Archive | Underwater RSS feed for this section

Carrickalinga’s Underwater and Coastal Wildlife

7 Sep

Dear Reader:

The drive into Carrickalinga along Forktree Road from Myponga is quite spectacular with sweeping views of the ocean, reservoir and surrounding farmland. On entering the township, it is a short drive north along Gold Coast Drive to the rocky headland which can be easily accessed from the parking zone by a zig-zag series of wooden steps.

 

Driving in to Carrickalinga

Steps at the headland

This area is a sanctuary which means there should be quite a lot of marine life to encounter. I change into my snorkelling gear before walking down to the beach and survey a couple of entry points then photograph one of the many rockpools. The water is cold this time of year and even with a wet suit it takes a few minutes to adjust.

 

Old Wives under a ledge

Red Bait Crab

Visibility is good and I work my way along the shoreline which has numerous ledges and a healthy covering of algae as well as some encrusting invertebrates like sponges and sea squirts. A large Red Bait Crab peers at me from its position amongst some brown algae and there are numerous fish species in the seaweed and under the ledges. Within a few minutes I have seen over a dozen types including: leatherjacket species, Old Wives and Moonlighters.

 

Track along the hillside

Half an hour in the water is enough today. After a quick towelling down and a change of clothes (and camera) I decide to follow the narrow trail cut into the hillside and explore some more of this picturesque coastline.

 

Locust species possibly Plague Locust

Nankeen Kestrel Hovering

The wildlife above the water is not abundant as coastal vegetation does not provide a lot of food for animals. I manage to spot the occasional Singing Honeyeater and I can see a Nankeen Kestrel hovering near the top of the hillside. Quite a few grasshopper-like animals are taking flight from the undergrowth. A close up shot, and an ID book later at home, suggests they are probably Australian Plague Locusts.

 

Rockpools

The morning is almost over and as I walk back I look down on the beach and rockpools and the turquoise colour of the sea. Along the path, I notice some Crested Pigeons on an old fenceline, a murder of Crows in the distance and a lone Willie Wagtail fossicking close to the ground; probably after a locust snack. Which reminds me, it is time to head for the Normanville Bakery for a spot of lunch before I take a closer look at the township of Carrickalinga later in the afternoon.

Cheers

Baz

In a further post (Carrickalinga 2) will cover a walk around the township and along the beach.

Cheers

Baz

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/

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

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

Cuttlefish Meeting

24 Feb

More Cephalopods on the Reef

Dear Reader:

I am working my way patiently along the edge of the Noarlunga reef-on the shallow side near the jetty. The water is no more than a couple of metres deep and surprisingly clear. Small schools of mullet are congregating near the surface, their silver sides reflecting the light with sudden bright flashes. Just below me there are several recesses that cut under the rocks and I can see some movement in one: perhaps a leatherjacket or even some bullseyes. I swim down and hold onto a nearby rock until my eyes adjust to the light. To my delight my encounter is a little more exotic, a giant cuttlefish is hovering above the sandy substrate patiently waiting for some unfortunate critter to come near its temporary lair.

 

 

Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)

Length: mantle or body to 50cm.

  • Lives around reefs and over seagrass meadows
  • Hunts fish and crustaceans
  • Gather in winter in large groups to mate
  • Sexual reproduction and females attach clusters of eggs inside caves and crevices
  • Cuttles die shortly after mating
  • Can change colours rapidly to blend in with surroundings or display during courting
  • Like squid and octopus they can expel ink

Cheers

Baz

 

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.

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.

Hoseshoe Bay’s Coastal Wonders

1 Oct

Dear Reader:

The Soldiers Memorial Gardens overlooks Horseshoe Bay; one of the most picturesque locations on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Well kept lawns are surrounded by flower beds and fronted by massive Norfolk Island Pines that attract a wide variety of wildlife.

 

View of Bay from gardens

 

Today the grassed areas have just been mown and two beautiful, red-rumped parrots are feeding on some seed heads that have been scattered by the mower. Male birds are more colourful than the females with brighter plumage and a red splash of colour on the lower back. The gardener seems to have also stirred up some insects which are being vigorously hawked by a lively little wagtail.

 

Red rumped parrot

 

Wagtail

Near the gardens a track runs along the coast towards the jetty and then along the face of boulder strewn cliffs. Several wattle birds are gathering nectar from coastal blooms of agapanthus and I can see both terns and silver gulls patrolling the wave break in search of prey.

 

Wattle bird feeding

 

Local jetty and cliffs

 

There are rocky outcrops at both ends of Horseshoe Bay and small islands in the mouth. These are home to a myriad of sea creatures. Sweep, drummer and zebra fish are just a few of the fish species that abound here. The rugged, algae dominated rocks also provide habitats for a wealth of invertebrates including: crayfish, crabs, sea snails, sponges and starfish…to name but a few.

 

Sea snail (gastropod) probably a pheasant shell species

 

From a high point on the coastal path I have a good view of the bay and I take some time to sit and eat a snack from the Local Port Elliot bakery. Behind me I can hear the call of singing honeyeaters and in front the gentle rushing sound of the incoming tide and surf on the rocks….. a fine way to finish my visit to Horshoe Bay.

 

Singing honeyeater

 

Coastal walk and view of islands in bay

 

 Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, food outlets and parking 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

A Hot Semaphore Sunday

4 Mar

A Hot Semaphore Sunday

Dear Reader:

As I walk along the Semaphore jetty I can see several anglers working the shallows for silver whiting. Further along, another fisherman is jigging for squid. His bucket is half full of small baitfish and an opportunistic silver gull is sitting on the railing eying the contents as breakfast. The angler is unaware of his feathery adversary and a few minutes later the gull grabs a fish and heads off down the jetty.

1a

Silver gull

 

Semaphore is one of Adelaide’s original coastal suburbs and the jetty has been part of Adelaide’s beach scene for well over 100 years. It was originally used to moor pilot and customs craft. A coastal pathway follows the beachfront behind the dunes allowing visitors partial access to this protected area of sensitive coastal vegetation. The Esplanade, near the start of the jetty, is dominated by the iconic Palais Restaurant and Function Centre which was built in 1922. This Semaphore landmark has served as a bathing pavilion, dance hall, surf life saving club and kiosk before renovations in the 1990s.

1b

Lovely morning light

1g

View of the jetty and dunes over the function centre pavilion

 

Closer to the shore a young Pacific gull sits on a lighting fixture watching the antics of its smaller cousins and keeping a watchful eye on the ocean ready to patrol the shoreline in search of its next meal.

1c

Juvenile Pacific gull

 

It is getting warm by the time I walk off jetty on to the beach where I have left some snorkelling gear with a family who are enjoying the solitude of an early morning dip. The water is clear and there is little tidal movement as I enter from the beach. I follow the jetty poles out to sea as they provide shelter and food for a diverse collection of marine animals. It is not long before I notice a large blue swimming crab foraging near the bottom. We play a game of tag around the pole as the aggressive crustacean uses its powerful pincers to keep me at a distance.

1d

Agro blue swimmer crab

 

Half an hour in the water is enough to cool me off and I still want to walk along the pathway to search for birds and reptiles in the dunes before it gets too hot. Most of the bird life has sought shelter from the sun but I do encounter one singing honeyeater amongst the grasses that bind the loose sand of the dunes. Along one of the trails to the beach, a sleepy lizard emerges from under a coastal acacia bush to eye me suspiciously before disappearing amongst the ground cover.

1e

Singing honeyeater

1f

Shingleback or sleepy lizard, a kind of large skink

 

Over the next half hour I stroll down couple more paths and sit quietly amongst some of the coastal scrub watching for tell tale signs of animal life. Numerous doves peck amongst the ground covers and a group of wattle birds squabble noisily in one of the larger shrubs. However, as midday approaches the sun and heat has obviously taken its toll on both me and the wildlife and it is time for a cold drink and lunch. Needless to say, the Palais adequately provides both and as I look across the dunes from my table by the window, enjoying a delicate dessert, I reflect on how much I always enjoy my visits to Semaphore.

1h

What more do I need to say

 

Cheers

Baz

A Walk Around West Lakes

14 Mar

Dear Reader: Once upon a time when I was several decades younger and people thought less about the environment, there was a mangrove swamp behind the dunes near Tennyson Beach. The government of the day and even the general public cared little for mangroves and even less for anything described as a swamp. Consequently, they allowed developers to ‘liberate’ this area from its unproductive state and create a new suburb in its place. The result was West Lakes. For some, the loss of this unique wetland was an environmental tragedy as such areas are important nurseries for many marine species and significant wild places to be cherished.

IMG_2585

Nearby mangrove swamp demonstrates what the area looked like before development

  History aside, West Lakes remains a worthwhile place to visit and walking around the man-made lake on a fine autumn afternoon still provides many interesting wildlife encounters. Instead of samphire swamp and mangrove forest, the edge of the lake is defined by fine sand and a ruler straight concrete edge which steps down into the water. Despite its artificial nature, marine invertebrates and small fish still feed on the algal growth that clings to this constructed shoreline. And on occasions I have even seen nudibranchs, a kind of sea slug with a prominent flower like gills on their backs, grazing on the concrete surfaces.

P1100002

West Lakes today

P1100014

A grazing nudibranch species

  Because the lake has a less diverse ecology than the original swampland, there are fewer fish species; although sizeable bream, mullet and even the occasional mulloway make it a popular venue for anglers. In fact, the people who live on its shore often feed the resident bream and have quite large schools living near their private jetties and landings. These fish are generally off limits to the fishers but school children who snorkel off the West Lakes Aquatic Centre get quite a thrill when an instructor lures a school from a nearby pontoon.

P1100030 edited

Large bream close to the shoreline

P1090979

School student snorkelling near the aquatics centre

  The fish, crabs and sundry other creatures inevitably attracts predators. Because of the intakes that feed water in from the sea, sharks are virtually unheard of in the lake system and the main hunters are seabirds. Pelicans and cormorants are common and the ubiquitous silver gulls carry out their indispensible clean up duties along the shoreline.

P1100019

Little pied cormorant drying its wings on a pontoon

  Various paths and roads follow the course of the lake system. Walking or cycling along them in the evening and early morning is best for wildlife encounters. However, even at midday when the sun is up and all is relatively quiet on the wildlife front, the well-tended gardens along the fringe of the lake still attract a wide variety of common urban birds as well as insects and the occasional lizard.

P1100023

Bottle brush in lakeside gardens

P1100024

Gaura in lakeside gardens

P1100010

New Holland honeyeater feeding in garden

  Finally, a couple of considerations for those contemplating a walk around the lake. Start at the aquatics centre off Military road as there is a nice little cafe overlooking the water. And take a look at the Tennyson Dunes just across the road from the lake. They separate the urban zone from the seashore and are yet another wonderful South Aussie environment to explore… (see ‘Seaside Dragons’…30th Dec 2012)   Until next time Cheers Baz

%d bloggers like this: