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 January 1st 2020
Onkaparinga’s Peregrine Falcons
In a state where water is a premium commodity, it is gratifying to walk along a track skirting the banks of the Onkaparinga River in the National Park of the same name. I entered the park by a footbridge in the charming little hamlet of Old Noarlunga, just a thirty-minute drive from Adelaide's CBD.
As I round a bend in the trail, I meet another photographer carrying a 'bazooka' sized lens attached to a rather expensive looking camera. We stop and chat and he tells me that he is specifically shooting birds today and did I know that there were Peregrine Falcons using a nesting box attached to the tower of the old church that overlooks the river valley? I had never seen a Peregrine and decide to take a look after my walk along the river.
For the next fifteen minutes, I traverse a gentle grassy hillside overlooking the river. Massive river gums and thick bush fill the valley but long still pools are still visible through the foliage. I can hear the calls of a wide variety of birds but they are well hidden in the riverside scrub. Not surprising when a family of Peregrines are hunting along this section of the river.
When animals are scarce or nervous, the best strategy is to walk, sit and wait while carefully scanning the environment for tell-tale movements and sounds. With this in mind, I find a shady spot and give myself ten minutes before the next move. I am rewarded when I catch sight of a fox trotting through the long grass a couple of hundred metres away. As I raise the camera, the predator pricks up its sensitive ears and glances my way.... time for one quick burst on the continuous setting and hope for the best.
Numerous butterflies are flitting between the grasses and some small ground-hugging plants that are in flower. The butterflies are wary but eventually a large Wanderer (often called a Monarch) settles close to me when I am resting beneath a large eucalypt, using the 'sit and wait' strategy.
As I start to move closer to the river, I catch sight of several koalas resting in the forked branches of some river gums. It is unusual to see a grouping of the endearing marsupials and I spend the next ten minutes trying to get the best angle for a clear shot. They are all high in the canopies and often annoyingly obscured by foliage.
The church can be reached from the walking trails but I decide to drive up and park opposite. There are a couple of photographers sitting under a shady tree with lenses pointed towards the nesting boxes just below the spire and weather vane. The fledglings are just about to leave the nest permanently, but I am lucky enough to capture an image of the two youngsters together as well as one adult perched on the iron vane. A wonderful way to complete my day exploring the national park and historic old township.