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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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Dry Creek by the Junction

31 May

Dry Creek by the Junction

Dear Reader:

Yes, an ant is an ant, but in Australia some ants are just that little bit more! Inch ants or bulldog ants live up to their name and reputation. Solitary hunters that still live in communal nests they have a fearsome bite and relentless disposition. This one is hunting late on a cool autumn afternoon scouring a eucalypt trunk for prey. I watch carefully as it systematically probes under the bark for any hapless invertebrate that is sheltering or hibernating. Seeing a bulldog ant at this time of year seems strange, perhaps a late burst of warm weather woke the colony up. The vagaries of nature are always fascinating.

 

Bulldog ant hunting

 

I am exploring the section of Dry Creek which flows between the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Nelson Road through to Walkley’s Road. It can be accessed behind ‘The Junction’ shopping centre. The creek twist and turns along this part of its length and is bordered by walking and bike trails. There are some deep pools, a ford and a small footbridge which all facilitate wildlife viewing and photography. Throw in a nice bakery at the shopping area and you have the makings of a perfect walk.

 

Dry Creek

 

The little footbridge which spans the river is an ideal place to watch for wildlife. It is high on the banks and provides a good vantage point for peering into the treetops. Today it is the surface of the water that catches my attention. The tell-tale V shaped ripples of a water rat swimming across the creek are an unexpected bonus on my walk. I have rarely seen the elusive little rodents in Dry Creek and to know that they are present is quite a treat. Water rats or rakalis are a native species with a broad head, webbed feet and a white tip to the tail. They feed on aquatic insects, yabbies, molluscs, frogs and small fish.

 

Australian water rat swimming

 

 

 

Further along the path there is a break in the bushes and trees that envelop the sides of the creek and I can get good access to the water’s edge.  A little pied cormorant is sitting on a log directing its gaze into a long pool before continuing to hunt amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. On my walk back I see the same bird with its wings outstretched drying them between forays into the creek to hunt. Cormorants do not have waterproofing oils to protect their plumage like some waterbirds and therefore must continually dry out their feathers.   

 

 

little pied cormorant

 

Near one of the fords there are some massive river red gums shading the creek bed and I can hear the raucous screech of lorikeets in the highest branches. A quick look through the telephoto lens helps me to identify them as musk lorikeets. These social little birds seem to have found something to feed on in the canopy. There are no blossoms on the trees so I can only assume that it is some form of insect life.

 

Musk lorikeet

 

My walk has been most rewarding as I have encountered a wide range of animals from aquatic mammals and predatory insects through to brightly coloured parrots in the treetops. Only the bakery to go and I can mark today down as more than a little successful.

 

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with 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.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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

Winery Wildlife

2 May

Winery Wildlife

 Dear Reader:

The male superb blue wren is extremely active as he darts between the bushes foraging for insects and seeds in the undergrowth. The iridescent blue plumage is striking. Nearby, a duller, grey coloured female twitters excitedly as the male approaches. Yet her adoration is a somewhat of a scam as their so-called monogamy is far from the truth. The promiscuous wrens will get a little avian action behind their mates’ backs if the chance arises while maintaining an outward appearance of togetherness.

 

Superb blue wren

 

I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the manicured gardens that grace the Jacobs Creek Winery in the Barossa Valley. After a superb lunch of chilli marinated prawns accompanied by an award winning white wine I am about to wander down the nature trail that leads from the restaurant and wine centre along the creek and into some nearby bushland.

 

Wine centre

 

Balcony view

There are both magpies and cockatoos calling from the lower branches of some magnificent river gums with finches twittering in the thick bushes alongside the trail. But it is a diminutive, silent creature that catches my eye. A delicate jewel spider has spun a web in a wattle bush and the brilliant colours and intricate body patterns of the little arachnid are quite outstanding; even on this relatively cloudy day.

 

Jewel spider

 

 

 

Nature trail

 

Galah

 

Near the small bridge where the trail and creek intersect I notice a group of small birds in a tree some distance away. They look a little like wood swallows but the colour is not right. I am familiar with most of the birds that inhabit this region and do not often come across a species that I don’t quickly recognise. Therefore, I leave this small task to you ‘Dear Reader’. If someone can identify them for me I would be most grateful.

 

Unknown birds

 

Closer shot of unknown bird

Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

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

Port Gawler

2 Jan

Port Gawler

Dear Reader:

The road from highway one to Port Gawler has a rural feel about it. There are crops and glasshouses, sheep and horses. At the same time the flowering gums punctuate the grassy verge attracting a range of parrots.

a

Curious horses

 

Several kilometres pass and I notice the terrain start to change. Pasture gives way to low coastal scrub and tidal channels appear alongside the road. The bird life changes too. Herons, ibises, sandpipers and plovers replace the woodland and urban species I have been observing.

b

Galah

 

Finally the scrub gives way to mangroves and the dense ticket of maritime trees stretch all the way to the nearby ocean. I can hear singing honeyeaters foraging in the foliage and a plethora of insects buzz between the tangled trunks and muddy substrate.

c

Great egret

 

The road is now unsealed and it ends at an old ruined wharf where weathered jetty poles protrude from the water. A little pied cormorant perches on one of them surveying its hunting zone while drying its wings in the sun.

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Mangrove forest and tidal creek

f

Mud life

 

I spend the next few minutes exploring the edge of the mangrove swamp watching for mangrove crabs and small molluscs that live around the strange root like protrusions that emerge from mud throughout the forest. They are called pneumatophores and help the trees breathe in the sticky anaerobic mud.

d

Old wharf remains

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Little pied cormoranr

 

The temperature starts to climb and I decide it’s time to head back home while a solitary nankeen kestrel hovers over this fascinating tidal wetland watching me drive back to the highway.

g

Nankeen kestrel

 

Cheers

Baz

 

 Additional notes

This is an easy drive and walk which is suitable for families and seniors. However there are no nearby public facilities.

It is also a conservation park with restrictions regarding pets, fires and other activities…check online.

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.

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Black cormorant

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park

12 Nov

 

Blackwood’s Wittunga Botanic Park 

Dear Reader:

There is a rainbow lorikeet around fifty metres away from me. The excitable little bird has inverted its body to dip its feathery tongue into a tube shaped eremophila blossom.  Several other species of birds including new Holland honeyeaters and wattle birds are feeding in the same garden beds where there is a smorgasbord of flowers to choose from. Clever planting also attract a variety of butterflies which feed on the nectar and help to pollinate plants by transferring pollen.

 

1a2

Rainbow lorikeet feeding

 

I am walking around the Wittunga Botanical Gardens near Blackwood in Adelaide’s foothills, just a twenty minute drive from the CBD. The busy little township is nestled into bushland where koalas and myriad bird species are common visitors. There are several hotels, bakeries and restaurants in the area and the Belair National Park and Golf course make this an ideal day trip for city residents.

 

1c

Old church and soldiers’ memorial in Blackwood

 

Leaving the flower beds behind I venture down to the lake that is the central feature of the park. It is surrounded by massive gum trees and there are crows, honeyeaters and a kookaburra perched in some of the branches that overhang the water. But it is a tiny head that emerges from the lake that draws my attention as I watch a Macquarie short-necked turtle swim towards the shore. The side-plate sized reptile clambers up on to a fallen branch and positions itself to catch some warming sunlight.

 

3a

Central lake and gardens

 

1d-red-2-macqurie-short-necked-turtle

Macquarie freshwater turtle

 

2a

Pacific black ducks

At the end of a long cool, wet summer the lake is full of new life. I spot purple swamp hens tending their fluffy black chicks near the reed beds. Several species of frogs are calling; probably spotted marsh frogs and common froglets or perhaps a potty bonk. Two Pacific black ducks are preening their feathers near the water’s edge and Eurasian coots appear to be amorously pursuing each other further from the bank.

 

4a

Ra venfeeding, they are often mistakenly called crows

 

Various pathways meander around the lake and I choose one that cuts through a stand of massive red gums. A lone raven is strutting around the perimeter of one tree pecking at the bark which is cracked and sloughing off the trunk. The bark of most eucalypts is an important environment for many smaller animals. Insects and spiders find shelter and breed there while larger predators such as birds and lizards find it a fertile hunting ground.

 

5a

Koala portrait shot

 

Having enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake while indulging my passion for both wildlife and plants in general I walk back to the car park by way of a small stand of gums that run along the northern edge of the gardens. They are the kind of trees that might be attractive to koalas and I know that these endearing marsupials are common in the Blackwood area. Sure enough, there is one wedged between two branches in what I can only describe as the perfect koala portrait pose; a nice way to finish my walk.

 

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Lesser-wanderer butterfly

 

Enjoy our city and suburban parks in spring as they really are some of the best in the world.

Cheers

Baz

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