Scott Creek CP (11th Sept, 2022)

Context: 750 hectares located north of Mount Bold Reservoir consisting of hilly terrain and creeks through stringybark scrub with dense understory, walking tracks and historic mining operations. The Eastern half of the park was burnt out by intense wildfire in January 2021.

iNaturalist Projects:

Scott Creek Conservation Park, South Australia

Bushfire Recovery – Scott Creek CP (2021-2024)

Ferals in South Australian Reserves – Scott Creek CP

See the full list of 66 observations covering 53 species on iNaturalist

Typical of early Spring, the sun shines during the week and it rains on the weekends just when I’m available to get outdoors. This Sunday wasn’t too bad though, light drizzle at most. Still, overcast and tough conditions for getting good photos. Also cool, keeping the Insects grounded.

I took to Scott Creek Conservation Park to wander a section I’ve not visited before. Starting at the staging area along Frith Road I hopped the fence and followed the rough vehicle track west until opposite Thornley Road, then headed north, down the hill along the edge of the scrub.

Most of the undergrowth has been removed in this area, with the a sparse population of Eucalypts remaining and the more hardy large shrubs like Kangaroo Thorn and Sticky Hop-Bush.

The open grass area, like any other degraded area, was filled with the usual invasive weeds. A patch of Onion-Leafed Asphodel (Asphodelus fistulosus) and lots of Paterson’s Curse (Echium plantagineum) being visited by Honey Bees (Apis mellifera).

Much of this area has had multiple uses over the years, so it’s not uncommon to find introduced plant species that may or may not have been planted many decades ago. In an open spot there was a large Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus mollis). This one is considered an environmental weed in some areas. It also happens to be a new species for my Life List.

Along the fence line were a few large Beaked Hakeas (Hakea rostrata) in full flower. One of these I spotted at Hardy’s Scrub recently was awash with Insect life, especially native Bees, once the morning sun had warmed it enough. This morning however was too cold and the only species I found on it was the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). These introduced Bees can forage in temperatures 12-15°C, whereas many of our native Bees need a few degrees warmer before they can forage. Amongst the thicket of old shrubs and Hakeas along the fence, several Superb Fairywrens (Malurus cyaneus) were flitting about showing beginnings of breeding plumage.

The weeds continued along the vehicle track with several Boneseeds (Osteospermum moniliferum) in flower and patches of Bridal Creeper infected with Bridal Creeper Rust (Puccinia myrsiphylli).

A Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) shot out from across the road and spun around for a while on top of a fence post. I also managed to glimpse a Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris) amongst the branches of a Drooping Sheoak. I don’t come across this species often.

I’ve been attempting to take note of anomalous plant growth caused by pathogens or triggered by various Insects. On one of the Sticky Hop-Bushes (Dodonaea viscosa) there were a few areas of distorted growth caused by a Phytoplasma. These bacteria are often transmitted by Leafhoppers (Family Cicadellidae) and cause a ‘witch’s broom’ type of growth, which is quite easy to spot.

Perched at the top of a dead Eucalyptus trunk I spotted and Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis). It hung around for a few minutes periodically calling. A couple of White-browed Scrubwrens (Sericornis frontalis) had also spotted the Cuckoo and were rather unhappy about its presence.

I followed the vehicle track north and downhill along the edge of the scrub. The upper story seems to be mostly Pink Gum (Eucalyptus fasciculosa), Brown-top Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) and Cup Gum (Eucalyptus cosmophylla). The open grass area was being utilised by a mob of Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). At the bottom of the hill where the park met farmland, an old vehicle track headed west into the scrub. I didn’t realise this track was here as I couldn’t see it on the satellite maps. It ran along side the farmland and met up with a feeder creek that appears to eventually join up with the Onkaparinga River. I located a few Whittaker’s Sundews (Drosera whittakeri), Rock Ferns (Cheilanthes austrotenuifolia) and some Prickly Guinea-Flowers (Hibbertia exutiacies). The creek was flowing heavily this time of year. The track continued past the creek but I was out of time and will need to return another time to investigate further. There are likely to be a few interesting species worth recording along the creek line.

Onkaparinga River NP (10th Sept, 2022)

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.

iNaturalist Projects

Onkaparinga River National Park, South Australia

Ferals in South Australian Reserves – Onkaparinga River NP

See the full list of 83 observations covering 55 species on iNaturalist

After somewhat of a Winter hiatus, I’ve returned to regular biodiversity hiking now the weather is improving. A good place to start was a short loop around a section of Hardy’s Scrub in the Onkaparinga River National Park. Following Old Quarry Track for approx. 150m, I took a left turn and followed a narrow track that ran through the scrub, down to Blewitt Springs Road, then back up to Old Quarry Track.

The introduced Freesias that are a significant invasive species in parts of Hardy’s Scrub were appearing near the Chapel Hill Rd gate. Although not in the great numbers as other sections of the park. A patch of Geraniums and the all too common Bridal Creeper had their place near the gate too.

The track slopes gently to the right side. This time of year the high side of the track is populated by three, perhaps four, native carnivorous Sundew species. The most prominent is Drosera gunniana. One of the tall growing species, its mucin droplets produced by the stalked glands on the leaves glisten in the sunlight. The species has the inflorescence close to the final leaves, with hairy sepals. The similar Drosera auriculata has the inflorescence held well above the leaves, with glabrous sepals. The other two are the common in the region Drosera whittakeri with its rosette of leaves a few inches in diameter, and the much smaller Drosera glanduligera.

On that first section of track, we spotted one of my favourite local Ant species on a Grass Tree, a Dolichoderus scabridus, with its golden gaster and red legs. Their nests can sometimes be found in rotting logs.

Along the narrow side track we startled a couple of Western Grey Kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus). They are always about this park, but are often hidden during the day, relaxing amongst the dense undergrowth. One paused to strike a pose resulting an a few quality photos.

There are numerous large patches of Red Beaks / Fire Orchids (Pyrorchis nigricans) throughout Hardy’s Scrub. Typically they do not flower unless a fire has come through recently. Some have leaves reaching 10cm across. Occasionally some will flower without fire, perhaps fewer than 1 in 200. However flowering can also occur due to disturbance, so those near the edge of a walking track may present flowers more frequently. We didn’t spot any flowering or in bud this time around.

This time of year, if you know where to look, certain Insect species are quite easy to locate. The Leaf Beetle Callidemum hypochalceum, a species we might call the Metallic Dodonaea Leaf Beetle, can be frequently found on the Sticky Hop-Bush (Dodonaea viscosa). These Plants are quite easy to identify themselves as the female plants this time of year are covered in winged fruit ranging from lime green through to dark maroon. So if you’re out in nature and spot such a Hop-Bush, pause to take a closer look and you might find a few of these iridescent Beetles.

That invasive pest, Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides), is present in this park as well as so many others. To combat the spread a Rust Fungi known as Bridal Creeper Rust (Puccinia myrsiphylli) was introduced in 2000. It infects the plants, absorbing the nutrients from the leaves resulting in visible yellow spots and leaf shedding. It is most prominent during Spring. I’ve typically ignored this in the past, but creating an iNaturalist record to show its presence in an area has value, and I’ll look to do that more frequently.

On the return section of the track back up the hill from Blewitt Springs Road there is a large patch of Heath Teatrees (Leptospermum myrsinoides) that while flowering from late September through November play host to a wide range of Insects, in particular some spectacular Jewel Beetles. We were too early this visit with none of the Teatrees yet flowering. Over a few visits I’ve recorded 13 Insects on or around these Teatrees, including 4 Jewel beetles in the Genus Castiarina. This is a spot I try to visit each year.

Lastly, while recording one of the flowering Gorse Bitter Peas (Daviesia ulicifolia) I unintentionally recorded my second ever sighting of a native Trichocolletes Bee. I’d really like to take some quality photos of this Genus, but I expect I’ll need a good macro lens before I can get them.

A few additional highlights from the day below.

SA iNaturalists – August 2022

The South Australian iNaturalists Collection Project

This August saw 10,909 observations covering 1,878 species from a total of 476 observers. There were 98 species receiving their first iNat record in SA. This month saw 91 new observers contributing their first observations in SA. Upon this months observations, 504 identifiers contributed a total of 18,223 identifications.

During August there were an average of 51 observers each day, peaking at 84 observers on Saturday August 20th, coinciding with the Ferox australis Biodiversity Treasure Hunt. The highest daily observations were also on Saturday 20th with 872 records.

Uploads for SA at the end of August stand at 361,198 observations of 9,371 species from 5,086 observers with, as of today, 5,541 identifiers providing 662,796 identifications.

Featured Observations from August
A row of resting Great Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) at Goolwa by @mariannebroug.
A Pheladenia deformis × Caladenia capillata by @rwl.
A content looking Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) at Mount Gambier by @sandy_horne.
A field of Large Striped Greenhoods (Pterostylis robusta) on the Yorke Peninsula by @grassroots-ky.
A Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) entangled in weed at Port Macdonnell submitted by @rfoster on behalf of Rob Baker.
A native Millipede Genus Somethus in the Adelaide Hills by @moth_nut.
(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).

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 August:

(Data used for this post taken on the 9th of September. It excludes any observations and identifications from August that were uploaded after this date)