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 August 31st 2017
Numerous Pacific black and maned ducks are paddling around the edge of the pond feeding on water plants near the banks. Both species are common in the Adelaide area but I am searching for some of the less familiar varieties of waterfowl. Close to the middle of the waterway there is a pair of blue billed ducks. The birds are nervous and hard to get near enough to photograph so I sit quietly amongst the reeds and wait. Eventually they drift a little closer, even the light seems to be in my favour and I capture my image.
I am exploring the St Peters Billabong a few hundred metres upstream from the hackney Hotel. This lovely little backwater runs parallel to the Torrens River and was established in the 1970s to replicate the original ecosystems that defined the Torrens prior to European settlement. There are walking and bike trails nearby as well as a large oval, toilets and barbecues. Extensive plantings of native scrub and important water plants as well as an easily accessed boardwalk with viewing areas make this an ideal urban wildlife zone.
Leaving my hiding spot amongst the reeds I walk back along the gravel pathway to one of the viewing platforms. Using a long lens I can just pick out a small, fluffy bird that dives every few minutes then reappears as it feeds on bottom growing water plants. It is an Australasian grebe and like the blue billed ducks, one of the less common water birds that we encounter along the Torrens.
A highlight of this unique little oasis is the diversity of bird life. Often roosting sites are shared by a number of different species. An old tree branch jutting out of the water near the far bank is a perfect example with a white faced heron and a pair of cormorants using it to rest, dry out their plumage and look for prey while a black swan nestles down in the reeds behind.
Apart from the bird species that abound here there are also frogs, freshwater turtles as well as a wide variety of insect and spider. Sometimes koalas, possums or water rats are encountered in the early morning or evening. Indeed, whatever kind of wildlife you enjoy The St Peters Billabong is a well-located urban location; a place to investigate nature with the added advantage of facilities that also cater for families just seeking a quiet afternoon away from the cacophony of modern life .