Tag Archives: Sleepy lizard

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.

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What more do I need to say

 

Cheers

Baz

Port Augusta…Arid Lands Botanic Gardens

7 Dec

Dear Reader:

The sand monitor, a kind of goanna, is raised slightly off the ground and peering intently towards me. It doesn’t seem too perturbed by my presence. In fact, I am probably the more excited of the two. It is my first encounter with one of these lizards which can reach a length of around 1.5 metres. Like all monitors, the sand goanna has a forked tongue like a snake allowing it to use scent to detect the distance and direction of its prey. A closer examination through my camera lens reveals that this animal has been injured at some time and is missing part of its front right foot.

Sand monitor

Sand monitor

 

I am in the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just a few kilometres out of Port Augusta near the head of the gulf. The gardens showcase many of the diverse dry-land ecologies that SA has to offer. Unlike most parks this one is not fenced and the animals that venture into its proximity are wild. Despite its natural status the gardens are well serviced by a modern visitor centre and cafe.

The view from the head of the gulf

The view from the head of the gulf

 

Leaving the sand monitor to its own devices, I walk around the edge of the encroaching scrub towards the extensive eremophila plantings at the back of the centre. Several zebra finches are perched in the branches of a skeletal tree overlooking a small artificial waterhole. I search for the right image, eventually finding a male and female settled on a dead branch; perfectly demonstrating the difference between the sexes.

male and female zebra finches

male and female zebra finches

Purple eremophila

Purple eremophila

 

After spending some time exploring the eremophila shrubs with all their subtle floral variations, I walk around to the northern edge of the gardens. This area includes habitat zones where interpretive signs explain adaptations to climate and terrain as well as Aboriginal use of plants as foods and medicines. While I am reading about how sugarwoods are used as sweeteners and their amazing regenerative powers after bushfires, I hear a rustle in the undergrowth. Only a few metres from where I am standing a pair of or shinglebacks are following each other closely between the ground-covers. Sleepy lizards, as they are sometimes known, are essentially solitary reptiles which can only mean that it is mating season.

 

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

Shingleback or sleepy lizards

 

Whenever I visit these extraordinary gardens I conclude my day with a little culinary treat; a light meal, ice cream or scones with jam and cream. But these are no ordinary delicacies. Many of the flavours are created from the landscape with a distinctly ‘bush tucker’ nuance such as quandong ice cream and native herb flavoured damper.

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

Looking out from the café across the eremophila garden into the scrub beyond

 

 

Until our next adventure

Cheers

Baz  

Moralana Trail-Outback Wildlife With A Little History Thrown In

2 Nov

Dear Reader:

The sky is endless blue, interrupted by just a few cotton-wool clouds. High above the ranges I can see the outline of a wedge tail eagle spiralling on a thermal as it searches for prey. Once these majestic raptors were a common sight throughout the Flinders but with the decimation of the rabbit population their numbers have dropped. Today they hunt for more indigenous prey; wallabies, lizards and road kill from the many tracks that meander through the ranges. As I carefully steer the vehicle around another corrugated, gravelly bend, I catch site of a kangaroo standing motionless in the long grass. Easing to a stop, I wind down the window and take a closer look through a telephoto lens. The powerful, compact body and rusty brown tinge to its fur immediately mark it as a euro or hill kangaroo; a species that lives amongst the rocky outcrops rather than on the plains.

a Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

Euro or hill kangaroo watches the watchers near the track

 

I am driving the Moralana trail, a 30 km dirt track that cuts across the Flinders Ranges, 40 kms south of the iconic bush resort of Wilpena Pound. The track is flanked by the jagged peaks of the pound on one side and the Elder Ranges on the other.  It is an easy drive compared to the trails that follow the gorges further north yet there is a proliferation of wildlife ranging from flocks of cockatoos to echidnas and several species of kangaroos.

b Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

Driving along the trail with the Elder Ranges in the background

 

We leave the euro feeding on some low bushes and continue our drive. A few kilometres further on, half hidden amongst a stand of pale barked eucalypts, I notice a rough cut log corral by the roadside. Closer examination reveals a plaque explaining that the structure is a restored ‘cueing’ or shoeing station. In the 1870s it serviced the bullock trains that hauled native pine logs which were then cut for the construction of the overland telegraph. The corral is just one of the many historic sites that remind us of the hardy pioneers who lived and worked in the Flinders during the state’s early years. After a long day’s driving, the cueing station seems a perfect place to stop for a late lunch and enjoy home baked meat pies and sausage rolls, purchased earlier in the day at a country bakery on the drive from Adelaide.

c Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

Old bullock yard near Arkaba Station

 

The afternoon sun is dropping low in the sky and it is unwise to drive these tracks in the evening as the roos become more active and 50 kgs of kangaroo smashing into a vehicle does neither animal nor car much good. I ease my foot down on the accelerator, the dust billows behind us and we continue our journey along the track. We catch sight of more kangaroos in the distance; they are probably western greys or reds. Suddenly, a pair of emus emerge from thick scrub alongside the road and for a few minutes the huge birds keep pace with the car before heading back into the bush. According to the map we are only a few kilometres from the junction with the Wilpena road when we slow for a broad, dry watercourse that cuts across the road. I turn the car into the creek and engage 4WD. We bump and slide over the round pebbles and avoid the larger boulders as we drive a couple of hundred metres along the creek and venture out for a final forage in the bush. We are not disappointed. On the dried out bank, wedged into a tight crack between some flat rocks, we come across a sleepy lizard which, judging from the snail shells close to its refuge, has made this little niche its home base for some time.

d A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

A shingleback or sleepy lizard sheltering under a lichen scarred rock

 

The sun is low now, the light soft but Moralana has one more moment in store for us. Close to the junction with the bitumen road, a small herd of wild horses are grazing near the fence-line. Whether these are true brumbies (Australian wild horses) or stock that is herded periodically for riding, I am not sure… but whatever their origin the very presence of these elegant animals was the perfect parting gift.

e Wild horses grazing near a creekline

Wild horses grazing

 

From the Flinders

Regards

Baz

 

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