Ecological History

Lot 50-Kanyanyapilla is part of a dunal sand deposit from a small coastal bay circa one million years ago in the mid Pleistocene Age. B. J. Cooper, S.A. Department of Mines and Energy, undertook a geological survey of the Willunga Embayment (published 1979). In the geological cross section below, L50K is to the coastal (left) side of bore hole WLG 42 on the slope down to the valley floor.

Willunga Embayment Geology_Cooper, 1979 _Lot 50, MaloneWillunga Embayment Geological Cross-section (Cooper, 1979)

Pre-European Vegetation, Willunga Basin
Dominated by Grassy Woodland (70%). Other vegetation types include Heathy Woodland (16%), Riparian (9%) and small areas of Shrubland (2%) and Grassland (2%). (City of Onkaparinga, n.d.:57)

Since settlement the allotment has been almost completely cleared of native vegetation, other than the reeds, sedges and a couple of River Redgums in the swamp, for agricultural purposes. It is understood the sandy soil supported a Mallee box Eucalyptus porosa woodland and associated plants.

Cropping and grazing has occurred for well over a century. It has not yet been possible to determine over what period of time vegetation clearance occurred but it is likely to have commenced in the mid-19th century.

Land-use histories for the [nearby] California Road Wetland vicinity suggest woodland clearance and mixed farming, including cereals, occurred in the 1840s, with cereals persisting into the 20th century. Viticulture did not occur in this area of the Willunga Plains until the late 20th century. (Denham et al, 2012:405)

All vegetation types have been at least 90% cleared. Clearance was selective towards Grassy Woodlands (96% cleared). Other vegetation types including Riparian, Shrubland and Heathy Woodland were approximately 90% cleared. (City of Onkaparinga, n.d.:57)

… areas that were more suitable for agriculture extensively cleared prior to the 1940s. Typically these were areas with fertile soils and flat or undulating land that contained grasslands and grassy woodlands, dominated by native grasses, daisies and lilies and occasional trees such as eucalypts and sheoaks. (City of Onkaparinga, 2008:8)

Haystacks, McLaren Vale c1900 (SLSA)
Haystacks, McLaren Vale c1900 (SLSA)

Clearance in the region included providing timber for the Broken Hill mines for use as shoring timber. Pictured below are Frank Hailstone and Dan Skeyhill from the Willunga area with their bullock teams, carting logs to the Willunga railway for transport to Broken Hill.

Hailstone's Bullock team in High Street, Willunga, 1916 SLSA B-55417-36Hailstone’s Bullock team in High Street, Willunga, 1916 (SLSA)

The Maslin/Malpas Creek forms the southern boundary of L50K and in this vicinity the creek is a reed swamp although surface water is now only occasional. The swamp commences about 3.5 km inland from the coast and stretches about 4 km along a low sandy valley towards the hills to the east. The Victor Harbor Road now bisects the swamp area. The locality has been known as Evergreen Flats. The broader swamp includes the nearby area known as the California Road Wetlands which has a stand of remnant Woolly Tea-tree Leptospermum lanigerum.

Califronia Road Wetlands_MaloneCalifornia Road Wetlands

Califronia Road Wetland & Lot 50 (from Denham, 2012)Black dots: California Road Wetland (left) & L50K (right) (adapted from Denham, 2012)

The wetlands were noted during John McLaren’s survey of the area in 1839. Below is the first European sketch of the area by Richard Counsel, Surveyors Assistant, part of his field notes.

counsel 1839_malone
Richard Counsel’s Field Book sketch, 1839

The upper catchment of Maslin/Malpas Creek is the hills running north east from Willunga township. There is a permanent spring just behind the old Willunga Courthouse which feeds the creek but that water is soon lost. The creek reaches the sea at Maslin Beach where, except in times of high flows, the mouth is blocked by a sand bar. The watercourse only received the official naming of Maslin Creek for its full extent in November 2003.

Maslin Creek Mouth_MaloneMaslin Creek Mouth

Flora L50K
The reed swamp and drainage lines provide most of the remnant indigenous vegetation, along with a few Golden Wattles, two grasses and two sedges.

Reeds & Redgums (2), Lot 50_MaloneReeds and Redgums, Phragmites australis & Eucalyptus camaldulensis, L50K

Sedges, Lot 50_MaloneStiff Flat-Sedge, Cyperus vaginatus, L50K

Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha, Lot 50_MaloneGolden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha, L50K
There are several native trees, all estimated to be less than fifty years old.

Trees 1, Lot 50_MaloneGum (Corymbia) and Honey-myrtle, L50K

Fauna L50K
As with the flora there is very little indigenous fauna remaining. The Tammar Wallaby Macropus eugenii was once common to the Willunga Basin, Fleurieu Peninsula and Adelaide regions but has now disappeared from its native habitat. During the field survey of the district in late 1839, Richard Counsel, Surveyor’s Assistant, recorded the presence of emus in his Field Book. Barely legible and upside down across the top portions of Sections 194 and 195 (L50K is part Section 194) Counsel has written ‘emu plains’. This gives an indication of another species lost to the locality. Emus were common in the region at the time of colonisation.

emu plain counsel 1839_malone
Richard Counsel’s Field Book sketch, 1839

Species sighted at L50K are being recorded:
Mammals – Indigenous
Western Grey Kangaroo Macropus fuliginosus
Mammals – Introduced
Fox Vulpes vulpes

Kangaroos, Lot 50_MaloneVisiting Kangaroos

Reptiles – Indigenous
Bearded Dragon Lizard Pogona barbata
Blue Tongue Lizard Tiliqua rugosa
Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
Red Bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus

Bearded Dragon, Lot 50_Malone
Bearded Dragon Lizard (Oct. 2018)

A bird survey was undertaken by Graham Carpenter, Ornithologist, on 17 June, 2016. Forty-six species were recorded on, above or near to L50K with 8 species utilising the reed swamp. Three additional species have since been recorded.

New Holland Honeyeater, Lot 50, July 16_Malone
New Holland Honeyeater in reed swamp (July 2016)

Indigenous (42)
Adelaide Rosella Platycercus elegans adelaidae
Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
Australian Reed-warbler Acrocephalus australis
Australian white ibis Threskiornis moluccus
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae
Black-shouldered kite Elanus axillaris
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes
Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius
Elegant Parrot Neophema elegans
Galah Eolophus roseicapilla
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa
Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
Little Grassbird Megalurus gramineus
Little Raven Corvus mellori
Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera
Magpie lark Grallina cyanoleuca
Musk Lorikeet Glossopsitta concinna
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus moluccanus
Red-rumped Parrot Psephotus haematonotus
Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata
Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis
Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus
Superb fairywren (Blue-wren) Malurus cyaneus
Sulphur-crested cockatoo Cacatua galerita
White-faced heron Egretta novaehollandiae
White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus
Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa
Yellow Thornbill Acanthiza nana
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus (flocks of over 250 birds fly over)
Additional Since Survey
Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Southern Boobook (Mopoke) Ninox novaeseelandiae
Wedge-tailed eagle Aquila audax

Birds – Introduced (7)
Common Blackbird
Common Starling
Eurasian Skylark
European Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Rock Dove
Spotted Turtledove