There is a large group of magpies feeding amongst the leaf litter just a few metres off the walking trail in the Ferguson Conservation Park. Some are pecking at insects under the tree bark while others are rummaging amongst the leaf litter. They seem unconcerned by my presence providing a unique opportunity to photograph their behaviour in some detail.
This unique little park has an area of just 8 hectares and is only a fifteen minute drive from Adelaide's CBD. Situated off Hallett Road in the hills face suburb of Stonyfell, it provides a unique view of what the Adelaide Plains looked like before European settlement.
Golden orb spider, note the tiny male in the lower RHS of the picture
After watching the magpies for a few more minutes I take another of the many walking trails that snake through the scrub between stands of native pine and blue gums. An unseasonal burst of wet weather in January has stimulated a variety of plants to bloom attracting insects and more bird species than usual. It has also provided excellent conditions for golden orb spiders to emerge and spin their complex webs between the trees. Unlike many species these large spiders seem to stay in the web during the daylight hours; bad news for their prey but good for photographers!
Following another path that crosses a dry creek bed, I scan some of the taller trees for parrots. I can hear the distinctive calls of both lorikeets and rosellas and see occasional flashes of colour as they feed amongst the higher branches. One pair of lorikeets seems to have commandeered a nesting hole in a tall blue gum and as I focus the long lens on them I notice a furry shape a little further up the tree. The koala is comfortably wedged between the forked branches tree through the warmth of the day ready to feed as the evening approaches.
My next encounter is initiated by the chortling tones of a laughing kookaburra. The bird settles in one of the blue gums and is soon joined by a fellow seranader. They call for a few minutes then fly off into the surrounding suburbs.
A bird, a mammal/marsupial and an invertebrate; for a wildlife photographer it has been a good day. But the gods of natural history have one more blessing to bestow. Throughout the walk I have kept a watchful eye on the undergrowth for insects and reptiles and just as I am about to leave the park I notice a tiny lizard weaving its way through the leaf litter. The little reptile pauses for just a moment and I capture my final image.
For such a small area so close to the city, Ferguson Conservation Park has yielded a wealth of species. Its final gift is based on proximity rather than diversity. The Taylor Blend Espresso cafe, just across the road from the park, is the ideal place to sip an exquisite brew and savour a 'healthy' pastry or two whilst sorting through the images on my camera.