How’s the serenity?

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

How’s the serenity?

Most Australians will recognise that quote from the laconic Aussie movie “The Castle“.

It sure is a scene filled with serenity, early one frosty morning last week. The photos in today’s post were taken at the Laratinga Wetlands just east of Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. A series of ponds make up this wonderful birding and picnic spot. While one could perhaps buy a lovely home overlooking this spot, or within a few minutes’ walk, I really have to burst your bubble or shatter your dream.

The ponds make up the local town’s sewage works!

In reality, it is far, far better than it sounds. First, there is no smell. None. Second, the environment has been wonderfully landscaped with Australian native trees, bushes and ground cover plants. Third, the local authorities have created a lawned picnic area complete with shelter sheds – it rains quite often in Mt Barker – and well kept, clean toilets. The tracks around each of the ponds are used daily by hundreds of locals and visitors like myself for photography, walking, cycling, running or just birding. The birdlife is always abundant and interesting.

The photo below shows just one of the many birds I saw there last week, a Eurasian Coot. The other photos below show one of the ponds shrouded in early morning misty fog.

Eurasian Coot, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Eurasian Coot, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Galahs at Laratinga Wetlands

Female Galah, Laratinga Wetlands

Female Galah, Laratinga Wetlands

Earlier in the week my wife had several appointments in Mt Barker which is about half way between home here in Murray Bridge and Adelaide. Her appointments were to take several hours, so took the opportunity to visit the Laratinga Wetlands on the eastern edge of Mt Barker.

The Laratinga Wetlands consist of a series of ponds which essentially deal with the town’s sewage and storm water. The treated water is later recycled into local agricultural use. The series of large ponds which make up the wetlands have been landscaped with both plants and lawns. A picnic area is provided for the public, including barbecues and toilets. Many local people and visitors use these facilities and the tracks around the ponds are popular with birders, walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Over coming days I will share some of the bird photos I took on my most recent visit. Today’s photos show a female Galah sunning itself on the trunk of one of the huge eucalypt trees surrounding the wetlands. I know that this one is a female because of the red eye. Meanwhile, I presume that the male is busy in the hollow below her, cleaning out the hollow and preparing it for nesting later in the season.

Further reading:

 

Female Galah with a male (?) in the hollow below

Female Galah with a male (?) in the hollow below

 

Birding at Browns Road Monarto

New Holland Honeyeater at Browns Road Monarto

New Holland Honeyeater at Browns Road Monarto

This afternoon my wife and I took a detour coming home from Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. We had been there for a appointment, after which we had a relaxing lunch in one of the local cafes. Instead of taking the South-Eastern Freeway home to Murray Bridge we took the old Princes Highway route. It is a longer, more circuitous route but far more interesting.

Just past Callington we turned off into Browns Road near Monarto. We stopped at a spot where we could park the car safely before going on a short walk through the scrub. The sign on the gate says “Monarto Woodlands” but local birders usually refer to this area as Browns Road.

The scrub here is a confusing mixture of plant species. While there are some species common to the surrounding region, many of the trees and shrubs are introduced from other parts of Australia. A quick glance shows many Western Australian species, for example. This has come about due to extensive planting back in the 1980s when this area was designated as a satellite city to Adelaide. While a large area of farming land was purchased by the then state government, and the city was planned, no building ever occurred and much of the land has been returned to productive agricultural use. The only exception has been the establishment nearby of Monarto Open Range Zoo, part of Adelaide Zoo (and well worth a visit too, I might add).

We didn’t have all that much time on our visit this afternoon and my back and hips were being quite a pain. In the few minutes we were there I managed to record the following species:

  • White-winged Chough
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Red wattlebird
  • New Holland Honeyeater (pictured above)
  • White-browed Babbler
  • Peaceful Dove
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Grey Fantail
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Yellow Thornbill
  • Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
  • Silvereye
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Common Starling
  • Adelaide Rosella
  • Australian Magpie (white backed)
  • Weebill

While this is not a great list it is not bad for about ten minutes of birding. In recent weeks many other South Australian birders have visited this area and have reported far more species. I must visit more often, seeing it is about a 20 minute drive from home.

Some of the plants flowering are shown in the photos below.

Further reading:

Flowering eucalypt

Flowering eucalypt

Acacia species in flower

Acacia species in flower

Birding in Lowan Conservation Park

Lowan Conservation Park

Lowan Conservation Park

A few Sundays ago we had a break in our cold, wintry weather and we went for a drive to Lowan Conservation Park, a 40 minute drive north east from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. The park is about 15 kilometres south east of Bowhill. I had visited this park on several previous occasions and found that the birding can be either a feast or a famine; it all depends largely on what is in flower, or the weather conditions.

The park is predominantly mallee woodland (see photos) with a mixture of other smaller scrubs and bushes. My wife has written about some of the plants on her site here.

On our most recent visit I didn’t even bother to take any photos; I saw no birds to photograph, well, none within range. And while we had our picnic afternoon tea in the sun I heard very little. It was a real struggle to get a short list of birds – mostly heard. (PS The photos on this post were taken on another visit.)

Bird list:

  • Little Raven
  • Mallee Ringneck
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Weebill
  • White-winged Chough
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Australian Magpie
  • Grey Butcherbird
  • Galah
  • Grey Fantail
  • Noisy Miner? (or Yellow-throated Miner? – I only heard them)
  • Striated Pardalote

That is not a great list, but there was not much flowering. In a park of some 660 hectares one would expect far more honeyeaters, but the mallee has to be in flower. Honeyeater species I would expect to see – or already have seen on other occasions – include: Striped, White-fronted, White-eared, White-plumed, Spiny-cheeked, Purple-gaped, Yellow-plumed, Brown-headed, New Holland and Red Wattlebird.

In addition to the honeyeaters I would expect to see more parrots, pigeons, wrens, thornbills, chats, woodswallows, robins (I did see one, but it flew off before I could get a positive ID), owls, nightjars, frogmouths, swallows, cuckoos, eagles, kites, falcons and even a Malleefowl or two. I have seen two Chestnut Quail-thrush there many years ago; I hope that they are still around.

I guess that the best time to visit would be in the spring, when there is a chance of more flowers. I think that it might be worth camping there overnight. By the way – there is only a rough, stony and sometimes sandy track through the park and NO facilities at all.

Trevor

Further reading:

 

Lowan Conservation Park

Lowan Conservation Park

Lowan Conservation Park

Lowan Conservation Park

Feeding Adelaide Rosellas

Adelaide Rosella feeding on Eremophila youngii

Adelaide Rosella feeding on Eremophila youngii

Last weekend we were having breakfast in our sun-room when four Adelaide Rosellas flew into one of the bushes in our garden, an Eremophila youngii (see photo above). I had the camera ready for many minutes but they would not come out into full sunlight and the above photo is the best I captured on this occasion. Just one bird is seen peeking out to see what was happening around it. The others were hidden in the foliage, busy feeding on the nectar in the flowers.

The Adelaide Rosella is now a frequent visitor to our garden. It is a race of the widespread Crimson Rosella and confined to the Adelaide region, Mt Lofty Ranges and mid-north of South Australia. Its occurrence here in Murray Bridge is a relatively recent extension of that range.

Parrots occurring in our garden in Murray Bridge include:

  • Adelaide Rosella (regular visitor, possibly breeding)
  • Crimson Rosella (occasional)
  • Eastern Rosella (regular)
  • Mallee Ringneck (resident breeding)
  • Galah (resident breeding)
  • Rainbow Lorikeet (regular)
  • Purple-crowned Lorikeet (regular)
  • Musk Lorikeet (occasional)
  • Budgerigar (rare)
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (rare)
  • Little Corella (occasional)
  • Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo (once only)
  • Cockatiel (occasional)
  • Red-rumped Parrot (occasional)

Over the years we have lived here we have planted many native Australian plants, not only for their attractiveness when they flower, but also to attract our native wildlife, especially the birds. We have quite a few eremophilas, grevilleas and correas as well as many others. The particular bush shown in the photo has flowers on it for much of the year so the rosellas and honeyeaters head for it on a daily basis. Below is another photo of the same bush, this time with a New Holland Honeyeater having a feed.

Further reading:

New Holland Honeyeater feeding on Eremophila youngii

New Holland Honeyeater feeding on Eremophila youngii