Lady Bay’s Delights

1 Aug

Lady Bay’s Delights

Dear Reader:

The little bird blends in quite well with its surroundings. Just a few metres away in a shallow scrape are a clutch of eggs that are equally if not better camouflaged. Despite these attributes the diminutive Hooded Plover remains a species under threat due to its proximity to human traffic.

 

Hooded plover

 

I am walking along the southern extent of Lady Bay just five kilometres south of the charming Fleurieu town of Normanville and around 80 kms from Adelaide. After a wonderful seafood lunch at the local golf club and conference centre (The Links is a championship course ranked 52 out of Australia’s top100 courses) walking along the beach is a great way to assuage the guilt of too much fine food.

 

Beachfront and breeding zone for plovers

 

Leaving the little bird to tend its nest I head north along the rocky foreshore and explore some rock pools that are home to crabs, anemones and a variety of other marine invertebrates. A mixed group of cormorants, terns and gulls eye me suspiciously as I get closer to the rocks they are resting on.

 

Cormorants and gulls

Over the years I have walked this beach many times and snorkelled amongst the seagrass beds and rocky outcrops that characterize the underwater landscape. In fact this area offers much more than just a swim in shallows as the HMAS Hobart was deliberately scuttled off Lady Bay to provide a dive site.

 

Magpie perch among seaweeds

 

After a fine lunch and a productive wander along the coastline it is time to get back into the car and continue through the coastal hills to Wirrina Cove; a different kind of destination on the Fleurieu Peninsula with its own story to explore in another post. 

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy walk and drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with shops, public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby in Normanville.

  See more South Australian stories on Weekend Notes

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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Houseboat 2

14 Jul

Houseboat 2 

Dear Reader:

Following up my last post I would like to continue my review of our houseboat trip along the Murray from Mildura.

Our boat

 

Some of the most spectacular features of Murray cruising are the glorious sunsets. A few clouds a little dust in the air and suddenly dusk is transformed into a spectacular light show. Throw in some red cliffs and the results are unbelievable. It can seem like the whole sky is on fire.

Sunset on fire

 

Colour abounds in other ways too. Some of the most striking parrots inhabit the woodlands and scrub that border the river. My favourites are the rosellas which can be wary and difficult to get near enough to photograph. Luckily this yellow rosella was too absorbed in feeding to take much notice of me.

 

Yellow Rosella feeding

 

We passed by several little towns on our trip and each bore witness to the Murray’s heyday when the river was the main form of transport between the states and a flotilla of paddle steamers plied their trade along its length. Today these classic country towns support local dry land farming and serve as tourist hubs.

Wentworth, historic building

 

Colourful parrots are not the only birds that inhabit the river bank. There are some serious predators too. Pelicans fish singularly or in groups along the shallow banks and both whistling kites and white bellied sea eagles perch on overhanging branches to hone in on prey with their incredible eyesight. On the mammalian side there are water rats that hunt for molluscs along the river bank as well as introduced foxes and wild cats. And from a reptilian perspective a variety of lizards from water skinks to goannas and snakes live in the reed beds and tangled branches that line the waterway.   

Eastern water skink

 

 Travelling along the river would not be complete without a little fishing. Carp abound and some of them are quite large but most fishers hope for a catch of native fish such as Callop and Cod which are much rarer. On this trip ‘Pete” who had fished the river for years caught his first Murray Cod; a beautiful 65 cm specimen which was duly released though the smile on his face took the best part of a week to disappear.

At last

 

And so ends my discourse on Murray house-boating for this year. But, stick around for a further twelve months a there will be another trip to report on.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Just Cruising 1

1 Jun

Just Cruising 1

Dear Reader:

There is a white faced heron picking its way precariously along the bow rail of the boat; probably heading for the shrimp bucket. In the meantime, two welcome swallows are resting on the mooring rope while they take a rest from their aerial, acrobatic insect hunts. These are two of the animals that make our houseboat a temporary home as we journey along the river.

 

Curious Heron

 

To date my blogs have always been about South Australia but the next few posts will stray just a little from my own state and take you just over the border to Mildura in Victoria. From this thriving community I will share some observation taken on a week-long houseboat trip along the Murray. The wildlife and scenery are much the same as in SA as we are cruising along a section of the river which runs close to all three states SA, Victoria and NSW.

 

Typical riverside scenery

 

Houseboats are a wonderful way to explore the river. They come in all shapes and sizes from luxury models with saunas, ensuite bathrooms and satellite television through to old fashioned paddle sided boats with two rooms and a basic kitchen. We travelled in rather luxurious style which I can fully recommend; and travelling in a group certainly made it a reasonably inexpensive holiday option.

 

A classic

 

Wildlife along the river is seasonal and dependent on a variety of conditions such as drought and ambient river levels. The long dry that we have experienced this year meant that the wildlife was sporadic and took a little effort to locate. However, as we varied our moorings between townships and bush there was always something to see when I took a walk and looked carefully.

What the????

 

At a bush mooring near the confluence of the Darling and Murray I spent a couple of hours walking through the scrub bordering the river. Whilst sitting on a log near a clump of acacia bushes some small bugs with ‘eye-lash- like’ antennae caught my attention. I spent a good half hour trying to get a reasonable shot. Sometimes the little things can be the most interesting and challenging to photograph.

 

Nesting Apostle bird

 

The rewards of exploring a new and unfamiliar region are many including the chance to encounter species that are rarely observed or at the best seen fleetingly at home. An apostle bird nesting in the eucalypts that shaded our mooring at Coomeala was a prime example. Locals told me that they are quite common but it was the first time I had seen one and to capture and image of it nesting was quite a thrill.

Sandra gets the double

 

There were many more encounters on this trip and they certainly warrant further posts under the heading ‘Just Cruising’ which seems to capture the mood of my week exploring the mighty Murray while relaxing with friends.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy excursion which is quite suitable for families and seniors with toilets, barbecues and numerous facilities aboard.

 

 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 try to attach a new image and notes to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Warren Reservoir

11 May

Dear Reader:

There is pelican fishing near the water outlet on the edge of the reservoir. It seems to be catching the odd fish unlike the anglers near the bridge. Likewise, a snake bird sometimes called a diver but more correctly known as an anhinga, is perched on a branch overhanging the water drying its wings after successfully making a catch. Obviously there is prey in the lake and after one of the longest dry spells on record it is a pleasure to witness the local wildlife reaping the benefits of permanent water.

 

Snake bird or darter

 

I am exploring the Warren Reservoir about an hour’s drive north east of Adelaide’s CBD past Williamstown on Warren Road which deviates left off the Springton Road a few Kilometres beyond the township. There are several lay-bys and one major recreation site that allow access to the reservoir which can be used by fishers and kayakers.

 

Warren Reservoir

 

 There is a bridge crossing the reservoir that leads on to a path that skirts the water. Tiny finches and wrens are chirping in the canopy and an occasional duck can be seen foraging near the reeds. I sit quietly by a large eucalypt that droops over the water watching for a kingfisher or kookaburra. However, it is a tiny female blue wren that catches my eye as it works its way along the edge of the water.

 

Masked Lapwings

 

Roos in retreat

 

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Further along the track several lapwings are walking tentatively along the high water mark. They are nervous and approaching them to capture an image is difficult. As I crouch amongst the bushes I startle a small group of kangaroos that are quietly resting in some bushland near the edge of a pine forest.

 

Casual lunch

 

My walk around the reservoir has been interesting but a few hunger pangs are setting in. In a cutting a little closer to Williamstown there is a pop up lunch bus that makes unbelievable hot-steak rolls. The chap that runs it is an ex-biker (not bikey) and also sells oil and other motorbike accessories for the numerous enthusiasts that drive through the area. An interesting way to end my day at the reservoir.

 

Cheers

Baz  

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk/drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby. It is dog friendly.

 

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Fleurieu Shark Encounter

14 Apr

Fleurieu Shark Encounter

Dear Reader: 

Many years ago when I was young and less environmentally aware I spent much of my leisure time spearfishing on the Fleurieu Peninsula. And, as my last instalment of Fleurieu Marine blogs I would like to share a rather interesting encounter with a pair of Bronze Whaler Sharks.

We were snorkelling off Cape Jervis at the tip of the peninsula about 10 metres offshore skirting the edge of a strong current that flows between the mainland and Kangaroo Island.

 

Classic southern Fleurieu coastline

 It had been a successful morning and the floats we towed behind us were full of the reef fish we had speared. I spotted a sizeable flathead on the edge of a seagrass patch close to a rocky outcrop and tapped my partner on the shoulder to indicate that I was about to dive down and stalk it. As I reached out he jerked backwards through the water. Not possible I thought, until I felt a solid tug on my weight belt and was also inexplicably reversed. In those fleeting moment we both realised that something sizeable had attacked the fish on our floats. We looked at each other spat out our snorkels and rapidly discussed tactics: stay close, swim calmly and get to rocky shoreline in one piece.

We made it safely and hauled out the tattered remains of our catch. Standing on a rock we could see a pair of large Bronze Whaler sharks patrolling the underwater channel that we had been fishing.

 

Bronze Whaler Shark

In those less enlightened days I carried an explosive spearhead strapped to my leg and with the exuberance and foolhardiness of youth we hatched a plan to attract the sharks then hurl a lethally tipped handspear at one of them. The fish were thrown back and in an instant the water was broiling with sharks, dead fish and white foam. The spear was hurled; it missed by a considerable distance but fired on impact with the water and sank to the bottom.

My expensive spear and powerhead now resided on the sea bottom which was still being patrolled by expectant sharks. Needless to say it was several hours later and with considerable trepidation that I recovered the failed ‘shark-killing’ missile. Foolish days but the stuff of memories.

     

Bronze Whaler Shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus)

Length: around 3m.

  • Prefers shallow coastal waters including beach and reef areas and will venture into estuaries
  • Varied diet of bottom dwelling and pelagic fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus
  • Often hunts near schools of fish such as salmon
  • Gives birth to live between 7-20 live young
  • Sometimes seen around Cape Jervis and in the surf at Goolwa beach
  • Attacks on humans are rare as the sharks prey on much smaller animals
  • On occasions, harasses idiot divers

 

Cheers

Baz

 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Cuttlefish Meeting

24 Feb

More Cephalopods on the Reef

Dear Reader:

I am working my way patiently along the edge of the Noarlunga reef-on the shallow side near the jetty. The water is no more than a couple of metres deep and surprisingly clear. Small schools of mullet are congregating near the surface, their silver sides reflecting the light with sudden bright flashes. Just below me there are several recesses that cut under the rocks and I can see some movement in one: perhaps a leatherjacket or even some bullseyes. I swim down and hold onto a nearby rock until my eyes adjust to the light. To my delight my encounter is a little more exotic, a giant cuttlefish is hovering above the sandy substrate patiently waiting for some unfortunate critter to come near its temporary lair.

 

 

Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)

Length: mantle or body to 50cm.

  • Lives around reefs and over seagrass meadows
  • Hunts fish and crustaceans
  • Gather in winter in large groups to mate
  • Sexual reproduction and females attach clusters of eggs inside caves and crevices
  • Cuttles die shortly after mating
  • Can change colours rapidly to blend in with surroundings or display during courting
  • Like squid and octopus they can expel ink

Cheers

Baz

 

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about each animal that I encounter.

Calamari SA Style

31 Jan

Dear Reader

There is a flash of light in the dark waters surrounding me. I point the camera and fire off a few frames hoping for the best. The squid (Southern Calamari) have been accumulating beneath the Second Valley Jetty, attracted by fluorescent lures cast by fishers. They seem indifferent to my presence.

 

 

The next morning I venture into deeper waters and catch sight of a group of squid gliding through the ocean. Nice image.

 

And later that day I drive through to Normanville and enjoy ‘Salt and Pepper Squid’ a South Aussie favourite.

 

 

Yes! The humble squid, is an icon of Southern Australia’s marine culture be it a fascinating animal to study, an angler’s quarry or a fine meal.

 

Southern Calamari Squid (Sepioteuthis australis)

 Size: Length of body (mantle) up to 40 cm.

  • Lives around reefs and over seagrass meadows
  • Often hunts fish and crustaceans at night
  • Uses speed, eyesight, and two extra long tentacles to capture prey
  • Females attach cylindrical bunches of eggs to algae and seagrass
  • Pumps water though a central outlet to provide jet propulsion
  • Releases ink when threatened as a decoy

In my next blog we will explore some of the squid’s close relatives; cuttlefish and octopus. 

Cheers

Baz

Notes:

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about each animal that I encounter.

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