Urban adventures
Urban adventures

The young osprey rises tentatively on a light morning easterly wind above the big nest of sticks and twigs high in a tree. It's a nervous, fluffy moment, this haphazard hovering above the Swan River, but I've seen it before.

I've seen many of these young raptors rise with their wobbly aerobatics. I've seen them get their confidence and start to wheel off to other trees.

I've seen them, eventually, come spearing down, claw-footed, towards the shallow water over the river's Karrakatta Bank, after their first fish. Easy pickings, but it takes some perfecting.

Then the empty nest, then the parents back repairing and rethatching, and the annual cycle begins again.

The ospreys are part of the rhythm of my urban adventures, and I've seen them often from my kayak, down here, my bottom-half converted to a float, a sort of clumsy merman.

Clumsy? My goodness me, yes. I've been paddling all my life, in all sorts of rivers and oceans, across all sorts of continents, but by comparison with what I have just seen, clumsy is an understatement.

For with a soft, long exhalation, a dolphin has just risen 3m from my kayak, arched, glistened and slid back under the surface. Then another tracking alongside it, and the joy of seeing a calf with them.

They were just cruising, and we cruised along together, and one came up beside me and I looked into its eye.

I paddle through rock formations and pull on to one of the many river beaches that can only be accessed from the water. A flask of tea and a muffin. Elevenses.

The simple pleasures of life.

There are two types of jellyfish in the Swan River - brown (Phyllorhiza punctate) and white (Aurelia Aurita).

They both like salty water and generally live for three or four months, and today there are thousands pumping past me as I sit.

A pair of black swans - four youngsters too big to be called cygnets in tow - glide in looking for breakfast, too.

Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh named the Swan River after this bird in 1697 - Perth was originally known as the Swan River Colony. But significant numbers have also been recorded at Lake Monger, Thomsons Lake, Bibra Lake, Forrestdale Lake, Herdsman Lake, Lake Cooloongup and Lake Yangebup. Other important sites include Big Carine Swamp, Lake Kogolup and Gibb Road Swamp.

Black swans feed to a depth of 1m, nest in reed beds and need 40m of clear water for take-off.

But my urban adventures are not just on the water. A daypack and a pair of good shoes, and we can all explore our neighbourhoods.

It's not the "where" that's really important - it's having the time.

Just leaving the front door with a bit of lunch, a drink and a bird book in the daypack is an adventure.

By bicycle, it might be a ride to the local park. Or even a longer ride, like the scenic 50km bike path from Perth to Armadale along the Canning River catchment.

But all this might be getting a little too organised. And the point is to not be too contrived.

Just put on your boots and go outside.

And let us remember that author George Eliot wrote that adventure is not outside a person, it is within.

And let us remember that, more recently, Bear Grylls said: "Life is even an amazing adventure or it is nothing at all."

And let us remember that adventure is relative.

A small urban adventure - seeing an osprey fledgling rise precariously above you on an easterly wind - counts, too.

_Activities that are close to home _


  • MARK A DAY IN THE DIARY *

We all seem so busy these days. Work, household jobs, junior sport, family commitments. So how do we find time for urban adventures? Schedule them in. Mark a day in the calendar and diary and the adventure has its spot.


  • GO THE RIM *

Take a daypack and walk the river's edge. Follow the sandy beaches and parks, through the sheoaks, under fig trees and round headlands. Treat it as an adventure.


  • MAKE IT A STORY *

Do a little research - find the story behind the places. For example, Point Resolution, in Dalkeith, was named to honour Capt. James Cook's Pacific voyages on the ship Resolution from 1772-76. Now it's a park headland and interesting beach, but in the 1860s, convicts quarried the foreshore cliff for limestone.

De Vlamingh explored the beaches and cliffs of Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove in January 1697, finding a freshwater spring. Wadjuk Noongars had a camp site in the area because it was a main source of water. In their language, Karrakatta refers to the sandbar in Freshwater Bay and means "the place of crabs".


  • BUSH ON YOUR DOORSTEP *

Naturescape is a 60,000sqm conservation adventure playground in Kings Park. There are hidden thickets, a creek, lookouts, a cubby building area, upside-down trees and a wetland. (And venture out to Bold Park.)


  • HEAD FOR THE HILLS *

The Perth Hills have eight national parks and more than 30 well-marked trails for walkers and cyclists. There are scenic drives, lookouts and plenty of picnic spots.


  • MAKE A BOW AND ARROW *

A greenwood stick, a couple of notches and some stout twine. Then straight sticks with a V cut in the end for arrows. You'll work it out.


  • START A BIRD LIST *

You might be surprised what you spot. At Lake Monger, a freckled duck or great crested grebe. At Lake Joondalup, a long- toed stint, marsh sandpiper, red-necked avocet or a Hudsonia godwit at Picnic Cove (Lake Joondalup). Other top spots are Herdsman Lake, Herdsman; Yanchep National Park; Jualbup Lake, Shenton Park; Kogolup Swamp, Beeliar; Canning Wetlands, Cannington; Lake Yangebup, Yangebup; Wellard wetlands, Baldivis; Lake Gwelup, Gwelup; Woodman Point.


  • CYCLE PATHS *

There are kilometres of bicycle routes around the metropolitan area. Explore Perth and Kings Park by bike, ride along the Swan and Canning rivers (a 50km circuit mainly on shared paths) or perhaps arrange the family for the ride from city to sea - 12km from Perth to City Beach.


  • GET A RHYTHM GOING *

Perhaps ride a section of cycle paths, and next time carry on from where you left off. The same with walking - find a purpose, like following the changing landscape from the beach through the dunes and the plain to the Hills, up into the inland - you can discover a new section every time.


  • Have you been to . . . *

·Kensington Bushland Reserve; 9ha of jarrah-banksia woodland on Bassendean Sand, bordered by Baron-Hay Court, Kensington, and Etwell Street, Victoria Park.

·Fishmarket Reserve, Guildford. Success Hill is opposite.

·Point Reserve, Bassendean. Where the Helena Brook runs into the Swan River.

·Ashfield Flats and Sandy Beach Reserve. And just downstream on the south side of the river is Garvey Park and Courtney Island.

·Claughton Reserve, Bayswater. An expansive parkland.

·The Railway Reserves bicycle trail, starting at Mundaring. A 41km loop with an 18km "tail" which connects the towns of Mt Helena and Wooroloo.

·Also at Mundaring, the Kep Track - a 75km multi-use trail for cyclists, walkers and horseriders.

·Trigg Bushland, with its tuart trees, between Karrinyup Road (to its north) and Jeanes Road (to its south). It was designated as a Class A Reserve in 1989.

·Woodman Point, the headland 8km south of Fremantle, set in a 54ha regional park.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The West Australian

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