Tag Archives: Wildlife

Exploring one of the last lagoons on the coast…

Getting out for an exploration at my favourite time of the day, twilight – is one of those true pleasures, and often one bumped for all the million other things that need to be attended to.  So today after school, we headed nature-side and explored the coastal wetlands at Aldinga, Sellicks Beach – the Aldinga Washpool Lagoon.


It’s a beautiful place in the twilight, yet humble, with nothing to point out its significance, except some fencing and ‘conservation area’signs and a large diverse collection of birds gathering.

It’s a place that speaks for itself, if you listen.


It’s included in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia because significant flora and fauna are present. The local council (Onkaparinga) describes it as “one of the last remaining coastal lagoons of its type along the metropolitan Adelaide coastline“. The phrase “one of the last remaining” evokes a pang of sadness, because it feels like we have to read it far too often sometimes. Wandering there in the last remaining rays of sunlight for the day, light reflecting off the rippling lagoons with the sound of waves on the beach, you can see this is an important place of water. It must be astounding to see the full moon reflecting in the lagoon. Just imagining it…

But even beyond its ecological significance as a remnant coastal lagoon, and being able to appreciate its unique beauty, there is far more here to cherish and protect.

The lagoon is a culturally significant site, sacred to local indigenous Kaurna groups as an important place on the Tjilbruke Dreaming Track,.  It’s actually the cultural significance which drew me here this week. Miss 7 visited the start of the dreaming track as a school excursion, to Warriparinga Wetlands And Living Kaurna Cultural Centre. Exploring the sites closer to home at the end of the dreaming track, are on the top of our list, particularly because I have my head in indigenous astronomy at the moment.


There’s a lot of information about the Aldinga Washpool lagoon area, once you go looking online. The ecological facts and figures are easy to find, but it’s trickier to uncover more detail about the cultural stories of this place, but I’ll keep searching and learning (and adding finds here). There is a Washpool newsletter and it seems there has been a long effort by locals to achieve sustainable integrated management of the site focused on the cultural significance.

This action is reassuring as it is a quiet spot, and while we were there, some young lads turned up and decided to use the dirt track between the two lagoons as a place to practice skids and burnouts in their car. Sacred places in quiet spots sadly do sometimes need a bit of protecting from some our human wildlife.


My favourite sight amongst the black swans and wading birds were the swallows darting over the long grass, in flashes of blue and rust red – very difficult to photograph though.


And here’s some 4 year old human wildlife, learning to fly like a swallow – also elusive to photograph so I’m including him here:


A ghost of autumn – Spilosoma glatignyi, Black and white tiger moth

Here is a truly beautiful delicate ghost of autumn – the enchanting spectre of the Black and White Tiger Moth, Spilosoma glatignyi who I found today, resting on my worm farm.  


Bold amongst the reds and browns of autumn, its mothy patterns for me, reference the Snowy Owl, even down to the fluffy large head and the red-eye markings, like the Snow Owl’s piercing yellow eyes. You can just make out the intimidating ‘red eye stare’ in the photograph I took below.


Even viewed from above, this funny little moth seems to emanate the intimidation that an owl can summon up from just one glance (see the pictures below for a hint at this). I should mention, that these are only my observations, and I’m not sure there is anything scientific about saying this tiger mother mimics a Snowy Owl. 😉


Snowy Owl Barrow Alaska
Photo Source: Floyd Davidson (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Moths are masters of mimicry, and having encountered a hummingbird hawk-moth back in the UK a few years ago, I remember feeling a frightened thrill as it dipped its proboscis into a lupin flower in my garden. I had no idea if I was looking at a bird or an insect. It was a truly amazing encounter and a glimpse into what it must have been like as a botanist documenting the wildlife of far off distant lands.

Moths seem a bit underrated, almost unloved but they are quiet achievers. They help pollinate, impersonate other animals with their markings , and even mimic bird droppings,. Some even have calls for communication and there’s even a moth that sounds like a squeaky toy. Even if you aren’t into moths, just taking a closer look at their markings is worth it for the artistic inspiration.

Links to help you identify South Australian moths

CSIRO Australian Moths Online

South Australian Moths

Common Moths of the Adelaide Region sheets – Butterfly Conservation SA
Sheet 1 and Sheet 2

Thoughts on rewilding

I have just finished reading George Monbiot’s book Feral: Rewilding the land, sea and human life. Some of the ideas are controversial and continue to be debated, and just one thing this book will do is open your eyes to any romantic or poetic attachment you have of some aspects of the UK countryside. It won’t destroy those poetic visions and wonderings, but rightfully cause you to separate them when you consider the act of conservation.

The next time I see heather moorland and bluebell woods I will be looking through a clearer lens at what is really there.

A book that will make you rethink conservation, explore the concept of rewilding, self-willed land, trophic cascades and the shifting baseline syndrome that obscures our true understanding of what biodiversity is.


  • ideas on why big cat sightings endure and are increasing in the UK
  • ‘The conservation prison’ (Chapter 12) – if you only read one thing about conservation, let it be this!
  • tables listing mammals that could potentially be reintroduced into the UK including wolf, beaver

What I’m left with after reading….

Part of me wants there to really be big cats, somehow elusive, on a small island.Part of me doesn’t because it’s a beautiful thing to have a vision that has a deep-rooted core. You need only have a tawny owl stare at you eye to eye in the moonlight to know that we are connected with those out there, and that we need the wild in our veins.

Even the imagined wild is healthy for us. Even if big black cats don’t roam, the imagining of them, our beautiful capacity for storytelling is something human, fascinating and so cherishable. But storytelling does not replace the quick heartbeat of a random wild encounter.

I also wonder about how this relates to Australia. I look around now and see bare area of hills, wide spraying to control weeds and my imagination wanders as I realise that those hills were once forested. The area I live in is applying for UNESCO World Heritage status as an agrarian (mostly viticulture) landscape. I support the idea of this, but now I do wonder is this an example somehow of shifting baseline syndrome? Should we be trying to make time stand still with this landscape we have now, or projecting a richer, more biodiverse landscape in future? Will world heritage status make it difficult to think about how parts our landscape might benefit from a bit of rewilding? I hope not.

Also, how did our indigenous people see the landscape change when white settlement arrived? Which keystone predators now missing from our landscape? How could they impact the health of our rivers? Could our own challenges with both drought and flood be linked to the removal of big mammalian predators?

I can see that the Dingo – a sub-species of the grey wolf, would have the same image problem as the idea of wolf reintroduction in the UK- in fact, probably even a much greater image problem. It is our big bad wolf to most farmers and there is fear surrounding their presence. I wonder though…do we know, can we imagine how the dingo would impact the ecology and health of our rivers beyond just the view of limiting the numbers of their prey? Would it be in the same way that we can see in how the presence of wolves can change rivers?  Could there be impacts we are yet to imagine? It looks like some researchers are thinking about this which is really exciting.

And if not the apex predator, the dingo, what is the next species to turn our gaze to? Is perhaps, our quiet little platypus the beaver of our rivers?

Anyway, read the book!

Update Nov 2015:  Since reading this book, I have been following the excellent rewilding initiatives in Australia, for example looking at rewilding of the Northern Quoll and Tasmanian Devil. Follow, encourage and find out how you can support these projects via Rewilding Australia and their website Facebook and Twitter updates.

Secret little lizard

Whenever I head into the front garden with a watering can at the moment, little Shadow the blue-tongue lizard is usually around. I think we might have an understanding as today he/she drank a few drips of water and regarded each other. What seemed to pass was something like this: “If you keep a little water around when I’m thirsty in the late afternoon, I’ll stay and discourage snakes”. Deal little blue-tongue! Your secret hidey gentle presence is more than welcome.

A welcome garden critter

Wedge-tailed eagles

Had a lovely close encounter with two beautiful immense wedge-tailed eagles last week on our property. I was lucky enough to have my camera in the car so I pulled over on the driveway and got some photographs. Being looked down upon by these powerful birds makes you feel pretty small.

It is hard to judge their scale from these photographs, but when you see them, they are so incredibly large that you can’t help but gasp when watching them soar over the valleys around here.  They are the largest bird or prey in Australia and their wing span is up to 2.5 metres and quite rightly, they are a protected species. We were  lucky enough to be able to watch them from our lounge room window over the weekend.

Fionna was safely  in the car when I took the photographs and in fact it was probably lucky that she slept through my excited exit from the car and cries of “oh my god, eagles! eagles! <expletive> where’s the camera???!!!”  I’m looking forward to when Fionna starts to engage with the environment – she has responded to our goat, but ignored the cows, dogs, cats and chickens so far. 🙂




wedgie 3

Free-range and wild dust bunnies

There has been a population explosion of dust bunnies here! The research I have conducted online suggest that ours are special – they free-range and effectively live wild.

I was going to add a fascinating discourse about my recent observations and research on these dust bunnies (including a photograph of a wild one!) but I’ve noticed that all the links to images in my posts on this site from 2006 are still pointing to my old URL and will need uploading again … a job for the next few days.

Sorry, looks like any of you interested in dust bunnies will just have to wait … and if you don’t know what dust bunnies are … perhaps you will intrigued enough to return here one day to find out …