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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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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

Whyalla’s Wildlife Oasis

5 Dec

Dear Reader:

The red-necked avocets are searching for food along the shoreline of the little lake. They use their characteristically upwards curved beak to probe for tiny crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates. Avocets employ two different feeding strategies. Where the water is clear the birds pick their prey from the surface but in muddy areas they sweep their bills across the sediment flushing out tiny animals to feed on.

 

Red-necked avocet

 

I am walking around the freshwater lake that is the centrepiece of Whyalla’s newly created wetlands. The area has been carefully developed over the last few years with the aid of local community groups. There are significant stands of reeds, grasses and shrubs throughout the park providing a habitat for a range of wading birds including: stilts, ibises, plovers, dotterels as well as larger species such as pelicans and cormorants. Barbecues, a playground, benches, toilets and sheltered areas make this both an ideal family destination and wildlife oasis in the dry desert countryside that surrounds Whyalla.

 

Wetlands view

 

 

Further along the trail clumps of native grasses and flax lilies provide shelter and food for quite different kinds of wildlife. Native blue bees flit between the blossoms where their vibrating wings shake loose pollen. Hidden strategically in the grass blades, a well camouflaged dragon lizard waits patiently for any unwary bee or other insect to venture within its kill zone.

 

Blue banded bee

 

Dragon waiting

The extensive grassed areas provide yet another habitat for those animals that prefer to feed or congregate in open spaces. Parrots, ibises and ducks often relish these open areas but today it is a flock of black-tailed native hens that are foraging on the grass. They are nervous and hard to approach and getting a reasonable shot takes a little patience.

 

Black-tailed native hens

 

 

 

As my walk draws to a close I notice two delicate little waders close to each other as they feed along the shoreline. A black-winged stilt with its needle-like beak and a smaller red-kneed dotterel are both feeding in the same area but their different beak shapes means that they are not in competition.

 

Dotterel and stilt

 

The wetlands are just off the Lincoln Highway at the southern end of Whyalla. From there it is a short drive into the town or down to the marina which is famous for the pods of dolphins that come up to the walkways to help themselves to any fish discarded by anglers returning to the marina……or perhaps just to enjoy the company of another intelligent species.

 

Next stop

 

Take a drive out west sometime and enjoy this unique part of our State

Cheers

Baz  

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, 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. The link does not work well on mobile phones and is best followed through a computer or tablet.

https://silkstone627.wixsite.com/mysite

Patowolonga’s Cormorants

1 Dec

Dear Reader:

It is a glorious spring day, not a breath of wind to ruffle the placid expanse of water that stretches out in front of me. By the breakwater there is a gathering of little black cormorants paddling alongside the rocky barrier. Every few minutes, one of the birds dives and swims out into the deeper water to hunt. Cormorants use both wings and feet to navigate underwater. Their aquatic speed and agility combined with specially adapted eyes and serrated beaks make them formidable fishers.

1-red

Black cormorant

2-red

Black cormorant diving

 

I am walking around the Patawolonga from Glenelg towards the first road and foot-bridge. This man-made lake extends between Glenelg and West beach for around 1.5 kilometres and serves as a flood mitigation system. The area also incorporates a berths for larger boats and lock that lead on to Holdfast Shores Marina an upmarket, shopping, restaurant and residential complex.

3-red

View from the bridge

 

When I reach the bridge there is a spectacular view back down the lake towards Glenelg that takes in the old replica ship The Buffalo which brought some of South Australia’s first colonists and governor ashore. The extensive grassed areas that run alongside ‘The Pat’ are shaded by eucalypts and Norfolk pines which attract a wide range of common urban birds. Today there are numerous crested pigeons foraging in the grass as well as wagtails and swallows demonstrating their sophisticated aerial acrobatics as they hunt for insects nearer the water.

4-red

Crested pigeon

 

From the western end of the bridge I walk back towards Glenelg along the edge of the marina. There are several fishermen casting for bream and I stop and chat with them. Apparently a small pod of dolphins has been in the area over the last few days. Not great for fishing but wonderful for those who simply enjoy the wildlife. The rocks along this part of the Patawolonga have a healthy cover of small molluscs and occasionally I catch sight of small schools of baitfish in the shallows.

5-red

periwinkles at low water

 

The path stops near a dive shop and I have to walk around the lake past neatly kept houses. When I reach the lock I can see dozens of swallows hawking insects. A few have settled on the glass and steel partitions that enclose some of the nearby units to rest for few minutes before resuming their hunting sorties.

6-red

resting swallow

 

The lock is not being used by any of the local boaties and I am able to walk across to finish my circuit of the lake, watched intently by yet another cormorant. This time it is a pied cormorant, perched high on a railing. The bird is drying its wings before it too dives back into the water for lunch while I head for nearby Jetty Road with similar intent.

7-red

Pied cormorant drying wings on lock

 

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

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

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

11 Aug

A Walk from Tennyson to Grange

 Dear Reader;

As I follow the narrow footpath south from the cul-de-sac overlooking Tennyson beach towards the Grange jetty in the distance, I can see a bird of prey hovering just above the houses that spill down to the dunes. The sky is patchy, blue then grey as clouds blow in from the sea and it is difficult to locate the kestrel in the viewfinder. I take a few quick shots and hope for the best.

1

Nankeen kestrel hovering

I am intrigued by the raptor and wait quietly close to a coastal wattle bush watching it patrol along the line of the dunes pausing periodically to hover and scan the terrain below for small animals. The birds in the surrounding scrub are not quite so keen. They head for cover deep in the bushes or under the eaves of the houses twittering their various warning calls.

2

Singing honeyeater in shelter

A lovely little singing honeyeater hides in a dense tangle of branches while spotted doves remain motionless closer to the ground near some dried scrub that matches their subdued colouring. Both species are usually very wary in this dune habitat and hard to approach but I am obviously the lesser of two evils and able to get closer than usual to capture some images.

3

Spooted dove

Continuing along the pathway, I am fascinated by the different architectural elements incorporated in many of the houses. There are domed chapel-like structures, facades of tinted glass and walls with pastel shades of ochre, pink and grey. Just before I reach the jetty the beautiful ‘Marines’ sit alongside the beach. This group of Victorian 3 story terraces was built in 1840 and they dominate the foreshore.

4

At the trail head near Tennyson Beach

 After a wonderful lunch at the Grange Hotel and a walk along the jetty to check out the fishers and look for dolphins, I turn back for home. The wind is getting up so I opt to walk back down the path rather than along the beach front. There are numerous trails down to the sea allowing me deeper penetration into the scrub as well as a quick search for seabirds. On this visit they are few and far between bar a couple seagulls under the jetty.

5

Grange Hotel

6

From track to beach through the dunes

 

Near one of the beach access paths I stop to watch a mudlark foraging in the sand and notice a discarded Besser brick lying in a sunny patch near a patch of early flowering succulents. Much to my surprise there is a bearded dragon lizard perched on it, flattened out to extract every bit of heat from the masonry. These reptiles are not uncommon in the summer but in the winter I would have expected them to be tucked away hibernating until spring.

7

Mudlark foraging along pathway

8 1

Bearded dragon picking up some rays

 

9

Still a few bugs around to eat for the dragon

Predators prey and unseasonal reptiles it has been a rewarding winter’s walk along the dunes enjoying the ocean, good food and quite an assortment of wildlife.

 

Enjoy your winter walks in SA

Cheers

Baz

Port Augusta…Arid Lands Botanic Gardens

7 Dec

Dear Reader:

The sand monitor, a kind of goanna, is raised slightly off the ground and peering intently towards me. It doesn’t seem too perturbed by my presence. In fact, I am probably the more excited of the two. It is my first encounter with one of these lizards which can reach a length of around 1.5 metres. Like all monitors, the sand goanna has a forked tongue like a snake allowing it to use scent to detect the distance and direction of its prey. A closer examination through my camera lens reveals that this animal has been injured at some time and is missing part of its front right foot.

Sand monitor

Sand monitor

 

I am in the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just a few kilometres out of Port Augusta near the head of the gulf. The gardens showcase many of the diverse dry-land ecologies that SA has to offer. Unlike most parks this one is not fenced and the animals that venture into its proximity are wild. Despite its natural status the gardens are well serviced by a modern visitor centre and cafe.

The view from the head of the gulf

The view from the head of the gulf

 

Leaving the sand monitor to its own devices, I walk around the edge of the encroaching scrub towards the extensive eremophila plantings at the back of the centre. Several zebra finches are perched in the branches of a skeletal tree overlooking a small artificial waterhole. I search for the right image, eventually finding a male and female settled on a dead branch; perfectly demonstrating the difference between the sexes.

male and female zebra finches

male and female zebra finches

Purple eremophila

Purple eremophila

 

After spending some time exploring the eremophila shrubs with all their subtle floral variations, I walk around to the northern edge of the gardens. This area includes habitat zones where interpretive signs explain adaptations to climate and terrain as well as Aboriginal use of plants as foods and medicines. While I am reading about how sugarwoods are used as sweeteners and their amazing regenerative powers after bushfires, I hear a rustle in the undergrowth. Only a few metres from where I am standing a pair of or shinglebacks are following each other closely between the ground-covers. Sleepy lizards, as they are sometimes known, are essentially solitary reptiles which can only mean that it is mating season.

 

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

 

Whenever I visit these extraordinary gardens I conclude my day with a little culinary treat; a light meal, ice cream or scones with jam and cream. But these are no ordinary delicacies. Many of the flavours are created from the landscape with a distinctly ‘bush tucker’ nuance such as quandong ice cream and native herb flavoured damper.

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

 

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz  

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