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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.

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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

Bridle Track Wildlife

6 Nov

Dear Reader:

A grey kangaroo pricks up its ears and turns to face us. Half hidden in the grass and further camouflaged by its subtle colouring, the wary marsupial stares for a few more seconds before bounding away towards the shelter of a nearby stand of stunted gum trees.

 

 

I put the camera back on the passenger seat, raise the window and continue up the rugged track towards the top of the ridge. The vehicle ahead of me has already reached a farm gate and my companions have opened it in readiness. There are a few sheep in the area grazing on the steep hillsides and we have to be careful to maintain good relationships with the farmers who kindly allow the public to traverse their land.

 

 

I am driving along the Bridle 4WD track in the foothills of the Southern Flinders Ranges between Port Pirie and Melrose. This is red earth country with deep ravines, open expanses of pasture and small patches of scrub clinging to the windswept hills. Sporadic rocky outcrops dot the landscape and it is here that one can search for different species such as reptiles and a range of invertebrates.

 

 

We stop alongside one such outcrop near the top of the ridge and enjoy a wonderful view across hills and bushland to the Spencer Gulf in the hazy distance. I bend down and dislodge a couple of flat rocks and a small skink darts out and freezes in the long grass. Carefully replacing its rocky home I leave the little reptile to its own devices after snapping a quick shot.

 

 

The descent towards the coast is quite steep and we need to put the vehicles in low range. We stop occasionally to take a closer look at some of the eucalypts that grow in isolated patches providing nesting sites for some of the many parrot species that populate this part of the state. Ring neck parrots, galahs and rosellas are just a few of the species we encounter.

 

 

 

Back on the plains we leave the main trail and take a well graded dirt road back to the highway. A beautifully marked black shouldered kite watches us from a skeletal branch where it is perched to surveying the landscape for prey.

 

 

Our final farewell to this bleak but beautiful part of South Australia is the forlorn whistle of a freight train as it clatters over a crossing on the endless tracks that cover the thousands of kilometres between the west and east coasts of Australia.    

 

 

 

Cheers

Baz

Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

20 May

Hindmarsh Falls….An easy walk with lots to see

 Dear Reader:

Eucalyptus trees overhang the dirt road that leads to the falls. Tiny wrens and even tinier thornbills twitter and flit amongst the branches and leaves. Occasionally pairs of rosellas fly out from the foliage. From the parking area I can see bush clad hills and open farmland rising all around and the sound of running water provides a pleasant background melody.

 

1

Driving into the falls

 

1a thornbill species probably yellow rumped

Thornbill species probably yellow rumped

 

Hindmarsh Falls are about 12 kms north of Victor Harbor towards Mt Compass on the Adelaide Road and are clearly signposted. The walk to the falls is easy and the path down to the viewing platform has rails and steps.

2

Path to the falls through scrub

 

I make my way along the trail that descends to a lookout point where I can see the water tumbling down dark boulders to a small pool below. There are kangaroo droppings on the forest floor and some of the trees show signs of a recent fire.

2a

Falls and pool

 

The birds are very wary here and difficult to photograph. I concentrate on other aspects of the area’s natural history. Bright orange fungal growths adorn some of the fallen logs and striking yellow Banksia flowers lend splashes of colour to the browns, greys and greens so typical of our bushland. I spend some time just watching the water. In the driest state on the driest continent watching a waterfall is always good for the soul. Near the edge of the pool I catch a glimpse of a grey kangaroo slowly edging through the scrub. Not clear enough to take a picture but interesting to watch how the ‘roo’ leans forward onto its front legs then pushes with its tail when travelling at slow speeds.

4a

Common orange fungus on fallen log

 

4

Banksia flowers

 

 

As I climb back up the incline towards the recreation area I notice a wattle bird perched on a branch scouring the leaves and limbs for insects to pick off. And in the sharp native grasses that border the creek near the picnic area I come across a fascinating little diamond weevil crawling along one of the blades. Hopefully, not to become a victim of the ever- vigilant wattle bird.

5 diamond weevil

Diamond weevil

 

7

Wattle bird

My trip to the falls has been interesting and though there has not been an over abundance of wildlife it is, after all, the middle of the day. And on that note I occupy one of the benches and tuck into pasty, lamington and a bottle of OJ bought en route at one the many excellent, local bakeries.

 

 

Nice to be back

Cheers

Baz

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

17 Sep

Normanville’s Back Blocks and Coastal Walk

 

Dear Reader:

The grey kangaroo is huge, a fully grown male with a couple of smaller females close by, half hidden in the scrub. As I approach, he rises up to his full height and eyes me with intent. I take half a step closer and he turns and shuffles closer to the fence. Then, with a single, effortless bound he clears it and disappears into the scrub further down the hillside.

2 roo

Fully grown male, grey kangaroo

 

3roo

Up and over

I am in an older part of Normanville on a hillside behind the beach houses and new developments. Large blocks of land are quite common here. Some still retain vestiges of the original pre-farming vegetation. Landowners with an interest in wilderness conservation have re-established endemic plants on many plots that in turn attract a plethora of native wildlife from ‘roos’ and kookaburras to colourful rosellas and even the odd echidna.

IMG_7906

Grevillea species growing under the pink gums

 

Near the top of this particular block there is a stand of gnarled old pink gums where little crescent honeyeaters and several grey currawongs are sheltering from the light showers that are sweeping in from the sea a couple of kilometres away.

IMG_7909

Grey currawong in pink gum

IMG_6803

Crescent honeyeater sheltering from rain

 

Beneath the canopy of the trees there is a wide variety of native shrubs and ground covers that support both small birds and insects. Despite the cool weather I manage to find some shield bugs amongst the berries and flowers of a pink Geraldton wax bush. And in the branches above them a crimson rosella is calling to its mate in anticipation of a warmer spring day when they will be searching for nesting holes.

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

Common gum tree shield bug on Geraldton wax bush

 

From the scrubby hillside I drive back down to the coast stopping in at the Normanville Hotel for a locally caught seafood meal; calamari, whiting and scallops. The beach is only five minutes from the hotel and I park where a coastal pathway sweeps around to Carrickalinga heads, an area that I frequently dived during my youth.

IMG_7280

Late afternoon view of Carrickalinga heads from Normanville

 

The sun is getting low now and there are sparrows and honeyeaters settling in for the night in the bushes that flank the path. I can just make out a cormorant resting on the rocky foreshore shaking water from its wings before finding a place to roost. Sometimes this half light produces some of the more striking images that I have captured in the wild and today is no exception. I find a pair of crested pigeons perching on a skeletal branch with the grey sea and sky as their backdrop. They are my final memory of yet another memorable day spent enjoying South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

IMG_7283 edit 1

Crested pigeons near walking trail to Carrickalinga

 

Take a drive down the coast sometime and enjoy this special place and its wildlife!!!

Cheers

Baz

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf

26 Jul

Waitpinga…. Scrub and Surf 

Dear Reader:

I am in the little parking area at the Newland Head Conservation Park, just a twenty minute drive from Victor Harbor. On the grassy verge near a stand of pink gums, a small group of red-browed finches are feeding on seeds. It is a wonderful way to start my late afternoon exploration of this diverse coastal park.

2 Red-browed finches like to live in thick ndergrowth

Red-browed finches like to live in thick undergrowth

 

 

A series of trails branch out from this sheltered camp ground. They wind through the scrub providing access to the beach and rock climbing areas or simply wind through the scrub that lies behind a series of coastal dunes.

3 coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casuarina trees

Coastal scrub dominated by wattles and casurina trees

 

I choose a trail that runs parallel to the dunes. It is dominated by coastal acacia bushes where a variety of small birds flit amongst the foliage chattering and calling to each other. I fire off a few shots in the low light conditions to try and identify the species. One bird is definitely a grey fantail the other is bouncing on the thin branches as it feeds on seed pods. Perhaps it is a robin or thornbill species; hard to tell but that is the challenge of wildlife photography in these conditions.

 

 

What is it a thornbill or a robin

What is it a thornbill or a robin?

Grey fantails

Grey fantails are often found in coastal scrub

 

From the campground the road descends towards the beach. To the right a seasonal creek spreads into a shallow lake behind a set of dunes that are continually eroded by wind and water. I pull the car into a siding and walk along the edge of the lake. The wildlife here is quite prolific. A pair of kangaroos bound out of the scrub in front of me and there are black swans, coots and several duck species on the water. In one small bush, growing amongst the long grass, silvereyes are feeding on berries.

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

The creek spreads to a small lake just behind some low coastal dunes

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

Silvereyes feed on insects, fruit and nectar

 

As I approach the beach I can hear the roar of the surf over the car’s motor. This is a classic southern beach with white water breaks that stretch several hundred metres out to sea. In the afternoon light the sand is pale gold contrasting the darker figures of anglers casting for salmon from the beach. There are silver gulls crowding around their bait buckets and several of their larger cousins, Pacific gulls, are patrolling the edge of the surf.

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Fishing the surf gutters at Waitpinga Beach

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to moluscs and even other birds

Pacific gulls forage along the edge of the ocean eating a wide variety of foods from fish to molluscs and even other birds

 

 

It has been a rewarding afternoon at ‘Waits’ and I have enough time to drive back to Victor Harbor and enjoy an afternoon meal sitting on the decking of the Whalers restaurant enjoying a wonderful view of Encounter Bay. And, at this time of year, even the chance of a whale sighting.

bluff vh

Dinner overlooking the bluff

 

I hope you take the time to enjoy this lovely bit of our coastline sometime in the near future.

 

Cheers Baz

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