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 November 5th 2017
Dam fine walk
If I look carefully I can just make out the shape of a little black bird hiding amongst the reeds. Closer examination through the long lens reveals it as a purple swamp hen chick and I quickly scan the area for the adult birds. These beautifully coloured birds, the largest of the rail family, are common around the rivers and wetlands near Adelaide.
Today I am waking around the Thorndon Park Reserve just off Gorge Road in the suburb of Paradise. The park was once the site of a major reservoir established in 1860 to supply Adelaide. It has more recently been developed as a recreation park featuring a series of small lakes, wetlands, walking/bike trails and extensive grassed areas surrounded by native plantings. In addition, sheltered areas, toilets, free barbecues, a children's playground and a weekend kiosk add a family dimension to this lovely park.
After watching the swamp hen chick for a while, I wander down the gravel pathway that is designated as a "Nature Walk'. It circumnavigates a little island and there are numerous signs providing information about local plants and animals. Several large eucalyptus trees stretch out over the water and I spot a clump of spitfire grubs clumped on one of the trunks. The somewhat unpleasant little beasties are capable of expelling a stinging fluid if disturbed... hence the name. They are actually the larvae of sawflies, a common wasp-like insect.
The thick bushes along the path are full of colourful little new Holland honeyeaters that twitter and chirp as they fly between blossoming shrubs. In the understory, I can also hear the higher pitch of blue wrens though I only catch a fleeting glimpse of one bird. Today I am more focussed on species that live around the water and from the vantage point of a strategically placed bench, I get a fine view of a black-tailed native hen and a masked lapwing foraging on the grassy edge of the lake.
With my walk almost complete, I return to the reed beds where I saw the swamphen chick. Several metres away there is a low stone wall alongside a small waterfall and one of the parent birds is entering the adjacent pond. Nearby a freshwater turtle swims by - a nice little wildlife cameo to end a relaxing day in the park.