I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
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Published August 4th 2020
Nature meets History
The little lake is placid and there are both waterfowl and cormorants feeding in the shallows. One of the Pied Cormorants has caught either fish or yabbies and is now resting on an overhanging branch. The sun is out and the birds take the opportunity to dry its wings. Unlike many waterbirds, cormorants do not have waterproof feathers and must dry out their plumage regularly.
I am exploring part of a waterway that runs through Jetty Street and Beach Street in Grange. The Captain Sturt museum and residence sit on the banks of a small lake close to the Grange Primary School. With significant reed beds and trash racks, the waterway helps filter stormwater and in turn, provides a lovely wetland setting for local residents. Numerous interpretive signs display information about the residence and Sturt's significance as an explorer and administrator in South Australia's early colonial years.
There are massive, old trees in the grounds of the residence and they are home to a wide variety of animals. I catch sight of one Rainbow Lorikeet peeping out from a nesting hole and another one hanging upside down as it feeds on tiny lerps adhering to gum leaves. A small group of Little Corellas are munching cones in a native pine or casuarina tree. Both species fill the air with their raucous calls adding a distinct soundtrack to my visit. One has to wonder how Sturt would have reacted to these calls as he sat in his drawing-room.
I decide to walk back to the lake when I notice a group of Wood Ducks (Maned Ducks) toddling along behind me. They seem quite accustomed to visitors and I capture a useful image showing the distinct difference between the male and female birds. A kind of Konrad Lorenz moment.
Sitting quietly on the edge of the lake. I adopt a wait and see strategy. I scan the opposite bank with my lens at full extension. There are several kinds of waterfowl hiding amongst the reeds and tree roots. A Dusky Moorhen is balanced precariously on a half-submerged branch before it takes to the water. Nearby, two Black Ducks are preening their feathers and spreading waterproof oil from a special gland situated near the tail. Sunlight catches iridescent flashes of colour on their wings making for a rather nice image.
The tree that I am sitting under has some areas of bark sloughing off the trunk. I probe under the edges and notice that there is a wide variety of invertebrates living in this common but little explored ecological niche. Small spiders, earwigs and beetles are quite common and near the base of the trunk I ease out a large native species of cockroach from its hiding place.
My walk around the grounds of Captain Sturt's Residence has been rewarding and as I am only a two-minute drive from the beach, a well-earned coffee and cake at one of the numerous cafes on the coastal cafes will make the perfect ending to my day.