Tag Archives: Pied cormorant

Port Wakefield…more than a tank of gas and a snack on the road

11 Jul

Port Wakefield…more than a tank of gas and a snack on the road

Dear Reader:

For more years than I care to remember I have stopped at Port Wakefield to fill up the car and grab a quick roadhouse snack before continuing on to the York Peninsular, Flinders Ranges or the mid north towns and wineries. Today is the exception and I must admit to being more than a little surprised to discover what this small town has to offer. As always, my first objective is the natural history of an area and this one has quite a  diverse offering of environments all of which are easy to access.

 

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Silver gull

As I sit in a little park next to a natural saltwater lagoon, which is used as a swimming pool in the warmer weather, a flight of silver gulls sweeps in low over the saltbush and samphire flats that stretch to the horizon. They are, no doubt, attracted to the bacon and egg pie that I am enjoying or perhaps it is the vanilla slice that is reserved for later. Instead they settle next to a car where a family is enjoying some chips…seagulls and chips… how South Aussie can you get? 

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Enjoying the boardwalk across the lagoon

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Local source of a great pie

 From the seagulls in the car park I make my way across a little footbridge that crosses the tidal pool and follow an interpretive trail along the creek. The signage explains the peculiarities of the mangrove trees, the importance of seagrass meadows and how the coastal saltbush can withstand seasonal inundations of salt water. There are also images of common coastal birds; two of which, a little black cormorant and a pied cormorant, I photograph near the sluice gate that maintains the water level.

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Little black cormorant perching on sluice gate

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Pied cormorant on embankment near mangroves

 I walk along a raised boardwalk for a hundred metres giving which gives me an excellent view of the mangroves, saltbush and creek. Then as I turn back towards the car I hear the unmistakable call of a singing honeyeater which is conveniently perched on a dead tree branch near a restored stone section of the old wharves. And, just to finish my walk on a positive note there is a white faced heron hunting along the stonework causeway on the water’s edge.

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Singing honeyeater a common coastal species

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White faced heron stalking prey near the stone embankment

Driving back to the main highway I notice a lovely colonial building with an antiques sign out the front. I chat to the owners as I browse through the treasures and find that the town has many lovely old buildings and a fascinating place in our colonial history. Today I am in a hurry to get home after a couple of days in the bush but on asking where I can get some more information they refer me to a website, (portwakefield.sa.au)

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The antique shop is one example of the many fine heritage buildings

Leaving Port Wakefield I have one overriding thought in mind. Next time I come this way I’ll take a little more time to have a closer look at this historic little town and explore its coastal melange of habitats in more detail.

 

Cheers

Baz

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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.

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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

Hallet Cove….a scrub and coastal walk

3 Apr

The walk from the park’s entrance is striking with the ocean forming a sapphire backdrop to the greens and greys of the scrub. Along the edge of the track stands of eucalypts dominate an understory of acacias, banksias and native grasses. Near the top of the trail, several wattle birds are feeding on a late autumn splash of flowers in the crown of a flowering gum. The largest of all the honeyeaters, these birds have a grating call reminiscent of an out of tune bagpipe.

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View from the park entrance

 

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Wattle bird

 

 

I scramble further down the track listening to the twittering of scrub birds in the bushes. It is difficult to identify any particular species and almost impossible to photograph them. After walking for a couple of hundred metres, I catch a glimpse of some wrens and miner birds deep in the labyrinth of foliage. Where the trail runs alongside a small creek at the foot of the hill, a singing honeyeater is perched on an exposed branch, finally providing one easy target.

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Singing honeyeater

 

 

Hallet Cove Conservation Park runs parallel to the coast about half an hour’s drive south of the city centre. It encompasses a range of habitats from sclerophyll forest to coastal heath and a classic wave cut platform below the cliff face. In addition to a healthy population of native animals the park has extraordinary geological and marine features that I will explore more fully in a later post. 

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The track winds through the scrub near a creek bed

   

 

I meet a group of elderly walkers on a small bridge that crosses the creek where the path starts to climb towards the top of the cliffs. As they tramp across the wooden planks a large water skink runs across, pausing momentarily before disappearing over the edge into the reeds.

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Skink on the bridge

 

 

Climbing southward up the track I take note of the dramatic changes in terrain. The hillside that rises from the cliff tops is dominated by low wind-swept shrubs and grasses and the coastline is defined by the wave cut platform. Near the edge of the cliffs, two magpies are probing the undergrowth with their long, powerful beaks. Suddenly the birds become agitated and take to the air. I look around for the source of their distress and catch sight of a kestrel hovering high above them. But this kestrel has made an error of judgement that soon becomes apparent as the maggies take it on in an aerial dogfight.

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Minding my own business

 

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Kestrel hunting

 

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Not on my turf

 

 

The final section of my trail follows the boardwalk along the top of the cliffs. I can see pacific gulls foraging in the rock-pools on the exposed shore and a colony of cormorants roosting on a rocky outcrop out to sea.

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Cormorants on offshore outcrop

 

 

After following the contours of the hillside for a kilometre the boardwalk slopes down to a stretch of beach, finally terminating at a car park and local eatery…The Boatshed Cafe. Simply grabbing a croissant and soft drink to eat on the beach or choosing a light meal from the excellent menu is an ideal way to wind up a morning stroll.

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Descent to the beach and cafe

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this little adventure

Cheers

Baz

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