Tag Archives: pacific gull

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.

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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.

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Lovely morning light

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Singing honeyeater

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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

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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.

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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

Whyalla to Point Lowly…a top coastal drive

16 May

Dear Reader:

The road from Whyalla to the Point Lowly intersection has dense mallee scrub on both sides. Kangaroos are not uncommon but hard to spot amongst the grey, green foliage. Sometimes a kite or eagle can be seen gliding on a thermal, scouring the scrub for prey.

Low Scrub Whyalla

Classic scrub with acacia in bloom

 

 

 

As I turn right and head towards the coast the landscape changes. The trees and bushes give way to stretches of saltbush and dried out shallow salt pans. Not much can survive in this country but I have seen emus foraging along these coastal badlands. I am not disappointed; catching sight of a fully grown male with his adolescent chicks just a few hundred metres from the fence-line.

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Adult emu with a half grown chick in saltbush

 

 

The road turns quite sharply heading back down the peninsula. The salt bush landscape reverts back to low coastal scrub. This ecosystem is characterised by acacias and smaller eucalypts where various parrots, wrens and honeyeaters are feeding along the edge of the road. A sandy track leads down to the beach where a small group of shacks nestle into the scrub, all with a wonderful view back across the shallow gulf to Whyalla.

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Red track, green scrub and blue coast

 

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Whyalla across the bay

 

 

After my beach side detour I drive back onto the main road and continue on to my destination. Point Lowly and the associated LPG gas complex of Point Bonython are part of the 12 kilometre Freycinet trail that winds around Fitzgerald Bay. The trail which is ideal for cycling, walking or driving, features interpretive signs that explain Aboriginal and European history as well geological and biological features.

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Point Lowly lighthouse

 

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Gulls and cormorants

 

 

However, my trip today is simply exploratory and I will leave the trail for another time. Just a wander around the lighthouse, shoreline and nearby scrub will suffice. And the local sights more than live up to expectations. A mixed group of gulls and cormorants is roosting on a rocky outcrop while a pacific gulls glides above the inshore rockpools. Near the lighthouse a glorious little wood swallow perches on the guttering of a local shack expectantly watching a family BBQ.

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Pacific gull hunting

 

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Wood swallow on guttering

 

 

My appetite whetted for the next visit I turn the car and head back.

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz

Wine, Whales and Pelicans at the Bluff

26 Oct

Dear Reader: 

I am at ‘The Bluff’, a granite outcrop near the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Comfortably tucked into a wicker chair on the balcony of the ‘Whalers Inn’,  I am enjoying a plate of local calamari and nursing a fruity white from one of our coastal vineyards. The restaurant is only ten minutes drive from the centre of Victor Harbor, the south coast’s largest town.

bluff vh

A view from the restaurant

P1000661

Calamari with soy, lemon and wilted greens

My field glasses and camera are within easy reach and every few minutes I scan the horizon beyond Wright Island for a tell-tale blow, breach or the raised fluke of a Southern Right Whale. I can just make out one animal a few kilometres out to sea and I am hoping that it will make its way closer inshore. Only a few days ago two adults and a calf were frolicking in the bay just a few hundred metres from where I am sitting. In fact, well over 40 whales have been seen during the last month. Southern Rights regularly migrate with their calves en route to their Antarctic feeding grounds at this time of year.

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Rocky outcrops and an offshore island

 

No such luck. The whale heads further out to sea and I know that it is late in the season and the chance of another sighting is slim. I shift my focus to the rocky foreshore where jagged outcrops of dark rock trail into the sea. A strong offshore breeze is ruffling the feathers of a group of caspian terns that are precariously clinging to the rocks. Over the last few hours they have been alternately patrolling the rolling swell between Wright Island and the mainland searching for baitfish then resting on the shoreline.

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Crested terns resting between forays

 

A little closer to the town, between a stand of huge Norfolk pines, there is a boat ramp and every so often anglers motor in from the deeper water and tie up at the dock. Several large granite boulders lie close to the channel and a couple of Australian pelicans have been patiently ensconced on their smooth surfaces eyeing each craft in the hope of a fishy handout. They are not too fussy and a few mullet, salmon trout or even some unused bait usually makes their wait worthwhile. While I finish my calamari the birds are rewarded by a boatie and his family of pelican friendly kids.

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Australian pelican

 

There are, of course, the usual silver gulls flying, scavenging and wading in the shallows in search of any kind of food from a discarded potato chip to an unwary shore crab. But amongst their sleek silver forms I catch sight of a larger yellow beaked gull. It is a pacific gull, a less common species in this area, and it is wading in the shallows searching for prey in one of the tiny beaches that form between the rocky outcrops.

pacific  gull 3

Pacific gull

 

As the afternoon wears on and the temperature climbs, I finish my glass of wine, pay the bill and stroll down to the car. The sea is inviting and my snorkelling gear and underwater camera are in the back. Today I have dined well, photographed a diverse collection of seabirds, watched whales on a dazzling blue ocean, and now I have the chance of encountering some slightly smaller varieties of marine life in a great dive location.

That encounter will be the subject of a future blog.

Cheers

Baz

 

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