City Nature Challenge 2022: Greater Adelaide – Places to Visit

The City Nature Challenge 2022 starts in 30 days. The Greater Adelaide region will be participation for the third year running.

If you’re participating for the first time, check out the City Nature Challenge rundown by Ferox Australis and this previous post on Epistemic Curiosity.

Before the challenge starts, head over to iNaturalist and join the City Nature Challenge 2022: Greater Adelaide project, and the global City Nature Challenge umbrella project.

Check out previous results from 2020 and 2021 to see what species were found in previous years.

To participate, you don’t need to travel far and wide searching for rare species. You own backyard holds an amazing array of species. But if you’re looking for somewhere interesting to visit, check out the list below.

The City Nature Challenge 2022: Greater Adelaide project covers a significant section of the most populated areas in the state. The area referred to as “Greater Adelaide” covers a total of 9,000 square kilometers with a population of around 1.5 million amassing approximately 85% of the population of SA. It includes all the Metropolitan Local Government Areas plus the District Council of Yankalilla, City of Victor Harbor, Alexandrina Council, The Rural City of Murray Bridge, Mount Barker District Council, Barossa Council, Light Regional Council and Adelaide Plains Council.

This area encompasses the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges, considered one of only 15 National Biodiversity Hotspots across Australia. There are an extensive range of natural areas to discover, most of which are open to the public with varying levels of accessibility. Local suburban parklands and trails, beaches and rocky reefs, conservation parks and reserves, river trails and wetlands.

Bassett Street Reserve, Willunga
Bassett Street Reserve, Willunga

You don’t have to travel far to find biodiverse areas. Local suburban and regional parks and waterways support many wild species. A visit to any of these can be a quick way to record a few dozen observations. Don’t forget to record the introduced species which can often be found in abundance in suburban areas, and can help to build up the total species recorded for the challenge. A small selection of interesting parks are listed below, some of which have associated iNaturalist projects.

Happy Valley Reservoir

Many of the Greater Adelaide reservoirs have been partially opened up to the public in recent years. Intended for recreation, these often have great facilities and wide gravel tracks in addition to lots of nature. A visit to any of these during the City Nature Challenge should net you some interesting observations, and provide a good spot for a picnic or coffee.

Oaklands Wetland and Reserve, South Australia
Oaklands Wetland & Reserve

There are many wetlands and river trails to choose from in the Greater Adelaide region. A visit to any of these will offer a good range of water birds to record and wetland plants. (Although as the focus for iNaturalist is ‘wild’ organisms, best to avoid recording plants known to have been planted, or if doing so make sure to mark them as Casual observations).

Aldinga Reef
Aldinga Reef

The Greater Adelaide region includes a long coastline, with large stretches of beachfront near Metropolitan Adelaide and at locations around the Fleurieu Peninsula. There are numerous shore accessible reefs and dive spots. The list below covers just some of the most biodiverse coastal sites in the Greater Adelaide region.

Mount Lofty Botanic Garden Banner
Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens and Zoos can also offer great opportunity to record various species. Skip recording the captive Animals and cultivated Plants, but anything else is up for grabs (including THIS little Skink if you can find it).

Heysen Trail, Kyeema
Heysen Trail, Kyeema

The Greater Adelaide region includes a number of long hikes which pass through a diverse range of environments offering opportunities to record many different species.

Onkaparinga River NP Banner
Onkaparinga River National Park

There are many protected parks within Greater Adelaide worth a visit during the City Nature Challenge. Recreation Parks, Conservation Parks, National Parks, Forestry Reserves. Most of which are a great place to spend a day discovering what the natural world has to offer. Try standing in one spot and see how many species you can find within visual range. Every one is worth recording and uploading to iNaturalist. From the Eucalypts above your head to the Mosses on the ground below. You can find over 450 parks in the Protected Parks of South Australia iNaturalist project. For the City Nature Challenge, stick to visiting those within the Greater Adelaide.

UV Light (19th Mar, 2022)

An almost ideal warm and still night resulting in a large number of species visiting the sheet, seven of which are new records on the property.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8:30pm – 10:30pm (2 hours).

Observations: 59

Species: 47

Interesting Records:

Click here to see all iNaturalist records for the evening

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth2
48200MelolonthinaeJune Beetles1
49567CarabidaeGround Beetles1
63187BraconidaeBraconid Wasps1
71220GryllotalpidaeMole Crickets1
82103ErotylidaePleasing Fungus Beetles1
85586AnthicidaeAnt-like Flower Beetles1
85862LeptoceridaeLong-horned Caddisflies1
124226EctropisEngrailed Moths1
125231Utetheisa pulchelloidesHeliotrope Moth1
155185AlticiniFlea Beetles1
172901SilvanidaeSilvanid Flat Bark Beetles1
210509Harmonia conformisLarge Spotted Ladybird1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
212151ColydiinaeCylindrical Bark Beetles1
233683Xanthogaleruca luteolaElm Leaf Beetle1
244280Spectrotrota fimbrialis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
244344Scopula rubrariaPlantain moth1
341941Idaea inversata1
342292XyloryctidaeTimber Moths1
342329Idaea philocosmaFlecked Wave Moth1
355063Uraba lugensGum Leaf Skeletonizer1
355077Tachystola hemisema1
355155Hoplostega ochroma1
425106Syringoseca rhodoxantha1
425199Scoparia exhibitalis1
527847Earias paralellaThree-barred Earis1
828976Isopedella leaiCinnamon Huntsman1
891985Mallada tripunctatus1
892310Clarana clarana1
1098124Phauloplana illuta1

Happy Valley Reservoir (19th Mar, 2022)

Context: Opened to the public in December 2022, as part of Glenthorne National Park, the reservoir offers 4 wide gravel walking trails, cycling, kayaking, fishing and facilities. This park is all about suburban recreation.

iNaturalist Projects:

Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve, South Australia

Glenthorne National Park – Ityamaiitpinna Yarta, South Australia

SW007 Happy Valley Reservoir North Bush For Life /SA Water site

SW008 Happy Valley South Bush For Life / SA Water Site

A park I’ve been meaning to visit since it opened, but have been reluctant given the expansive carpark is frequently full. For this introductory walk we followed the western part of the South Loop, from the Southern carpark, across the dam wall to the Western Carpark, and back again.

The mature Eucalypts near the carpark provide some shade and quality nesting sites for the Birds. Both Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos appeared to be staking out some hollows. The breeze coming across the reservoir, north to south, took the edge off the hot weather. In this sections of the park there’s limited understory, but quite a population of Native Apricot (Pittosporum angustifolium). Wherever the Eucalypts had accessible branches close to the ground, we found numerous Honeybrown Beetles (Ecnolagria sp.). A couple of Pacific Black Ducks in the reservoir showed orange legs indicating they were hybridised with feral Mallards. There are many such hybrids downstream from the reservoir as far as the Fountain Valley Drive pond.

Near the dam wall there were a few Western Grey Kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) feeding on the green vegetation closer to the edge of the water. Another on the sloping outer face of the dam wall. The breeze dropped away along the exposed dam wall and the heat radiated back from the gravel track, making it rather unpleasant. Although the dam wall was all stone down to the water’s edge, a few Birds were making use of this area. A Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos), a White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) and a half-dozen Silver Gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae).

Returning along the treed section of the path there were several Long-billed Corellas (Cacatua tenuirostris) and under the trees a Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) trying to disappear.

As an introductory walk through the park, the dam wall seemed like the feature to see, but if you’re looking for nature perhaps heading to the more treed Eastern side of the reservoir might be more worth while.

Head to iNatutralist to see the full list of observations

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
42881Macropus fuliginosusWestern Grey Kangaroo3
8575Gymnorhina tibicenAustralian Magpie2
3335Phaps chalcopteraCommon Bronzewing1
3740Threskiornis moluccaAustralian White Ibis1
4872Vanellus milesMasked Lapwing1
4936Egretta novaehollandiaeWhite-faced Heron1
8583Grallina cyanoleucaMagpie-lark1
12622Anthochaera carunculataRed Wattlebird1
58822Dittrichia graveolensStinkwort1
64103Agave americanaAmerican century plant1
76764Echium plantagineumpurple viper’s-bugloss1
116834Cacatua galeritaSulphur-crested Cockatoo1
116839Cacatua tenuirostrisLong-billed Corella1
144507Chroicocephalus novaehollandiaeSilver Gull1
144560Eolophus roseicapillaGalah1
149448Heteronympha meropeCommon Brown1
349255Pittosporum angustifoliumNative apricot1
370351Microcarbo melanoleucosLittle Pied Cormorant1
404420Osteospermum moniliferumBietou1
410743Anas superciliosa × platyrhynchosPacific Black Duck × Mallard hybrid1

Milestone: Belair National Park 10,000 Observations

Belair National Park iNaturalist Project has reached 10,000 observations!

Congratulations to the 263 observers who have contributed to this being the first Protected Parks Project in South Australia to reach this milestone, and the 696 identifiers who have provided 17,700 IDs.

The top 10 observers have recorded 73% of the total observations, with 253 observers providing the remaining 27%.

To date, 1211 species have been recorded in the park, of which 169 are introduced species. The most recorded species is the Waxlip Orchid (Glossodia major) with 158 records. Other taxa include:

Check out the full list of favourite observations.

If you have any expertise, help out with observation identifications for Belair National Park.

Don’t let this milestone convince you this park has been fully explored. There are still many tracks with no records at all, and many more with limited records for specific taxa. So get out there and keep exploring.

UV Light (12th Mar, 2022)

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8pm – 10:30pm (2.5 hours).

Observations: 41

Species: 24

Interesting Records:

Having the sheet mounted to a shed wall means easy access to a feast for flightless predators. This Isopedella leai (Cinnamon Huntsman) made its way onto the sheet and partook in a Crane Fly meal. A young Christinus marmoratus (Southern Marbled Gecko) took advantage of any Insects dropping to the ground, but the adults which frequently visit were absent.

A couple of Conocephalus sp. (Lesser Meadow Katydids) turned up and climbed to the top of the sheet. A new species on the property. More commonly I find Elephantodeta sp.

A new Tineidae sp. (Fungus/Clothes Moths). Within this Family I frequently sight Monopis meliorella (Blotched Monopis Moth), and Monopis crocicapitella (Bird Nest Moth).

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
33449Christinus marmoratusSouthern Marbled Gecko1
47404PterophoridaePlume Moths1
48736CurculionidaeTrue Weevils1
53248ElateridaeClick Beetles1
53275ChironomidaeNon-biting Midges1
61267HeteropteraTrue Bugs1
62163HydropsychidaeNet-spinning Caddisflies1
118890ConocephalusLesser Meadow Katydids1
208095Stathmopoda auriferella1
210509Harmonia conformisLarge Spotted Ladybird1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
225223Monopis crocicapitellaBird Nest Moth1
233683Xanthogaleruca luteolaElm Leaf Beetle1
244282Endotricha pyrosalis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
342329Idaea philocosmaFlecked Wave Moth1
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth1
542831Hypsopygia albidalis1
828976Isopedella leaiCinnamon Huntsman1
891985Mallada tripunctatus1

300,000 Verifiable Observations!

On the 8th of March 2022, we reached 300,000 verifiable observations uploaded in South Australia!

Congratulations to all who have contributed to this milestone. The first observations in SA were uploaded around mid-2011 and had only reached 4,500 by the end of 2017. Since then however the rate has increase dramatically reaching 23,500 by end of 2018, then 66,800 by end of 2019, on to 162,400 by end of 2020, and 282,700 by end of 2021.

We surpassed 100,000 observations in May 2020. It took 9 years to reach that milestone. It took only 12 months to add the second 100,000, and only 10 months to add the third 100,000! We are currently uploading over 300 new observations per day.

Alas, the exponential increase in observations cannot continue forever, and has been dropping year by year. 2018 saw a 520% increase in observations, 2019 a 280% increase, 2020 a 240% increase, and in 2021 a 170% increase. If we estimate a 140% increase this year, we’ll reach 400,000 observations by the end of 2022. And all it would take is 336 observations per day.

Quick Stats:

  • 4,242 observers have uploaded records of 8,726 species across the state
  • 68.2% of all verifiable observations are Research Grade
  • 9,401 observations of 244 Threatened species
  • 22,639 observations of 932 Introduced species
  • 4,780 identifiers have made 543,600 identifications on observations from SA
  • Observations by Taxa: 56,340 Birds, 884 Amphibians, 7,293 Reptiles, 7,016 Mammals, 11,729 Ray-finned Fishes, 10,360 Molluscs, 8,832 Arachnids, 52,725 Insects, 114,858 Plants, 11,376 Fungi, 1,588 Kelp & 155 Protozoans
  • Species by Taxa: 362 Birds, 20 Amphibians, 172 Reptiles, 85 Mammals, 278 Ray-finned Fishes, 486 Molluscs, 344 Arachnids, 2,685 Insects, 3020 Plants, 499 Fungi, 71 Kelp & 15 Protozoans

SA iNaturalists – February 2022

This February saw 6,569 observations covering 1,637 species from a total of 457 observers. There were 66 species receiving their first iNat record in SA. This month there were 68 new observers contributing their first observations in SA. Upon this months observations, 542 identifiers contributed a total of 11,529 identifications.

February, being one of the hottest months, tends to produce fewer observations than any other month, except perhaps June. Local participation in iNaturalist is up 10.1% on February 2021, however observations are down 4.7% and species observed in the month down 4.2%. As the purpose of iNaturalist to is to encourage citizens to engage with nature, this aim is still being successfully fulfilled. 457 people in SA took the time this month to step outside and record something of interest.

Uploads for SA at the end of January stand at 298,457 observations of 8,703 species from 4,225 observers with, as of today, 4,780 identifiers providing 543,265 identifications. (We’ll probably hit 300k observations by the time I post this!)

It’s almost time for the City Nature Challenge again. Running 29th April through 2nd May. The City Nature Challenge: Greater Adelaide project is up and running. Join the project to show your support. If you’re new to the CNC, see the extended introduction.

Featured Observations from February
Some great close ups of a Fairy Shrimp by @andamooka.
A Whitefly with a local name, Pseudozaphanera wariensis by @mariannebroug.
A ‘Corellatoo’ by @magpies_friends.
An Insect-Parasitising Nematodes by @dmail.
A suspected Cicada-Parasite Beetle Rhipicera femorata by @nomesdownunder.
The first record of Synemon theresa on iNat by @adrianuren.
A Sand-Loving Wasp taking on a Mantis by @belindacopland.
See the full list of the popular observations from February here.
(These are taken from observation during the month with at least one ‘favourite’. If you see an interesting observation from SA, remember to favourite it, and it might appear here at the end of the month).

Featured Project
The Adelaide Parklands Umbrella Project brings together 32 separate park projects encompassing the 7.6 square kilometres of parks surrounding Adelaide. 374 observers have uploaded 5,400 observations from 655 species so far, with so much more to discover. Why not check out the Chequered Copper Butterfly conservation site in Victoria Park .

Do you have a particular expertise and are keen to help out with identifications in SA? Select your favourite taxa below to head to the Identify page:
Aves / Amphibia / Reptilia / Mammalia / Ray-Finned Fishes / Mollusca / Arachnida / Insecta / Plantae / Fungi / Protozoa / Unknowns

Top observers & species observed in February:

(Data used for this post taken on the 8th of March. It excludes any observations and identifications from February that were uploaded after this date)

UV Light (5th Mar, 2022)

A cool, overcast, and a little windy evening wasn’t ideal for the moth sheet, but anecdotally these nights seem to bring in a different range of species.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8pm – 9:30pm (1.5 hours). Stopped due to rain.

Observations: 19

Species: 15

Interesting Records:

A Pond Moth (Hygraula nitens). I’ve only sighted once before in April last year. 1,000 observations of these on iNat across AU and NZ, but no records of the aquatic larva. The larva are covered in ‘gills structures’ rather than hairs. Might be worth skimming my small pond to see what turns up.

A Leaf Blotch Miner Moth in the Genus Dialectica. The first Leaf Blotch Miner from my property. It could be a native species but is likely the intentionally introduced Echium Leaf Miner (Dialectica scalariella).

A Bark-louse I’ve not seen before. As yet unidentified. I’ll need to do some research to narrow this one down if possible.

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
53505MiridaePlant Bugs1
55699CecidomyiidaeGall and Forest Midges1
83187PsocodeaBarklice, Booklice, and Parasitic Lice1
225223Monopis crocicapitellaBird Nest Moth1
244280Spectrotrota fimbrialis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
341427Agrotis mundaBrown Cutworm1
341877Hygraula nitensPond moth1
355155Hoplostega ochroma1
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth1

Pacific Black Duck….or Not?

For more in depth info head over to eBird Australia

Identifying Mallard x Pacific Black Duck Hybrids

The Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), in the Family Anatidae, is one of the most common native dabbling Ducks. It can be found all across Australia, typically in association with water sources, i.e. ponds, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and is frequently seen in urban waterways.

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) was introduced to Australia in the 1860s and has been spreading slowly across the south east and other populated areas.

These closely related species have similar habits and occupy the same environments. Where they are both present, the Mallards will breed with the local Pacific Black Ducks. With several broods each year of 7 to 12 ducklings, and 20% reaching adulthood, the Mallard genes quickly make their way into the local Pacific Black Duck population.

The New Zealand population of Pacific Black Ducks, locally known as Grey Ducks, is generally considered to be so extensively hybridized with Mallards, that the pure Grey Duck is considered exceptionally rare, bordering on extinct.

So when you spot what appears to be a Pacific Black Duck, how can you tell if it is actually a hybrid with Mallard genes? Being able to identify which are hybrids is a great skill to have. In urban areas you’ll quickly discover just how far ranging this issue already is, and you can help to spread awareness.

First up are the hybrids that have very distinct and obvious traits. Even to the untrained eye, the first impression will be that something ain’t right.

The easiest hybrid trait to recognise is the colour of the legs and feet. Mallards have bright orange legs, whereas PBDs have typically grey/green, dusky brown or tan. Hybrids can have legs bright orange like the Mallards. Some will have a duller orange. In photographs, lighting conditions can affect how orange the legs look. In dim light they can look darker. In early or evening warm sunlight, they can look more orange than usual.

A patchy bill is also quite easy to recognise, assuming you can get close enough to see. A pure PBD will have an evenly coloured grey/green bill. A hybrid may have an orange, yellow, or green bill often with patches.

Hybrids may also show lighter feathers and/or feathers with broad buff fringes. A pure PBD will have narrow buff fringes. This trait is a little more difficult to identify, in that it requires some observation experience of both PBDs and hybrids. This can be difficult in urban areas where many are hybrids showing varying degrees of this trait. (Also note below the ducklings show hybrid traits with varying facial markings).

There are several features on the head that may indicate a hybrid. A pure PBD will have a dark stripe from the gape to below the eye. (This stripe is not quite as dark/solid as the stripe through the eye). Hybrids may have this stripe entirely missing, a faint or wider stripe, or partial stripe that doesn’t extend the full distance. Additionally the crown of a PBD is typically quite dark. A streaked or paler crown may suggest a hybrid, however this may also be present on juveniles.

The final few visible traits that may be present in hybrids are a little more difficult to spot. In part because they are a matter of ‘degree’ where observation experience is necessary, or they are only visible in certain circumstances.

The coloured patch (speculum) on the wing of a pure PBD is iridescent green, bordered fore and aft by black. A hybrid may have an iridescent blue patch, however seeing this will depend on lighting angle. A hybrid may also show a white fore and aft trim, reminiscent of the Mallard which has a wide white trim.

Finally, the hybrids may show streaking / mottling extending up into the cream face patches and the tail feathers may be curled, as is typical of the Mallard.

Additionally, there are a sometimes atypical combinations of traits that indicate hybridisation, possibly with one of the domestic varieties of Mallard.

Further to the above, there is no guarantee that a hybrid will show any obvious visible traits. In urban areas where Mallards have been present for some time, it’s possible that all the local Pacific Black Ducks now have some Mallard ancestry.

There are a couple of other feral ducks that you may spot, particularly in urban areas. There are a few varieties of domestic Mallards that come in a range of colours. In fewer numbers, feral domestic Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) may be seen. These are quite easy to identify with their red warty faces.

To give some idea of the scale of the hybrid issue, almost all the above images have been recorded in the metropolitan areas in South Australia.

Considering all the above, let’s revisit the first photo in this post. Now how many pure Pacific Black Ducks can you see? Knowledge is the key to seeing the issue that’s been right in front of us the whole time.

If you’d like to help slow the spread of hybridisation, you can start by spreading the knowledge. Photograph any potential hybrids or feral Mallards you see and upload the images to iNaturalist. These records are synced with the Atlas of Living Australia and become records that can be utilised by scientists for research.

Below are a few links to further images, records and information on the issue of Pacific Black Duck x Mallard hybrids.

All iNaturalist records across South Australia for PBD x Mallard hybrids. Review the records and see if you can spot the hybrid traits. Some of the records have explanations in the comments.

All iNaturalist records across South Australia for pure Pacific Black Ducks. It’s worth noting that many of these records may yet be shown to be hybrids. See if you can spot any that might need correcting.

Mallards & hybrids in Australia iNaturalist Project, pooling over 3,000 records of feral Mallards and hybrids across Australia.

Mallard and Hybrid Ducks in Tasmania Facebook group. A wealth of information on hybrids.

New iNaturalist Project: Mount Bold Reservoir

As of December 2021 a section of the Mount Bold Reservoir has been opened up to the public. A 450 hectare area is now accessible, with more than 13km of walking trails, new carpark, toilets, and picnic facilities, and a new lookout platform.

There are three new walking trails along the southern side of the reservoir. A 1.3km Grade 2 Lookout Trail, and two Grade 5 trails at 5.1km (loop) and 9.4km (one way). See the full details including map on the Reservoirs SA website.

An iNaturalist Collection Project has been established to collect observations from across the Mount Bold Reservoir, even though much of the area is still restricted. This project has been added to the ‘Protected Parks of South Australia’ Umbrella project.