Archive | August, 2013

Corella Wars

24 Aug

Dear Reader:

Strathalbyn is one of those country towns that make you think of Britain. An imposing church presides over a pleasant stretch of river complete with ducks, gently sloping banks and an old fashioned rotunda. Huge Norfolk pines are mingled with classic river red gums and picnicking families often spread blankets on the banks and eat sandwiches or barbecue a few snags.

Like a flurry of snow Corellas perch in the trees they are feeding on showing bare branches

Church, rotunda and corellas in the trees

 

But the rustic charm is not sound-tracked by the gentle call of songbirds. Quite the opposite, it is the raucous call of parrots that often fills the air. Large flocks of short beaked corellas frequently descend upon the trees that line the Finnis River where it passes through the town. They are particularly fond of the towering pines and hundreds will sit along the branches of each tree tearing at the cones and limbs with their powerful beaks. At the same time they engage in a variety of typically cockatoo-like social interactions ranging from mutual grooming and preening to wing flapping, mock fights and beak duels; all of which are accompanied by a variety of screeches and squawks.

A Corella social behaviour

Corella social behaviour

 

Short-beaked or little corellas (Cacatua sanguine) are, as the name suggests, a member of the cockatoo family. They grow to around 40 cms in length and can weigh over half a kilogram. These corellas often congregate in flocks that can number thousands of birds. They are mainly ground feeders, rooting out tubers and bulbs and are particularly fond of cereal crops like wheat and barley; a habit which does not endear them to many farmers.

B Corellas use a combination of wings , beaks and feet  to position themselves

Corellas use a combination of wings , beaks and feet to position themselves

 

Although most locals and visitors alike enjoy the sight of thousands of graceful white birds wheeling through the sky, the continual noise and quite substantial damage to the heritage trees has become a significant problem. Various means have been employed to move the flock to the outskirts of the town including: culling, high frequency sound bursts and quite recently using a trained peregrine falcon to discourage them.

D Little corella flock circling pine trees

Flock of little corellas circling pine trees

 

Strathalbyn is only an hour’s drive from the city and the wildlife along the Finnis and open bushland that dominates the area makes it a wonderful day’s outing. And the corellas are the most endearing of birds to observe despite their rather destructive disposition.

 I hope you enjoyed this story.

Cheers

Baz

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Second Valley ….drive and dive

17 Aug

Dear Reader:

This week’s post is courtesy of a chilly winter dive and a pleasant day’s drive to one of my favourite childhood haunts, Second Valley.

D Second Valley bay on a winter's day

Second Valley bay and beach on a calm winter’s day

 

In 1836 Colonel Light, the founder of Adelaide, was searching for a good location for South Australia’s new capital city. He sailed his ship, the Rapid, into a sheltered bay with a fresh water stream that flowed in from a fertile valley. Light named the bay after the vessel. The second little cove that he discovered was just a few miles north towards the present location of Adelaide and was simply known as Second Valley.

E farmer and dog taking dairy herd across the road near Rapid Bay

Farmer and cattle dog taking dairy herd across the road near Rapid Bay

Second Valley is a one and a half hour drive from the city centre along the Fleurieu  Peninsula’s south coast road. The dairy farms that lie amongst the rolling hills, large expanses of open woodland, and vineyards make it a recreational drive worth undertaking for its own sake. But for the wildlife enthusiast both drive and destination are even more enthralling. The farms and bushland support a healthy population of western grey kangaroos that are often visible from the road. Rosellas, various cockatoos, lorikeets and a host of other bird species are also common throughout the year.

BB Western grey kangaroos near the roadside near Second Valley

Western grey kangaroos by the roadside near Second Valley

However Second Valley’s real charm lies beneath its pristine waters. The sheltered little bay is enclosed by limestone hills and coastal cliffs . It boasts an exquisite little beach and miniature rocky headland which is bisected by an old wooden jetty. Small boats can be launched from the beach but the marine environment is just as easily accessed from the beach, jetty and rocks for shore based divers. It is, in my experience, one of the best scuba and snorkelling locations that I have encountered anywhere in the world. A place where a novice snorkeler can swim amongst shallow rocky reefs in water they can stand up in or a more adventurous diver can swim a short distance and be next to a cliff face that drops away into 10 metres of water.

A squid at nightshowing irridescence

Squid viewed on night dive

Below the water there is a diverse range of habitats to explore ranging from limestone caves and ledges, to rocky reefs, seagrass meadows and open expanses of white rippled sand. There is always a wide selection of marine life to enjoy. Over the years I have encountered everything from huge eagle rays to schools of iridescent squid on a night dive and once I came across an elephant shark lazily gliding across the segrass as it came into the shallow bay to breed.

B large cuttlefish amongst brown algae

Large cuttlefish amongst brown algae

Although the balmy days of summer are the ideal weather for a dip in the ocean the winter months often produce long fine breaks when the sea is calm and visibility excellent. On this particular occasion I was lucky enough to encounter a couple of large cuttlefish under a ledge and a school of silver drummer milled around me on the edge of the rocky outcrop. On any typical dive, either snorkelling or with scuba, I would expect to sight at least 30 different species of fish and a multitude of invertebrates. This dive was no exception.

BB Silver drummer schooling  at the end of the rocky peninsular

Silver drummer schooling at the end of the rocky peninsula

As always I hope you enjoyed the pictures and anecdotes and that they encourage you to come and enjoy our unique scenery and wildlife.

Cheers

Baz

Mangrove Wildlife

9 Aug

Dear Reader:

The city of Port Adelaide is a working port that includes a power station, shipyards and fine old buildings that date from the early colonial days when sailing ships transported goods and settlers to the new colony. Yet only a few kilometres from this industrial zone is a haven for wildlife both above and below the water. Mangroves once dominated this area but land clearing, to establish new beachside suburbs, decimated this crucial coastal environment. Eventually local communities and conservationists finally put pressure on the government to preserve what was left.

AH Power station near the mangrove area

Power station near the mangrove area

This weekend I grabbed a camera and spent a leisurely hour walking around the Port taking in the sites and enjoying some seafood at one of the oldest hotels in the state. Early in the afternoon I drove a couple of kilometres to the Garden Island boat ramp where mangroves still dominate the shoreline of the Port River. This complex system of intertidal mudflats, seagrass meadows and the thick cover of mangrove trees supports a vital nursery area for many of the fish, prawn and crab species that live in St Vincent’s Gulf; Adelaide’s marine backyard and larder.

AG Puemataphores  in the mangrove forest

Puemataphores in the mangrove forest

 

As I walked along the little jetty that skirts the edge of the mangroves I chatted to a couple of fishers working the incoming tide. They had spotted a pod of dolphins cruising along one of the channels a little earlier in the afternoon and a pair of pied cormorants were boldly eying their bucket of baitfish as we spoke. The jetty also provides an excellent view into the mangroves and within a few minutes I had spotted a white faced heron perched on a low branch hunting for crabs. Nearby, a glorious little golden whistler was searching for insects near the entrance to a tidal creek.

AA Whitefaced heron hunting deep in the mangroves

White-faced heron hunting deep in the mangroves

AC Golden whistler in thorny bushes on the edge of the mangroves

Golden whistler in thorny bushes on the edge of the mangroves

 

Because the tide was out I had the perfect opportunity to walk into the mangroves and take a closer look amongst the tangle of limbs and bizarre little pneumatophores that protrude like blackened fingers from the forest floor. The sticky mud between these gas absorbing extensions of the root system was pock marked with little crab holes. It took some patience and a mini war with a squadron of mosquitoes before I caught a crab in the open and managed to capture an image.

AD Mangrove crab in samphire at the edge of the mudflat

Mangrove crab in samphire at the edge of the mudflat

 

A little itchy and with my boots liberally coated with dark mud, I decided to call it a day. Later in the year I will return to another area of mangroves a little further down the coast and share some more images and notes about the extraordinary animals that exist in this harsh and unusual habitat.

Cheers

BAZ   

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