Salisbury’s Urban Wetlands

3 Jan


Dear Reader:

The saltbush and thorny wattle bushes that surround the bark chip path are thick and impenetrable. All around me I can hear the hum of insects and the twittering of unknown birds. Eventually I catch sight of a small bird perched in some bushes about twenty metres in front of me. The light is poor despite the sunny day and the shot is far from ideal. I wait for a few minutes. Finally the little bird breaks cover and sits on an exposed branch. It is still moving so the image will not be perfect but I fire off a few frames in the hope that one will help me to identify it.

1 Female fairy wren in scrub

Female fairy wren in scrub

5 Typical wetland  habitat

Typical wetland habitat


A little further along the trail I cross a footbridge and a wide expanse of shallow water confronts me. A collection of wading birds are feeding on an exposed mud-bank. They see me and start to behave nervously. I capture a single image just moments before the birds scatter; some disappear into the reeds while others take flight and head deeper into the wetland.

2 Various species of water birds on an embankment

Various species of water birds on an embankment


I am in the Greenfields Wetlands near Mawson Lakes where I work as a teacher. This complex of lakes, reed beds and low scrub is part of a chain of wetlands that filter stormwater for re-use in the Salisbury area a few kilometres north of Adelaide. This particular area has been carefully rejuvenated over several decades turning wasteland into a natural wetland zone where the wildlife is wary. Even common ducks disperse as I approach rather than simply paddling away as they might in the urban part of the creek that passes through my school. The wildlife is not only cautious but more diverse and one gets a real sense of being in the field, despite the traffic and housing only a hundred metres away.

2 Watershed restaurant

Watershed restaurant


My next wildlife encounter tests both observation skills and patience. I detect a slight movement on a mudflat near some reeds. I look a little closer and can see nothing. I wait, searching through the telephoto. Eventually, what appeared to be a brownish patch of decaying plant matter moves ever so slightly. It is a little black-fronted dotterel that has been foraging along the edge of the creek. A few more minutes pass more before the bird feels confident enough to resume its previous feeding pattern and I have to move carefully and slowly to capture an image. This is the kind of photography that I love. Perhaps it rekindles some lost predatory instinct…who knows?

4 Dotterel feeding on muddy embankment

Black-fronted dotterel feeding on muddy embankment


My final wetland moment is really quite unexpected. As I leave the trail and head up to the little restaurant that sits alongside the wetland there is a flurry of wings and water behind the reeds to my right. A flock of Australian pelicans lifts into the air. My camera is in standby mode and by the time it has re-started the birds are climbing rapidly. I hastily track them in flight and fire off a series of shots. Later when I review the images I am delighted to find that one picture shows three birds with their wings in different flight position.

6 Pelicans showing different wing positions in flight

Pelicans showing different wing positions in flight


As the light starts to fade I return to the Watershed Cafe, hand in my trail key and enjoy coffee and dessert on the deck overlooking the main lagoon. A tough way to end my day.






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