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Birds, Bats and Monster Carp… A Walk in the Park

By Keith Hutton on February 15, 2013 in Other

Photo: David Webb

It was a cool grey Christmas with a bit of rain. As soon as the holiday was over the sun came back bringing brighter skies with only a few small white clouds high up in the blue. It didn’t heat up very quickly, but at least it was milder. A fresh breeze dropped the humidity and balanced the power of the summer sun making the weather ideal for a walk. With time short, Centennial Park seemed a good choice; there’s always something of interest to see there.

A few Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows were obvious, flitting low along Dickens Drive in the area around Willow Pond, with more resting in a dead tree at the edge of the Fly Casting Pond, sharing the branches with a couple of little cormorants drying their outstretched wings. The water was dark and still; a few pairs of Pacific Black Ducks and a mongrel feral Mallard dabbled quietly expecting to be fed, accompanied all the while by a swamphen and some moorhens in mint condition. Lazy turtles, their backs festooned with green mossy weed, occasionally floated up and poked their heads above the water to breathe, with hardly a ripple. Close to the surface monster carp drifted slowly with awesome power and grace, like submarines patrolling under the paddling feet of the birds. A feral pigeon and two mynas strutted about on the timber deck, but none of them was going to get a feed this time.

A short distance past the ponds there is an open wooded area with paperbarks and a shady footpath passing under the trees through relatively short but uncut vegetation, leading to a wet area with taller grasses and reeds adjacent to Lachlan Swamp. A Buff-banded Rail – a shy and secretive bird, beautifully marked but hard to see at the best of times – scurried furtively along the path before darting off through the cover towards the swamp, occasionally stopping and raising its head above the rank grass to look back.

Further along the trail in damper areas the paperbarks and understory grow denser. Fruit bats roost there during the day, hanging from branches high up in the trees. In dappled shade below the canopy there are always one or two of these restless animals flying from tree to tree, while others flutter their wings to keep cool, constantly shuffling, snickering and niggling among themselves. They don’t smell too good and their hygiene has room for improvement, so it pays not to walk under them without a hood or a hat on.

Back in the open away from the swamp on the bank along the shore of Willow Pond, there are usually a few people picnicking or simply relaxing on the cropped dry turf. A few water birds, conditioned to expect offers of food, cautiously creep out through well-worn tunnels in the rushes that fringe the water, or stalk about picking at the short grass, while others bob idly in the shallows – no handouts for them today either.

Sydney is blessed with abundant people-friendly wildlife and magnificent parklands that are safe, readily accessible and with good amenities close by. There are amazing things to see there, virtually in your own back yard; you just have to go out and look.

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