I slowly climbed the hill through the knee high dry grass, each step raising a cloud of dust. Every stick looked like a snake. But that was better than the other way around.
The heavy breathing behind me increased. The horse that owned the paddock was getting tetchy. I wondered what he’d do when he found out the camera bag over my shoulder didn’t contain carrots. Praise be for horse-proof gate latches!
There were other ways of getting to our favourite photography birding spot, but getting there was half the fun. The other half was having the lake to ourselves.
And that’s SO not going to change …
Yes, there’s a deep irony in the first of my series about our TOP Aussie Birding Spots being in a secret location.
But it’s not because we’re miserable beggars (I hope you admire my restraint!) who enjoy knowing something that not many others know, or even in taking a childish delight when enjoying a cruel laugh at their expense (although if I’m being perfectly honest …).
No, I can do WAY better than that.
- The lake’s on private property.
- It’s only accessible on the weekend.
- We’ve got permission from the owner.
- And the birds are skittish enough as it is.
So given that you’ll never know exactly where this birding hotspot is from me, the least I can do is taunt you with show you its delights. And one day, when our fantasy comes true and the owners allow us to build a weekender/bird hide there, we just might share it more openly!
Although other spots may have greater numbers, more species and rarer birds, this little lake somewhere in the Adelaide Hills is what photography birding is all about.
It’s an Australian White Ibis rookery.
It’s got the requisite dead trees, branches skewed artistically and photographically against the blue South Australian summer sky.
The trees reflected on it’s sometimes wind-dappled, sometimes mirror-like surface are a photographers fantasy.
And the reeds at the other end make a fine photographic challenge.
Although maybe not to a REAL photographer …
Oops! There I go again, talking about photography instead of birding … I mean, of course, that the variety of habitats means there’s always an interesting bird or two to spot!!
The Mount Lofty Ranges, although a relatively low range rising from the surrounding plain (Mt Lofty at only 727 metres above sea level (2385 ft) is the highest), are still high enough for a milder climate and higher rainfall.
In a ‘good’ year, it’s even been known to snow on Mt Lofty! However, in a ‘bad’ year – like February 1983’s Ash Wednesday – the (locally known) Adelaide Hills can be strafed by bushfires. But, even during the traditionally hot and dry South Australian summer, the hills are a stretch of sweeping views to the ocean, picturesque towns, gourmet food and wine, orchards and gardens.
The natural attractions and unspoiled habitats like ‘our’ lake are a bonus in this region known for its scenic beauty.
And an even bigger bonus are the birds, of course!
I first used my new digital camera here in January 2012, so each visit records my photographic journey and changes in style.
Oh! AND also a record of the ever-changing bird life on the lake!!
Each of us secretly hopes like hell something different is sitting there waiting for us to spot and/or photograph.
And on this thankfully snake-free day in early January, we were in luck! Pink-eared Duck made its first appearance here – as recorded by us, anyway.
Flocks of Ibis adults and young circled high above and a pair of Little Pied Cormorant shared nesting duties a few metres above the water.
Galahs gazed down from the ever-so-photographically-perfect bare tree branches against that marvellous blue sky, and Australasian Grebe swam across the lake with several young ones trailing in its wake.
A flock of Black-tailed Native Hen ducked in and out of the undergrowth edging the lake, tails bobbing just like Black-fronted Dotterel on a nearby sandy shore. Reed Warbler, flitting in and out of the reeds were drowned out by the panic of a few Purple Swamphen, startled into raucous flight.
If you get the impression you’re being watched, you probably are. But not just by the birds. Often the last remaining secluded source of water in this part of the Adelaide Hills during summer, other birds and animals often drop in.
But on this early January 2014 day, so much was happening we barely noticed the absence of Rufous Night Heron, Rainbow Bee-eater and Spotted Crake, seen here on other visits. Or the passage of time … just when you think it’s all over, something else worth photographing staying for a bit longer to watch happens. Like the cormorant nesting changeover. Or the ibis feeding its young. Or a kangaroo coming down for a drink.
Or just the interplay of light, shade, reflections, colours and wind on the water. Yes, a photographer’s fantasy all right – especially when that (amateur) photographer is in ‘I’ve-got-a-new-camera’ mode!!
If I’d worn my watch, I’d have known exactly how much time we spent there – although maybe taking photos isn’t the only reason to bring the camera … if only I’d thought of that at the time!
And the time passed remarkably quickly given our ‘quick walk before breakfast’ plans!
But who needs breakfast on a glorious photographic birding adventure in a place like this?
Besides, incorporating chocolate into a meal is much more socially acceptable at brunch, anyway!
Finally, hunger and fatigue drove us back through the paddock towards home.
Tricking the horse into staying on the other side of the gate was easy – this time – but I suspect he’ll have his revenge if we turn up again without a couple of carrots.
But I don’t care. As long as the snakes keep their distance!