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Autumn Memories… The Times They Are A-Changin’

By Keith Hutton on May 26, 2015 in Other

Photo: Richard Hirst

Photo: Richard Hirst

In autumn, cold wintery changes from the south, cyclones in the north, shorter days and longer nights result in drastic shifts in the local weather. There is a latent restlessness that pervades the natural world, most obvious away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs, and there is no better time to check out Centennial Park with an early morning walk to look for wildlife on the move.

If you enter the park on Musgrave Avenue and wander in the uncut grass along the top of the concreted open drain you will soon see a few resident water birds before reaching the first ponds: moorhens with well-grown downy young and Black Ducks often frequent that area, and further on there are usually a few teal and Little Grebes on One More Shot Pond.

There are many shady trees and just over a year ago the first Powerful Owl ever recorded in the park was identified here. I remember it well: a fresh sunny morning with a cool breeze, and the lush grass wet after overnight showers. A park gardener was hard at work with a leaf blower along the avenue: is there any sound more irritating? More significantly, some Peewees, a Pied Currawong and an aggressive mob of Noisy Miners, obviously aggravated by something in the crown of an old liquidambar, were protesting loudly. This ancient tree was completely covered with leaves down to the ground and I was able to walk inside it and look up into the tree-top to clearly see what was upsetting the birds: in the uppermost canopy a huge owl, beautifully back-lit by the morning sun filtering through pallid translucent autumn leaves, was glaring down menacingly at me with big yellow eyes. After a few identification pictures on the trusty iPhone, the park ranger was informed and the first of many enthusiastic bird watchers arrived to see it within 40 minutes.

Time to move on, past the Fly Casting Pond, Lachlan Swamp and the stinking, snickering fruit bat camp, to the shady little Lily Pond. There are massive eels in there at this time of year, almost as thick as a man’s arm, lurking in the shallows.

The final part of this walk involves the circuit of Busby’s Pond with its fine display of flowering water lilies, then on to Parkes Drive and the kiosk where people feed water birds at the Duck Pond. With luck there could be Eastern Spinebills and Musk Lorikeets along the way, and maybe even a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos returned early to the east for winter, flying slowly and buoyantly with deep powerful wing beats, wailing mournfully and searching for pine trees and flowering banksias.

Centennial Park is a haven for wildlife and offers plenty of space for residents and visitors to enjoy, all within the boundaries of one of the biggest cities in the world, and autumn is the perfect time to visit.