Tag Archives: tawny frogmouth

Jupiter’s Wildlife

2 Oct

Dear Reader:

Before I have even climbed out of the car I notice a flight of cockatoos gliding low towards the grassy oval where they settle to feed on tubers and roots. Then from the trail head I spot a pair of tawny frogmouths high in one of the stringy barks that dominate the area. These fascinating owl-like birds are nocturnal and use the fine whiskery feathers to locate prey in the dark. Their camouflage is superb making them appear to be an extension of the branches they cling to during the daylight hours.

 

Tawny frogmouth

 

I am exploring the trails around the heritage listed Jupiter Creek Gold Diggings. They are located in the Kuitpo Forest area and were mined intermittently between the 1860s and 1930s. The diggings are now a heritage site and a great place to go for an historic and wildlife wander.

 

Bush trail near the car park

 

Today the weather is a little on the bleak side; not characteristic of South Australia’s habitually warm spring season. But the light adds softness to the bushland setting while providing many photographic challenges as I try trying to capture acceptable images of the constantly moving wildlife.

 

Grey currawong

 

A little further along one of the trails that leads to the diggings I hear the bell-like chimes of a grey currawong. Eventually the bird flies between some trees and I am able to get a clear shot as it perches high in the branches framed by a rare patch of blue sky.

 

Female scarlet robin

 

There are many small birds flitting between the branches and amongst the wattle and pea bushes that form the mid story. I catch glimpses of fairy wrens, tree creepers and even a crescent honeyeater. Eventually a female scarlet robin lands on the trunk of a large eucalypt and begins to forage between the layers of bark for grubs, spiders and insects. In the low light I have to steady the camera against a branch to make the shot.

 

Leaf curling spider web

 

Leaf curling spider emerging

Although only the first vestiges of Spring have graced the state a few insects and spiders are emerging from their winter dormancy. Numerous webs are strung between the lower branches of bushes and trees. Curled leaves are suspended in many of the webs in what, at first, seems a random fashion. However, closer examination shows this web and leaf combination is home to leaf-curling spiders that use silk to draw in the sides of the elongated eucalypt leaves to form a tubular shelter.

 

Common brown butterfly camouflaged

 

A few species of flowering plants are beginning to bloom in the leaf litter and under story and the contrast between them and a well camouflaged common brown butterfly provides a striking image.

 

Gums in low light

 

Today I have only wandered a little way along the trail that leads to the old diggings but I am determined to return later in spring to investigate more of this fascinating area. For now I shall climb back into the car and head for ‘Fred’, a charming little restaurant in Aldgate a just a few kilometres down the road and the home of some of Adelaide’s best lunch time treats. I’ll try the croque monsieur….then go for another walk in the wild to work off the calories!!!!

 

 Cheers Baz

 

Additional notes

There are some challenging areas when walking the trails around the mine site. A signposted area near the oval with basic shelters provides maps and diagrams of the area.

 

 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.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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Aldinga Scrub

21 Dec

The tawny frogmouth is absolutely motionless. At first glance, I can’t see the bird even though my guide has pointed out its position. Eventually I locate it amongst the foliage exploiting its extraordinary camouflage and the tactic of remaining statue-still to remain ‘hidden in plain sight’. I am using a long lens which allows me to zoom in close enough to capture the delicate whisker-like structures around its beak; perfect for sensing insects at night. “Sometimes there are two together,” she informs me. “And we’ve had a nest with young.” I make a mental note to ask her to give me a call when that happens; photographing a frogmouth and its chicks would be something special.

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage

A tawny frogmouth exhibits its amazing camouflage (Click to enlarge all images on page)

I am on the edge of the Aldinga scrub; a patch of remnant bushland that hints of what this coastal plain would have looked like before the early settlers arrived with their ploughs and sheep. Aldinga and its coastal neighbour Silver Sands are just an hour’s drive from the centre of Adelaide and a favourite haunt of mine for an entirely different reason. No more than a kilometre away is one of my favourite snorkelling destinations. A reef to dive on, long white beaches for swimming and surfing and a patch of scrub to explore; make this an ideal destination for a day trip from the city.

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

A half full water hole attracts a wide variety of animals

I continue to walk along the road that borders the scrub. The houses on the urban side of the track blend in well with the bushland ambience. Obviously the residents have chosen this location because of its natural setting and the gardens are filled with a variety of native plants that attract insects and birds. In a huge gum that towers over the track I can hear the raucous screech of a wattle bird high in the canopy. The largest of all the honeyeaters, wattle birds often feed on leaf bugs and nectar from eucalyptus flowers. This one is hopping between the branches calling loudly while foraging amongst the leaves.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch.

A wattle bird wipes its curved beak clean on a branch

A post and wire fence separates the road from the scrub and a host of tiny birds are twittering and flitting between the trees just inside the reserve. I find a likely spot and sit quietly, balancing the camera and lens carefully on my knees. Eventually, one of the tiny birds perches on a bare branch a dozen metres away. I track the fluffy bundle of feathers and take a quick series of shots as it hops and turns before taking flight. Perhaps one frame will freeze its incessant motion and allow me to identify the species. On reviewing the image my best guess is a species of thornbill.

Thornbil species

Thornbill species

I am more than pleased with my stroll along the edge of the scrub. The frogmouth, wattle birds and tiny finch-like birds were more than I expected. But as I turn to walk back to the car I hear the familiar thump of a kangaroo’s powerful back legs hitting the hard packed earth of the track. An adult grey kangaroo and its joey bound across the road and pause by the fence-line. I watch them as they survey the obstacle for a few seconds then the joey squeezes between the strands of wire while the adult clears it with a single bound. They stop and look around before disappearing into the thick scrub.

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

A joey balances on its tail and lifts its back legs before squeezing through the fence

The afternoon light is fading and I have one last stop to make before driving home and it has little to do with wildlife. Opposite the Aldinga pub there is a charming café called the Old Vine. It has a colonial cottage feel about it and the meals are interesting, tasty and sourced from local produce but the main draw card is a citrus tart that is as good as any I have eaten anywhere in the world…and I have sampled quite a few.

 

Come visit

Merry Xmas

Baz

Red Earth Wildlife

28 Jun

Dear Reader

South Australia’s capital Adelaide is a wonderful starting point for long country drives that take you through a variety of landscapes ranging from seemingly endless wheat fields to rugged coastline and dense bushland. The  city sits in the curve of the Mount Lofty Ranges. It has a fine Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cool wet winters. However, as you travel further west both the terrain and the climate change dramatically. The grassy plains and forests give way to saltbush, desert and scrubland. Even the earth beneath your feet looks different, the browns and greys turn to a rusty red, a signature feature of this iron rich land.

AB Bush track and old sheep fencing near Whyalla

Bush track and old sheep fencing near Whyalla

I have travelled west on many occasions to visit family on the Eyre Peninsula. They live in Whyalla, the state’s largest city after Adelaide. Whyalla lies on the coast and is a steel making centre where the iron rich rock that paints the landscape its terra cotta shades is mined, processed and exported to all corners of the globe. The city is well positioned for exploring the rugged Eyre Peninsula and has good accommodation as well as excellent fishing and interesting mangrove stands along the shallow foreshore. However, it is the nearby rugged bush landscape and hardy desert creatures that carve out an existence from it, that never fail to inspire me when I visit.

AB Different layers of arid scrub on Eyre Peninsula

Different layers of arid scrub on Eyre Peninsula

My last visit a little, at the end of this summer, was particularly rewarding. We had been without significant rain for well over a month which often brings the wildlife closer to the town where there is casual water and food, albeit not quite their natural diet, around parks and other public spaces. As many desert animals are crepuscular or nocturnal they tend to head back into the shelter of the surrounding bush during the day when the light is better for photography. This behaviour results in a narrow window of opportunity, during the early morning and late afternoon, for wildlife watching.

AE desert scrub near Whyalla

Red Kangaroo in semi desert terrain near Whyalla

 

A morning drive along one of the narrow bush tracks, used by local farmers to repair fencing, brought me to a large clearing and a brief encounter with a huge male red kangaroo. He was alone and grazing on some low shrubs and grasses and moved slowly into the bush as I approached. Several of the smaller grey coloureds females bounded across the track as I moved further along the trail and I caught a passing glimpse of an emu way picking its way through some stands of Myall trees. For the next hour the wildlife viewing was much the same, a few roos in the distance and the occasional bird of prey and flights of parrots flushed out of the surrounding bush.

hite-browed Wood Swallow perched near its nest in a fence post

White-browed Wood Swallow perched near its nest in a fence post

 

Later in the evening I drove along a different trail and had to engage low ratio 4WD to scramble my SUV across some steep shale covered sections. But it was well worth it when I climbed out and walked slowly through a particularly promising section of scrub. Crouching low in the bushes I spotted a couple of white browed wood swallows, a species I had never photographed and certainly a beautiful little bird and one superbly adapted to this green grey outback country.  

AF Tawny frogmouths group camouflagedin Myall Scrub in the late afternoon

Tawny frogmouths group camouflaged in Myall Scrub in the late afternoon

 

Satisfied with my afternoon’s work, I checked the ground for ants, scorpions or other pain inducing critters, sat down under an old, weathered Myall tree and pulled out my drink bottle. Sitting quietly in the bush is a treat for a city guy and I was going to enjoy some time alone before driving back for dinner.  However, it turned out that I was not alone in my choice of resting places. Perched on one of the branches, no more than three metres from away, was a family of tawny frogmouths; an insectivorous, nocturnal species unique to Australia that has an owl like appearance and the most amazing camouflage that I have ever seen. The birds were seeing out the daylight hours in the shade and paid me no heed as remaining still is a crucial part of their survival strategy. A final series of images to end an amazing morning in the bush.

Cheers

Baz

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