Apollo Bay sits between the foothills of the Otway Ranges and the ocean. There remain many pockets of pristine cool temperate rainforest in these hills, which are home to all manner of reptiles, animals and birds. The wildlife photos below were all chance encounters. Sightings such as those recorded in these photos are not uncommon in and around Apollo Bay.
The beautiful but venomous lowland copperhead. Tiger snakes are sighted much more often in the district than lowland copperheads.
I encountered the copperhead on a gravel road in the hills behind Apollo Bay. It did not behave aggressively, but equally, it did not retreat or show fear when I stopped beside it to take the previous photo through the open window of the car.
The koala was sitting in this position when I rounded the corner behind him. I sounded the horn and got no response. I exited the car and stood in front of him – he simply looked casually in my direction and returned to what was either some pondering, or a completely thoughtless state. This was a young buck koala, and he was in fine condition and health. I have come across this koala behaviour on many occasions on back roads and even on the Great Ocean Road. In the past I have lifted such koalas off the road and placed them on or near a gum tree. But after a koala once bit my thumb in such an exercise, my enthusiasm for direct contact has waned. On this occasion the result was that I drove carefully around the koala, which remained seated and indifferent throughout.
This healthy adult male koala was working out how best to handle a cold strong wind. Face into the wind was not ideal, facing away from the wind with the resultant unbecoming comb-over effect was apparently not satisfactory either, so he settled for curling up and snoozing behind such shelter as this fork in the tree offered.
Deer are seen in the Otway Ranges with increasing frequency. They are not native to Australia, but seem to have adapted very well; some would argue too well. This one was certainly sprightly.
Buck roo and doe at rest in the early morning.
Australian magpies; mother with fledgling still being fed and reared by the mother. It seems to be a feature of the different stages of development that the young are often a bit scruffy while the adults are sleek and shiny as shown.
This fledgling arrived at our house with a fine covering of downy fluff which he was in the process of shedding. He was very personable and seemed to enjoy our company in short bursts. He always made a noisy arrival, but quietened down when we went outside to see him.
This shot taken a few days after the previous photo shows the down disappearing rapidly with only a few tufts at the top of his legs. But the scruffiness remains. This bird is anything but sleek and shiny – personal grooming is apparently not a priority at this point.
He would adopt this tilt of the head when I talked to him. On some occasions he would practice his warbling while close to me. Magpie warbling is beautiful. I have an outdoor shower, and this little maggie has taken to arriving and doing a bit of foraging for worms and bugs in the wet grass splashed by the shower water. When I turn the shower off he comes in close and walks around my feet for a short time.
If Maggie is in the mood for a visit, when I call his name he will fly directly to me. Initially his enthusiasm to do this was more akin to flying directly AT me. He would literally bang clumsily into my chest or arms. ‘Overshooting’ a target is a common error made by fledglings in the early stages of mastering flying. So I took a cushion out for a few of our chats and held it up to give him something soft to bounce off. He quickly learned to pull up short of me and land on the ground at my feet or on a nearby fence or rail. The cushion is no longer needed. I believe he is a male because I understand that magpie parents force the male young out of the nest (without abandoning them entirely) before the female young to accelerate their path to becoming breeding adults.
Victorian west coast hang gliding logistics
Getting to a takeoff site can be an adventure and half the fun. If when you get there the wind isn’t right for flying, it can be all the fun.
Soaring over Apollo Bay on Monday 27 December 2021
The wind on the beach was blowing from the south east at 15+ knots from early morning. Typically this would mean that at launch height the wind would be 20 knots or more which would be a bit stronger than I would like for my particular model of hang glider. As it turned out, by the time I was set up and ready to fly, the wind on launch was hovering around 15 knots with the occasionally stronger gust, which meant that a safe takeoff could be done with an immediate climb upon getting airborne. My friend Bruce was my wireman on launch, and he took off in his Litespeed a short time later.
There was abundant strong lift over a wide area for the duration of my 75 minute flight over the hills and coast between Wild Dog Creek and Apollo Bay.
Heading towards the hills during a gentle 360° turn well above launch height. Marriners Lookout and its access walking track can be seen on the right of this image just above the side wire of the hang glider.
Closeup detail of part of the previous photo, showing Marriners Lookout (750 feet above sea level) and the greater than usual number of tourists enjoying the view from this vantage point. I got (and gave) a few waves as I did a few passes.
The 3D log of my 75 minutes soaring flight around Apollo Bay and the hills. The flight ended with a landing on the beach near the Pisces caravan park. The colour coding on the flight track relates to altitude. My maximum altitude was 1483 feet, my maximum groundspeed was 43.2 knots (downwind – my glider cannot fly that fast in still air), the maximum lift I encountered was 1030fpm and I flew a total of 31.4kms. These figures (and the track above) were all derived from a very handy iPhone app designed for hang glider and paraglider pilots. The purple circle in the track was where I was briefly climbing in a thermal. At that point, I was in ridge lift augmented by thermal lift, I was going up at a good rate, but the horizontal component of the wind was also getting stronger (as shown by my groundspeed when flying directly into wind getting close to zero). So I left the thermal to stay in the plentiful lift (and reduced headwind component) in front of the ridge at a lower altitude.
When I landed there was still a stiff breeze on the beach. Lizzie held the nose of the glider while I took the harness clear of the sand. I had a 15 knot cross wind when I landed.
The glider was ‘flown’ by holding the nose wires and allowing it to lift in the onshore breeze, then walking it to a spot behind the dunes to pack the glider up where there was less wind and less sand. This was my first flight over my home town of Apollo Bay since I resumed hang gliding in October this year. It was a flight exactly such as this one which was my goal in returning to hang gliding. What a great day for it.
Orographic cloud along the coast
Cape Patton in the distance, Apollo Bay in the foreground. A steady moist southerly was blowing directly onto the hills of the Otway Ranges lining the coast. As the air in the lower levels was forced to rise over the hills, it cooled to the point where the air was saturated (100% humidity) and could no longer hold its moisture in vapour form. At this point the moisture condensed creating the visible moisture that is the cumulus cloud.
The lifting of air from a lower elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain is know as orographic lift. The clouds formed in this manner are called orographic clouds.
A striking example of orographic cloud, which formed over the coastal hills near Lorne. The ocean with whitecaps and a stiff breeze, on the left of the photo, is clear of cloud. A glimpse of the coast near Teddys Lookout (and the Lorne jetty) can be seen just right of centre in the lower part of the image. This photo was taken by Bruce Atkinson, a friend of mine, from his high performance hang glider (a Moyes Litespeed) which was soaring above the cloud in strong orographic lift on a coastal run of some distance. Bruce and a few of his friends had taken off from Bells Beach in the hope of flying along the coast to Apollo Bay. This is a coastal run for the experts only. Many kms of this run are over rugged coastline with no beach to land on. The sound judgment of the pilots at this point was that it would not be safe to continue flying towards Apollo Bay given that the orographic cloud west of Lorne was encroaching over the sea. The hang gliders landed safely on the beach at Lorne after descending over the sea clear of cloud then flying under the cloud to the beach for landing. Bruce has done the Bells Beach to Apollo Bay coastal run 17 times.
1970s hang glider ready for flight from unnamed ridge
Bruce Atkinson waiting for the wind direction to change to allow him to self-launch his EF7. The original EF glider models were designed and built in the 1970s.