Tag Archives: wattle bird

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

1 Aug

Port Germein’s Mangrove Wildlife

Dear Reader:

 The grey butcherbird is perched on a dead branch on the edge of the mangrove swamp. The powerful bird will use this position to dive on prey in the undergrowth snatching up insects, small reptiles and the nestlings of other birds. Large prey will be jammed in the fork of a branch then eaten; which provides a hint as to how butcher birds acquired their name.

 

Grey butcherbird

 

It is sunset and the light is glorious as it defines the mangrove channels against the pale sand. I am on the northern side of Port Germein where a substantial stand of mangroves merges with the shallow beach. Small schools of fish are heading along these waterways towards the ocean as the tide recedes and an odd crab scuttles across the channel.

 

Lovely light

 

 

As I climb back into the 4WD I can hear the calls of several different kinds of honeyeaters in the nearby scrub. With the windows open I drive slowly along the rutted trail until one of the little birds appears in the upper branches of the bushes. Several frames later I have captured a passable image of a spiny cheeked honeyeater calling to its mate. Often shooting from the vehicle is easier as the wildlife seems more accepting of its presence than that of a large two legged creature stalking through the bush.

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater singing

 

Spiny cheeked honeyeater in scrub

The next morning I walk in the opposite direction to explore a channel that runs parallel to the shore on the southern perimeter of the township with a spectacular view of the Flinders ranges in the background. There are mangroves and samphire right to the edge of the creek which ends in a dilapidated road bridge that once serviced a crossing into town. A white faced heron is sitting on the weathered planks eyeing the water below for small fish while swallows are nesting under the main span.

 

Look for the heron

 

Mangrove channel and Flinders Ranges

 

 

As I make my way alongside the waterway I notice silken sheet like webs, carpeting the ground between many of the bushes. Some are still glistening from the morning dew. They are used by lattice webbed spiders as a kind of horizontal trap that acts like a sticky labyrinth.

 

Lattice spider web and early morning dew

 

With my mangrove walk completed, I head back into town for a bite at the local cafe. But Port Germein has on last wildlife moment to offer in the form of a wattlebird feeding on some late blooming eucalyptus flowers near the caravan park.

 

Wattlebird feeding on eucalyptus blossom

 

Cheers
BAZ

Footnote

4WD is useful in this area and the walking on the southern edge of town is quite strenuous. The northern reach of mangroves would be suitable for a family or seniors’ excursion.

Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

20 May

Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

 Dear Reader:

Eucalyptus trees overhang the dirt road that leads to the falls. Tiny wrens and even tinier thornbills twitter and flit amongst the branches and leaves. Occasionally pairs of rosellas fly out from the foliage. From the parking area I can see bush clad hills and open farmland rising all around and the sound of running water provides a pleasant background melody.

 

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Driving into the falls

 

1a thornbill species probably yellow rumped

Thornbill species probably yellow rumped

 

Hindmarsh Falls are about 12 kms north of Victor Harbor towards Mt Compass on the Adelaide Road and are clearly signposted. The walk to the falls is easy and the path down to the viewing platform has rails and steps.

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Path to the falls through scrub

 

I make my way along the trail that descends to a lookout point where I can see the water tumbling down dark boulders to a small pool below. There are kangaroo droppings on the forest floor and some of the trees show signs of a recent fire.

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Falls and pool

 

The birds are very wary here and difficult to photograph. I concentrate on other aspects of the area’s natural history. Bright orange fungal growths adorn some of the fallen logs and striking yellow Banksia flowers lend splashes of colour to the browns, greys and greens so typical of our bushland. I spend some time just watching the water. In the driest state on the driest continent watching a waterfall is always good for the soul. Near the edge of the pool I catch a glimpse of a grey kangaroo slowly edging through the scrub. Not clear enough to take a picture but interesting to watch how the ‘roo’ leans forward onto its front legs then pushes with its tail when travelling at slow speeds.

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Common orange fungus on fallen log

 

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Banksia flowers

 

 

As I climb back up the incline towards the recreation area I notice a wattle bird perched on a branch scouring the leaves and limbs for insects to pick off. And in the sharp native grasses that border the creek near the picnic area I come across a fascinating little diamond weevil crawling along one of the blades. Hopefully, not to become a victim of the ever- vigilant wattle bird.

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Diamond weevil

 

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Wattle bird

My trip to the falls has been interesting and though there has not been an over abundance of wildlife it is, after all, the middle of the day. And on that note I occupy one of the benches and tuck into pasty, lamington and a bottle of OJ bought en route at one the many excellent, local bakeries.

 

 

Nice to be back

Cheers

Baz

Wildlife and Wineries

15 Mar

Wildlife and Wineries

Dear Reader:

I can hear the first few notes of a kookaburra calling near some picnic tables across the other side of the green. The birds are usually quite shy and I don’t hold out much hope of sighting them with all the families enjoying their lunch on the grass. However, to my surprise there are two birds sitting on a low branch quite close to a group enjoying a BBQ and glass of wine. I have seen kookaburras steal a sausage in the past and these birds must be residents accustomed to life in the grounds of one of South Australia’s most notable wineries.

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Laughing kookaburras

 

Seppeltsfield winery in the Barossa Valley is a pleasant 50 minute drive from the city. Easily recognised by the avenue of huge palms at its entrance, the rambling complex encompasses: green spaces, bushland, old buildings, a family mausoleum, fine restaurant, cellar door facilities and even an art gallery; and that’s without even mentioning the sprawling vineyards. Established in 1851 the land was initially used for growing tobacco then wheat and finally grapes in the mid 1860s. Today, it is one of the nation’s most famous and revered wine wineries.

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Jam Factory gallery

 

I decide that a bushland trek in the area is not by best wildlife option. Today, I will simply wander around the grounds enjoying the animals that take advantage of the plantings, food and shelter that this popular rural setting can provide. My strategy pays off when a wattle bird hops down onto one of the slate tables just a few yards away. Like the kookaburras, wattle birds are fairly common but shy and often difficult to photograph. Having one so close is a rare opportunity.

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Wattle bird

 

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Picturesque grounds

From the picnic area I take a walk around the courtyards near the restaurant enjoying the tasteful landscaping and searching for insects amongst the plantings. There is a good selection of butterflies this time of year and several different kinds of tiny spiders are hunting amongst the flowers.

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Flower spider n blossoms

 

After a late afternoon meal ‘Local Garfish, Skordalia, Snowpeas and Vegetable Escabeche’ at ‘FINO’ and a sample sip of the wonderful vintage port that Seppeltsfield is renowned for, I call it a day. As I walk back out to the car park a young magpie fixes its gaze on me cocking its head to one side as if to bid me farewell

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Fond farewell from magpie gatekeeper

 

Cheers

Baz    

Xmas Gums

26 Dec

Xmas Gums

Dear Reader;

The New Holland honeyeater is perched on the topmost branch of the white flowering gum in my backyard. Every few minutes it takes to the air and chases an insect that has inadvertently flown too close to its ‘operating zone’. But hawking for prey like this takes an energy toll on the little bird, requiring frequent refuelling at the nectar rich flowers that also serve to attract its insect prey.

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New Holland honeyeater

 

This is just one of the little wildlife scenarios that play themselves out during the Christmas season in the gum trees that grace my backyard. The smaller tree comes into flower in early December reaching its peak around Xmas day. The larger tree has flowered earlier but seems to harbour a wealth of tiny leaf and bark insects throughout the early summer months. Together, they attract a wide range of birds providing an interesting holiday spectacle; especially if one has scored a new camera from Santa.

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A tale of two gums

 

New Holland honeyeaters aren’t the only species of honeyeater that feeds in my garden. The more timid white plumed variety also samples the blossoms and hawk for insects. However, at this time of year they are almost finished raising their final brood for the season and the young ones are being schooled in the art of bug catching by the adults. Peering through my long lens into the shadows of the taller tree I am lucky enough to capture two images of a chick waiting for food then being fed a bug by its parent.

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White plumed honeyeaters

 

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Have a bug or two junior

 

In a wonderful coincidence, there is also a family of wattle birds in the same tree and a fully fledged chick is sitting on a branch demanding to be fed. I watch carefully, trying to time my shots to coincide with the exact moment the adult shoves some insect offering down its waiting gullet. Of course, some leaves get in the way and the light intensity drops at the crucial moment but that’s wildlife photography.

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Wattle bird and chick

 

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A gullet full of whatever

 

With a Xmas drink and a mince pie resting on the outdoor table next to my cameras I scan the foliage of the smaller tree for a final shot or two. Two colourful creatures oblige; a rainbow lorikeet is tearing apart a blossom emerging from a gum nut and a swallowtail butterfly is probing the mature flowers for nectar.

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Rainbow lorikeet

 

6 Dingy swallowtail

Dingy swallowtail

 

Cheers and Seasons greetings

Until next year

Baz

Hallet Cove….a scrub and coastal walk

3 Apr

The walk from the park’s entrance is striking with the ocean forming a sapphire backdrop to the greens and greys of the scrub. Along the edge of the track stands of eucalypts dominate an understory of acacias, banksias and native grasses. Near the top of the trail, several wattle birds are feeding on a late autumn splash of flowers in the crown of a flowering gum. The largest of all the honeyeaters, these birds have a grating call reminiscent of an out of tune bagpipe.

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View from the park entrance

 

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Wattle bird

 

 

I scramble further down the track listening to the twittering of scrub birds in the bushes. It is difficult to identify any particular species and almost impossible to photograph them. After walking for a couple of hundred metres, I catch a glimpse of some wrens and miner birds deep in the labyrinth of foliage. Where the trail runs alongside a small creek at the foot of the hill, a singing honeyeater is perched on an exposed branch, finally providing one easy target.

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Singing honeyeater

 

 

Hallet Cove Conservation Park runs parallel to the coast about half an hour’s drive south of the city centre. It encompasses a range of habitats from sclerophyll forest to coastal heath and a classic wave cut platform below the cliff face. In addition to a healthy population of native animals the park has extraordinary geological and marine features that I will explore more fully in a later post. 

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The track winds through the scrub near a creek bed

   

 

I meet a group of elderly walkers on a small bridge that crosses the creek where the path starts to climb towards the top of the cliffs. As they tramp across the wooden planks a large water skink runs across, pausing momentarily before disappearing over the edge into the reeds.

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Skink on the bridge

 

 

Climbing southward up the track I take note of the dramatic changes in terrain. The hillside that rises from the cliff tops is dominated by low wind-swept shrubs and grasses and the coastline is defined by the wave cut platform. Near the edge of the cliffs, two magpies are probing the undergrowth with their long, powerful beaks. Suddenly the birds become agitated and take to the air. I look around for the source of their distress and catch sight of a kestrel hovering high above them. But this kestrel has made an error of judgement that soon becomes apparent as the maggies take it on in an aerial dogfight.

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Minding my own business

 

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Kestrel hunting

 

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Not on my turf

 

 

The final section of my trail follows the boardwalk along the top of the cliffs. I can see pacific gulls foraging in the rock-pools on the exposed shore and a colony of cormorants roosting on a rocky outcrop out to sea.

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Cormorants on offshore outcrop

 

 

After following the contours of the hillside for a kilometre the boardwalk slopes down to a stretch of beach, finally terminating at a car park and local eatery…The Boatshed Cafe. Simply grabbing a croissant and soft drink to eat on the beach or choosing a light meal from the excellent menu is an ideal way to wind up a morning stroll.

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Descent to the beach and cafe

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this little adventure

Cheers

Baz

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

Burnside’s Hidden Creek

6 May

Dear Reader: 

The wattle bird seems to be totally absorbed and indifferent to my presence as it feeds on the tiny white lerps that dot the leaves of a creek-side eucalyptus tree. Usually these large members of the honeyeater group are quite nervous and hard to approach. This one, however, is determined to provide me with a ringside display of its acrobatic ability as it hangs upside down and hops from branch to flimsy branch in pursuit of its lunch. The tiny white lerps look like an arborial version of measles. In fact they are the early stage of a parasitic bug called a psyllid, an introduced insect pest that sucks the ‘juice’ from the trees.

A wattle bird pecks tiny insects from the leaves of a blue gum near the river bank

A wattle bird pecks tiny insects from the leaves of a blue gum near the river bank.

 

I am walking along the banks of second creek in the Michael Perry Botanical Reserve. This charming little park is easily accessed from a small lane called Andrew’s Walk at the southern end of Hallet Road, in the hills face suburb of Burnside. The shady banks, trickling stream and little ponds have a European flavour to them affording a cool retreat in the drier summer months. Before setting off on my short walk to investigate the creek’s wildlife I made a couple of crucial stops to provision my pack for a bite to eat on the river bank. At the nearby Stoneyfell Winery I found a fine bottle of white while ‘Taylor Blend’, a fashionable little eastern suburbs coffee shop on Hallett Road, provided a wide selection of gourmet paninis and local beesting cake. When one has to sit by a river bank for an hour or so to wait for the wildlife it might as well be done in style.

The brook cascades over a small ford made from slate and sandstone rocks

The brook cascades over a small ford made from slate and sandstone rocks

 

Leaving the wattle birds to finish their meal I work my way along the creek, pausing frequently to try and catch sight of the small birds that I can hear chirping and rustling deep in the cover of the reed beds. Without warning a grey faced heron explodes from the tangle of branches a couple of metres in front of me. The birds wheels in flight and settles on a branch high in a nearby pine tree where it can keep a sharp eye on its human intruder. As I point the camera at the perching water bird I catch site of a pair of Kookaburras in a huge eucalypt further up the opposite embankment. Two predatory birds; now it’s time to take a look for the prey animals that sustain them.

A white faced heron watches the creek from its vantage point in a pine tree

A white faced heron watches the creek from its vantage point in a pine tree

 

The first interesting small animal that I notice is a water skink which is sunning itself on a log. Being mid autumn I am surprised to see a reptile as most would now be ‘dug in’ for the winter months ahead. As I sit quietly and prepare to watch the lizard, a green eyed dragonfly lands on a boulder in the middle of the creek. And, where the water has formed a small clear pool I can see tiny fish or tadpoles swimming close the reeds and water striders skating across the surface: like my lunch, a gourmet larder for a range of feathered predators.

A water skink basking on a log amongst the reeds

A water skink basking on a log amongst the reeds

A dragonfly pauses for a moment on a warm rock in the creek

A dragonfly pauses for a moment on a warm rock in the creek

 

A fence marks the end of the reserve and I cross the creek to return on the northern bank. The tiny reed birds still elude me but in a shady stretch of water a single black duck is swimming against the current as it dabbles for food. A common enough species in southern Australia but the light is particularly good and on reviewing the shot it seems to encapsulate the mood of this lovely little waterway.

Black duck are common along the waterway

Black duck are common along the waterway

 

Until the next time

Baz

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