I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
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Published January 7th 2016
A wild drive down south
The echidna is trundling through the scrub like a miniature, spiky battle tank. Every so often it pauses and snuffles the air with its long moist beak. Not a nose but a tube-like mouth that houses a long, sticky tongue for devouring ants and termites. I get down low to capture the most realistic shot in this chance encounter with one of Australia's most unusual animals; an egg laying mammal related to the platypus.
Spike is foraging along the edge of Boatshed Road in the Deep Creek Conservation Park which lies between Cape Jervis and Victor Harbor on the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, about an hour and a half drive from Adelaide. The park and surrounding area has a wonderful array of different environments that include open grassland, stringy bark forest, dense coastal scrub and rugged ocean cliffs. A variety of roads and trails traverse the area, some of which require 4WD during in the wetter, winter months.
Trail bikes or 4WD are necessary in many parts of the park
Boat Shed Road ends near the top of a steep hill that slopes down to the ocean and rocky foreshore. The rocks are principally sedimentary and the truncated layers have been eroded and twisted over millennia. Rock pools, pebble-beaches and little inlets characterise this part of the coast. In the upper reaches of the rocky zone where the shore is not battered by the ocean's continual pounding, colourful lichens encrust the rocks giving them a rusted appearance.
Before leaving the coastal strip I walk along the hilltops looking for kangaroos. 'Roos' are quite prolific throughout the park where they gather in large groups or mobs on the open reaches of grassland. After sitting quietly for a few minutes on the edge of the scrub I notice a pair of grey kangaroos grazing on the short grass with the brilliant blue of the ocean as a backdrop.
From the coast it is a steep drive back through the scrub. Stunted eucalypts and a host of other coastal bushes from banksias to acacias form the dense upper story. The undergrowth is a diverse mixture of grasses and ground covers that attract a range of birds and insect.
Spotting a particularly interesting patch of scrub, I leave the vehicle in the shade of some large stringybark trees and walk into the bush to sit quietly for a while. Tiny wrens and honeyeaters flit through the foliage never pausing long enough for me to get a clear shot. Then, without warning, a pied currawong struts purposefully out of the cover with a moth firmly clenched in its powerful beak; a nice image to complete my drive along Boatshed Road.
But before I head for home there is one last stop, The Deep Creek Garden Centre. This local nursery is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy an extraordinary collection of native plants including many that I have encountered in the park.