Tag Archives: superb blue wren

Barossa’s Whispering Wall

1 Nov

. Barossa’s Whispering Wall

 Dear Reader:

At the end of the long curved concrete wall there is a little patch of broken reeds and other water plants that form a kind of mat on the surface; an ideal place for a variety of aquatic animals. Public access to this area is prohibited so I have to scan the mish-mash of vegetation with my long lens. To my surprise, there are both male and female Blue Wrens feeding on the numerous insects living around the plant material.

 

Male Blue Wren

 

Female Blue Wren

 

I am at the Whispering Wall which is the main dam containing the Barossa Valley reservoir. Built in 1903 it was considered quite an engineering feat at the time. The wall of the dam is named for its acoustic properties and you can stand at one end and be heard at the other even when speaking quietly. Most of the property around the dam is fenced-off but by simply waking around the grassed areas and across the dam it is possible to encounter quite a wide range of wildlife.

 

Curve of the dam wall

 

 

 

“I’m whispering.”

 

“Yep, I heard you.”

 

In another patch of reeds I catch sight of freshwater turtle peering through the broken stems and there are numerous small fish or tadpoles in the more open patches of water. Walking back across the dam I see a small group of Eurasian Coots feeding. And in the distance a lone Greater Crested Grebe is making its way across the reservoir; a bird that I have never seen in the wild. I take a long shot with the camera but the result is hardly award-winning.

 

Freshwater turtle probably a Macquarie Sort Neck

Eurasian Coot

Long distance shot of a Great Crested Grebe

 

Back at the car park I take a stroll around the grassy lawns which are dominated by massive red gums. Both Galahs and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are perched high in the branches while smaller Lorikeet species are feeding on blossoms and gum nuts. Along the edge of this area several cormorants are resting in the trees; silhouetted by the dazzling blue of the sky.

 

 

My walk has been short but rewarding and a stop at the Williamstown Bakery on the way back will almost certainly make this a memorable day out.  

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk and drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, picnic area and parking on site. It is dog friendly

See more South Australian stories on Weekend Notes

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 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

Warren Reservoir

11 May

Dear Reader:

There is pelican fishing near the water outlet on the edge of the reservoir. It seems to be catching the odd fish unlike the anglers near the bridge. Likewise, a snake bird sometimes called a diver but more correctly known as an anhinga, is perched on a branch overhanging the water drying its wings after successfully making a catch. Obviously there is prey in the lake and after one of the longest dry spells on record it is a pleasure to witness the local wildlife reaping the benefits of permanent water.

 

Snake bird or darter

 

I am exploring the Warren Reservoir about an hour’s drive north east of Adelaide’s CBD past Williamstown on Warren Road which deviates left off the Springton Road a few Kilometres beyond the township. There are several lay-bys and one major recreation site that allow access to the reservoir which can be used by fishers and kayakers.

 

Warren Reservoir

 

 There is a bridge crossing the reservoir that leads on to a path that skirts the water. Tiny finches and wrens are chirping in the canopy and an occasional duck can be seen foraging near the reeds. I sit quietly by a large eucalypt that droops over the water watching for a kingfisher or kookaburra. However, it is a tiny female blue wren that catches my eye as it works its way along the edge of the water.

 

Masked Lapwings

 

Roos in retreat

 

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Further along the track several lapwings are walking tentatively along the high water mark. They are nervous and approaching them to capture an image is difficult. As I crouch amongst the bushes I startle a small group of kangaroos that are quietly resting in some bushland near the edge of a pine forest.

 

Casual lunch

 

My walk around the reservoir has been interesting but a few hunger pangs are setting in. In a cutting a little closer to Williamstown there is a pop up lunch bus that makes unbelievable hot-steak rolls. The chap that runs it is an ex-biker (not bikey) and also sells oil and other motorbike accessories for the numerous enthusiasts that drive through the area. An interesting way to end my day at the reservoir.

 

Cheers

Baz  

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk/drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby. It is dog friendly.

 

 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

Cudlee Creek’s Winter Wildlife

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

It is early morning and the sky is still a little grey as it sheds the last of the morning mist. A steep path winds down to the riverside and it too is slippery from the moisture in the air. Small birds are flitting between the trees, moving too fast to recognise but an occasional call suggests they are honeyeaters and wrens. Eventually the ground levels off and I am able to walk comfortably amongst a stand of gums that border the water. To my surprise I find a large koala in the one of the smaller saplings doing its best to reach the tender leaves at the top of the tree.

 

Koala feeding

 

The road from the Cudlee Creek Bridge past the Kangaroo Creek Dam and back to Adelaide winds along the banks of the Torrens for the first few kilometres. There are a few narrow lay-bys where you can access the water and the enveloping scrub. Steep hillsides and sandstone cliffs make this an attractive but arduous place to search for wildlife but one worth the effort as a variety of birds, grey kangaroos, water rats and turtles; to mention but a few species; make the Torrens Gorge home.

 

River, cliff and road

 

Closer to the Bridge and Cudlee Creek store I park along a track and make my way down to the long pool at the foot of a hillside. A pair of rosellas is chattering in the trees above me and an expectant kookaburra is waiting above the water on an overhanging branch. But it is the little fairy wrens that intrigue me. One bird sits cautiously on a large rock near some straggly plants that have gone to seed. It seems aware of me but the lure of a nutritious lunch seems to outweigh caution. I watch it feed for a few minutes before the lorikeets issue a warning call and it flits back into the undergrowth.

 

Blue wren near water

 

Blue wren feeding

 

 

My final stop is the little store ‘come restaurant and gas station’ for a bite to eat but not before I walk across the adjacent bridge to see if I can spot some birds or even a possum in the foliage of several eucalypts that reach up from the river. Though it is winter and insects are a rarity it is a beautiful monarch butterfly that provides my parting shot and a reminder to return in the warmer weather.

Historic Cudlee Creek Bridge

 

 

 

Monarch on eucalyptus leaves

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

Exploring the riverbank can be quite difficult but driving and simply stopping at the lay-bys between Cudlee Creek and Kangaroo Creek dam is a pleasant drive.

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and short texts describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will add a new image and caption to accompany each post.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Winery Wildlife

2 May

Winery Wildlife

 Dear Reader:

The male superb blue wren is extremely active as he darts between the bushes foraging for insects and seeds in the undergrowth. The iridescent blue plumage is striking. Nearby, a duller, grey coloured female twitters excitedly as the male approaches. Yet her adoration is a somewhat of a scam as their so-called monogamy is far from the truth. The promiscuous wrens will get a little avian action behind their mates’ backs if the chance arises while maintaining an outward appearance of togetherness.

 

Superb blue wren

 

I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the manicured gardens that grace the Jacobs Creek Winery in the Barossa Valley. After a superb lunch of chilli marinated prawns accompanied by an award winning white wine I am about to wander down the nature trail that leads from the restaurant and wine centre along the creek and into some nearby bushland.

 

Wine centre

 

Balcony view

There are both magpies and cockatoos calling from the lower branches of some magnificent river gums with finches twittering in the thick bushes alongside the trail. But it is a diminutive, silent creature that catches my eye. A delicate jewel spider has spun a web in a wattle bush and the brilliant colours and intricate body patterns of the little arachnid are quite outstanding; even on this relatively cloudy day.

 

Jewel spider

 

 

 

Nature trail

 

Galah

 

Near the small bridge where the trail and creek intersect I notice a group of small birds in a tree some distance away. They look a little like wood swallows but the colour is not right. I am familiar with most of the birds that inhabit this region and do not often come across a species that I don’t quickly recognise. Therefore, I leave this small task to you ‘Dear Reader’. If someone can identify them for me I would be most grateful.

 

Unknown birds

 

Closer shot of unknown bird

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

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

Barker Inlet and Greenfields Wetlands …a road trip

23 Feb

Barker Inlet and Greenfields Wetlands ….a road trip

Dear Reader:

As I cruise along the highway between Port Adelaide and Salisbury a succession of lagoons, ponds and wetlands flash past my windscreen. Over the last couple of decades this once industrial wasteland has become a haven for wildlife and an integral part of the system converting run off into clean water that flows back into the ocean.

1Torrens Island power station

Torrens island power station looms behind the wetlands

 

There are several parking bays along the way that provide vantage points and access to walking paths into the wetlands. In rather an anomalous environmental scene the first one that I explore has the Torrens Island Power Station as a backdrop. And, a family of maned ducks are sheltering amongst the reeds in the foreground.

2

Maned ducks

 

I drive another couple of kilometres to a large siding where two 4WD vehicles with council logos on them are parked by a path into the wetlands. A small group of volunteers are working on clearing weeds, counting bird species and making other environmental observations about the health of the ecosystem.

3

Those who care

 

Leaving the voluntary workers to their work I find the next promising entrance and park my car. A sign indicates that we have moved into the Greenfields Wetlands. The track leads to an old bridge then follows an embankment along the edge of a small lake. The twittering of wrens provides a constant sound track as I scan for water fowl and reptiles along the edge of the reeds. There are coots, swamp hens and Pacific black ducks as well as turtles and water skinks along this section of wetland but it is a glorious little blue wren draws the attention of my long lens.

4 2

Male superb blue wren

 

The watercourse ends in a sluice gate that regulates water flow between the ponds and on one side I can see the swirl and splash of large fish feeding in the shallows. They are carp, an unwelcome guest in any ecosystem and their eradication is probably another task for the council and other environmental protection agencies that watch over these important resources.

5

Carp feeding in the shallows

 

My final stop, just before the salt pans is particularly fruitful as there is a mixed population of black swans, herons and spoonbills feeding in a shallow lagoon. It is always interesting to observe these quite diverse species with their individual feeding styles and uniquely evolved body parts. Their beaks, legs and feet have developed unique characteristics over time for feeding in the same area but utilising different food sources and therefore not competing.

6

A mixed group of waterbirds

 

And, as is so often the case, my thoughts also turn to food. The Watershed Cafe, just over the bridge, is opportunely positioned on another part of the Greenfields system near Mawson Lakes. Sitting on the edge of a reed fringed lake it is the perfect place for coffee and cake at the end of my wetlands drive.

 

Cheer

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.

1

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.

4

Bend in the river

2

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.

11111

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.

5

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.

6

Female blue wren

6 1

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

B18 jpeg

Council chambers

B17 image

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

B8

Female superb fairy wren

B9

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

B10

Aquaduct

IMG_8953

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

B20 red

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

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

29 Sep

Marion Bay….the edge of Innes

A small group of grey kangaroos is gathered on the edge of the scrub. The large male seems a little nervous. His ears twitch independently as he hops a few metres closer to where I am balancing the camera on an old jarrah fence post. Keeping the females and a half grown joey behind him, the buck stands up to his full height, giving me a clear warning not to come any nearer to his family.

1 Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

Western grey kangaroos resting on the edge of the scrub

I am walking along the fence-line that separates the township of Marion Bay from the Innes National park. We have hired a little holiday home that sits on the very edge of the township with intimate views of the surrounding grassland and scrub. Each morning, while I am eating breakfast on the verandah, I can see a few odd rabbits and a veritable parade of birdlife amongst the shrubs and trees that make up the garden. My favourites are the diminutive silvereyes that perch in the eucalypts and twitter menacingly at the larger birds that dare to invade their territory.

2 The view from the back verandah

The view from the back verandah

2 Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

Silvereye singing in eucalyptus tree

 The kangaroos are close to the lower end of the fence-line which runs from the main road up to the coastal cliffs that dominate this section of Marion Bay. As I move towards the coast I nearly step on an ant nest; not just any colony of ants but bulldog ants. These inch long beasties pack quite a bite and are best avoided. Luckily they do not swarm in great numbers like their smaller brethren. Still, photography is undertaken at a respectable distance.

3 Bulldog or inch ant

Bulldog or inch ant

As I approach the top of the cliffs the vegetation changes dramatically. Low scrubby bushes and thick ground covers with patches of tussock like grasses provide an ideal habitat for a range of small birds I can hear them in the thick cover but only catch fleeting glimpses. Then suddenly my luck changes and a glorious little wren hops out and sits on the very fence-line I have been following. In Adelaide I have often photographed superb blue fairy wrens and I am more than thrilled to see them here in this coastal environment. It is only later when I look at the image more carefully that I realise this little wren is actually a variegated fairy wren; a species I have never photographed.

4

Variegated fairy wren

 

 Where the fence meets the edge of the limestone cliffs there is a wooden viewing bay that provides an ideal bird watching platform. In the few minutes that I stand and survey the beach below several species of water birds fly past; including a white faced heron, silver gulls and a pacific gull. Looking back across the scrubby verge towards the rather expensive houses that front the esplanade I start planning my next trip to Marion Bay; perhaps a sea view this time.

5 silver gull in flight

Silver gull in flight

6 Coastal viewing platform with views of cliff and beach

Coastal viewing platform overlooking the beach

 An afternoon stroll along the fence-line completed my thoughts turn to dinner. The award winning Marion Bay Tavern is just the place to head as the sun is setting on my rather fruitful day on the edge of Innes. Made from materials that reflect the area, including corrugated iron, reclaimed jetty pylons and jarrah timbers, the restaurant boasts an eclectic menu specialising in fresh local seafoods. But my choice this evening is a pizza cooked in a wood oven fashioned from a classic old rainwater tank.

IMG_8015

Wood oven South Aussie style

 

Take a drive down to this wonderful area sometime

Cheers

Baz

Check out Geotravelling a new site that I have attached that celebrates the natural, cultural and urban diversity of our planet through my travel photographs.

Mt Lofty on a Winter’s Day

12 Jul

Dear Reader:

Last weekend was cool and clear, perfect winter weather for a visit to Adelaide’s highest point, Mt lofty. The bush covered peak is a mere twenty minutes drive from the city along the SE freeway and the viewing deck and restaurant are surrounded by tall eucalypts that are home to a variety of wildlife.

AD A view from the top  (click to enlarge)

A view from the top (click to enlarge)

A selection of walking trails and bike tracks converge on the summit and earlier in the year I had spent some time walking along their lower sections photographing wildlife. However, on this occasion I had decided to see if the distribution of species was different at a slightly higher altitude in the cooler months.

AG Mt Lofty summit - Copy

Mt Lofty summit (click to enlarge)

The summit was quite busy with a smattering of mountain bikers and walkers using the trails and dozens of casual visitors simply enjoying coffee and the view from the observation deck and glass fronted dining areas. As I knelt down by my pack to select a lens I heard the chattering call of some blue wrens that were flitting between some nearby bushes and diving into the undergrowth. I watched their antics for a few minutes before heading off on one of the shorter trails that circle the summit.

AC2 C

Male blue wren surveying his territory(click to enlarge)

AH White backed magpie (click to enlarge)

White backed magpie (click to enlarge)

After walking for several minutes I noticed a sizeable magpie foraging for grubs amongst the grass and rocks. As I paused to take a few shots a group of Japanese tourists stopped and asked about the different birds in this area. We spent an enjoyable few minutes chatting and comparing their native species to ours; it transpired that they were an ornithological party on a study tour.

AE Natve heath - Copy

Native heath (click to enlarge)

AB Rosella feeding in the trees (click to enlarge)

Rosella feeding in the trees (click to enlarge)

A little further along the trail the greens and browns of the understory were enhanced by small patches of bright red flowers belonging to one of the hardy little heaths that flowers in the winter months. But the real splash of colour on this winter’s day was a colourful Adelaide rosella that was feeding on berries high in the branches above me. This was quite unusual as virtually every rosella I have observed feeding has been foraging on the ground for seeds and tubers.

AA Large male koala near the restaurant entrance - Copy

Large male koala near the restaurant exit (click to enlarge)

Mount Lofty, as I have pointed out, is a prime tourism site and in keeping with this status it provided one final surprise. A large male koala, that seemed to be extending a farewell gesture of pure Australiana, was comfortably tucked into the forked branches of a large gum tree alongside to the exit path.

Cheers

Baz

Mount Barker’s Wetland Wonders

8 Jun

Dear Reader;

It is a glorious autumn day, perfect for a little bird-watching and a stroll around the water.

 

The tiny plover has been edging around the reed beds for the last ten minutes, finally coming out of the dense cover around the lake to probe the mud for worms and other avian niceties. The colourful little wader seems more confident and continues to feed just forty metres from where I am concealed in the undergrowth; a little too close to bull ant nest for comfort. Eventually it comes close enough for me to fire off a couple of shots before taking off abruptly, spooked by a pair of maned ducks cruising low over the water.

 

P1070914

Black-fronted plover (click to enlarge)

 

I am at the Laratinga wetland on the edge of Mount Barker, the largest town in the Adelaide Hills. The word Laratinga comes from the indigenous name for the Mt Barker Creek and near the entrance of the wetlands there is magical series of portraits that relate episodes within the timeline of the original inhabitants of the area, the Peramangk people. Mount Barker is a busy regional centre with plenty of places to buy fresh local ingredients for making up a picnic lunch to enjoy while you wander around the wetlands observing the diverse collection of plants and animals that live there.

P1070892

Portraits at the wetlands (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

Leaving my hiding place on the edge of the lake, I follow one of the many trails that zigzag through the reserve. Near the edge of another patch of reeds a small flock of ibis are feeding in the shallows. Their distinctive curved beaks and greater size means they might be feeding in the same habitat as the little plover but their prey will be distinctly different. Such a variety of beaks, feet and size is one of the reasons that so many different species of birds can feed together in the same area without destroying the food supply. But the wetland is not reserved for wildlife enthusiasts and a jogger runs a little too close to the flock causing the them take to the air. Despite this being a fairly recent wetland, constructed by the council to filter water naturally, wildlife and people live quite harmoniously and the birds soon return to their chosen spot and resume dining.

P1070923

Ibis in flight (click to enlarge)

 

 

Although I have caught a fleeting glimpse of a couple of turtles in the shallow pools and the undergrowth has more than healthy population of insects; it is the bird life that is dominating my walk around the wetlands. The reeds that encircle the water are a veritable cathedral of birdsong. I can hear the twitter of finches and reed warblers in the tangle of greenery and occasionally catch sight of one of the tiny birds flitting amongst them. Finally a superb blue wren makes a more prolonged appearance as it perches on a reed stem giving me just enough time for one last shot before I leave.

P1070928

Superb blue wren (click to enlarge)

 

Cheers

Baz

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