One of the benefits of visiting zoos like the Adelaide Zoo here in South Australia is to observe many bird species up close. Most zoos have collections of birds and Adelaide Zoo is no exception. There is a large collection of easily viewed aviaries decorated to reflect the different habitats present in Australia – from the deserts through to rainforests. In most cases the observer can get to within a metre or two of the birds which helps in learning the finer details of plumage.
The zoo also has two walk through aviaries where you can get even closer to the birds. These are also excellent for bird photography. One of the species I photographed on my last visit was the Black-winged Stilt shown on the photos above and below. This was a challenge – even with a flash on my camera. It was lurking in the pools of the rainforest aviary.
Black-winged stilts are water birds found throughout most of Australia where suitable habitat exists, except, of course, for the drier inland regions. They can occur in small groups of only four or five through to large concentrations in the hundreds, depending on the conditions.
Monarto Zoological Park is just a few minutes’ drive from my home in Murray Bridge. We try to visit several times a year because I have a membership card which allows free entry. One of the interesting things about this open range zoo is the waterhole in the giraffe enclosure. This is actually an artificial dam which fills during and after good rains. The creek which runs into this area is an ephemeral water course. When there is water, there is always a small collection of water birds attracted by the water.
On our visit late last year observed a few Grey Teal (see photo above) and some Black-winged Stilts (photo below). The Black-winged Stilts are found over most of Australia where there is suitable habitat, including swamps, lakes, shallow river edges, dams, salt-fields, estuaries and mudflats. Their nest is often made of weeds or other plant materials on the ground or raised up a little off the ground or can even be a plain depression on the ground with little or no lining.
Grey Teal are one of the most abundant and widespread of the waterfowl species in Australia. Their preferred habitat includes rivers, lakes, swamps, reservoirs, estuaries, waterholes and even small farm dams – in fact, where ever there is some water.
Not far from this waterhole I photographed a Masked Lapwing sitting on eggs right next to one of the tracks taken many times every day by the visitor buses. You can read about that and see a photo by clicking here.
I have only recently visited St Kilda and Barker Inlet north of Adelaide for the first time, but already it is becoming a favourite birding spot of mine. Access to the area is very easy being just a few kilometers off the main highway heading north from Adelaide (the Port Wakefield road). There is a large car parking area, a large lawned picnic area, an interesting Adventure Playground (for the ankle biters – teens might even like it), a fast food outlet, boat ramp and a well kept clean public toilet block.
At low tide the tidal mudflats stretch for many kilometres along the coast. On top of the rock wall protecting the boat channel out to deeper water is an excellent walking path. This enables one to walk far out from the beach, perhaps nearly a kilometre. This allows one to get close to the birds feeding on the mudflats.
On my few visits I have observed many Black Winged Stilts (see photo above), Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers, Australian Pelicans, White Ibis, Great and Little Egrets, Black Swans and Royal Spoonbills. On my visits I have seen, far out from the shore, what looked like thousands of Grey Teal. I also recorded several Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks.
An added bonus for the birder at St Kilda is the Mangrove Boardwalk nearby. I have written about this here. Of course, my visits have been in early spring. I dare say, as the weeks progress, many migratory waders will arrive here for the summer months.
Updated Nov 2013.