Tag Archives: south australian marine life

Hoseshoe Bay’s Coastal Wonders

1 Oct

Dear Reader:

The Soldiers Memorial Gardens overlooks Horseshoe Bay; one of the most picturesque locations on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Well kept lawns are surrounded by flower beds and fronted by massive Norfolk Island Pines that attract a wide variety of wildlife.

 

View of Bay from gardens

 

Today the grassed areas have just been mown and two beautiful, red-rumped parrots are feeding on some seed heads that have been scattered by the mower. Male birds are more colourful than the females with brighter plumage and a red splash of colour on the lower back. The gardener seems to have also stirred up some insects which are being vigorously hawked by a lively little wagtail.

 

Red rumped parrot

 

Wagtail

Near the gardens a track runs along the coast towards the jetty and then along the face of boulder strewn cliffs. Several wattle birds are gathering nectar from coastal blooms of agapanthus and I can see both terns and silver gulls patrolling the wave break in search of prey.

 

Wattle bird feeding

 

Local jetty and cliffs

 

There are rocky outcrops at both ends of Horseshoe Bay and small islands in the mouth. These are home to a myriad of sea creatures. Sweep, drummer and zebra fish are just a few of the fish species that abound here. The rugged, algae dominated rocks also provide habitats for a wealth of invertebrates including: crayfish, crabs, sea snails, sponges and starfish…to name but a few.

 

Sea snail (gastropod) probably a pheasant shell species

 

From a high point on the coastal path I have a good view of the bay and I take some time to sit and eat a snack from the Local Port Elliot bakery. Behind me I can hear the call of singing honeyeaters and in front the gentle rushing sound of the incoming tide and surf on the rocks….. a fine way to finish my visit to Horshoe Bay.

 

Singing honeyeater

 

Coastal walk and view of islands in bay

 

 Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, food outlets and parking nearby.

 

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

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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Cape Jervis as a wildlife destination

2 May

Cape Jervis

Dear Reader: 

Cape Jervis is a rugged promontory at the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula overlooking Backstair’s Passage. It lies about 110 kms south of Adelaide along South Road. The little township is a fishing community with a lighthouse and the terminal for the Kangaroo Island ferry. The location was named by Matthew Flinders after John Jervis; a seaman who rose to the rank ‘Lord of the Admiralty’.

Ferry landing

 

The drive into Cape Jervis passes by open farmland and patches of scrub where there are often kangaroos grazing sometimes alongside sheep. Crows, magpies, rosellas and many smaller bird species including wrens live in the natural vegetation along with a variety of insects and reptiles.  Occasionally wedge tailed eagles are seen circling on thermals searching for prey.

Kestrel hunting

 

The shoreline is strewn with pebbles and jagged outcrops of rock creating numerous rock pools. This intertidal zone is the habitat of numerous invertebrate species such as; crabs, anemones, sea snails, limpets and shrimps. Wading birds including oystercatchers, plovers and herons feed in this zone as well as gulls. Cormorants can often be seen drying their wings on the rocks.

Raven feeding on breakwater

 

Below the water the rocky shoreline is dominated by brown algae and silver drummer, sea sweep, kelp fish, morwong and parrot fish are just a few of the many fish species that live in the shallow margin close to shore.

Crab in algae

 

Further notes and comments:

  • Snorkelling along the foreshore requires care as the rocks are sharp and entry to the water can be difficult. There is also a strong rip current running parallel to the shoreline so stay in shallow water.
  • A pathway runs from the lighthouse to the beach front
  • There are snacks for sale and public toilets at the terminal
  • A variety of fish can be caught in this area from the shore and boats
  • There is a public boat ramp
  • Charter fishing excursions can be arranged from Cape Jervis
  • The lookout on the left hand side entering the town provides sweeping views of Backstairs Passage and Kangaroo Island
  • Southern right whales and dolphins are sometimes spotted in Backstairs Passage
  • The Heysen Trail walk that goes all the way to the Flinders ranges begins here

Cheers

Baz

 

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

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Myponga to the Beach

2 Apr

Dear Reader:

The drive from the little Fleurieu town of Myponga to the beach some 10 kms away is rather unique. It takes in views of the local reservoir, bushland and sweeping rural scenes before descending towards a picturesque beach characterised by a small creek and the skeletal remains of an old wooden jetty. All the way along this route there is a proliferation of wildlife if you take the time to stop and look around.

 

Mypnga resevoir

The old jetty and rocky beachfront

 

My first wildlife encounter on the drive from the township to the beach was a pair of grey kangaroos feeding along the banks of the reservoir. One animal seemed unperturbed by my presence and cocked its head cheekily as I closed in to capture an image.

 

Curious roo

 

Further along the well graded dirt road I noticed numerous parrots in the eucalypts, they appeared to be feeding on gum nuts and blossoms. One pair of crimson rosellas caught my eye. They are wary birds and hard to approach so I tried for a distance shot in the shaded heart of the trees. Their glorious red plumage allowed them to dominate the background making for a rather nice image.

 

Crimson rosellas

 

Birds posing against the rugged background seemed to be a recurring theme and an Australian magpie perched on the end of a weather beaten branch provided the next wildlife moment. However, as I stopped the car and stepped out to take my picture I noticed the field behind the bird was dotted with the grey brown shapes of kangaroos. There must have been over twenty of them leisurely grazing on the freshly cut pasture.

 

The mob

 

It would have been easy to stop at this point and simply focus on the terrestrial wildlife but my heart was set on doing a little snorkelling when I reached the beach. It was a warm day and the cool water would provide some welcome relief.

 

Toothbrush leatherjacket

Wrasse species in algal fronds

 

My decision proved to be worthwhile and without going into too much detail I spent a good hour photographing colourful fish amongst the rocky inshore reef and algal beds. A wonderful finale to my day notwithstanding a much anticipated trip to the Myponga Bakery on the way home for a meat pie and vanilla slice.   

 Cheers

Baz

Additional notes

This is an easy drive which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, barbecues, food outlets, parking and other facilities at Myponga.

My work is also published in Weekend Notes

 

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

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

Wildlife and Pub Food at the Port

25 Oct

Dear Reader;

It is a mild spring afternoon and there is barely a breath of wind to ruffle the waters of the inner harbour. A pair of sooty oyster catchers are foraging between the exposed rocks on the southern embankment. They are using their powerful blade-like beaks to prise shellfish from the rocks and dig in the sand for worms and crabs. The bright red beaks and eyes look like they have been painted by an artist with an exaggerated disposition for contrast.

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Sooty oyster catchers foraging at low tide (click on all images to enlarge)

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Soon to be lunch

 

I am walking around the wharves and shoreline of Port Adelaide. Originally nicknamed Port Misery by the early settlers who came ashore amongst the mangroves, mud and mosquitoes that once dominated the area; the Port has undergone many changes. Once a lively harbour that berthed dozens of ships delivering the provisions to establish a new colony; it is now a quieter, quayside community. People now come to the Port from the city, just 15 minutes away, to visit the maritime museum, shop at the weekend markets or go for a cruise along the Port River to catch sight of the world’s only urban dolphin pod.

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Dolphin cruise ship moored at the wharf

 

From the foreshore I walk past the pub and on to the old Birkenhead Bridge, the first bascule or lifting bridge in Australia. Glancing down at the old jarrah poles, driven hard into the river bed where they once stood as moorings, I notice that several silver gulls have chosen the iron clad posts as nesting sites. Every so often one of the birds lifts off its scruffy nest and checks the eggs, sometimes giving one a little push with its beak, perhaps to keep the distribution of heat even.

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Nesting silver gull

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Silver gull adjusting egg position

 

I watch the birds for half an hour. While one sits on the nest the other flies off in search of food further along the shoreline amongst the same rocks the oystercatchers were exploring just a little while ago. The foraging gull tugs on the end of a tube worm protruding from the fine sand and mud. It is about to extract the hapless invertebrate when a mudlark, usually a woodland species, emerges from a clump of nearby bushes and relieves the seabird of its prize.

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Mudlark feeding along the shoreline

 

Like the gull and mudlark I figure it’s about time for lunch and head for the Birkenhead Tavern and one of the best chicken schnitzels the Port has to offer.

the pub

Birkenhead tavern

Sorry, only one post this month!!!!!

Have been travelling overseas

Until next time

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.

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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.

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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.

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Anglers on the jetty (click to enlarge)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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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