The Southern Grass Tree

Anyone who has visited Deep Creek Conservation Park would know

that it is synonymous with the Southern Grass Tree (Xanthorrehoea Australis)

The District Council of Yankalilla has used it as its logo for many years.

But did you know that these grass trees are slow growing and long lived with

some estimated to be 450 years old.

 

Yaccas in Stringybark Forest

A feast of Yaccas in the Stringybark Forest

  In fact, the rough trunk only develops after many

years of growth.  Its typical black appearance is the result of exposure to bushfires over decades.

The reason the tree usually survives a fire is that its living growth-point

is buried underground, protected by a tightly packed leaf base.

 

Growth rates, although hard to quantify, have been estimated at between 1-3 cm per year.

Flowering takes several years and does not happen annually.

However, after bushfires up to 80% of grass trees will flower producing

a single spear-like cream coloured stem that can reach up to 3m in height.

 

Flowering Yaccas at Cobbler Hill with Kangaroo Island in the background

Flowering Yaccas at Cobbler Hill with Kangaroo Island in the background

The Southern grasstree was an important plant for Aborigines, both as a source

of food and drink as well as for fibre and materials for tool and weapon construction.

The flowering stem, when soaked in water, produces a sweet drink

while it also releases a resin that was used as a glue when making tools.

Stems could also be used as part of a spear or as a base for fire making

implements and the tough seed pods were used as cutting implements.

 

The distinctive leaves of grass trees are captivating

The distinctive leaves of grass trees are captivating

 

European settlers used the resin to produce a lacquer for furniture.

Grass trees are also known as ‘yacca’, which is likely derived from

a South Australian Aboriginal language, mostly likely Kaurna.

Today you can marvel at the majesty of these great survivors

from the comfort of your patio at the Ridgetop Retreats.

 

Xanthorrehoea at Ridgetop Retreats

Watch the leaves of the Yacca dance to the tune of the wind from your patio

The Big Slow Moving Skink

Shingleback

Dappled sun and shadows show the value of camouflage for this shingleback

Known by a variety of names including stumpy tail, sleepy lizard,

shingleback and pinecone lizard the Tiliqua Rugosa is widespread

in low rainfall areas as well as coastal parts of Western & South Australia.

They favour coastal heath and sclerophyll forests which

are abundant in Deep Creek Conservation Park.

Although omnivorous their diet usually consists of flowers and leaves.

However, they don’t mind a broader palette that includes snails, beetles and other insects.

Did you know shinglebacks mate for life?  They are strictly monogamous

and will seek out the same partner year after year.

 

Shinglebacks

Marital bliss? Shinglebacks mate for life.

According to extensive research undertaken by Michael Bull

from Flinders University, they can live in excess of 50 years

and during drought years can skip parenthood to focus on survival.

 Typically, a litter consists of 2 live young which together make up ⅓ of

the female’s body weight.  This has been compared to a woman

giving birth to a 7-year-old child….     Respect!

 

Shingleback

Tongue & cheek

They are ectothermic meaning they can’t generate their own

body heat and must rely on warmth from their surroundings.

Although shinglebacks seem sluggish it is surprising how

they just disappear if you take your eyes off them for a moment!

During springtime the male will follow the female within a few centimetres for

many days before they get to mate.  According to Prof. Michael Bull it’s like a little train.

 

 

Shingle back in Deep Creek Conservation park

Shingle back in Deep Creek Conservation park

Southern Brown Bandicoot (aka ‘Bruce’)

'Bruce' the bandicoot at the Ridgetop Retreats

‘Bruce’ the bandicoot at the Ridgetop Retreats

 

Prior to European settlement the Southern Brown Bandicoot was wide spread

throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges but it is now a fairly rare sighting.

Indeed, of the eight species of Bilby and Bandicoot that could be found in South Australia

the Southern Brown Bandicoot is now the only one remaining.

Fortunately, Deep Creek Conservation Park provides an important refuge for this marsupial.

They are predominantly solitary and nocturnal although day time sightings are not uncommon.

Typical life expectancy is between 3 and 5 years.

 

 

'Bruce' on the scrounge at the Ridgetop Retreats

‘Bruce’ calling in to say hello on his morning walk at the Ridgetop Retreats

Bandicoots are omnivorous but principally eat anything that crawls or flies in the insect world.

Their diet is further supplemented by plant matter such as grasses, fungi, fruits, and seeds.

Dense ground cover such as that found in Deep Creek is essential for their survival

with threats primarily coming from birds of prey, dogs, foxes, and cats.

During the past three years, the Ridgetop Retreats have become ‘home’ to

several bandicoots who live in the native vegetation that surrounds them.

Guests are frequently welcomed on their patio by ‘Bruce’ who is very inquisitive.

Check out this short video of him ‘on the scrounge’ here

Fungi – the beautiful mould

Flaming fungus - Deep Creek Conservation Park

Flaming fungus – Deep Creek Conservation Park

 

Ok, yes its true. Fungi don’t quite have the same magnetic appeal of

say a furry animal but that does not make them any less interesting.

Did you know that fungi are neither plant nor animal.

They play a vital role in the breakdown of other organisms

and are the great recyclers of our ecosystem.

Put simply, plants produce, animals consume but fungi recycle.

 

Fungus on the Stringybark trail in Deep Creek Conservation Park

Equally less well known is the fact the Deep Creek Conservation Park

is a mecca for different fungi.  The Stringybark Walking Trail in particular

is somewhat of a fungal hot spot due to the type of vegetation

and favourable conditions that have prevailed for many years.

To fully appreciate the sheer diversity in shape, colour and size

a visit to this trail during June and July is a must.

 

Fungus in Deep Creek Conservation Park

 

The trail is suitable for the whole family and can be easily completed

in 20-30 minutes but allow time to marvel at what lies at your feet.

For a more extensive account of this amazing living organism see the

Fungi section on our nature page at http://southernoceanretreats.com.au/nature/

 

Fungi emerge in many shapes, sizes and colours along the Stringybark trail

Fungi emerge in many shapes, sizes and colours along the Stringybark trail

Wedgetail eagle a frequent flyer in Deep Creek Conservation Park

 

The wedge tail eagle (Aquila Audax) is the largest bird of prey in Australia.

Although they are found across the continent they favour lightly timbered and open country.

The wedge tail is a common sight in Deep Creek with healthy numbers throughout the Park.

 Females are bigger than males with wingspans typically between 180-230 cm.

 Some historical records have even shown wingspans of just under 3 metres.

 

 

Nests are usually built in the fork of a tree or sometimes on cliff edges.

Typically they are between 2 to 5 metres wide with similar depths.

Usually two eggs are laid which take about 45 days to hatch.

During that period the female broods while the male hunts for food.

Once the chick is about 1 month old both parents hunt for food.

Offspring can be dependent for food for up to six months after hatching

but leave the nest once the next breeding season commences.

Juveniles are mid brown in colour but darken with age to a dark brown to black colour.

 

 

Wedge tail eagles can often fly at heights of up to 6000ft (2000 metres)

and have vision which extends in to ultraviolet wavelengths.

Native prey typically includes wallabies, possums, small kangaroos and bandicoots.

However, with the introduction of European animals their prey now predominantly

consists of rabbits and to a lesser extent hares, foxes and feral cats.

Under ideal conditions a wedge tail eagle can lift approximately half its body weight.

Carrion, especially road kill, forms a major part of the eagle’s diet.

Their superb eye sight can spot other scavengers such as crows

feeding on a carcass from a great distance.

 

 

The introduction of the calicivirus has resulted in a decline of rabbits in

many parts of Australia.  As it is the principle food source for eagles it remains

to be seen if this will have an adverse impact on eagle population numbers.

Their home range can vary from just 9m2 to over 100m2.  Occasionally, wedge tail eagles

are known to defend their territory against hang gliders and paragliders as shown in this video

Dolphins call Deep Creek home

Did you know there is a thriving dolphin population along the coastal waters of

Deep Creek Conservation Park?  The Bottlenose dolphin is a common sight and

a good indicator of the health of our marine life.

On a recent outing to Boat Harbour we encountered a pod of in excess of 40

dolphins mulling around the Cove. Whilst looking for food they were putting on a

surfing show that would put Kelly Slater to shame.

 

 

The Boat Harbour Cove is a particularly promising venue to spot dolphins.  The

bench overlooking it on the Heysen Trail is a fantastic vantage point to take in

the panoramic views towards the Pages Islands.

 

 

Volunteers and scientists have formed effective alliances at Victor Harbour and

Kangaroo Island to collect valuable information on dolphins.  However, there is a

bit of a gap along the South West Fleurieu Coast from Tunkalilla Beach and

Deep Creek through to Fisheries Beach.

 

Whilst there is plenty of general knowledge available on the Bottlenose dolphin

which appears in many parts of the world less is known about their presence in

South Australian waters.  Marine scientists from Flinders University have

examined DNA samples which suggest that there may be a sub-specie of the

Bottlenose dolphin living in the Southern waters of Australia.

 

 

If you have the pleasure of encountering dolphins during a walk in Deep Creek

why not pause for a moment. Take note of the size of the group, their behaviour

and perhaps pass the information on together with any images to Kangaroo

Island Victor Harbour dolphin watch.

 

 This volunteer project is based on the

citizen science concept.  Information collected can contribute to forming a more

comprehensive picture of this fascinating marine mammal.

https://www.facebook.com/Kangaroo-Island-Victor-Harbor-Dolphin-Watch-177821708954324/