Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Kangaroo Island through the lens

Cape du Couedic lighthouse, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island following Tasmania and Melville Island. It is located 112 kilometers southwest of Adelaide at the entrance of the Gulf of St Vincent. The island is 150km long and a maximum of 57km wide. It is sparsely populated with around 4500 inhabitants. The main town is Kingscote and there are small populations at Penneshaw, American River and Parndana. Traditionally sheep grazing has been the key element in agriculture on the Island, however in recent times, more diverse crops, such as potatoes and canola have been introduced. Cattle farming has grown as well, with good quality beef cattle being grown in the higher rainfall areas. Tourism and fishing also play significant roles, with the island experiencing over 186,000 visitors per annum and some of the best southern rock lobster being sourced from the island's rugged south coast. It is one of South Australia’s most popular tourist destinations and tourism and fishing contribute significantly to the local economy. There are also around 30 wine growers. Much of the land has been cleared for farming but there are also large tracts of land in native vegetation. There are some excellent beaches on the island. Transport is via three major routes fanning out from Kingscote with two of these running almost parallel along the length of the island. Transport to the island is via ferry from Cape Jervis on the mainland to Penneshaw or by small plane from Adelaide Airport. There are several rental car companies on the island.

Kangaroo Island, Australia's third biggest

So is it worth taking the big lens across to do some wildlife photography? Yes it is because there is a good array of wildlife and not many people. We were only there for four night and  stayed two nights in cottages that were on the Southern Coast at Vivonne Bay and further along near Flinders Chase.This length of stay was not enough for a thorough investigation of the photographic opportunities available but if my viewpoint may encourage other photographers.
There are some excellent beaches on the island. Vivonne Bay, has been voted the best beach in Australia, which boasts many nice beaches. It is indeed a beautiful beach but I preferred the nearby Hanson Bay where the early morning sunshine kissing the dunes and turquoise waves surging to the beach were an uplifting sight. I was setting up my tripod and was passed by a surfcaster who deployed his rod a few hundred metres along the beach. Within 10 minutes he had landed a monster fish so packed up and went home to enjoy the local bounty.

Early sunlight and sea mist, Hanson Bay

Turquoise-coloured waves, Hanson Bay

The wildlife photography targets can be divided into several groups.
(1)  Marine mammals. Seal Bay on the southern coast hosts a breeding colony of Sea-lions. There are guided tours throughout the day going down onto the beach. It is best to go as early as possible before the majority of visitors arrive. The light is also better and the guides can be accommodating to photographers but you cannot linger too long on any subject. The beach runs essentially East-west so the sun is coming from one direction at right angles to the breaking waves. There is a boardwalk where long lenses can pick up the Seal-lions in the water. The younger sea-lions are very acrobatic in the breaking waves and could offer great action shots.

Sea-lion coming ashore, Seal Bay

Sea-lions; mother to calf greeting

Calf suckling from it's mother

Bull Sea-lion in the sand dune vegetation

Young Sea-lions riding inside the waves.

There are a number of New Zealand Fur Seals around Admiralty Arch. The viewpoints are restricted to the walkways however and are often looking down on the subjects.

Admiralty Arch

New Zealand Fur Seals basking on the rocks

(2)  Landscapes. The island offers a number of opportunities to shoot landscapes from the beautiful pristine beaches to the Remarkable Rocks which are a huge cluster of weather-sculptured granite boulders perched on a large granite dome that drops 75 metres to the sea. It is best to arrive at sunrise for more interesting lighting conditions and a lack of tourists.

Remarkable Rocks

Carved Granite rocks

Granite rocks like modern sculptures

(3)  Birds. Pelicans. The best place to get guaranteed shots of pelicans is at the afternoon feeding that takes place near the Kingscote jetty in at 5pm. The pelicans know the time and begin arriving before the distribution of fish. The operator asks for a donation to fund the enterprise. Some of the Australian pelicans were in breeding colours during my visit. Their large bills turn a mixture of colours and when these flap in the breeze it is like flying a multi-clooured advertising flag.

A squadron of Pelicans arrives

Portrait of an Australian Pelican

Bathing Australian Pelican

Australian Pelicans in breeding colors

I was on the island in early December and there were a number of the beautiful Fairy-wrens in their breeding colours. They are elusive and small but make very cute subjects. There are also a number of other small native birds that congregate around cultivated gardens for the nectar and insects. Around the coast and at Murray’s Lagoon there is a good array of aquatic birds. The occasional Osprey can be seen checking out the inshore waters for fish. There were a number of colourful parrots near both cottages where we stayed but were not lured in to feeders.

Variegated Fairy-wren (male)

Variegated Fairy-wren (female)

Superb Fairy-wren (male)

Scarlet Robin (male)

Osprey in flight.


(4). Other mammals. As the name of the island would suggest there are many Kangaroos on the island and at dusk and dawn they can be a hazard to drivers when the bound out of the bush lining the roads. 
An Echidna passed by our cottage at Vivonne Bay and we saw another at a second location. These hedgehog-like animal are sometimes known as  spiny ant eaters, but belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. There are four extant species, which, together with the platypus, are the only surviving members of that order and are the only extant mammals that lay eggs. Although their diet consists largely of ants and termites, they are no more closely related to the true anteaters of the Americas than to any other placental mammal. They live in Australia and New Guinea. The echidnas are named after a monster in ancient Greek mythology.
Koalas can be easily observed at Flinders chase. Flinders Chase is one of Australia's largest National Parks, covering a massive 74,000 hectares, and it is considered to be one of South Australia's most significant parks due to its natural state, wildlife, and lack of introduced predators.

Kangaroo with a mature, and precocious, Joey

Oversized Joey, badly packaged.

There is also an interesting collection of wildlife that can be viewed at different times of the year nestbuilding, breeding or raising young or being displayed to advantage; Tammar wallabies, Little Penguins, Glossy Black Cockatoos, Black Swans, Southern Right Whales, Cape Barren Geese and Platypus and even Wildflowers. 
 For additional information see; http://www.tourkangarooisland.com.au

 Graeme Guy, September 2012

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