Altona Coastal Park under grey skies

Thursday 29 October 2020. Today, again making the most of Melbourne’s extended lockdown radius, I set out for Altona Coastal Park. The Handels have visited the park, a former racecourse, a number of times in the past but not for some time. With the sun shining and only a hint of cloud, I cycled to Williamstown via Hyde Street and Douglas Parade. Then, crossing Ferguson Street, Williamstown’s main shopping street, I turned down Electra and Pasco Streets, passed through the Williamstown Beach station subway, and rode along Forster St to the Esplanade. This took me to the marvellous Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve. Here I lingered awhile to look for the Black Swan family currently in residence; I found them under the bridge connecting the two islands, where they had attracted a small crowd. Cycling on, I passed through Paisley-Challis Wetlands and alongside J. T. Gray Reserve before reaching the very green (almost lurid), mangrove-fringed Kororoit Creek. I crossed the creek at the ford (which really does flood after heavy rain, blocking traffic) and stopped to photograph a pair of Australian Pelicans standing on alga-green rocks, seemingly waiting for something like two old men. There were dozens of Black Swans too, perhaps the same flock I saw sitting just offshore in Altona Bay the previous week. I then set out clockwise around the park, following the circuit, only to leave it a short while later to follow a path that led to the mudflats of Altona Bay. By this time banks of threatening grey clouds had gathered in the sky. For all their menace, only a few drops of rain eventuated, but they certainly looked impressive. I returned to the circuit and soon came to a lovely section of woodland, with a gravel trail winding through it. I walked my bike some way then paused to listen to the charming warbles and whistles of the many birds: there were dozens of wagtails, wrens and honeyeaters. A dead tree in front of me attracted a succession of Red Wattlebirds. Leaving the woodland, I continued along the circuit. Just to the north of Altona Coastal Park lies that landmark of Melbourne’s industrial west, Altona refinery, not the most attractive nor tidiest piece of infrastructure around. But in my photograph, with a carpet of spring flowers before it and a moody sky above it, it presents most handsomely. Completing the circuit, I returned to the ford to find a White-faced Heron sidling through the gently tumbling water in its ungainly fashion. Its shade of grey looked splendid against the green of the creek. Bidding the heron goodbye, I set off for home, briefly stopping at the Paisley-Challis Wetlands bird hide to photograph a pair of Pied Stilts, then spending considerably more time at Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve trying to photograph Superb Fairywrens. The flitting beauties would not stay still.

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