Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Art of Nature

At work, we are currently running a photographic competition open to all residents in South Australia. The photos must have been taken in South Australia, and the top 12 photos will be used in a calendar. Unfortunately, employees of our department (Department for Environment and Heritage) are not allowed to enter the main competition, but there is an employees competition to provide the photo for the front cover of the calendar. I have entered a few of my photos, some of which have appeared previously in my blog and some which haven't. The winners will be decided by public voting, and voting is open to any Australian resident. This is the link to the competition website and here are the photos I entered. Coorong National Park Sturt's Desert Pea Innes National Park Rainbow Lorikeet Eastern Spinebill Koala Rainbow Lorikeets Dalhousie Homestead Australian Pelicans Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby Tawny Frogmouths

Sunday, October 11, 2009

St Kilda Saltfields

Late last year, one of Adelaide premier birding spots was closed to birders. This was due to the misuse of access by some people, and the owners decided to completely review their policy of allowing birders to have access. I am happy to say that they have now reopened the Saltfields to birders. Access is controlled by Birds SA, the South Australian affiliate to Birdlife International. Access is only granted once you have participated in an induction. You must also be a member of Birds SA if you are local, or a another recognised birding organisation if you are an interstate or international visitor. The saltfields are only 5 minutes drive from home, and yesterday I decided to visit for the first time this summer. Some migrants have started to arrive, and were evident almost as soon as I entered the site. The first group of waders (shorebirds) was a flock of about 250 Red-necked Stints - none of which showed any red as they were all either in fresh winter or juvenile plumages. As I made my way along the tracks I noticed a few pairs of Australian Shelducks - quite content if I kept on the move, but as soon as I stopped off they would go!! The female (separated by the white eye-ring) is in flight, and the male followed a split second later!! About halfway round is an area with a lot of dead trees, that has been taken over by 1000's of Little Black Cormorants as a roosting site. You always know if you are the first person past that day as they all fly off as the first car passes. Further on I saw a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Along with the stints seen earlier, these are our most numerous summer visitors and can number many tens of thousands at the height of summer. All around the saltfields Whiskered Terns could be seen swooping down picking insects off the waters surface. I had 50 or so attempts at a decent flight shot, but finally gave in, so you'll have to make do with this perched shot!! A very common resident is Masked Lapwing, and they can be very intimidating if you get too close to their nests or young. This one was happy to just watch me as I passed. During the couple of hours I was at the saltfields I saw around half a dozen Shingleback Lizards. These are among the most common lizards in South Australia and barely a day out will pass in the summer without seeing one or two.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Adelaide Parklands - Himeji Garden

Yesterday I went to a good friend's wedding at the Himeji Garden in the Adelaide Parkland. Adelaide city centre is surrounded by a belt of parkland, some laid as formal gardens, some left as informal, and some set over to sporting fields. The Himeji Garden is a formal Japanese walled garden that was laid to commemorate the twinning of Adelaide with the ancient city of Himeji in 1982. It was the first time I had been to the garden and it is a wonderfully quiet place with lots to look at. The main features are a small lake and a "Sea of Sand". There are lots of flowering plants around the gardens including many different coloured Irises. Birds were flying around everywhere, and by the lake was a White-faced Heron. Under the verandah by the "Sea of Sand" was a small family of Welcome Swallows. Finally, I'd like to congratulate Kylie and Adam once more, and wish them well for their future together.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In search of waterbirds

Following yesterday's virtually waterbirdless walk around my local wetland, I decided to head up into the hills to look for waterbirds. I headed towards the Barossa Valley, South Australia's most famous wine area, and home to the Jacob's Creek and Wolf Blass wineries. I was amazed at how the vines had come along since my last trip to the hills (3 weeks ago with Peter and Margaret from Scotland). Most of the vines have plenty of new growth with only a few of the late fruiting varieties still bare. With all of the rain we've had this winter, there are plenty of marshy areas along the sides of the road and many of them have these lovely flowers in them. They look like a form of Iris to me. I have not seen them before, or at least not noticed them. Also in full bloom at the moment is the Calistemon or Bottle-brush Tree. These are native Australian tees, but there also a lot of cultivated varieties available like this one. They are very popular with the honeyeaters and lorikeets, but this one was being visited by a Silvereye. I was heading to the little town of Tanunda, where there is a nice group of pools (actually the local sewage works) that usually holds a good selection of ducks. As I was crossing Jacobs Creek (yes, it does exist, and no they don't use the water for making wine) I noticed a group of Black-tailed Native-hens on the edge of the vineyard. These nomadic gallinules and can turn up almost anywhere in large numbers. The pools didn't disappoint. First on the list was Pink-eared Duck. This odd looking duck used to be known as Zebra Duck yet they chose to rename it after it's most inconspicuous fieldmark!! Also in the photo are Hardhead, Australian Little Grebeand Australian Shoveller. I didn't spot this one until I looked at the photos!!. On the next pool were a two species of wader (shorebird), with both looking as if they may have been breeding there. The Red-kneed Dotterel tried the broken wing routine, and the Black-fronted Plovers had a juvenile bird with them. Also here were half a dozen Blue-billed Ducks - a close relative to the Ruddy Duck of America and White-headed Duck of Europe. This was the first time I had seen them here. These guys are obviously very shy as they stayed on the far side of the pond for the whole time I was there, so the photo is very heavily cropped. While I was watching the ducks, I had a strange feeling that I was being watched, and turned around slowly to find a Black-shouldered Kite hovering behind me - I managed to get a couple of shots in before he flew off. On the way back home I spotted a small parrot on a fence wire, so slowed down and saw it was a Red-rumped Parrot. They are not usually very co-operative, but this one obviously hadn't read the manual!! He was quite happy to sit still for a couple of photos.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spring has Sprung.

I am very busy in the house at the moment, but this morning was such a nice spring day that I decided to take a "quick" walk around Kaurna Wetlands Park. Well, as we birdwatchers and photographers know, rarely is a quick walk quick. This 2Km (1.2 mile) walk ended up taking over 2 1/2 hours! There is a lot of water in the park at the moment, and suprisingly still not many waterbirds. I guess it's because there is a lot of water everywhere, so thay have a great choice. There were lots of passerines though, with New Holland Honeyeaters the most common by far. I heard them calling, and saw them chasing each other throughout the walk. This one did stop and pose for me though. Next most numerous was the Red Wattlebird, one of the largest Honeyeaters. This one was taken right at the end of the walk, opposite my house on Wattlebird Drive!! Many of the euclypts are in flower at the moment, so the honeyeaters and lorikeets have an abundant source of food. Eucalypt flowers come in a great variety of shapes and colours. Here are a selection from this morning's walk. I added a new bird to my park list this morning - Rufous Songlark. This bird has a lovely almost metalic sounding song, and a whipcrack like call so it's very easy to identify by sound. Though easy to hear, I always have trouble seeing them - I cannot get a direction on their song. After about ten minutes I finally tracked him down but only managed this poor record shot. At the top end of the park is a small reedbed, and whilst listening to Australian Reed Warblers singing I couldn't help but notice a very unhappy pair of Willie Wagtails. No wonder!! I was only a few yards from their nest, a neat cup stuck on to a branch hanging out over the water. So as not to disturb them, I moved to the other side of the reedbed and settled down to wait for a glimpse of the Reed Warbler. Eventually patience paid off, though they didn't come particularly close. Finally, another unidentified flower - this one is very common along roadsides and in fields. It reminds me of Mallow in the UK. Tomorrow is a public holiday in South Australia so I shall be out birding again, and hopefully get some more shots to post.