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 November 22nd 2015
Waterfalls and Dragons
There are little dragons living near the top of the waterfall. I can hear them scuttling through the undergrowth close to where I am standing. Eventually one emerges from the cover and clings to a moss-covered rock only a few metres away; its tawny colour blends in well with the surroundings. This little reptile is probably a female painted dragon as the males have more pronounced blue and yellow markings.
Painted dragons live in burrows dug beneath the undergrowth
Waterfall Gully is one of Adelaide's most attractive suburban destinations. Just a twenty-minute drive east of the city centre it is a wonderful location for a wildlife walk, though many of the numerous daily visitors use the fairly steep trails leading up to Mount Lofty for fitness workouts. With adequate car parking and a first class restaurant 'Utopia' situated in the old Swiss-style chalet, Waterfall Gully is an ideal weekend destination.
The view from the platform at the top of the waterfall is spectacular
From the top of the waterfall I work my way down a winding path towards the trail head. There are tiny wrens flitting amongst the stringybark trees and rummaging through the dense undergrowth in search of insects. Several species of honeyeaters are feeding on late spring blossoms and two young kookaburras are calling to each other from the tree tops. But today I am concentrating on reptiles and I keep my eyes and ears open for signs of lizards or a rare sighting of a brown snake.
The walking trail to Mt Lofty summit passes through a range of habitats
The last section of my walk takes me along the ramps past the restaurant and down to the creek that flows from a pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I walk along the path that follows the creek and search amongst the boulders, branches and reeds for other wildlife. There are dragonflies hovering above the water and I catch fleeting glimpses of small grey and yellow birds foraging in the reeds. After a few minutes I manage to spot the animal I have been looking for. Alongside a pool of water between some rocks, a sleek little eastern water skink is posed motionless as it watches for insects and water bugs.
Two reptile species on one walk is more than I expected and to my surprise I can just make out a freshwater turtle basking on a rock at the far side of the pool below the waterfall. Unfortunately, it slips into the water before I can capture an image. But the leaf litter beside the path seems to support quite an active population of tiny bronze-coloured skinks. Only a few centimetres long, they are difficult to spot and photograph. However, armed with a long lens and fortified by a cup of coffee from the snack bar a patient forty minute wait eventually pays off.
Eastern water skinks are rarely seen swimming though they hunt alongside streams and lakes
As always, Waterfall Gully provided me with a pleasant walk, exercise and some interesting wildlife encounters and, as a final treat, a gourmet tasting platter for lunch at the aptly named Utopia restaurant.
Utopia restaurant caters for every kind of dining from snacks to fine dining and functions
A well put together article.Have been going there since 1956 and it is indeed a wonderful place to visit.The wildlife photos are excellent.I doubt if it is really a good time to walk up to Mt.Lofty now that the hot weather has arrived.It is a strenuous walk going up,but easy coming down ;but it is the snake season,which would put me off.