A pair of piggy little eyes peers at me from just above the water's surface. I focus the camera, fire off a frame just before the creature disappears without a trace into the murky water. A few moments later it re-appears swimming just below the surface; a moving shadow. Most of the freshwater turtles in the Botanic Gardens Lake are Macquarie Short Necks and they can grow to the size of a dinner plate. Sometimes they bask on logs but more often the lie just below the surface with just their nostrils and eyes visible.
I am having lunch at the Botanic Gardens Kiosk sitting by the side of the little lake while enjoying the parade of wildlife that is attracted to the water, reeds, and plantings that make this area so enchanting. Although there are other dining options in the gardens this area, with its outdoor and indoor settings by the lake, is my favourite place to spend a couple of hours. With coffee, wine and a casual meal on the table and my camera at the ready, I am almost guaranteed to experience some interesting wildlife encounters.
With a slight shift of my chair, I get a good view of the reed beds and aquatic plants that grow along the edge of the pond. Suddenly, a beautiful blue dragonfly lands on a flower bud and stays just long enough for me to capture another image before hovering back over the water.
Apart from turtles and insects, the pond is home to numerous other species. Several great cormorants are fishing around the outer edges. They disappear under the water for a while then surface shaking their heads as they swallow small invertebrates or fish they have caught. Other birds such as ducks and moorhens also use the lake as a food source but they mainly forage for water plants.
With lunch finished I leave the table and decide to do a circuit of the lake to search for some different species and photograph the kiosk from another perspective. My absence encourages a young moorhen and crested pigeon to check out the table in case there are some scraps to be had. Signs around the kiosk discourage feeding the wildlife from both a dietary and behavioural point of view, but animals are hard to totally put off where food is concerned.
The time I have spent at the gardens has been both relaxing and exciting and I make a note to return later on in the year and explore some of the many other special areas that this iconic Adelaide destination has to offer.
Footnote: destination is well suited for seniors and families as it provides a safe easily negotiated paths, toilet facilities, grassed areas, sheltered areas and numerous food outlets