Tag Archives: Fleurieu peninsula

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.

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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

Ingalalla Falls

13 Dec

Dear Reader;

Ingalalla falls does not actually cascade down the dark boulders to the pools below. This is South Australia where water is scarce and in the summer months rain is a rare blessing. But it is a waterfall and as such attracts a varied collection of wildlife as well as providing a few interesting walks and the perfect setting to enjoy a picnic in the bush.

Yankalilla's main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible

Yankalilla’s main street with bakery and surrounding hills visible (click on all images to enlarge)

 

 

The falls are about 10 kilometres off the main south road near the coastal hamlets of Normanville and Yankalilla. Both towns have superb little bakeries where one can quickly stock up on a range of ‘goodies’. My choice for this expedition included a gourmet chicken, potato and cheese pie with a generous serve of bee-sting cake (a legacy of our early German settlers) to follow.

Ingalalla falls desceding into the creek

Ingalalla falls descending into the creek

 

 

The dirt road from Normanville passes through a mixture of open bushland and wheat fields with a superb links golf course near the main highway. And just few kilometres down the track I noticed a boulder with a metal plaque that celebrated the life of a local settler, mariner and pastoralist William Field, adding an unexpected historical perspective to the day.

A little bit of history

A little bit of history

 

Where the native scrub started to merge with pine plantations, a small signposted track leads to a sheltered camping area complete with a simple shelter and scattering of wooden benches and tables. From there, a walking trail follows the little creek to the falls. On the right side of the path a steep hillside covered with bracken, native shrubs and tall stringy barked eucalypts rises abruptly from the creek.

Bushland trail characterised by  eucalypts, bracken and low bushes (2)

Walk to the falls showing eucalypts, bracken and low bushes

 

 

The rustle of leaves and chirping calls indicated that the thick cover was home to many small bird species but the dense foliage made identifying them somewhat difficult. Eventually, I adopted the sit still and wait strategy which yielded results as a yellow faced honeyeater and grey fantail soon came within camera range.

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

Grey fantail perching near the creek after eating an insect

 

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

Yellow faced honeyeater in thicket

 

 

Although it was a mild day for summer, a few insects were active around the creek. Both dragon and damsel flies hovered amongst the reeds and several species of butterflies alternately fed on small flowering shrubs and rested amongst the leaf litter.

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

Wattle trunk scarred by boring beetles

 

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

Meadow argus butterfly camouflaged in leaf litter

 

 

The rest of my walk was equally rewarding with a pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos making a sudden appearance in one of the nearby pine trees and a couple of wester grey kangaroos bounding across the track as we drove back to the road with the late afternoon light enhancing the golden wheat fields.

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

Wheat fields on the edge of the track to Ingalalla

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this recollection

Drop me a line with any suggestions, criticisms or compliments

All are welcome

 

Baz

The Old Talisker Mine

15 Nov

The view from the top of the hill is spectacular. Soft winter pasture still covers the ground in sharp contrast to the spiky Xantheria or grass plants that characterize the harsh coastal scrub and the blue of Baxter’s Passage and hazy profile of Kangaroo Island beckon on the horizon.

 

Backstair's passage and Kangaroo Island

Backstair’s passage and Kangaroo Island (double click to enlarge all images on this page)

 

As I get out of the 4WD to capture this image I notice a pair of western grey kangaroos on the edge of the scrub no more than 20 meters from the vehicle. They are wary, ears twitching and sniffing the air. One is considerably larger than the other. They are probably a mother with a joey at heel and her pouch looks a little enlarged suggesting that she may have another little one tucked away. There could even be two in the pouch; one permanently attached to the nipple while the other simply enjoys the ride. In good times kangaroos can multiply quickly.

Western greys by the track

Western greys by the track

 

 

I am in the Talisker National Park about an hour and a half journey from the city and 10 kms from Cape Jervis at the toe of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The park centres around a series of bush trails that surround an abandoned silver and lead mine dating from the 1860s. Old machinery, buildings and shafts add an historic dimension to an area rich in scenery and wildlife.

Crushing house and old boiler

Crushing house and old boiler

 

 

From my cliff top lookout I backtrack along the dirt roads to the entrance of the old Talisker mine site. The walking trail to the mine is not too steep but the scrub on both sides is dense and full of life. In both the treetops and bushes I can hear the calls of wrens and honeyeaters. Eventually one of the delicate little birds pauses on a branch to announce its territory.

Crescent honeyeater

Crescent honeyeater

 

 

The track ends in a small clearing where the rusted remains of crushers, boilers and old buildings mark the main site. They are all that is left of a mine that once was the workplace of dozens of miners and supported a community of 300 souls at nearby Silverton; now also long gone.

Pied currawong

Grey currawong

 

 

The buildings are surrounded by a forest of eucalypts and I can hear the more distinctive movements of a larger animal in the branches on the far side of the crushing plant. I focus my long lens on the area and start to search for the perpetrator, expecting another roo or even a possum disturbed from its daytime sno0ze. But it is a large crow-like bird that I spot amongst the leaves and branches, a pied currawong, a relative of the white backed magpies that are so common on the plains where I live. Currawongs are a group that I have rarely photographed successfully as they tend to be a little more wary than their magpie cousins.

Bush track surrounded by eucalypt forest near the park entrance

Leaving the park along a bush track

 

 

It has been quite a long day walking, driving and stalking wildlife and the ruins are a great place to sit and unpack a well anticipated lunch picked up at the local Yankalilla bakery; nothing flash, just a steak and mushroom pie and an indulgent apricot tart to round off the meal. Good South Aussie ‘tucker’ to fuel up for the walk up the hill and drive home.

 

Cheers

Baz                  

Rapid Bay’s Misty Morning Predators

5 Jul

Dear Reader:

The road drops sharply from a cloud enveloped ridge top to the beach then emerges from the mist alongside a small creek. The sky is clearer close to the ocean and I can see the familiar outline of the steep cliffs and the twin jetties that jut out into the gulf. It is a chilly winter’s morning and my hands are cold as I organise my back pack and cameras ready for a stroll along the seafront.

IMG_3732

The creek at Rapid Bay (click to enlarge)

Two large birds are flying slowly along the beach front; in the early morning light they seem to resemble pacific gulls, a fairly common species along this part of the coast. I track the seabirds with my long lens and fire off a series of shots and quickly review them. Although the light mist obscured the birds’ features to the naked eye the captured images reveal a pleasant surprise. The wing feathers, tail shape and characteristically curved beak indicate a far more interesting and less common bird….the white breasted sea eagle. A little further down the coast I can see the eagles rise up on a thermal alongside the cliffs as they soar in tight spirals before resuming their beach patrol.

IMG_3771 edit1

White breasted sea eagle (click to enlarge)

The beach with its high cliffs, creek and mining jetty define one of the Fleurieu Peninsula’s most interesting and historic locations; Rapid Bay.  It was here that Adelaide’s original surveyor Colonel Light anchored his brig ‘The Rapid’ in the sheltered bay uttering the words “I have hardly seen a place I like better”.  Only 100 kms south of Adelaide, Rapid Bay is a prime location for divers and anglers. It is also  holds a significant place in the lore of several local Aboriginal peoples; a feature of the area that I will explore in more depth at a later date.

IMG_3761

Anglers on the jetty (click to enlarge)

IMG_3755

Southern calamari (click to enlarge)

From the beach front I walk along a short dirt road to the jetty. A couple of fishers tell me that a sea lion has been hunting in the shallows between the new and old jetty. After a few minutes a sleek grey shape twists and turns in the water only a dozen metres away and a whiskery face pops up, surveys the surface and is gone as suddenly as it appeared. The anglers tell me that they have tossed a couple of squid to it and that the sealion has been around the jetties for the last couple of days.

sealion 1

Australian sealion (click to enlarge)

I watch the men jigging for squid for a few more minutes before returning to the car which is parked near the creek. As I pack up my gear I can hear the sound of finches in the bushes and reeds but it is difficult to focus on the tiny birds especially in these low light conditions. While I am concentrating on the tiny birds a large raven appears on the nearby embankment with a piece of squid in its beak and proceeds to tear the rubbery flesh apart while keeping a wary eye on me and croaking out a few warning calls to any other would be scavengers that might fancy a calamari entree.

IMG_3741

Little raven (click to enlarge)

Eagles, sealions, squid and even a dolphin that cruises past as I leave the jetty; it has been a morning of predators and scavengers both aquatic and aerial. And now it is my turn to grab a bite to eat. Leonard’s Mill, a renovated flour mill, is one of my favourite dining spots and on the main highway to town a mere 15 kms from the Rapid Bay turn off. Their calamari is on the menu as salt and pepper squid and best enjoyed with a fine white wine from the local vineyards.

Cheers

Baz

Port Willunga’s Natural Charms

24 May

There is a pair of pigeons nesting along the limestone cliffs. They are billing and cooing and puffing up their feathers if rival birds come anywhere near their territory. Unbeknown to the loving pair a far greater menace, in the form of kestrel, is circling high above, scanning the cliff face for a tasty pigeon treat. Luckily for the nesting pair, the hunter overlooks them or perhaps the angle of attack is too steep and the cliffs too perilous.

Lucky pigeons

Lucky pigeons……click to enlarge

 

I am walking along Port Willunga beach just 40 minutes from Adelaide; a glorious little stretch of white sand that lies below ochre limestone cliffs and bounded by the Aldinga reef to the south and Gull Rock to the north. The reef is a marine sanctuary that showcases a wide variety of the state’s diverse aquatic life. And the beach is a rich repository of the South Australia’s pastoral history where the sea scoured remnants of an old wheat jetty, built in 1853, protrudes from the shallow water. Despite its idyllic setting, Port Willunga also harbours a darker history with no less than five ships being wrecked in the vicinity. The most famous of these was the Star of Greece whose skeleton can still be explored just 500m offshore.

The view from the beach

The view from the beach…..click to enlarge

 

 

Leaving the fortuitous pigeons to their parental duties I kick off my shoes and walk through the water amongst the old jetty piles. The wood is bleached white and worn by wind, sand and rain. Tenacious little limpets cling to the timber and a shore crab scuttles past my feet. Looking back across the beach I can see the rough hewn caves that were dug into the cliffs to house fishing dingies and give shelter to the hardy men who made a living from these waters.

Drummer, leatherjackets, sweep and a moonlighter on the edge of the reef....click to enlarge

Drummer, leatherjackets, sweep and a moonlighter on the edge of the reef….click to enlarge

 

Warm clear water, a fine day and good light….thinks….twenty minutes later I am snorkeling along the edge of the reef. The water is fairly shallow and the marine life prolific. A school of zebra fish swims close to me and large dusky morwong and magpie perch feed along the undercut shelves that define the reef’s edge. At the end of one rocky outcrop a number of different species are congregating where the reef and the adjacent seagrass meadow intersect. I dive to the bottom and hold onto the rocks to steady myself and fire off a couple of shots. Later when I review the images they seem to reflect both the environment and the moment. An hour in the water and I’m getting a little chilly and its time to go back, this time I walk across the shallow rocky platform exploring the many tidal pools.

A casual lunch outside or fine dining inside....click to enlarge

A casual lunch outside or fine dining inside….click to enlarge

 

 

The change rooms at the end of the car park make getting out of the wet suit easy and the short walk up the slope to the restaurant, named after the hapless Star of Greece, gives me a good view north and south along the coast. Often I have caught sight of a pod of dolphins cruising the calm gulf waters but not today; just a few fishers and an optimistic body surfer are enjoying the water. However, after a strenuous swim and a walk along the beach my priorities have changed from natural history to lunch and the boutique restaurant, once a fish and chip shop that I frequented as a lad, beckons. Fresh seafood, quality local produce and wines; a typically South Aussie way to finish my day.

 

Cheers

Baz

Reef and Cliff

25 Mar

The crumbling cliffs drop steeply to a narrow beach where a tangle of dried out seaweed marks the extent of the last high tide. From the beach, a flat limestone platform gently slopes into the ocean. The once smooth surface is scarred with shallow pools, sand patches and bubble weed. A line of white foam marks the outer fringe of the shelf where a sudden increase in depth creates a series of smaller reefs and ledges. These features provide a range of diverse habitats for an assortment of marine life.

3 cliff beach and reef

The view from the cliff top

 

 

The first animal that I meet, on my swim across the shallows, is a fiddler ray which has come in from the seagrass meadows beyond the edge of the reef. It is hunting on the limestone platform; using its keen senses to locate molluscs that are buried in the sandy patches. Like all rays, its mouth is located on the underside of the body and its back is camouflaged to confuse predators that might attack from above. I follow the ray for a few minutes approaching quite close as it lies near a patch of bubble weed. Unlike stingrays, fiddlers do not have a barbed spine on the tail for defence and seem to be quite placid animals.

2 fiddler ray red

Fiddler ray near bubble weed

 

 

The ray follows a series of narrow cracks in the rocky surface where shore crabs often leave the shelter of their burrows to hunt on the incoming tide. The narrow crevices are also home to hoards of tiny anemones that extend their stinging tentacles to trap the tiny organisms that live in the water.

4 Pale anemones amongst seaweed

Anemones in a rock ledge surrounded by seaweed that keeps them wet on the receding tide

 

 

The limestone reef and high cliffs with their spectacular coastal views are the main attractions of the coastal community of Aldinga. The town is a comfortable 50 minutes drive from Adelaide along the main South Road. A traditional Aussie pub and bakery close to the access road from the highway provide great local meals and there are numerous houses for hire along the coastal strip that overlooks the gulf. Several parking bays on top of the cliffs with steps that lead down to the beach and reef make accessing this location very easy. The area is also a marine park and various signs explain the exact nature of restrictions for divers and fishers.

 

rock crab  aldinga 2

Shore crab that has emerged from its shelter to feed

 

After following the ray for a while I swim to the seaward edge of the reef and start exploring its perimeter. The limestone is honeycombed with undercut ledges, caves and crevices. Almost immediately I encounter a large strongfish or dusky morwong; a common species that lives in the seagrass meadows. The fish is well over a metre long and appears to be resting before heading into deeper water to feed.

1 strongfish in cavern red

Strongfish or dusky morwong sheltering under a rocky ledge on the edge of the reef

 

 

I have been in the water for over an hour and have photographed a wide variety of marine life apart from the species mentioned. Now it is my turn to follow their example and ‘grab a bite to eat’ back at the pub before driving home confident that there is still much to see on subsequent visits to this spectacular local ecosystem.

Cheers

Baz

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