Archive | March, 2014

Reef and Cliff

25 Mar

The crumbling cliffs drop steeply to a narrow beach where a tangle of dried out seaweed marks the extent of the last high tide. From the beach, a flat limestone platform gently slopes into the ocean. The once smooth surface is scarred with shallow pools, sand patches and bubble weed. A line of white foam marks the outer fringe of the shelf where a sudden increase in depth creates a series of smaller reefs and ledges. These features provide a range of diverse habitats for an assortment of marine life.

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The view from the cliff top

 

 

The first animal that I meet, on my swim across the shallows, is a fiddler ray which has come in from the seagrass meadows beyond the edge of the reef. It is hunting on the limestone platform; using its keen senses to locate molluscs that are buried in the sandy patches. Like all rays, its mouth is located on the underside of the body and its back is camouflaged to confuse predators that might attack from above. I follow the ray for a few minutes approaching quite close as it lies near a patch of bubble weed. Unlike stingrays, fiddlers do not have a barbed spine on the tail for defence and seem to be quite placid animals.

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Fiddler ray near bubble weed

 

 

The ray follows a series of narrow cracks in the rocky surface where shore crabs often leave the shelter of their burrows to hunt on the incoming tide. The narrow crevices are also home to hoards of tiny anemones that extend their stinging tentacles to trap the tiny organisms that live in the water.

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Anemones in a rock ledge surrounded by seaweed that keeps them wet on the receding tide

 

 

The limestone reef and high cliffs with their spectacular coastal views are the main attractions of the coastal community of Aldinga. The town is a comfortable 50 minutes drive from Adelaide along the main South Road. A traditional Aussie pub and bakery close to the access road from the highway provide great local meals and there are numerous houses for hire along the coastal strip that overlooks the gulf. Several parking bays on top of the cliffs with steps that lead down to the beach and reef make accessing this location very easy. The area is also a marine park and various signs explain the exact nature of restrictions for divers and fishers.

 

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Shore crab that has emerged from its shelter to feed

 

After following the ray for a while I swim to the seaward edge of the reef and start exploring its perimeter. The limestone is honeycombed with undercut ledges, caves and crevices. Almost immediately I encounter a large strongfish or dusky morwong; a common species that lives in the seagrass meadows. The fish is well over a metre long and appears to be resting before heading into deeper water to feed.

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Strongfish or dusky morwong sheltering under a rocky ledge on the edge of the reef

 

 

I have been in the water for over an hour and have photographed a wide variety of marine life apart from the species mentioned. Now it is my turn to follow their example and ‘grab a bite to eat’ back at the pub before driving home confident that there is still much to see on subsequent visits to this spectacular local ecosystem.

Cheers

Baz

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Port Germein ….A Long Walk Out to Sea…Field Notes

8 Mar

General description of location

Port Germein is a  small country town just north of Port Pirie which is  a major regional centre about 2½ hours from Adelaide

Lies near the top of Spencer Gulf and is in the shadow of the Southern Flinders Ranges.

Town has a pub with excellent food, a general store and campground

Small local population of around 250

A long jetty, once used to load grain clippers, it extends from the shore to over a mile out to sea and most of the beach is exposed at low tide

Good fishing, crabbing and general coastal wildlife walks

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View back to the ranges from the end of the jetty

Notes

Season:

Late summer

Weather:

Mild morning temperature around 18 ºC at 0900.

Forecast temperature 35°C later in the day

No wind and clear skies

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Blue bee on coastal heath

While walking from the house where I am staying to the jetty I spot some blue bees, an Australian native species, feeding on a coastal bushes with small blue flowers

They tend to feed on blue and white blossoms

Note to self

Identify some of the coastal vegetation before next PT Germein post

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Blue Swimmer crab in net

I stroll along the jetty and notice a variety of small wading birds feeding on the sand/mud flats, some are searching out small pools of residual water

A young couple near the end of the jetty are crabbing and they have caught half a dozen Blue Swimmer Crabs which are common at this time of year

A group of Pied Cormorants and Common Terns are perching on some battered poles which remind us that the jetty was once longer

A family have used a tractor to tow out a small boat and launch it as the tide comes in

The view from the end of the jetty of the foreshore and Ranges is spectacular.

 

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Terns and Cormorants at the end of the jetty

I return to the shore and walk along coastal path that weaves between low bushes and stretches of beach

There are honeyeaters and finches in the bushes and a Ring Necked Parrot preens itself on a branch

Near a rocky outcrop close to a garden I come across a Bearded Dragon sunning itself

There are also quite a few White Plumed Honey Eaters feeding on blossoms in Eucalypt trees that grow in gardens near the coastal walk

After sipping nectar some are hawking for insects.

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White Plumed Honeyeater feeding in eucalyptus tree near the foreshore

A ten minute walk from the end of town, the coastal scrub and samphire give way to stands of mangrove and a whole new coastal ecology emerges

A White Faced Herons stalk small fish and crustacean in the shallow channels and a White Browed babbler fluffs up its feathers in one of the mangrove trees

These mangroves are part of a south Australian system that marks the southernmost extent of mangrove communities in the world

Small fish can be seen schooling in some of the deeper channels

This is a nursery area for many commercial species.

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Mangrove pool

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White Faced Heron hunting in the mangroves

I head back to town for a schnitzel and a beer at the local pub and the promise of a drive to Telowie or Port Germein Gorge in the afternoon to look for rock wallabies and eagles.

Cheers

Baz

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