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 March 31st 2021
I can hear the almost metallic whistle of the Adelaide Rosellas as I walk along a path skirting the riverbank. There are a few Peppercorn trees near the path and I finally manage to spot a bird half-hidden amongst the fine foliage. It's hard to focus and I need to take half a dozen images before I get one that is sharp enough.
I am walking a part of the 'Gawler Heritage Trail' which follows the South Para River, behind the main street of this classic South Australian country town. There are numerous interpretive signs explaining the role of the river to Aboriginal people, first settlers and later colonisers of the Gawler area. The riverbed is dry with only a few pools surviving the harsh South Australian summer.
The path splits in two. The paved trail follows the top of the bank, high above the current watercourse. The steep banks show how the river has cut through soft layers of soil and rock over many centuries. A dirt track dips down closer to the riverbed which is lined with reeds and grasses. A pair of Crested Pigeons cross the path in front of me and start foraging in the undergrowth. They are in shadow and it takes me a while to get a clear shot at them.
Various native plants have been cultivated along the pathways including several colourful Correa and Eremophila species growing along one of the embankments. There are native bees and different kinds of butterflies settling on both blossoms and leaves. One beautiful specimen, belonging to a group simply known as 'Blues', lands on some nearby Acacia leaves offering the perfect opportunity for a close-up image.
Huge River Gums feature along this part of the river and they are home to a wide variety of animals from insects and spiders to lizards, birds and possums. While I am examining the trunk of one eucalypt, searching for geckos, which hide under the bark during the daylight hours, I am momentarily distracted by the raucous call of a Galah higher in the tree. I stand back and scan the tree with the camera. High up on the trunk a pair of Galahs (Rose-breasted Cockatoos) are perched on the edge of a sizeable hole in the trunk. One disappears into what appears to be a nesting hole and the other flies off. I wait for a few minutes and just as I am about to give up a bird emerges, looks around, and takes flight.
The South Para River joins the North Para to form the Gawler River, a few hundred metres down the track where a footbridge marks the junction. From this raised position, I can focus more on treetop living birds like Pardalotes and Silvereyes. However, it is a Kookaburra announcing itself with a distinctive laughing call that catches my attention.
My time is almost up as I have arranged to meet friends at the Kingsford, one of Gawler's many classic Aussie Hotels. On my walk back, I leave the creek and wind through the back streets towards the main thoroughfare, Murray Street, with its eclectic mixture of buildings. Today's walk has been rewarding and I can see that this unique South Australian town has much more to offer with its various walks, plus its colonial and First Nations heritage perspectives.