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 July 7th 2016
Coffee, cake and creek life
There is a mixed group of birds feeding on the edge of the lake. Both species have long slender beaks and though they are hunting in the same area their prey is quite different. The larger ibises probe deeper into the mud in search of worms, frogs and yabbies. In contrast, the smaller stilts pick tiny crustaceans and insects from the surface of the mud.
I am in the Greenfields Wetlands at the junction of the Salisbury Highway and Port Wakefield Road. This rich aquatic environment filters run off and other waste water through its reed beds and other biological processes. In doing so it provides a wonderful habitat for a diverse range of animals ranging from insects and spiders through to birds, reptiles and amphibians.
There is a well marked trail consisting of gravel tracks and boardwalks that wind through the swampy habitat accompanied by numerous interpretive signs and even a bird hide. The 'Watershed Function Centre and Cafe' provides casual meals and coffee with a fine view over a small lake for those who don't fancy trekking around the wetland and prefer to view their wildlife from a deck over a coffee.
From my position near the edge of the lake I walk back along the trail towards a channel that bisects a reed bed. A flock of pelicans has just landed and they are starting to form a feeding circle. Australian pelicans will often hunt in this manner; corralling a school of fish then dipping their elastic beaks inwards to scoop them up.
Like most environments the health of wetlands relies heavily on the plants that form the bottom rung of any food chain and my attention is drawn to a small native, blue bee that is feeding on a silver nightshade blossom near the dense gardens that are planted around cafe. It flits between the flower heads stopping momentarily to gather nectar.
On this walk, I am lucky enough to encounter numerous flower spiders and butterflies feeding around some beautiful native plants including a delicate orchid that is home to a small, black blossom spider.
My walk around the wetland trail has taken the best part of two hours with frequent photographic and observational stops and it is time to sit in the cafe and enjoy a cappuccino and a rather delightful vanilla slice. As I sit down, a flight of black ducks swerves overhead and I hand the long lens to my son who has a steadier hand than me to see if he can catch them at the point of landing. It should make a nice picture for a another article on this important urban environment sometime in the future.