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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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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

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.

Rapid Bay’s Stripy Fish

1 Jan

Rapid Bay’s Stripy Fish

Dear Reader:

I am snorkelling just below the old Rapid Bay jetty. The poles are covered with sea squirts, sponges and a variety of algae. Seastars and urchins forage amongst this tangle of encrusting organisms and mixed schools of bait-fish dance around the timber uprights. Closer to the sea floor I can see some large rocks that form a shallow reef. Many are the result of mining or the remnants of an old breakwater. Like the jetty poles the reef has also been colonized by a myriad of marine invertebrates providing the perfect environment for the more residential species of fish that I am here to photograph.

 

In a slight depression near the bottom I come across a moonlighter swimming over a brownish coloured sponge.

 

 

Moonlighter (Tilodon sexfasciatus)

Size: Length to 40 cm.

  • Common around reefs and drop offs
  • Larger adults found in deeper water
  • Often seen around Aldinga Reef and Rapid Bay jetty
  • Opportunistic feeding on plankton, algae and tiny reef living invertebrates
  • juveniles inhabit shallow reefs
  • Not found in schools, adults solitary or in pairs

 

 Where the water is a little deeper I manage to position myself at the end of a narrow cave and capture a nice image of a pair of old wives that are using it as a shelter.

 

 

Old Wife (Enoplosus armatus)

Size: Length to 31 cm.

  • Found in schools over seagrass beds and alongside jetty poles
  • In pairs or solitary around reefs
  • Feed on small invertebrates such as shrimp and worms
  • Juveniles often shelter in seagrass beds
  • Have been observed cleaning parasites off other fish
  • Have a venomous spine on the first dorsal fin
  • Name comes from grunting sound made when captured

 

My final image is of a western talma a kind of butterfly-fish as it picks tiny invertebrates from some brown algae.

 

Western Talma ( Squareback Butterflyfish) (Chelmonops curiosus)

Size: Length to 20 cm.

  • Lives around rocky reefs often under ledges and near crevices to depths of 40 m.
  • Frequently seen along the steep rock faces of the Bluff at Victor Harbor
  • Uses its long slender mouth to pick at small invertebrates including crustaceans and worms as it moves slowly across the reef
  • Also eats algae
  • Often found in pairs

 

It has been a wonderful dive and Rapid Bay is a place to explore some of the State’s most enchanting wildlife in a great setting. And if you are lucky there is also the opportunity to catch sight of both leafy and weedy seadragons. But I’ll leave that adventure for another post.

 

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 the animals I encounter.

South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula underwater

2 Dec

Dear Reader:

 I am snorkelling along the edge of the reef just off Aldinga Beach. The water is shallow and warm with just a light breeze ruffling the surface. Below me the terrain changes from seagrass to sand with a little outcrop of rocky reef in between and I am intent on photographing the variety of marine organisms that inhabit these different habitats.

 

A patch of reef near the seagrass beds

 

The reef has numerous invertebrates clinging to, and encrusting its wide variety of niches and a biscuit star is my first sighting. This pentagonal little seastar can be found on reefs and rocky surfaces and has a number of colour variations between light orange to reddish. It has quite large overlapping plates on its surface and has an arm radius up to 7cms.

 

Biscuit star alongside sea snail on reef

 

Leaving the little patch of reef behind I start to scour the seagrass bed where it meets the sand patches. My choice of location pays dividends as I disturb a blue swimmer crab that has been hunting in the seagrass.

 

Blue swimmer crab does not want to be photographed

 

Blue swimmer crabs have large pincers on their two front legs and paddles on the rear pair. They can be seen moving along the bottom in weedy and sandy areas but often bury themselves in the soft sand and mud. These large crabs can be quite aggressive when approached and feed on live animals as well as scavenging. They are migratory appearing from September to April in SA waters. Taking female Blue Swimmer Crabs with eggs and animals under 11 cms is illegal and there is a personal bag limit of 20 crabs per day. These restrictions help preserve the numbers of this commercially and recreationally valuable species.

These invertebrates are just two of my many encounters on the reef and the bushland around the Fleurieu Peninsula and I shall continue this story in my next post.

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.

The Murray Mouth

7 Sep

Dear Reader:

There is a magnificent pelican flying low over the estuary with thick scrub and hills in the background. It circles a few times then lands, with surprising grace for such a large bird, amongst a small group of pelicans. They comb the edge of the water hunting for schools of baitfish. The birds then circle their prey driving them into a small ball before scooping the hapless victims up in their flexible net-like bills.

 

Pelican in flight

 

The mouth of Australia’s largest river, the Murray, can be reached or viewed in several different ways. Taking a 4WD along Goolwa Beach is perhaps the most adventurous but sometimes requires some skilful off road manoeuvres in the wet sand and the tides must be taken into consideration. From Hindmarsh Island or the upper reaches of the Coorong it is an eaier boat ride from numerous launch points.  I have used both of these methods to photograph the wildlife of this wonderful location but on this occasion I am lucky enough (because of the kindness of an old friend) to fly over the area giving me a fresh perspective on this unique wilderness location.

 

Aerial view of Murray Mouth

 

After leaving the plane at a nearby property we clamber into an old landcruiser and make our way along the beach towards the mouth. Parking the vehicle tight against the sandhills away from the incoming tide we trek across sand hills into the scrub that divides the ocean from the river. There are numerous small birds in the thickets and I manage to photograph a singing honeyeater perched on a slender twig as it loudly proclaims its territory.

 

Singing honeyeater

 

Back on the beach we drive close to the wave-break watching flocks of plovers scouring the wet sand for worms, molluscs and other tiny invertebrates. They take flight as we approach then quickly settle back into their feeding patterns dodging between the gentle waves as the tide changes.

 

Plover panic

 

I spend a pleasant half hour fishing the river where it empties into the sea and manage to put a few salmon trout into the cooler before driving back to the car park in Goolwa. The little cafe is worth a quick stop for a sausage roll and an ice cream and a chat to some surfers who are enjoying one of the other pleasures that Goolwa Beach and the Murray mouth are famous for.

 

Gnarly dude

Cheers

Baz

 Additional 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

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

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