With around 50 species of bird occurring here throughout the year, the Tennyson Dunes are a bird lover’s paradise. Some birds are permanent residents, like the musical singing honeyeater. Others come from far off places to spend the summer and clock up thousands of kilometres in their journey to get here.
Birds of prey
Look to the sky during your visit today and you might be rewarded with a spectacular aerial display by the dunes’ resident birds of prey. The black-shouldered kite (Elanus axillaris) and nankeen kestrel (Falco cenchroides) can often be seen hovering over the dunes as they hunt for small terrestrial mammals, insects and reptiles. Call: Black-shouldered kite ‘chee’ ‘skairr’, ‘kik, kik, kik’, Nankeen kestrel ‘keekeekeekeekee’, ‘keer, keer, keer’.
The musical tweets of the singing honeyeater (Lichenostomus virescens) are a signature sound of the Tennyson Dunes. Listen for them within the dense shrubs at the heart of the dunes and proceed quietly for your best chance at sighting these shy residents. Call: ‘prrit, prrit, pritt’, ‘crik-crikit-crikit-crikit’, ‘scree’.
Of the 50 species of reptiles that occur in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, at least 10 to 15 can be found here in the dunes. Many are small and shy, like the iconic painted dragon. Others are quite large, including one that you might prefer not to come across!
The sun-loving reptiles of Tennyson are most likely to reveal themselves to you in the morning and afternoon as they warm themselves along the trail, on fence posts and atop bushes.
The painted dragon (Ctenophorus pictus) is the iconic species of the Tennyson Dunes, which come alive with these spectacular looking lizards all through the spring and summer. Look for them basking in the sun along the trail or perched on the branches of low lying shrubs.
Eastern bearded dragon
The largest lizard that you will find in the dunes is the eastern bearded dragon (Pogona barbata). If you get too close it will puff up its characteristic beard in a warning to keep your distance. They are quick and agile climbers and will often perch on fence posts or bushes as they warm themselves in the sun or look for prey.
Eastern brown snake
The eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) often gets a bad rap because it is highly venomous, but it is a very shy snake and will usually keep out of your way. It is an essential part of the dune’s ecology and fulfills the important role of keeping mice and rat populations in check. Keep listening for Kaurna Elder Frank Wangutya Wanganeen’s insight on the species of reptile that the brown snake tends to avoid.
The hundreds of species of invertebrates that live in the dunes are part of an ancient group of animals that have been on earth for at least 360 million years. Most of these ‘minibeasts’ go about their daily business unnoticed, but the services they provide are vital to the dunes and the plants and animals that live here.
The ants of the dunes are often the easiest invertebrates to spot as they go about their daily business. They deliver a whole host of important services, but one of the most interesting is the sugar ants (Camponotus consobrinus) role as attendant and protector of the dunes’ resident caterpillars.
The pie-dish beetle (Halea sp.) is a dune specialist with a body crafted to plane through the sand. These night time foragers feed mostly on decaying vegetation and are most abundant in the summer months.
The antlion (Myrmeleon sp.) is best known for the fierce predatory habits of its larvae which build conical pits to trap passing ants and other prey. Look for these death traps in the soft sand along the edges of the walking trail.
There are a whole host of spiders that inhabit the dunes, from primitive spiders with heavy set bodies and large fangs to more cryptic species with exceptional camouflage abilities. Wherever you are in the dunes, there is a spider nearby.
The pollinating invertebrates that inhabit the dunes are vital in creating and maintaining the habitat that other animals rely on for food and shelter. Among the species found here are buzz pollinators like the spectacular looking native blue banded bee (Amegilla cingulata). Draw your eye to the tops of bushes and shrubs in flower for your best chance at spotting these insects.
Some of the most vocal of the invertebrates found at the dunes only reveal themselves at night, like the loud and persistent mole cricket (Gryllotalpidae sp.). The continuous song of this cricket is a recognisable sound of summer, which is the time of year when they are most active.
Butterflies and moths
A great number of butterfly and moth species inhabit the dunes. Some are more dazzling in their appearance than others, but all play an essential role in the ecosystem here. They can be difficult to spot when they are resting, so look instead for flashes of colour as they take flight.
The praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) is a formidable predator of the dunes that ambushes or patiently stalks its prey. When it is ready to strike it does so with lightning speed, attacking with large raptorial arms that pin their victim in place. These nimble carnivores have mastered the art of camouflage, so look closely among the twigs and stems of the plants of the dunes for a chance at spotting this charismatic creature.
You don’t often see the adult gall wasp (Cynipidae sp.) flying about the dunes, but you are likely to come across its larvae hiding in plain sight. Look for funny looking galls or calluses on various plants that form in response to the presence of the wasp’s feeding larvae.
Flora and fauna species lists
To download flora (plants) and fauna (animals) species lists for this park, use the 'Create Simple Species List' tab under 'Flora Tools' or 'Fauna Tools' in NatureMaps.