It is a typical Adelaide winter's day with just a few clouds scattered across the sky bringing the occasional shower to the top of the ranges. The weather has been unseasonably dry over the last couple of weeks and a diminutive new Holland honeyeater has taken advantage of the rain for some winter ablutions by fluffing and preening its feathers. These colourful little birds tend to live in small groups and I can hear the high pitched chattering of several other birds as they too enjoy the rain.
I am in the lovely gardens of Mount Lofty House and Botanic Gardens, about twenty minutes drive from the city centre up the South Eastern Freeway then through Crafers towards the summit. This historic boutique complex is a conference centre, day spa, hotel and restaurant set in beautiful European styled gardens and surrounded by native scrub with superb views across the hills.
From Mount Lofty House it is a short walk or drive to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens where runoff from the shower has created a small pool of water alongside one of the many walking trails. A grey fantail is taking full advantage of the makeshift bathtub to give its feathers a full makeover, probably to remove parasites as well as an opportunistic cleanup.
For a wildlife photographer, the beauty of the botanical gardens is only matched by their ability to produce flowers and fruits throughout the year. These green sanctuaries, therefore, attract a wider variety of wildlife during the winter months when animals are scarce in urban and bushland settings. Throughout the bushes and trees, I can hear the calls of numerous parrots including lorikeets and rosellas as well as the chirruping of finches.
A steep incline leads down to a track which leads through stands of camellias and azaleas. High in an adjacent tree, I can see a grey currawong feeding on some kind of berries, more evidence of the garden's bounty in the cooler weather.
The shower is very short and the sun soon emerges providing a burst of winter warmth and to my surprise, a small skink makes an appearance in the stonework alongside a flower bed. Perhaps the sudden shower has brought out some insects for it to prey on? Whatever the reason, even in such an unseasonably warm winter, it is unusual to catch sight of reptiles as they are invariably hibernating.
My walk is over and the pleasures of the Mount Lofty House's excellent restaurants await. However, the lure of such a beautiful setting is strong and I will certainly return in the spring to investigate the gardens and grounds when the weather warms and life.