Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

25 Jun

Whyalla’s Coastal Fringe

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is bounding along the small levy that cuts across a shallow clay pan near the edge of a tidal flat. It stops monetarily and twitches its mobile ears, looks around, then continues on its way into the scrub alongside the raised earthen mound. I get a few seconds to make a shot and the wary marsupial is gone.

Grey kangaroo

 I am exploring the coastal fringe of Whyalla South Australia’s third most populous city. The steel and regional centre is situated near the head of Spencer Gulf on the Eyre Peninsula about 450 kms from Adelaide. The area is a mixture of mangrove, tidal flats, sandy beach and some small industrial areas that enclose substantial freshwater pools. Several roads lead down towards the coast from the Lincoln Highway and some of the terrain requires 4WD.

Garden centipede

Egyptian beetle 

I take the vehicle across one of the mud flats and have to fight to keep from getting bogged. Slipping the SUV into low range and slowly sliding across the surface I wrestle with the steering until the wheels grip sand on the edge of the levy. Relieved, I get out and survey the quagmire of clay-like debris stuck to the wheel arches. But my close call has led me to a cosy little depression amongst the scrub and I decide to move a few fallen branches and search for invertebrates. After a few minutes I unearth a rather large garden centipede and a few Egyptian or ‘cellar beetles’ as well as some different ant species. After a little macro photography I carefully replace their homes.

Australian pelicans 

Another dirt road takes me past the rifle club and some large freshwater ponds that have attracted a small group of pelicans. The birds appear to be simply congregating and socialising between short forays into the water to feed. Along the edge of the water there are several different species of small waders including dotterels and plovers but they are wary and take flight when I approach.

Crested pigeons 

The scrub alongside the mangrove patches is also home to a variety of birds including singing honeyeaters and fantails. One scrubby eucalypt that has managed to endure decades of salty onshore winds provides shelter for a trio of crested pigeons a species that I often see found foraging in the coastal bush.

View from Hummock Hill 

I head back onto the highway drive back into the city and up to a local lookout. Hummock Hill is a fitting place to end my exploration of Whyalla’s coastal fringe. The site of the first settlement in 1901 it provides panoramic views of the city, coast and surrounding bushland. Hummock Hill also served as a gun emplacement during the Second World War and has lately been developed as an historic site; lovely place to simply take in the rugged beauty that this area has to offer.

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

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Dry Creek by the Junction

31 May

Dry Creek by the Junction

Dear Reader:

Yes, an ant is an ant, but in Australia some ants are just that little bit more! Inch ants or bulldog ants live up to their name and reputation. Solitary hunters that still live in communal nests they have a fearsome bite and relentless disposition. This one is hunting late on a cool autumn afternoon scouring a eucalypt trunk for prey. I watch carefully as it systematically probes under the bark for any hapless invertebrate that is sheltering or hibernating. Seeing a bulldog ant at this time of year seems strange, perhaps a late burst of warm weather woke the colony up. The vagaries of nature are always fascinating.

 

Bulldog ant hunting

 

I am exploring the section of Dry Creek which flows between the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Nelson Road through to Walkley’s Road. It can be accessed behind ‘The Junction’ shopping centre. The creek twist and turns along this part of its length and is bordered by walking and bike trails. There are some deep pools, a ford and a small footbridge which all facilitate wildlife viewing and photography. Throw in a nice bakery at the shopping area and you have the makings of a perfect walk.

 

Dry Creek

 

The little footbridge which spans the river is an ideal place to watch for wildlife. It is high on the banks and provides a good vantage point for peering into the treetops. Today it is the surface of the water that catches my attention. The tell-tale V shaped ripples of a water rat swimming across the creek are an unexpected bonus on my walk. I have rarely seen the elusive little rodents in Dry Creek and to know that they are present is quite a treat. Water rats or rakalis are a native species with a broad head, webbed feet and a white tip to the tail. They feed on aquatic insects, yabbies, molluscs, frogs and small fish.

 

Australian water rat swimming

 

 

 

Further along the path there is a break in the bushes and trees that envelop the sides of the creek and I can get good access to the water’s edge.  A little pied cormorant is sitting on a log directing its gaze into a long pool before continuing to hunt amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. On my walk back I see the same bird with its wings outstretched drying them between forays into the creek to hunt. Cormorants do not have waterproofing oils to protect their plumage like some waterbirds and therefore must continually dry out their feathers.   

 

 

little pied cormorant

 

Near one of the fords there are some massive river red gums shading the creek bed and I can hear the raucous screech of lorikeets in the highest branches. A quick look through the telephoto lens helps me to identify them as musk lorikeets. These social little birds seem to have found something to feed on in the canopy. There are no blossoms on the trees so I can only assume that it is some form of insect life.

 

Musk lorikeet

 

My walk has been most rewarding as I have encountered a wide range of animals from aquatic mammals and predatory insects through to brightly coloured parrots in the treetops. Only the bakery to go and I can mark today down as more than a little successful.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with food outlets, parking and other facilities nearby.

 

 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

Cape Jervis as a wildlife destination

2 May

Cape Jervis

Dear Reader: 

Cape Jervis is a rugged promontory at the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula overlooking Backstair’s Passage. It lies about 110 kms south of Adelaide along South Road. The little township is a fishing community with a lighthouse and the terminal for the Kangaroo Island ferry. The location was named by Matthew Flinders after John Jervis; a seaman who rose to the rank ‘Lord of the Admiralty’.

Ferry landing

 

The drive into Cape Jervis passes by open farmland and patches of scrub where there are often kangaroos grazing sometimes alongside sheep. Crows, magpies, rosellas and many smaller bird species including wrens live in the natural vegetation along with a variety of insects and reptiles.  Occasionally wedge tailed eagles are seen circling on thermals searching for prey.

Kestrel hunting

 

The shoreline is strewn with pebbles and jagged outcrops of rock creating numerous rock pools. This intertidal zone is the habitat of numerous invertebrate species such as; crabs, anemones, sea snails, limpets and shrimps. Wading birds including oystercatchers, plovers and herons feed in this zone as well as gulls. Cormorants can often be seen drying their wings on the rocks.

Raven feeding on breakwater

 

Below the water the rocky shoreline is dominated by brown algae and silver drummer, sea sweep, kelp fish, morwong and parrot fish are just a few of the many fish species that live in the shallow margin close to shore.

Crab in algae

 

Further notes and comments:

  • Snorkelling along the foreshore requires care as the rocks are sharp and entry to the water can be difficult. There is also a strong rip current running parallel to the shoreline so stay in shallow water.
  • A pathway runs from the lighthouse to the beach front
  • There are snacks for sale and public toilets at the terminal
  • A variety of fish can be caught in this area from the shore and boats
  • There is a public boat ramp
  • Charter fishing excursions can be arranged from Cape Jervis
  • The lookout on the left hand side entering the town provides sweeping views of Backstairs Passage and Kangaroo Island
  • Southern right whales and dolphins are sometimes spotted in Backstairs Passage
  • The Heysen Trail walk that goes all the way to the Flinders ranges begins here

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

Myponga to the Beach

2 Apr

Dear Reader:

The drive from the little Fleurieu town of Myponga to the beach some 10 kms away is rather unique. It takes in views of the local reservoir, bushland and sweeping rural scenes before descending towards a picturesque beach characterised by a small creek and the skeletal remains of an old wooden jetty. All the way along this route there is a proliferation of wildlife if you take the time to stop and look around.

 

Mypnga resevoir

The old jetty and rocky beachfront

 

My first wildlife encounter on the drive from the township to the beach was a pair of grey kangaroos feeding along the banks of the reservoir. One animal seemed unperturbed by my presence and cocked its head cheekily as I closed in to capture an image.

 

Curious roo

 

Further along the well graded dirt road I noticed numerous parrots in the eucalypts, they appeared to be feeding on gum nuts and blossoms. One pair of crimson rosellas caught my eye. They are wary birds and hard to approach so I tried for a distance shot in the shaded heart of the trees. Their glorious red plumage allowed them to dominate the background making for a rather nice image.

 

Crimson rosellas

 

Birds posing against the rugged background seemed to be a recurring theme and an Australian magpie perched on the end of a weather beaten branch provided the next wildlife moment. However, as I stopped the car and stepped out to take my picture I noticed the field behind the bird was dotted with the grey brown shapes of kangaroos. There must have been over twenty of them leisurely grazing on the freshly cut pasture.

 

The mob

 

It would have been easy to stop at this point and simply focus on the terrestrial wildlife but my heart was set on doing a little snorkelling when I reached the beach. It was a warm day and the cool water would provide some welcome relief.

 

Toothbrush leatherjacket

Wrasse species in algal fronds

 

My decision proved to be worthwhile and without going into too much detail I spent a good hour photographing colourful fish amongst the rocky inshore reef and algal beds. A wonderful finale to my day notwithstanding a much anticipated trip to the Myponga Bakery on the way home for a meat pie and vanilla slice.   

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, food outlets, parking and other facilities at Myponga.

My work is also published in Weekend Notes

 

  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

Druminoor Lake’s Birdlife

4 Mar

Druminoor Lake’s Birdlife

Dear Reader:

From the edge of a little bridge that divides the creek from the lake I can see a purple swamp hen using its elongated feet to delicately traverse a clump of reeds. These beautiful water birds also use the reeds as food and to construct their nests along the water’s edge.

 

Purple swamp hen

 

Crossing the bridge, I walk along a short gravel pathway to a viewing platform that overlooks Druminoor Lake, a small dammed area of Dry Creek just off Golden Grove Road.  It is an integral part of the Tea Tree Gully water management program. Their goal is to use water that runs into the creek in an environmentally sustainable fashion for the benefit of the local community.

 

Low water during summer

 

A centuries old red gum dominates the upstream end of the lake and I can hear birds screeching high in the branches. Using the extreme setting on my long lens I scan the tree tops and to my surprise there are both rainbow lorikeets and sulphur crested cockatoos in the foliage. Both parrot species noisy but together they produce a considerable din.

 

Sulphur crest real estate

 

Below a rock wall dam on the downstream perimeter of the lake, Dry Creek meanders through a steep gully overshadowed by more eucalypts. In a gnarled old tree a pair of lorikeets has chosen to nest in a knot hole half way up the trunk. I approach carefully but the birds takes flight and resultant blurred image of feathers in flight is rather satisfying.

 

A flash of colour

 

The grey trunks of long dead trees tower above the little lake. They are perfect nesting sites and vantage points for a range of bird life. Cormorants and ibises often perch on the limbs and parrots make use of the holes where branches were once attached. Occasionally a bird of prey will use them as a vantage point to wreak havoc amongst the smaller animals that gather around the lake which is a permanent source of water even in the drier months.

 

Ibis silhouette

 

There are several lakes and ponds along the track that stretches from Modbury through to Wynne Vale and all of them harbour quite a varied array of wildlife making this trail through Tea Tree Gully one of my favourite wildlife walks. Take a look and send me a message if you enjoy it. 

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with concrete pathways along Dry Creek and a viewing platform at the lake.

 

 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. The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Pondalowie’s Beachside Birdlife

6 Feb

Pondalowie’s Beachside Birdlife

 Dear Reader:

A lone Pacific gull stands on the beach amongst strands of washed up seaweed. It stares at the ocean for a while watching another gull wheeling and soaring above the waves then nonchalantly wanders along the tidal fringe foraging for invertebrates or whatever the sea has deposited.

 

Pacific gull

 

The long white sands of Pondalowie Bay are home to many species of birds and a fertile food source for many others. A leisurely four hour drive from Adelaide to this picturesque Bay on the western extremity of the Innes National Park is a favourite haunt of naturalists, fishers, divers and holiday makers. In fact; any traveller who enjoy that hint of wildness in their getaways will find this a wonderful destination.

 

Classic peninsula coastal landscape

 

Further along the beach several species of tiny waders including dotterels, plovers and sand pipers scurry along the retreating waterline searching for tiny invertebrates such as worms, crustaceans and molluscs. Their little legs seem to rotate as they forage giving them the appearance of wind up clockwork toys.

 

Double banded plover-non breeding plumage

 

Swallows normally live further inland amongst the scrub and trees. However, the proliferation of insects infesting the beds of weed that are strewn along the high tide line has attracted quite a large number of these colourful little aerial hunters. Some are perched on driftwood as they rest between their forays above the weed while others perch in bushes close to the beach.

Swallow

 

In all honesty, my favourite beach dwellers are the oystercatchers. There are two species on the beach pied and sooty and it is a pair of sooties that I spend a few minutes focussing on. They use their long chisel shaped beaks to probe the sand or scrape molluscs off rocks and prise them apart. The bird closest to me has snagged a turban shell and is proceeding to split it open and consume the unfortunate critter within.

 

Sooty oystercatcher

 

From Pondalowie it is a good half hour drive back to Marion Bay where we are staying in a cliff-side holiday home and dinner at the local pub that serves the best pizzas and seafood I have eaten in a long time.    

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities at Marion Bay and Pondalowie. The trails leading from the main park road down to beaches and into the scrub are more arduous.

 

 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. The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Brownhill Creek’s Koalas and Bird Life

22 Jan

Dear Reader:

The scrub is quite thick along the river bank and I can hear the movements of small animals against the background sigh of the wind through the towering eucalypts. Lizards, perhaps small mammals but more likely wrens, finches and other little birds are foraging in the undergrowth. Finally, a diminutive female blue wren emerges from the cover to search for seeds in a clearing. The opportunity to take a quick shot is momentary.

 

Female blue wren

Common garden skink

 

Brownhill Creek is one of several waterways that drain the south eastern aspect of the Mount Lofty Ranges. It has shallow pools that retain water in the hotter months and flows freely in the cooler ones. There is thick undergrowth along the creek bed that ranges into open scrubland on the surrounding hillsides. A paved road follows the creek eastward with numerous sidings that enable access to the water along narrow dirt tracks.

 

koala

 

I stop in one of the lay-bys where there is a significant clearing surrounded by several eucalypts. Using the long lens I scan the forks in the canopy for koalas. The bear-like marsupials eat a range of gum leaves and these trees look to be one of the preferred species. Luck is with me as I spot a large male using its double-thumbed prehensile grip to move along a branch.

Silvereye

 

Adelaide rosella

Ravens

 

Further along the road a small bridge crosses the creek and there is a large stand of eucalyptus and evergreen trees spreading both limbs and branches across the creek. A wide variety of birds are feeding on blossoms, fruit and insects. I manage to photograph silver-eyes, Adelaide rosellas and a pair of raucous ravens.

Laughing kookaburra

 

Dragonfly species

 

My drive along Brownhill creek has been quite exceptional and I decide to make one last foray down to the creek near the caravan park.  I can hear a kookaburra calling and some flowering plants along the creek seem to be attracting both butterflies and dragonflies. With a little luck I might just capture a few more images to complete my creek-side safari.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy drive but the tracks along the creek are more difficult.

 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. The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

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