With our time in Australia running out and having more or less recovered from the flu virus that had restricted our outings, I was keen to visit Sale Common for a nature walk.
So, one Friday towards the end of May, I borrowed the family car and drove to the parking area for the Common (full name is Sale Common State Game Refuge) where I parked next to one other car already there.
Before reaching the parking area I had passed a stretch of river which was occupied by two prominent birds – a White-faced Heron and a Little Pied Cormorant – both of which I was able to photograph before they moved off.
After parking I gathered my warm jacket, binos and camera and set off along the first stretch of pathway through Red Gum Woodlands with a carpet of greenery creating a beautifully peaceful scene.
Shortly thereafter the pathway branched off towards the “lagoon” (as it was known to the early settlers) and I soon came across my first sighting – not a bird for a change but a Wallaby – who eyed me from a distance, cocked its ear then turned slowly and went bounding off through the long grass.
This was followed by close-up sightings of two small birds of the bush that I have become very familiar with in Australia – Superb Fairy-Wren and Grey Fantail, both emitting cheerful calls to liven up the forest.
As I approached the first stretches of water it was obvious that water levels were very different from those in 2019 when I had last walked these routes, to the point that the pathway was close to being inundated in places.
I could see waterfowl ahead, breaking from their waterside cover and heading out into the middle of the lagoon, looking back to eye me warily as I hastened to get a photo or two before they became too distant.
A short detour in the pathway led to the “Lookout” – a low hill with views over the lagoon and across to the opposite bank which was lined with trees. From this vantage point I could see a variety of birds perched in partially submerged trees, including Little Black Cormorants and Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills, the latter being a Lifer – my first for the morning.
Nearby an Australian Darter was perched with wings spread, drying its feathers before its next fishing dive, and higher up in the tree above a Whistling Kite was partially concealed – I later discovered it was attending a nest with a young nestling.
I joined the main pathway again, alternating between natural track and boardwalks across the wetland sections, the latter providing a good vantage point for close views of White-faced Herons and Black Swans before reaching a stretch of track surrounded by water.
A bench standing in water was a further indication that the water levels of the wetlands were substantially higher than May 2019 when I had last visited the Common and I didn’t need further persuasion to make this my turnaround point, having walked enough and seen enough for the morning.
Time was moving on and the car would soon be needed for the school run so I headed back along the pathway, without rushing but with fewer meandering dawdles. Nevertheless, I spotted two ducks which I didn’t immediately recognise – with good reason as both turned out to be Lifers!
One was a Musk Duck with an unusual bill that reminded me of a Pygmy Goose, the other was a Grey Teal that looked remarkably like the Cape Teals we are used to in SA.
Thrilled with my haul of three lifers for the morning and the absolute pleasure of walking in such an inspiring environment (which I virtually had to myself as well) I hastened to the parking area and found I was just in time to head straight to the schools to collect our grandson and granddaughter.