Context: Limestone platform extending 400 meters out from the coastal cliffs forming part of the Aldinga Reef Sanctuary Zone. Walk to the edge of the platform during low tide. Snorkel off the edge. Keep an eye out for Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints.
Port Jackson Sharks (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) are quite common along Adelaide’s coastline. They tuck their eggs into rock crevices, some of which get loose and wash up on the shore. You’re almost guaranteed to find a few any time you walk along this section of Aldinga Beach.
While the tide is out and the limestone platform exposed, many of the shorebirds rest far from the sandy shore. I’ll often extend the camera to full zoom and take some panning shots to review when I return home. Occasionally I’ll spot a Bird in the mix I would have otherwise missed. In this instance, the technique worked. Off to the side of one of the photos was an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) feeding. This was my first record of this species and it was completely unexpected. Endangered in SA, these are considered absent on the Fleurieu Peninsula, although this is likely referring to breeding pairs. It’s a shame I didn’t spot it while we were on site. I might have been able to get some more reasonable photos, without disturbing it of course.
On the final day of the City Nature Challenge we stopped in at Brodie Road Wetlands along Christie Creek. An easy suburban walk around a manmade wetland guaranteed to add a few Birds to my CNC species list.
Context: 15.4km2 of steep river valley, remnant Eucalyptus woodland, degraded ex-farmland infested with introduced European Olive, and revegetation sites. Numerous recreational walking tracks and lookouts over the valley and down to the river. Includes Hardy’s Scrub on the the south side of Chapel Hill Road.
With a few hours left on day three of the City Nature Challenge I stopped in at Onkaparinga River National Park to search along the start of the Echidna Hike. The section of the hike that runs parallel to Piggott Range Road seems relatively undisturbed, with quite a high number of species in a small area.
First record was an abnormal growth on a Sticky Hop-Bush (Dodonaea viscosa). These growths are quite common with many plants showing at least one patch, and some with dozens. The growth is potentially caused by a Phytoplasma (Genus Phytoplasma). These small genome Bacteria are obligate intracellular parasites of plant phloem tissue, transmitted by sap-sucking Insects. I’ve never noticed any particular Hemiptera associated with these Dodonaeas, but it might be worth taking a closer look. The literature suggests that multiple Hemiptera species are involved, but it seems likely there is a primary transmitter in each area or region. If that’s the case I should be able to find a particular species of Bug on multiple Hop-Bushes.
This time of year identifying some species requires knowledge of either what dried seed pods look like, or be able to recognise the first shoots emerging now the rainy season is beginning. The finished flower stalk and empty fruit capsules of Milkmaids (Burchardia umbellata) are easy to ID, due to the way the stalk branches. The tall flower stalk of the Nodding Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium fimbriatum) is also quite distinct. It can be separated from the stalk of the Common Chocolate-lily (Arthropodium strictum) in that the flowers occur in groups of 2 to 4 emerging from the same axil.
The emerging Fringe-Lilies are easy to recognise from their twining branches, with the Twining Fringe-Lily (Thysanotus patersonii) most common at this location. Also emerging are the leaves of the Blue Stars (Chamaescilla corymbosa), which I used to mistake for Orchids, and can be separated in that they have multiple emerging leaves, whereas the local similar looking Orchids have a single leaf at this stage.
Context: Native woodland covering historic gold minefield with numerous mine shafts throughout. Landscape sloping down toward a feeder creek for the Echunga Creek system. Includes a section of the Heysen Trail. Messmate Stringybark, Cup Gum and Pink Gum woodland over Beaked Hakea, Heath Tea-tree, Large-leaf Bush Pea, Honeypots and Fire Daisy. Keep an eye out for uncommon Birds down by the creek including Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Crested Shrike-Tits, White-naped Honeyeaters, and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.
Third stop on day three of the City Nature Challenge was the Jupiter Creek Diggings. Starting at the main carpark I followed the track to the South, then down toward the creek, along a section of the Heysen Trail, and back up the hill.
Both Beaked Hakea (Hakea rostrata) and Erect Hakea (Hakea carinata) occur through this area, easily differentiated from one another by looking at the seed pods. I also recorded Wrinkled Hakeas (Hakea rugosa) elsewhere during the CNC. Always record the seed pods if you want a species level ID when uploading to iNaturalist.
This area offers a lot more on a warm Spring day, with Waxlip Orchids, flowering Bitter Peas and Pimeleas, and a greater array of local Bird species. The tall Eucalypts down by the creek offer a lot of nesting sites for Purple-crowned and Rainbow Lorikeets.
Second stop on day three of the City Nature Challenge was the Rocky Creek Forest section of Kuitpo Forest. Starting on Razorback Road, where the Heysen Trail crosses, I hiked South-West through several of the plantations, and looped back. The established hardwood plantations have a sparse understory of native shrubs, groundcovers and a few Orchids.
Context: 55km2 of natural woodland, creeks, and forestry reserves surrounding the largest reservoir in SA, on the Onkaparinga River. Walking trails open to the public from Razorback Road in 2022. Messmate Stringybark, Pink Gum, and Cup Gum mid woodland over Golden Wattle, Large-leaf Bush Pea, Beaked Hakea, Heath Tea-tree, Slaty Oak-bush, Austral Bracken, Wire Rapier-sedge and Native Cranberry. A significant section of the Northern side of the reservoir was burnt out in the 2021 Cherry Gardens bushfire. Look out for more than 30 Orchid and 9 Sundew species, Southern Brown Bandicoots and Yellow-footed Antechinus, and Peregrine Falcons.
First hike of the City Nature Challenge day three was the recently opened section of Mount Bold Reservoir. Having not visited before I opted for the easy Lookout Trail, but found some time to add a loop around some woodland just East of the carpark.
At the entrance was a Health Alert sign warning that encephalitis causing mosquitoes may be present in the area. Long sleeves, long pants and DEET are recommended.
This accessible Grade 2 walk runs through Eucalyptus woodland with a dense thicket of Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha). This being a pioneer species, I assume this area experienced a fire some years back. The high density of this growth is typical, eventually thinning out as the slower growing Eucalypts begin to overtake them. This process is just beginning in the burnt sections of Scott Creek I hiked through recently with a high density of two foot tall Golden Wattles. Scott Creek also had high density areas of Hop Goodenia (Goodenia ovata) and Myrtle Wattle (Acacia myrtifolia), but these were absent here.
High in one of the Eucalypts I heard, then spotted a Western Whistler (Pachycephala fuliginosa). Until recently these were known as South Australian Golden Whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis fuligens), but a recent genetic study indicates these are morphologically and genetically much closer to birds from SW Western Australia than to Golden Whistlers from eastern Australia and are essentially indistinguishable from western birds. Following naming conventions, the WA Birds and those in SA are now Pachycephala fuliginosa, with a crossover area in South-East SA with the Eastern species Pachycephala pectoralis.
Heading down toward the the lookout the understory biodiversity increases with Spoon-leaf Spyridium (Spyridium spathulatum) becoming common. This is a rare local SA species with patches occurring in Mount Bold, Morialta CP and Deep Creek. (More common on KI). I didn’t expect to find it here. It’s a new species for my Life List and for my CNC observations. Also present was Leafless Bitter-pea (Daviesia brevifolia), a species that puts on an excellent flower show at the right time of year.
The lookout is ideally located with a long view across the reservoir and down to the dam. Afternoon is perhaps a better time to visit to admire the view, when the sun will be lighting up the dam wall.
Near the lookout a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) shot out from the trees and began circling around the area directly out from the lookout. Species like this are hard to specifically search for during a bioblitz, but if you spend enough time looking you’ll have many such chance encounters with uncommon species.
To highlight exactly this, walking back along the Lookout Trail I spotted a Robin amongst the Golden Wattles. I took a few photos before realising this was not the common Scarlet Robin seen in the area, but a Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii). Although it’s not unheard of to spot one here, or other locations in the Adelaide Hills, this species tends to live in more arid regions. These nearest location where they are frequently sighted is around Monarto.
Context: 200 hectares of Brown Stringybark, Cup Gum, Manna Gum, and Pink Gum woodland over Heath Tea-tree, Beaked Hakea, Silver Banksia, Flat-leaf Grass-tree, Common Flat-Pea, Austral Bracken and numerous Orchids. Keep an eye out for Wallflower, Rabbit and Hare Orchids, Purple Beard Orchids, Pygmy Sundews, and Bassian Thrush.
Fifth and final stop on the second City Nature Challenge day was Mount Billy Conservation Park. This park is only a short drive from Spring Mount CP and was worth a quick visit to pick up a few extra species. I started at the Northern most gate on Hindmarsh Tiers Road and hiked a short 600 metre loop around the fire tracks in the top corner of the park.
I wasn’t aware prior to my visit that this corner of the park had recently undergone a prescribed burn. As such I stuck to the fire track to avoid disturbing the burnt ground.
Along the border of the fire track some Greenhoods (Genus Pterostylis) had started putting up their leaves, possibly Maroonhoods (Pterostylis pedunculata) or Nodding Greenhoods (Pterostylis nutans) which I’ve sighted flowering here previously. Other Orchids were doing the same, include the Red Beaks (Pyrorchis nigricans) which might produce a good flowering display brought on by the fire. The Hare Orchids (Leporella fimbriata) were back, right in the middle of the fire track. Even when flowering these are tough to see unless you are specifically looking for them. It’s always worth keeping an eye on where you are stepping when walking through these parks.
The Sundews are also starting to appear. Whittaker’s Sundews (Drosera whittakeri) along this section of the track. I missed out on the Pygmy Sundews (Drosera pygmaea) which have been seen here too, but I’m not surprised. At less than 15mm across, if you’re not specifically looking for them, you’ll likely walk right past them.
Context: 2.8km2 of mature Brown and Messmate Stringybark over Beaked Hakea, Large-leaf Bush Pea, Common Heath, Common Flat-pea, Honeypots and Wire Rapier-sedge. Breeding ground for the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo and habitat for the Bassian Thrush. Look out for Hairy Correa, Dwarf Micrantheum, Scrambling Guinea-flower and Yellow-footed Antechinus.
Stop four on the second City Nature Challenge day was Spring Mount Conservation Park. The original plan was to follow the fire break along the boundary fence heading North. But upon arrival this looked to be a dense layer of medium height shrubs about 20 metres deep. I’d miss much of the bird life here as the Stringybark trees were much further back. As such I took a short hike along the main fire track through the park starting at the carpark on Mount Alma Road.
This park is often seems very quiet and still, unless the Sulphur-crested or Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are hanging about. Their calls almost echo through the park. There’s not a lot of colour about this time of year, but the Common Heath (Epacris impressa) flowers stand out.
Different parks seem to have different species of Bull Ants that dominate. Aldinga Scrub, for example, has a lot of Black-scaped Bull Ants (Myrmecia nigriscapa). Look down as you walk along and you’ll spot multiple on every walk, usually after they’ve spotted you and begun backing away. In Spring Mount CP the Black Jumper Ants (Myrmecia pilosula) dominate. Their nests can easily be spotted along the edge of the fire track. These are active during the day and climb up understory shrubs looking for prey. It’s all too easy to brush past a branch and end up with one or more of these crawling on you. Unfortunately their venom is quite immunogenic and responsible for the majority of anaphylactic reactions associated with Ants in Australia. So, long sleeves and long pants recommended in this and nearby parks.
No sighting of any Cockatoos. There were a few small Bird species high in the trees, but against the overcast daylight these were difficult to spot, let alone photograph. I did encounter a White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea) doing its thing up one of the Stringybarks.
(1) RENTZ, D. (2014). A Guide to the Cockroaches of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne
Location three on the second day of the City Nature Challenge was Lady Bay Beach. When the tide is out, the beach south of the HMAS Hobart lookout has quite a variety of seashells. I hiked a few kilometres down the beach along the rocks, then looped back above the high tide line, all the while keeping an eye out for birds of prey on the coastal cliffs.
The section of beach just South of the HMAS Hobart lookout is sandy and frequently covered in sea wrack. This spot seems to be a favourite for a few Bird species. This time it was the Masked Lapwings (Vanellus miles), Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) and a Raven (Corvus sp.).
As far as Molluscs go the highlight of the day was a Fimbriate Helmet Snail (Cassis fimbriata). These are reasonably common, and I found three on this day, but it’s uncommon to find an intact shell with much of its colour remaining. As you can see by my hand, these are quite a bit larger than most other shells found.
Along the beach it’s always worth lifting your head occasionally to look beyond the sand. Interesting marine Birds often fly past and if the timing is right you can get some reasonable photos. Keep an eye on the rocky shoreline as well. Today I was lucky to spot a Pacific Reef-Heron (Egretta sacra) hunting near the water. Only the second time I’ve spotted this species, the first at Hallett Cove.
Reaching a far point and heading back, a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus) flying into a strong headwind flew directly overhead. I managed to capture a few photos of it slowly making headway into the wind. With the sun behind, the different rows of feathers are highlighted.
One final interesting find was a species of Meshweaver Spider (Family Dictynidae). A chance encounter with one running across a rock, which I wish I’d stopped to take more detailed photos of this uncommonly sighted Family.
Context: Proclaimed in 2022, combining the historic Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park comprising sand dunes, sand blows and remnant coastal vegetation, and the Aldinga Washpool, a rare ephemeral freshwater wetland.
The second location visited on day two of the City Nature Challenge was just around the corner from Hart Road Wetlands. Starting at the Aldinga Conservation Park carpark on Dover Street, I hiked along the Kangaroo Track until I reached a section of the park that appeared to have had some historic clearing. I spent some time exploring this patch before heading back along the same track.
Dotted throughout this park is the Ruddy Beard-heath (Leucopogon rufus). Thanks to molecular phylogenetic studies this particular species, and a few others, have recently been moved to the Genus Styphelia, taking on the new name Styphelia rufa. (The same change has been made to Astroloma humifusum which has become Styphelia humifusa, effectively eliminating Astroloma in SA).