Tag Archives: mangroves

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/

Middle Beach Wildlife

2 Jun

Dear Reader:

The road is paved to start with then turns into a well graded, dirt track which leads into a small beachside settlement. There is both pasture, coastal wetland and a roadside corridor of scrub and gum trees along this approach road. These distinct environments provide fertile hunting grounds for raptors and I am lucky enough to spot two species before I get to the mangrove and beach environment I have come to explore. A Brown Falcon perched on an old fencepost and a Black Shouldered Kite precariously balanced on a power line.

 

Black-shouldered Kite

Brown Falcon

I am exploring Middle Beach, a coastal township set amongst mangrove stands and shallow beaches; about a forty-five-minute drive from the centre of Adelaide. There is a small boat launching ramp, numerous channels that wind through the mangroves and even a public toilet in this unique setting. Middle beach is renowned for crabbing and fishing and is well worth a visit if canoeing, birdwatching or angling are your thing.

 

Singing Honeyeater

Grebe species

 The mangroves are home to a wide variety of animals including dozens of local and migratory birds, but they are hard to spot and even harder to photograph. However, their varied calls are a familiar soundtrack every time I visit these coastal reaches. Today I am lucky enough to see a Singing Honeyeater and Grebe as I walk up the shallow channel towards the sea.

 

Samphire and Mangrove

  I spend another hour combing the beach and taking a few landscape shots of the receding tide and reddish growths of Samphire. I use the extreme magnification of the camera to watch Great Egrets, White Faced Herons and Ibises in the distance as they forage in the seagrasses. Unfortunately, they are all just out of range for a good shot, even with the extraordinary telephoto capabilities of my Nikon P900.

 

Bovine Family Portrait

Around the water tank

On the drive back to the main freeway I decide to concentrate on photographing the rural landscape and I am rewarded by some interesting images of cows and Ibises near an old water tank and a group of cows seemingly posing for a family portrait. A great way to finish my Middle Beach excursion.

Take a drive there and let me know what you think.

Cheers

Baz

 Additional notes

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

See more South Australian stories and pictures in Weekend Notes

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 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and field notes describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will try to attach a new image and notes each month.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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.

c2

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

d2

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.

Mangrove Wildlife

9 Aug

Dear Reader:

The city of Port Adelaide is a working port that includes a power station, shipyards and fine old buildings that date from the early colonial days when sailing ships transported goods and settlers to the new colony. Yet only a few kilometres from this industrial zone is a haven for wildlife both above and below the water. Mangroves once dominated this area but land clearing, to establish new beachside suburbs, decimated this crucial coastal environment. Eventually local communities and conservationists finally put pressure on the government to preserve what was left.

AH Power station near the mangrove area

Power station near the mangrove area

This weekend I grabbed a camera and spent a leisurely hour walking around the Port taking in the sites and enjoying some seafood at one of the oldest hotels in the state. Early in the afternoon I drove a couple of kilometres to the Garden Island boat ramp where mangroves still dominate the shoreline of the Port River. This complex system of intertidal mudflats, seagrass meadows and the thick cover of mangrove trees supports a vital nursery area for many of the fish, prawn and crab species that live in St Vincent’s Gulf; Adelaide’s marine backyard and larder.

AG Puemataphores  in the mangrove forest

Puemataphores in the mangrove forest

 

As I walked along the little jetty that skirts the edge of the mangroves I chatted to a couple of fishers working the incoming tide. They had spotted a pod of dolphins cruising along one of the channels a little earlier in the afternoon and a pair of pied cormorants were boldly eying their bucket of baitfish as we spoke. The jetty also provides an excellent view into the mangroves and within a few minutes I had spotted a white faced heron perched on a low branch hunting for crabs. Nearby, a glorious little golden whistler was searching for insects near the entrance to a tidal creek.

AA Whitefaced heron hunting deep in the mangroves

White-faced heron hunting deep in the mangroves

AC Golden whistler in thorny bushes on the edge of the mangroves

Golden whistler in thorny bushes on the edge of the mangroves

 

Because the tide was out I had the perfect opportunity to walk into the mangroves and take a closer look amongst the tangle of limbs and bizarre little pneumatophores that protrude like blackened fingers from the forest floor. The sticky mud between these gas absorbing extensions of the root system was pock marked with little crab holes. It took some patience and a mini war with a squadron of mosquitoes before I caught a crab in the open and managed to capture an image.

AD Mangrove crab in samphire at the edge of the mudflat

Mangrove crab in samphire at the edge of the mudflat

 

A little itchy and with my boots liberally coated with dark mud, I decided to call it a day. Later in the year I will return to another area of mangroves a little further down the coast and share some more images and notes about the extraordinary animals that exist in this harsh and unusual habitat.

Cheers

BAZ   

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