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Torrens Island

1 Oct

Torrens Island and its causeway entrance are situated over the Torrens Island Bridge at the end of The Grand Trunkway in Port Adelaide; about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD. The island is closed to the public but the small breakwater and causeway are open. Most of the island is a conservation park with the remaining area housing the power stations and some historic sites.

Road across breakwater looking back at hills

The island if flat and covered with mangroves, samphire and saltbush. The causeway has no vegetation. The mangroves that are accessible from the causeway and road are actually situated on Garden Island. The causeway forms a barrier between the Angas inlet on the left and the warm water outlet from the power station on the right as you face the power station.

Black-shouldered Kite perched on light pole

Numerous fish species including bream, mullet, whiting and Mulloway are attracted to the warm water. In turn, predatory birds such as: herons, pelicans, terns, gulls, cormorants and egrets are found in this area. Small mangrove crabs are found under the rocks in the intertidal region. Dolphins are not uncommon and best spotted from the bridge.  A population of common rats live among the rocks feeding on discarded bait but they are rarely seen during daylight hours.

Little Egret hunting near mangroves

The dominant vegetation seen from the causeway is the Grey Mangrove with small amounts of samphire. At low tide there are seagrass meadows visible through the fencing on the mudflats to the left facing the power station.

Mangrove leaves and fruit….note the waxy top and rough, paler underside where salt crystals accumulate.

Prior to European settlement the mangrove and samphire swamp areas were a rich hunting and gathering region for the local Kaurna people. They would have caught crabs and speared or netted fish as well as collecting shellfish.

Torrens Island power station

Torrens Island was named after Robert Torrens senior who was chairman of the SA Colonisation Commission. Between 1870 and 1980 it was a quarantine station for both animals and people entering the state. During World War 1 the island was used as an internment camp for citizens of German and Austrian backgrounds. Since 1963 much of the island and surrounding water have been protected areas and part of different marine reserves. Three power stations are operating on the island: Torrens Island PS since 1963, Quarrantine PS since 2002 and finally Barker Inlet PS since 2009. All are gas powered.

Fishing as the sun goes down

Fishing from the rocky causeway in the warm water outlet is popular. There are fine views of the ships’ graveyard and its wrecks from the bridge. Tours of the old quarantine facilities can be arranged through the maritime museum in Port Adelaide. In short, quite an interesting place to visit and combine with a day at Port Adelaide.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy destination to visit and is quite suitable for families and seniors.

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

 Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

About Port Gawler

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

For the rest of this year I will be posting occasional articles exploring some destinations along Adelaide’s coastline. They will include notes on: terrain, vegetation, common animals, history( First Nations and European) and other attractions. Port Gawler is the first in this series.

Introduction

Port Gawler is about 30 kms north-west of Adelaide’s CBD along Port Wakefield Road, Highway 1. The road from the main highway to Port Gawler has some fertile pastureland flanking it as well as mangrove and salt bush closer to the coast.

Fertile farmland on the drive into Port Gawler

 

Terrain

The seafront is dominated by Grey Mangroves with areas of samphire and low scrub alongside. An extensive beach area of shell grit and mud is exposed at low tide for hundreds of metres. Where the Gawler River meets the beach there is a channel. Seagrasses cover the sub-tidal region further out to sea. 

Samphire, saltbush and wetlands

Wildlife

Mangrove stands are important nursery areas for many recreational fish species such as King George Whiting, mullet species and Black Bream. Numerous marine snails, bivalves, crabs, sponges and other invertebrates live in the complex mangrove jungle and seagrass meadows. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and small spiders are common terrestrial invertebrates.

Masked Lapwing

Bird life in this area is prolific and includes many shore birds such as herons, oyster catchers, Black Swans, Cormorants, ibises, gulls and stilts as well as numerous migratory species including plovers and other small waders from as far away as Mongolia. Warblers, flycatchers and honeyeaters live in the dense foliage of the mangroves and are easy to recognise by their calls but hard to spot. The density of smaller birds also attracts some raptors including Nankeen Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites. There are foxes, hares, lizards and snakes in the surrounding pasture and scrub. 

Nankeen kestrel hovering

 

Vegetation

The dominant plant in this region is the Grey Mangrove which grows close to the shore and extends into the shallow intertidal zone. The tubular structures that push through the mud are part of the root system called pneumatophores. They help the plant to absorb oxygen. Samphire, saltbush, pigface and other low growing hardy plants are found around the shoreline. Large amounts of seaweed are often washed up on the shore during the winter months. It is dead Posidonia or strapweed, a common sea grass along our coastline.

Grey Mangroves at low tide showing channel and pneumataphores

Mangrove fruits

History

First Nations

This was a rich area for the indigenous Kaurna people whose coastal lands stretched from Port Wakefield in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. They fished, hunted and collected shellfish and crabs from the estuary and used reeds for constructing a variety of products including fish nets and baskets.

Blue Crab

European settlement

Port Gawler was named in 1867 Governor Henry Young most likely for the earlier Governor, George Gawler. It was surveyed in 1869 and a large property of 4000 acres named Buckland Park was established along the river. The township and Lisbon Wharf became an important shipping point for grain and other produce with over 100 shallow draft ships called ketches taking their cargo to Port Adelaide. In 1920 fire destroyed the wharf and it was never rebuilt as a nearby rail link to Port Adelaide was constructed.

Remains of the old wharf system

Other notes e.g. attractions facilities

There is no township only a boat ramp, toilet block and shelter with interpretive information. Port Gawler marks the beginning of the Saphire Coast, a shallow mangrove and mud flat dominated stretch of coastline incorporating the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary-Winaityinaityi PangkaraThere is a nearby off-road hire park for 4WD, motor bikes and go-carts. Bird watching, fishing are popular along this part of the coast. From September to April, large numbers of Blue Crabs are caught in the shallows.

I hope you enjoyed this description and plan a visit to Port Gawler in the near future. Next month’s blog I will return to my personal account style. Until then…..enjoy and protect the natural world and all it offers.

Cheers

Baz

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Winninowie National Park and Chinaman’s Creek

3 Sep

Winninowie National Park and Chinaman’s Creek

Dear Reader:

The track to Winninowie National Park comes off the main highway between Port Germein and Port Augusta. Low flat scrub borders the road on both sides with the coast in front and the Flinders Ranges foothills behind. Barbed wire fencing keeps small groups of sheep from wandering onto the road. Crested Pigeons, Galahs and some smaller unidentifiable bird species can be seen in the scraggly bushes bordering the pasture. In the distance I can just pick out a tree-line marking the edge of the national park: from there the road meanders towards the coast.

Typical coastal scrub

 A few hundred metres past the first stands of eucalypts we come across a smaller track veering to the left. The track has a sign that warns against use in wet weather but there has been a little rain over the last few days and today is fine and clear. We slip the vehicle into 4WD low range as a precaution and with a little slippage and much lurching, explore the trail.

Grey Butcherbird 

I tap Geoff on the shoulder and ask him to stop and power down his window. Only metres from the car, a Grey Butcherbird is perched on a dead tree branch. These fascinating birds have the rather unsavoury habit of impaling their prey on sharp branches where they are stored for later consumption. A kind of avian serial killer complete with trophies.

Euro in scrub

Our next encounter is on my side of the car. I notice a flash of grey in the undergrowth. Geoff sees it too and we slide to a halt. I am expecting to see a Western Grey Kangaroo and I am pleasantly surprised to spot a Wallaroo or Euro. These robust cousin of the more common Western Grey Kangaroo are more commonly found in the higher regions of the Flinders Ranges which form a backdrop to the coastal plain we are traversing.

Crested Pigeons 

Of course, the usual wildlife is abundant here; Australian Magpies, Crested Pigeons, a variety of parrots and even some Miner Birds. There are also Emus which occasionally sprint across the trail making photographing them almost impossible. Eventually I spot a small group way out in the scrub grazing under some trees. My Nikon P900 has excellent range and I tend to use it as a spotting scope at extreme distances. I decide to take a chance; stop the car rest and squeeze. Considering the range and lighting conditions I am pleasantly surprised by the result.

Emu at distance  

The track ends at a wide expanse of shallow beach coated in seaweed with a wonderful view across Gulf St Vincent to the low hills of the Eyre Peninsula. We return along the same path and then head down to Chinaman’s Creek; a little outpost set amongst mangroves with a few shacks and a boat ramp, an area I have written about previously.

Chinaman’s Creek 

After fossicking about in the mangroves it is time to head for home and lunch at Port Germein; a good half an hour’s driving time. We decide not to stop on the return drive unless something extraordinary makes an appearance and as a parting gift, that does happen. A loan Western Grey Kangaroo bolts in front of the car and presents the perfect picture with the foothills of the Flinders in the distance. Then one final encore as lovely Red Capped Robin sits in a thorn bush near the road………a nice way to end a perfect afternoon. 

Roo in flight

Red-capped Robin

Cheers

Baz

 Additional notes

This is an easy drive in dry weather which is quite suitable for families and seniors but requires 4wd in the wet. The National Park bans Dogs. 

 Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

See more South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Thompson Beach Safari

5 Aug

Thompson Beach Safari

 Dear Reader:

I leave the Port Wakefield Road at the Dublin Hotel and head towards the little coastal settlement of Thompson Beach travelling along a well graded unsealed road. Although the International Bird Sanctuary is my final destination, the rural track which passes through wheat-fields, grazing land with remnant scrub and trees on its edges, provides numerous wildlife viewing opportunities. There are parrots, magpies and many smaller bird species in the trees. In the distance, I catch a glimpse of several different kinds of raptors hovering above the plains. I suspect they are Nankeen Kestrels and Black-Shouldered Kites.

 

Enjoyable contrasting colours and textures on the drive in

 

I liked the look of magpies against the grey sky

I am exploring the International Bird Sanctuary at Thompson Beach, a small township around a forty-five-minute drive north of Adelaide. Established in the 1980’s and named after a family who farmed the area in the late 1800s, it is a well-known fishing, crabbing and bird watching destination on the Samphire Coast. Samphire is a low growing coastal plant that is often found in close proximity to mangroves and shallow, saltwater wetlands.

 

Parked on the beach front

 

On reaching the coast I notice a sign that indicates two different walking and sanctuary zones. I will explore both but start with the Baker Creek area to the north. After parking the 4WD at the end of the trail I walk along the beach front and explore the intertidal zone. There are many different shells including; cockles, predatory snails and even cowries. Diminutive Sanderlings are feeding among the drifts of seaweed and further out to sea I can see both egrets and herons wading in the shallows. Small fish are schooling in the mouth of the creek and I find numerous kangaroo droppings in the scrub adjacent to the beach.

 

Sanderling feeding

 

Random collection of shells

The coastal vegetation is almost as interesting as the wildlife. There are some fascinating ground covers close to the beach. I find a late-season Painted Lady butterfly settled amongst an unusual succulent ground cover that I am yet to identify. In a nearby acacia bush, a Singing Honeyeater perches high in the foliage as the bird surveys its territory.

 

Painted Lady on succulent

 

Singing Honeyeater

I have spent a good hour enjoying the Bakers Creek part of the sanctuary and it is time to backtrack and walk along the more developed Third Creek Trail. It has more defined trails with numerous interpretive signs explaining the characteristics of both botanical and animal species.

 

Well interpreted walks

 

Black Kite

 My first animal encounter on this trail is a beautiful Black Kite walking along the beach foraging in the seaweed. As I approach, the bird takes flight and hovers above the beach for a while then moves across the scrub to hunt in a different environment. For the next half an hour the kite alternates between scrub, beach and sea gliding, hovering and occasionally diving as it hunts for prey.

 

Wasp species

It has been an interesting walk and although the wildlife has not been prolific it has certainly been unique and capturing images both challenging and rewarding. Before heading back to the city, by way of the local hotel for a counter lunch, I make one last foray into the scrub. I am determined to get at least one picture of an insect or spider to add a little variation to my story. After a few minutes carefully scanning the foliage, I am rewarded, A small wasp is foraging amongst the leaves of a coastal acacia shrub. Seems that lunch is on the mind of all creatures, great or small.

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

On this excursion I used my Nikon Coolpix P900 exclusively as it allowed me to smoothly transition from extreme zoom to macro quickly

 Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

 See more of my South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

Fish and Explore West Lakes Inlet

22 Jun

 Fish and Explore West Lakes Inlet 

Dear Reader:

The receding tide has left the mud flats exposed and several species of birds are making use of the food sources it presents. A Sooty Oyster Catcher is probing the mud for shellfish and a Masked Lapwing is looking for worms and other soft bodied animals. Their beaks, feet and hunting styles are well adapted for each individual diet.

 

Sooty Oystercatcher

 

Masked Lapwing

 

I am exploring the inlet between the Port River and West Lakes. The water flowers under Bower Road and there is access to both sides of the inlet. Lawns, shelters, public toilets and barbecues are available on the West Lakes side as well as free carparking and even a bike and skate park. Something for all the family!

 

Spinning for Salmon Trout

 

A nice Bream

 

On the Port side the water is flowing out swiftly and some anglers are casting for Salmon Trout while the lone fisherman on the West Lakes shore has caught a couple of sizeable Bream. The calmer waters of West Lakes allows me to explore some of the rock facings and photograph schools of small bait fish that are feeding on the surface.

 

Pied Cormorant

 

Both Black and Pied Cormorants are fishing in the area. They paddle along the surface for a while then dive and use their webbed feet and shortish wings to aid steering and propulsion underwater. Cormorants’ eyes are well adapted with special lenses that allow them to see clearly underwater. In addition, the jagged tooth like structures on the edges of their beaks enable them to grab and hold slippery fish.

 

Mangrove leaves and spider web

 

On the western side of the Port River Basin there is a significant growth of mangrove trees. They provide yet another significant environment. Numerous birds, insects, spiders and marine invertebrates inhabit this zone and it is very important as a breeding and nursery area for many marine fish species.

 

Small bait-fish feeding on the surface

 

My walk around the inlet has been most rewarding. Apart from the animals photographed I have also encountered Pelicans, Terns, Stilts and tiny Plovers. Grubbing around in the muddy areas on the fringes of the mangroves I found numerous shellfish species and some little mangrove crabs that live in holes and under rocks. 

 

Mangrove crab species

 

The West Lakes Inlet on Bower Road is certainly a diverse and interesting place to spend some time. Give it a try when you have a spare few hours.

Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

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

All the photographs for this article were taken using a Nikon Coolpix P900 

Please pass on this blog title and or contact information (URL) to any person or organisation with an interest in taking walks and enjoying wildlife in SA.

 See more South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

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