To Adelaide and back. Part 2. Flinders Ranges

 

See previous post for travel to Pilliga and Siding Springs

On to the Flinders Ranges

We settled into the quaint and cosy hotel “The Mill” in Quorn and took a walk just before sunset  along  a very small section of the 1200km  Heysen Trail.

TheMill

HeysenTrail SunsetQuorn

I was pleased to find we could still buy my favourite ice cream – Golden North honey – in the region. At the time I used to visit, many years ago, it was the only place you could in fact buy it.  It arrived in Adelaide some time later.

GoldenNorth

Next day was devoted to a whirlwind trip to Wilpena Pound and Brachina Gorge in the FlindersRanges, where ancient rocks have been uplifted and folded into dramatic shapes.

I had very often camped and hiked here with the Adelaide University Mountain Club many years ago but Darren had never visited.  I was glad he immediately fell in love with these rugged ranges and started missing them as soon as we left

 

To Wilpena Pound

 

ApproachingWilpena

TowardsWilpenaCallitris-Wilpena

WIlpenaDarrenWilpena

WIlpena-gumsShrtubsWilpenaKangaroosGroomingWilpena

trees-cliffs-WilpenaWallabyWilpenaWilpenaWaterhole

 

To Brachina Gorge

I wish we could have had a day or two to explore the time trail here, and just to wander around, and sit in the gorge taking in the whole atmosphere .drivetowardsBrachina

drivethroughBrachinaBrachinaintioBrachinaFlindersOrigin

 

BrachinaTimeTrail

BrachinaSignificanceextinctionsWilpenaPound

More soon …

From Brisbane to Adelaide and back – with outback and other detours


Instead of simply heading by plane to the Australian Tourism Exchange in April 2018, Darren and I decided drive to some places we’d never been to and re-visit some we had. I also arranged for my grandson Axel to join us by plane and drive back with us for his first-ever flight in a large plane and first-ever visit to the outback, plus a first-ever meeting between cousins (my brother’s grandsons)

 

 

Our first stop: the Pillaga

This is the largest remnant of dry woodland in NSW,  on Jurassic-age Pilliga sandstone, and the traditional country of the Gamilaroi People, about halfway between Narrabri and Coonabarrabran.

Driving-Pillaga

Bushland-Pillaga

Here we had out first glimpse of the world’s largest model of the solar system:

Uranus-Pillaga

Planet models and the distances between them are all to scale, and you drive many kilometres between them.  We found most of the others on our way to Coonabarrabran and on to Siding Springs Observatory.

Hot and tired when we reached the entrance to the caves walk, we decided to just walk as far as there first cave, but when we saw it we were rather tempted to goon to the second, and continued on to visit them all.

Cave-Pillaga-walkingtrack

Various etchings can be seen in some spots – e.g. of emu and kangaroo tracks

tracks-etched-Pillaga

 

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Are you starting to see why we kept walking from cave to cave?

 

A few of the birds we saw in the Pilliga:

White-eared honeyeater (one of the study species during my Honours Zoology research on Kangaroo Island years ago – it does eat nectar but also many insects gleaned from leaves and -more unusually for honeyeaters – very often from  bark)White-eared-honeyeater-Pillaga

Common bronzewing pigeon:Bronzewing-Pillaga

Apostlebird (they and Australian choughs belong to a family with no other members, and both are exclusively Australian)Apostlebird

 

Fracking for CSG

All may not be well for the Pilliga in the future. Santos has been doing some quite extensive searching for CSG extraction possibilities, and already has established pipelines through the area.  Potential problems include excessive water usage  in an area already subject to drought and possibly increasingly so as climate change progresses, possible contamination of  water sources (including underground), habitat destruction and noise of fracking stations disturbing wildlife

No-CSG-Pillaga

Local farmers are also concerned:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-06/nsw-csg-project-sparks-fierce-debate-over-energy-future/8418102

 

Through Coonabarrabran to Siding Springs Observatory

As we continued driving, we saw more of the planets in this gigantic model

Saturn-Pillaga

Earth

VenusMercury

sun

 

This brought us finally to the observatory itself, which represents the sun in this model.

Observatory

InObservatory2ChickenObservatory

More coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Coochiemudlo Island overnight?

Sunrise on Coochie
Sunrise on Coochie

We have led many day tours to this lovely little island, but that way we miss out on the charming sunsets, sunrises and early morning birding.  There is now the possibility of staying overnight in comfortable cabins near a picturesque  beach and a walking track  through the coastal woodland.

 

Unlike some other islands nearby, the shores are protected by the “Emerald Fringe” of native woodlands.  –  no high-rise buildings or indeed any buildings coming right to the beach (and there are no high-rise buildings anywhere on there island). The Coochiemudlo Island Coastcare group work hard to keep introduced weeds under control and to prevent foreshore erosion.

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If you’ve never seen a bush stone-curlew and would like to, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them here. They have an unforgettable stare with those big yellow eyes, and there’s plenty wandering around the island, sometimes with chicks following.

There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.

 

CrabBurrowingCMIAs the tide recedes we see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of blue soldier crabs marching across the beach.  If you go too close you’ll startle them and they quickly bury themselves in the sand, but if you then stay still and quiet for a few minutes they’ll slowly re-emerge.

 

Meals can be at the cabins, picnics on the beach, or the Red Rock Cafe, with fresh seafood and many other options.

Red Rock Cafe, Coochiemudlo Island
Red Rock Cafe, Coochiemudlo Island

 

The name “Coochiemudlo” refers to the red rock from these cliffs (below) that were important to the local Aborigines, who used them for painting their bodies for ceremonies and trading for other goods far inland on the mainland.

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coochie_beach

Quiet beaches beckon. We often have these to ourselves even during the day, but even. more so by staying overnight and walking early in the morning or late afternoon.

Several mangrove species grow along some shores. These ones almost  look as though if we turn away they’ll start approaching us like Triffids.

mangroves

 

Getting up early on the island allows for good birding experiences.

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Blue-faced honeyeater

 

Brahminy kite
Brahminy kite
oyster catchers
Oyster catchers

 

Walking along the beach at low tide reveals shells of many local molluscs and fragments of local coral.

shells-closeup-Coochie
Seashells on the shores of Coochie

 

Sea-grass – important for dugongs and green turtles – is sometimes also  washed ashore

seagrass-coo chie

 

Staying overnight gives an opportunity to see fruit bats when they visit the island to feast on nectar in certain flowering seasons, and sometimes also frogs, frogmouths, owls and the intriguing (and harmless) net-casting spider.

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There is also the delight of moonlit nights and wonderful sunrises

The Melaleuca Wetlands are on the edge of an east-facing beach, and we were rewarded on our very first night by a beautiful moonrise.

Sunrise-Coochie

 

So, if you’d like to not only  spend a day on this scenic little island so close to Brisbane but also stay overnight in a comfortable little cabin close to a quiet beach and a woodland trail, please let us know.

 

 

Outback, forests and coastal tour.

An American family with only a few days to spend in southeast Queensland asked for a whirlwind 6 day tour of outback, rainforest, wildlife park and beaches at the end of winter (late August).  A French intern working fir Wildlife Tourism Australia also joined us.

The surprisingly good little council-owned zoo at Queen’s Park in Ipswich was our first stop, to see animals we would not be seeing in the wild, such as billies, wombats and quolls.  This also gave me a chance to talk with Frank Manthey (founder of Save the Bilby Fund) who will be opening the Scenic Rim Wildlife Bioblitz in October, while Darren showed our guests around the zoo.

As usual, our first night was spent in St George. We consider the western end of the bridge as the beginning of the true outback – past all sorghum, cotton and other crops, into free-range grazing or wilderness, red soils, red kangaroos, lot of emus, Major Mitchell cockatoos etc.

 

BalonneHighway

 

EmusNearBollon

Next day took us through Cunnamulla to Bowra, a former cattle property well-known as a birding hotspot and now owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

We were delighted to be welcomed at our arrival by not just one but two echidnas!

SeeEchidnaEchidnaBowra

Here are just a few of the other species we saw over the next few hours and following morning

ybspoonbillBowra
Yellow-billed spoonbill, Bowra. These and other waterbirds are easily seen at the waterhole near the accommodation.

 

Major Mitchell Cockatoo. They are regular dawn visitors to the waterhole.
Major Mitchell Cockatoo. They are regular dawn visitors to the waterhole.

.

Sunset at Bowra
Sunset at Bowra

One night is never enough in Bowra, but our American family only had 6 days to explore southern Queensland, so we moved eastwards again to the rainforests of Lamington National Park, the glow worms of Tamborine Mountain, woodland-lined beach at Fingal and captive-breeding programs and platypus aquarium at David Fleay Wildlife Park.

 

Brahminy kite startles cormorants

While waiting for dolphins at Fingal last year, a group of three little black cormorants  were quietly watching the waves from the basalt columns.

 Little Black Cormorants at Fingal
Little Black Cormorants at Fingal, New South Wales

Suddenly a beautiful brahminy kite appeared above us.

Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kite

He delighted us but startled the cormorants by suddenly plunging to the water to catch his dinner

brahminyfish

brahminycatchfish2

brahminycatchfish

and then the dolphins arrived….

I tend to think of Fingal as the Gold Coast before it became the Gold Coast (although there are a few natural parts of the Gold Coast as well).

Wildlife Tourism conference, South Australia


Where the Wild Things Grow.

Wildlife tourism conference to be held in  Adelaide, 6 to 9 November  2016
 
Filming shingleback in Queensland's outback
Filming shingleback in Queensland’s outback

Organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.

Explore how to “do it right”, discuss what kinds of research have been useful for wildlife tourism and what research will now be most valuable, what kinds of training are currently available and what more may be needed in Australia and elsewhere. How can tourism businesses best work in cooperation with researchers, governments, local communities, NGOs and traveling citizen scientists or conservation volunteers? What ethical responsibilities do tour operators have towards tourists, local communities, other operators, animal welfare and biodiversity conservation?
Enjoy quality presentations, join in round-table discussions, visit wildlife attractions old and new near Adelaide, promote your own business, conservation cause or research …
For details visit:

The Araucaria team seek wildlife on an island near Brisbane

The Melaleuca Wetlands are adjacent to the beach
The Melaleuca Wetlands are adjacent to the beach

For some years now we’ve been conducting tours to Coochiemudlo Island, an attractive and varied little subtropical  island with long sandy beaches over which thousands of blue crabs march as the tide recedes, rocky platforms, mangroves, coastal woodlands and red cliffs much prized by the Aboriginals, who used the red ochre for body painting and trade with mainland groups. Bush stone-curlews, with their arresting stares, raptors, butterflies, bush-birds, shorebirds and a variety of sea creatures in rock pools all add to the charm of this island, so close to Brisbane yet often so deserted as holiday-makers rush to the far more commercialized Gold Coast.

Unlike most crabs, they travel forwards instead of sideways' often marching across the beach in search of food as the tide goes out: hence the name 'soldier crab.'
Unlike most crabs, they travel forwards instead of sideways’ often marching across the beach in search of food as the tide goes out: hence the name ‘soldier crab.’
There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.
There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.

Darren and I have recently been employed by Coochiemudlo Coast Care (under a grant from Redlands Shire Council) to conduct a fauna survey o the Melaleuca (tea-tree) Wetlands over four seasons (mid-summer, mid-autumn, mid-winter and mid-spring, with a view to enhancing conservation management plans. We completed the first session in January, with a team of volunteers to help set, check and wash traps (used to capture animals which are promptly released after identification).

The delights of staying overnight, listening to the weird, wild calls of the stone-curlews, watching the sun and moon rise over the waters and wandering safe bush tracks at night are encouraging us to add overnight stays to our island tours. We may also in future involve our tourists in some weed eradication (an on-going threat to the native understorey plants) in conjunction with the excellent programs by Coochiemudlo Coast Care, and spotting species in a monitoring program.  Let us know in comments below or by emailing us at info@learnaboutwildlife.com if interested.

Exploring the Wetlands. Tea-tree wetlands have disappeared from much of their former range on the mainland.
Exploring the Wetlands. Tea-tree wetlands have disappeared from much of their former range on the mainland.
The Melaleuca Wetlands are on the edge of an east-facing beach, and we were rewarded on our very first night by a beautiful moonrise.
The Melaleuca Wetlands are on the edge of an east-facing beach, and we were rewarded on our very first night by a beautiful moonrise.

Results will not be public until completion of the survey, but here are a few photos from our visit, which included live trapping and release, walking the trails day and night and setting motion-sensing cameras.

Bearded dragon eating one of the thousands of cicadas that were calling during the survey.
Bearded dragon eating one of the thousands of cicadas that were calling during the survey.

 

Striped marshfrogs were plentiful at night.
Striped marshfrogs were plentiful at night.
A net-casting spider. Instead of sitting in a large web they make a small one to throw over their prey.
A net-casting spider. Instead of sitting in a large web they make a small one to throw over their prey.

A useful Wildlife Photography link

Photographing wildlife: a useful link

Darren_film_goannaAn American  leader of youth activities emailed me to say the young
people at her camp were googling about wildlife photography, and came up
with this link.

We want to thank all of the kids in Ms. Martin’s class for sharing this
with us and we hope for great things from them in the future.  Thank you for the information and keep up the great work, kids!

Here is the link:

“The Beginners’ Guide to Wildlife Photography”
http://www.cctvcameraworld.com/beginners-guide-to-wildlife-photography.html

I have already shared this on the Wildlife Tourism Australia website, but thought it may also reach sophotographing_jellyfishme interested persons here.

There are some excellent tips and it also includes links to a number of other very useful sites, some of which link to further sites …
Well worth taking a look if you want to improve your wildlife photography

Australia’s third wildlife tourism conference a great success

Preparation for this conference has taken a lot of my time this year, and that of fellow organizers Roger Smith and Caz Bartholomew of Echidna Walkabout Tours in Victoria

The conference was organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia, of which I’m chair and Roger is vice chair, and held in Geelong, Victoria.  Our primary sponsor was Tourism Victoria, other sponsors and supporters including Parks Victoria, Phillip Island NatureParks, Rocklily Wombats, Zoos Victoria, Moonlit Sanctuary, Longhorne Tours, Echidna Walkabout and Araucaria Ecotours

About 140 people attended, including delegates, organizers, keynote speakers, sponsors and volunteers.

The program can be downloaded here, showing titles of all presentations and round table discussions       ConferenceProgram

A report of the conference can be viewed here:

http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/blog/events/wildlife-tourism-conference-geelong-2015/

There were excellent presentations by academic researchers, tourism practitioners, government officials  and others, and much lively but amicable discussion on a wide range of topics.  We could easily have kept talking for another couple of weeks!

Delegates gathering at the welcome reception
Delegates gathering at the welcome reception

Final week in Africa

After the Think Tank near Kruger NP, I had to find my way to my second conference, Frugivory and Seed Dispersal 2015, in the Drakensbergs

All went well for several hours, although I was slowed down a bit by lengthy detours from roadworks, until I left Bergville, close to sunset, and the longer I drove the less it looked like I was going the right way. Finally it was quite dark and I was driving down narrow country roads with people, goats and cows occasionally wandering along on them.  I stopped to ask directions from some ladies, but we had some language problems, or perhaps they just hadn’t hard of my destination.  Finally when driving through a small village I saw a shop that was open, pulled up to the door and called out to the shop attendant.  He was friendly and helpful and told me I had to travel the 20 km back to Bergville and take the road out the other side. When I finally got to the right road and saw a sign pointing to Alpine Heath Resort I actually called out ‘thank you’ to it.

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The Alpine Heath Resort is in a dramatic setting in the Drakensbergs.

People from all over the world presented fascinating papers over the next few days on seed dispersal by frugivores (fruit eating animals), from insects to elephants.  I presented a report on some work-in-progress on what determines whether native fig seeds and seedlings germinate and persist after being dispersed by birds and bats.

There were symposia on ecology and evolution, the chemical ecology of seed dispersal, international networks, patterns and processes in frugivore-plant interactions, understanding seed dispersal, see dispersal and plant recruitment in a changing world, anthropogenic impacts on seed dispersal, seed dispersal by animals as an ecological filter, movement ecology and genetic effects, and conservation of environmental services, with many good talks presented within each.

You can download a copy of the abstracts of presentations here: http://www.fsd2015.ukzn.ac.za/images/ABJULFINAL.pdf

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A mid-week fieldtrip took us to the Nambiti Game Reserve where I had my final chance to see lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos, as well as my first hartebeest and oryx (the oryx is Namibian rather than South African, but have been released into the reserve)

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Hartebeest
Hartebeest

 

NambitiHippos

Seeng an orx
Seeing an oryx

 

NambitiGriaffe

After the conference I booked for a horse ride that included a wild gallop up a hill and my first view of an eland.  During the conference I had also seen jackals and small antelopes at night, plus a number of birds, and heard that someone had seen secretary birds flying over. I suggested n my feedback form to the resort that they mention the wildlife in their promotion, and they have responded that they will try to fit it in to their website.

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The next International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium will be held in India in 2020.