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.
Visit my blog naturallysouthaustralia.com
Published June 2nd 2020
There is a pair of Spotted Doves huddled together on a sandy patch where they are sheltered from the stiff sea breeze. They are just one of the animal species that inhabit the dunes that act as a buffer along Adelaide's metropolitan beaches. Once these dunes were higher, but development has slowly eroded both their size and ability to shelter land from sea. However, many councils are protecting what is left of this eco-system by re-planting the grasses, ground covers and shrubs that bind it together.
I am travelling along the walking and bike path between Henley Square and the mouth of the Torrens River at West Beach, a return distance of around 2 kms. There are shelters, benches, toilets, hotels and cafes along the way and numerous smaller tracks leading to the beach. It is dog friendly with many interesting homes to look at and a nice walk back along the beach, weather permitting.
The coastal vegetation comes right to the edge of the pathway. It is always worth taking a closer look at these plants, especially the acacias, which often provide a sheltered environment for a range of invertebrates. Despite the cool, autumn weather I discover a Lynx Spider. The little predator is hunting amongst the leaves for small flies and other insects. On a nearby leaf, there is a rather unusual spiky caterpillar. Surprising what you can see when you take the time to look!
A small flock of Galahs is flying along the edge of the dunes. This is rather unusual as cockatoos are not generally associated with beach environments. They land every so often, mill around in the dunes and then take off.
At the mouth of the river, there are numerous bird species. A pelican glides along the far bank and a collection of Silver Gulls and Common Terns camp close to the water. The gulls are scavengers ready to feed on anything they find along the coast from crabs and shellfish to chips and other leftovers. The terns, on the other hand, are graceful aquatic hunters; hovering then diving vertically to catch fish and other marine creatures.
On my walk back the wind picks up and some rather serious thunder clouds appear on the horizon. I love this weather but my camera does not so I pick up the pace stopping less frequently to look around. Near one of the shelters, where I can retreat if the rain comes, I scan the ground in search of invertebrates. To my surprise, there is a small wasp foraging in the leaf litter. I think it might be one of the spider hunting variety that paralyse their prey then lay eggs in the animal's body. When the young emerge they have a ready source of nutrition in the form of a live spider. Nature at its most brutal.
I decide on a more civilised form of nutrition and hurry on to Henley Square for a cup of 'take away' coffee and a toasted sandwich. Hopefully, the rain will have passed and I can walk along the jetty and enjoy the rough, autumn seascape.
Hi Barry, thanks for the lovely article! Personally, I'm very fond of the spider hunting wasps. I watched a battle between a big wolf spider and a slender orange wasp one day. The wasp won, but she earned her prize, and she did it all for her family - her future babies! She had to drag the stunned spider away because it was far too heavy for her to fly with it. Keep up the nature observation; it's always fascinating! Cheers, Bowen.