Rare beauty in Royal Park West

Grebe in Royal Park West

Grebe in Royal Park West

Roslyn Nataprawira shares the sights and sounds of the wetlands in Royal Park.

8:51 am

A fresh spring morning. We take the main path heading east from the car park. A flitting Willie Wagtail is here to greet us; not many people around. A man is doing push ups on the edge of the playing field and a family of three wearing backpacks head purposefully across the oval – father and son kicking a footy as they go.

Willy Wagtail on reads at Royal Park West

Willy Wagtail

A side path leads to the Trin Warren Tam- boore wetlands. Purple Swamphens, scurry on lanky legs across the lawn to the safety of the water as we enter the curving sandy path. We hear in the distance a bird we have heard on previous occasions but never seen.  

What’s this ahead? On the path a flashing fan comes into view. The fantail belongs to a native Crested Pigeon, distinguished by his spiky head dress, engaged in a courtly dance. He circles his nervous mate. We leave him in peace to continue wooing his lady pigeon and turn away from the wetland path in another direction.

Behind the sports pavilion, steps lead up through the White’s Skink habitat, an inviting path, but this morning we choose the outer path. Rounding the bend, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories can be seen across a small valley and below, a creek feeding the wetlands.

Gibbons in the Zoo are clearly audible today.

As we head up the hill, jutting pieces of concrete landfill, poke out of the long grass on either side of the path. Brown female Fairy Wrens flit between the bare branches of a tree outlined against the clear cloudless sky. A male bird in blue and black breeding plumage is briefly glimpsed atop a concrete slab.

Female Blue Wren

Female Blue Wren

Our path joins the Capital City Trail below the railway cutting and we head south along the shared pathway.  One or two joggers puff up the incline and a group of cyclists call a friendly greeting as they pass.

Soon we leave the cycle path and head for a natural bush track to one side. In the dense shrubbery we can hear the chatter of small birds and occasionally catch a glimpse of a wren or Firetail finch. The track is intersected by a fence-line in which there is a pedestrian opening.

Ant nest

Ant nest

This track is seldom used and the occasional Drooping Cassinia and acacia seedlings have sprouted in the middle of the path. Chocolate lilies briefly bloom amongst the Stipa and Wallaby grasses to our left and I smell the sweet pale blossom of Black Wattles all around. The texture of the track is reminiscent of a hundred bush tracks I have wandered along in my lifetime; a mixture of reddish soil and gravel with bedrock occasionally poking through; Meat ants are busy living their lives here.

Chocolat Lily

Chocolate Lily

Ahead three Ravens engage in a family conference on the track and noisily fly up to perch on the electricity pylon where in August we saw a juvenile Black Shouldered Kite.

As we reach the highest point of the escarpment I keep an eye out for a thick patch of a dwarf Lomandra shown us once by a Park’s Ranger. The vegetation and geology here are remnants of the landscape before European settlement. We head downhill now towards the second fence-line, where in winter native Clematis covers the Hedge Wattle with a veil of creamy flowers. Passing through the gate we notice some black insects, their wings vibrating so fast, they appear as tiny balls suspended in air.

Converging path and track

Converging path and track

Abruptly our track joins the bicycle track again but only for a second before we turn down hill towards the smaller of the playing fields where in winter we often stop to watch soccer matches in progress. The teams appear to be composed of various young multicultural groups. Today the field is the domain of a pair of magpies. The oval has been landscaped with young Box Eucalypts edging the slope we have just descended and on the northern boundary with Blackwoods and Acacia implexa; a perfect choice of trees for the location.

As we leave the soccer field and head north I admire the perfection of the Ross Straw Reserve with its immaculate baseball pitch marked out in red scoria and beyond it, bordered by shady elm trees, the cricket pitches, always lush and green. Young cricketers in their whites are just beginning to take their positions on the field.

Above us on the bushy slope we are alerted by the excited twitter of tiny birds. Grey fantails we think; their movements are so quick! I wonder how two beautiful Weeping Myall trees, considered endangered in Victoria, come to be planted amongst the local indigenous vegetation.

Black Shouldered Kite Roya

Black Shouldered Kite Roya

As we approach the pavilion our circuit is almost complete. We pick up the Trin Warren Tam- boore track again near where we saw the Crested Pigeons. The calls of Coots and Swamphens are clearly heard behind the curtain of Lignum.

Sometimes we take the boardwalk into the heart of the wetlands to observe the ducks, little Grebes and occasional Spoonbill or White Egret. Today we skirt the wetland and head along the thickly vegetated western boundary fence where again we hear the distinctive birdcall; four short musical notes followed by a long note. We have heard that sound in the bush but there as well as here the bird still remains illusive.We pass by its hidden perch and reach the car park where swallows slip and slide around us. My mood is almost trancelike, at peace with my surroundings.


Melbourne City Council has created and maintains this visionary inner city wildlife sanctuary. The whole complex of wetlands, water conservation, bushland habitat and playing fields are a remarkable achievement. If this environment is destroyed by a freeway, we will never get it back.

Roslyn Nataprawira,


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2 Comments on “Rare beauty in Royal Park West”

  1. cara.residents November 11, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    Great blog! it inspired ‘us’ to return to our blog – we blogged your post with the Tender video for all. Now I want to somehow post your feed at our blog as you are such a regular blogger! Have to work out how to do this…

    • roseiser November 11, 2013 at 1:20 am #

      Thanks! I think you should be able to add a widget with ‘Blogs I follow’ which may do the trick. I will link your site to the blog – as well as Resident Association pages. Also planning to set up useful links and people to write to etc. Best – Rose

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