Spotted donkey orchid in Deep Creek Conservation Park
One of the great joys of walking in Deep Creek Conservation Park is the diversity
of flora you can encounter along the way. Of special note are the native orchids.
There are more than 350 native orchids in South Australia and a
significant number can be found in Deep Creek.
Purple Cockatoo Orchid
What makes these orchids rather special is that they do not grow on trees or other host plants
as is common but directly in the ground. Although you’d think this would make them easier to spot
many orchids are easy to miss. Their small and delicate size means that a keen eye is required.
However, once you know what to look for it is surprising how many you suddenly notice!
Spider Orchid (Caladenia Bicalliata)
Did you know they are also a good indicator of the health of our environment?
Orchids are sensitive to weeds, soil disturbance, and pests as well as fertilizers
and other chemicals so there presence in our conservation parks is a joy.
During the past few months our guests have spotted many stunning orchids at different points in
Deep Creek and Newland Head Conservation Parks and we have shown a sample here.
Given our temperate climate and relatively reliable rainfall it is possible to find
orchids in flower on the Fleurieu Peninsula during most months of the year.
Blink and you miss it…a Wallpaper Donkey orchid in Deep Creek
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo
The yellow-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) is synonymous
with Deep Creek and for many years it was the emblem for Southern Ocean Retreats.
During the early 1990s their numbers were relatively low earning them a ‘vulnerable status’.
Deep Creek Conservation Park was considered an important refuge and breeding ground
but in more recent years numbers have grown to the point where sightings
of large flocks in the Mount Lofty Ranges are not uncommon.
This is in part thought to be the result of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo having
learnt how to extract the seeds of pine cones from introduced pines (Seeds and
wood larvae are the two key elements of their diet). There are 6 species in Australia
and the yellow-tailed black cockatoo can reach 55-60cm once mature.
At first glance the bird appears completely dark brown to black but upon closer
inspection you will find contrasting yellow panels in the tail feathers as well as yellow check patches.
Yellow tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus),
Unlike their cousins, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo whose harsh screech can be
heard from afar, the yellow-tailed cockatoo has a gentle call which they occasionally emit.
They have a distinctive flight action with deep slow paced wing beats which
makes them easy to recognize. They favour eucalypt woodland and pine plantations
so it comes as no surprise that they are often seen in Deep Creek or
the neighbouring State pine plantations, usually in flocks of 6 to 12.
Both sexes construct the nest in a large tree hollow lined with woodchips. Clutch size is
usually 2 eggs but typically only 1 egg survives. The chick remains in their care for the first 6 months.
Locals chill at Cobbler Hill
If there is one thing that is synonymous with Deep Creek Conservation Park,
apart from the breath taking scenery, it’s the abundance
of western grey kangaroos (macropus fulginosus).
In some parts of the Park such as Goondooloo Ridge
mobs of several hundred can be seen at any time.
Western Grey Kangaroos getting acquainted in front of Goondooloo Cottage
A fully grown male can weigh up to 54 kg, leap close to 12m in a
single hop and reach speeds of up to 60kph.
They feed mainly on grasses but can also be found foraging
amongst leafy shrubs using their fore-arms to reach higher foliage.
The sometimes comical ‘boxing’ contests that can be seen in mobs
help establish the dominance hierarchy among males and the right to mate.
Gestation is typically 30-31 days after which the incomplete foetus
resembling a jelly bean crawls to the teat in the pouch.
Here it suckles for a further 130-150 days. Joeys leave the pouch
after about 9 months but continue to suckle for a further 9 months.
And the reference to curry? Well, adult males have a distinct ‘curry-like’
odour giving them the nick name of stinker.
Glenburn Cottage official welcoming committee
Echidnas are regularly sighted in Deep Creek Conservation Park.
International visitors often comment on the unusual features of our wildlife
and with just cause; it is like no other. The echidna is a prime example and
a frequently sighted resident of Deep Creek Conservation Park.
What makes it so special apart from its spines, bird-like beak and a pouch similar
to a kangaroo? It is one of only a handful of egg laying mammals known as a monotreme.
The short beaked echidna lays a single egg and places it in their small
backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days to become a puggle.
A newborn puggle. (Image courtesy Paul Fahy)
The puggle continues to grow inside the pouch until it develops spines.
At this point it is asked to vacate the premises and goes to live in a burrow
that the mother has built for a further 6 months.
The diet of the short beaked echidna typically includes ants,
termites, grubs, larvae and worms. They can detect tiny electrical signals
from the insect’s body and use their sharp claws to dig up nests to reveal
invertebrates. Once exposed the echidna licks them up with its tongue.
Echidnas are unable to perspire and in order to cope with summer
heat they avoid day time activities. Their main threats are dogs and foxes.
Echidna Spines | by Evan Pickett
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.
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
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
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.
Watch the leaves of the Yacca dance to the tune of the wind from your patio
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.
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!
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