4 fun things to do at Adelaide’s bird sanctuary

Spring has sprung, so migratory birds are now flocking to the bird sanctuary. Explore it best with these ideas.

The coastal wetlands edging the Gulf of St Vincent just north of Adelaide is easy to look past. But the area is special – it’s being conserved and protected as the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary.

The bird sanctuary is one of South Australia's most important habitats for migratory shorebirds and is one of the longest continuous coastal reserves.

Every year during the warmer months, more than 27,000 shorebirds travel from as far away as Alaska and northern Asia to Adelaide’s northern coastline to bask in the heat, feed on the mudflats and saltmarshes, and roost in the sheltered seclusion and the vast open spaces of the bird sanctuary.

So flutter down to the bird sanctuary during the warmer months and see what the fuss is about. Here are four top ways to explore it:

1. Kayaking at St Kilda

Bring your own kayak or hire one and spend the day exploring St Kilda on the water. One location to launch your kayak from is the bank of St Kilda Bay, close to the St Kilda Beach Hotel.

Kayak around the mangroves and see if you can spot any birds, such as the royal spoonbill, hiding amongst the thick branches searching for snacks. Then paddle out near the St Kilda playground pirate ship to spot the sooty oystercatcher and black-winged stilt.

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2. Snorkelling at Port Gawler

Grab your snorkelling gear and float around Port Gawler’s mangroves.

Above water, you’ll spot herons, blue wrens, pacific gulls, oystercatchers, the ubiquitous ibis, and black swans.

When you dip your head below the water’s surface you’ll uncover a whole new world and be greeted by colourful anemones, colonial seasquirts, crabs, prawns, fish and rays.

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Port Gawler

3. Birding at Thompson Beach

Pack some snacks and drinking water, then head to Thompson Beach for a morning of migratory bird watching.

Between October and April is the perfect time to spot thousands of migratory shorebirds enjoying SA life. You might even spot critically endangered species like the eastern curlew or the orange legged ruddy turnstone.

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Eastern curlews (image courtesy of Martin Stokes)

Remember to have the binoculars handy, or even a spotting scope so you can look the birds in the eye, and download the Birds SA Thompson Beach checklist before you go.

4. Wildlife photography along the coast

Get your inner wildlife photographer ready, as it’s not just the shorebirds that call the bird sanctuary home.

Bush birds, hawks, raptors and the bitterbush blue butterfly can be seen flapping through the sky. You also might spot a stumpy lizard or another scaly species pitter-pattering along the coast.

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Check out our tips for wildlife photography to get some inspiration.

The Adelaide Shorebird Festival is on throughout November – a perfect opportunity to explore the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary while it's Park of the Month. Check the website to see what’s in store. 

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