field notes and images from my day exploring the lower reaches of the Torrens Gorge near Athelstone. I will be using this style from now on as it allows me to share more observations and thoughts with you.

 

Spring 12/10/2015

A cool morning with a little cloud cover and patches of blue sky

Drove from city to Gorge Road intersection then to Athelstone, approx 20 minutes

Stopped in at bakery to get steak pie, apple tart and fruit juice

Photographed historic community centre, lovely roses on display

Spoke to history officer

Quite a few colonial buildings in the area worth visiting

Started walk from the mining road 2.8 Kms from Athelstone Council chambers, just past stone and fibre house on RHS of main road, parked near the causeway (ford)

Followed old, narrow bitumen road along left bank of Torrens heading up the gorge (upstream) towards historic aquaduct

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Council chambers

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Stone and fibre home by turn off

 

Trail to aquaduct only 800 meters

Not going to walk off impending lunch this way

Walked slowly, stop, look and wait

Can hear small birds twittering in scrub to the left

Several little wrens fossicking in leaf litter

They appear to be different species as one has a blue tail

All are females as fairy wren males of the most common species have patches of bright blue plumage

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Female superb fairy wren

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Male superb fairy wren

 

Koala in dense foliage of a non native tree, unusual

There are several gums nearby, perhaps this tree is shadier

Tree creeper (possibly white throated) feeding probing for insects on a eucalyptus tree, seems to be favouring old and dead branches

Note the huge feet for gripping and providing stability

Hard to get a clear shot

Switch to shutter priority to stop action 1/1600 should do

B13

Koala

White throated treecreeper

White throated treecreeper

 

Reach the aquaduct

Note the signage about its history

State listed heritage item in 1980

Operated continuously for 138 years carrying water from Hope Valley Reservoir

There is a deep pool below

Scan the edge of the water and several logs for fresh water turtles…nothing

A water skink is basking on one of the flat rocks

As I approach and take a couple of shots it disappears into the undergrowth

I have often photographed these little reptiles and never seen one in the water swimming

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Aquaduct

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Eastern water skink

 

Start return walk to car

Expansive views of the gorge rising on the SE side

Several cyclist ride past on the main road above the river

They use the steep road for training

Concentrate on the other side of the path on return walk

Yellow tail black cockatoos fly above

See and hear a lot of Rosellas in taller trees

Manage to get a shot of a crimson feeding on berries in tree top

Stop to look at interesting gum trunk with red sap oozing from it

Like the colours and texture

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Bark patterns and gum resin

Back at car

Drive to park about 1 kilometre out of Athelstone to walking trails in parkland area, still has Torrens flowing through

Lunch on a bench watching some magpies haggling over territory

A Good morning’s work

Cheers

Baz

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