The inner western suburb of Footscray (next to my suburb of Maribyrnong) may not be known for wildlife but Newells Paddock Wetland Reserve provides a watery oasis for dozens of bird species, snakes and frogs.
Further to my previous post uploaded last night, this post story starts with the entrance to the Nature Park and picnic area.
I walked through the landscaped picnic area and then up the path on the left hand side of this map. When I got to the end of the big pond/lake, I stopped to ask some walkers if they knew of an entrance to the Conservation area. No, they didn’t. I walked all the way back to the starting point to have a look at the map. While it showed some walking paths, it didn’t mention any wetlands entrance and it was all fenced with both a wooden post & rail fence and then, a wire fence, no doubt to discourage dogs or feral animals (as in the image below).
About sixty different bird species have been sighted in the reserve, including cormorants, herons, ibis, falcons and a pair of swans. The reserve contains a number of ponds, (or small lakes), which are interconnected and fed by a storm water system.
From the fence I could see plenty of bird life on the water and a passing train in the distance.
From the fence line I could see 2 Black Swans and what looked like a female Chestnut Teal. At this stage I was regretting not having the longer telephoto lens as I could have sat it on the fence (in place of a tripod). Looks like a Pacific Black Duck in front of the other birds on the island.
A lone Pied Cormorant sat in the middle of the pond in this part of the Wetlands.
Another view from the fence (with the city in the background).
I saw a Great Egret, a White-faced Heron, 2 Black Swans, several Little Pied Cormorants, a few Pacific Black Ducks, many Eurasian Coots, a couple of Dusky Moorhens, Chestnut Teals and other water birds (which were too far away to identify). I might add I’ve never seen a falcon on any of my nature walks over recent years, so if I spotted one over, or in, Newell’s Paddock, I’d be really thrilled.
Like the Maribyrnong River the reserve sits beside, the water is brackish, so plants must be salt tolerant.
I walked back along the left hand path (on the map) and reached the ‘viewing platform’. It was good to be higher up and able to see over the area to the left (or top of the map).
I walked back a ways and diverted to the river side walking/cycling track and found the (back) entrance and through to the actual wetlands as seen in the image below.
Not sure what the flower is. Loosestrife perhaps?
Much of the area around the smaller pond was covered in some sort of low-growing succulent which one might see down the beach among sand dunes.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – too are away and in bright sunlight, a very poor shot.
This shot was a bit better with the sun behind me and the exposure reduced. Still, it would be better with to try for a closer shot with my 150-500mm lens.
The bed of succulents was like a springy carpet to walk upon and I left the sandy wide path and ventured over the succulent surface in order to get closer to the Great Egret standing at the pond edge, and later, the White-faced Heron (lower left below) in some scrubby low-lying grass for photography purposes.
Both birds caught sight of me quickly and started to move away so my images made with the Sony a6000 & 55-210mm lens really were poor. Next time I visit the Wetlands area I’ll take a longer lens and see if I can get some better images of the bird life.
You can just see the white Great Egret in the mid left hand third of this image. That’s as close as I could get without the bird moving away. The Sony’s 55-210mm lens zoomed out got me a wee bit closer.
Then I walked on over the wide sandy path and through some shady trees to the real entrance. I had been so close to it when I walked through the picnic area, but with no sign on the entrance map or the picnic area paths, had mistakenly walked all the way round to the back entrance by the river. Maybe one day I’ll get around to asking the council to include the walking path through the conservation area and both entrance and exit on their map.
I exited the Conservation & Wetlands area through the REAL entrance.
Back to the soccer field (not shown on the left of the frame), picnic area and landscaped parkland.
I deliberately shot most of my images to include the city, river, railway track etc so you could see what sort of urban setting this is in. In some ways the Wetlands looked like an old rubbish dump on vacant land. (which it turns out it was if you would like to read some of the history below).
- Thousands of years ago, Newell’s Paddock most likely formed part of the wide river banks of the Maribrynong River (which were up to 1.5km wide). Aboriginal people have lived in the Maribyrnong River valley for at least 40,000 years and probably far longer. The City of Maribyrnong was built largely on the traditional lands of the Marin-balluk clan of the Woi Wurrung language group, one of the five language groups of the Kulin Nation. The Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nation is recognised as the traditional custodians of this land. The river flats near Newell’s Paddock were valuable areas for gathering food and “an early explorer” recorded Aboriginal middens on the banks of the Maribyrong River in Footscray.
- European settlement in Maribyrnong in the 1830s had a massive impact on Aboriginal people. Traditional lands were taken over by settlers and graziers. Aboriginal people began moving back into Kulin territories from missions and government reserves in the early years of the twentieth century, particularly in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They worked in the large industries that were established in Maribyrnong including the Angliss Meatworks and the railways.
- “Newell’s Paddock in the 1870’s was a magnet for young Footscray boys who gathered mushrooms and caught yabbies in the two large waterholes. Legend has it that that the boys also swam in the waterholes. This practice was probably discontinued into the 1880’s when the paddock’s owner, local contractor and businessman, David Newell, used it as a night soil dump. For a while at the end of the nineteenth century, Newell’s Paddock was Parkside Football Club’s home ground.”
- Newell’s Paddock was used as a holding yard for cattle and sheep from Newmarket Saleyards for the Abattoir owned by William Angliss. The Stockbridge over the Maribyrnong River (east end of the park) is a “tangible reminder of the vast Angliss complex. The Stockbridge was built in 1941 so that stock purchased from the Newmarket Saleyards could be driven across the bridge to Newells paddock rather than along the public road. The materials for the bridge came from a footbridge that had spanned the Yarra River at Punt Road from 1899 to 1938”. See the Maribyrnong River Heritage Trail pamphlet for more information.
- There was also a rail link into the Angliss Meatworks, called Angliss siding which can be seen in early photographs/maps. Angliss’s Siding was opened in 1905, and closed in 1970. The land has been restored to contain the natural waterholes that existed here before white settlement and it is now preserved as a natural wetlands park. Landscape architect Dr. Jill Orr-Young did the initial landscape design in 1988.
Friends of Newell’s Paddock was formed in 2014 and I suspect it is they who have spent numerous hours maintaining and extending the area of shady trees in the Nature Park as well as the slope beside the railway track. I could see dozens (if not hundreds) of pale aqua plastic tents formed about the many young saplings at the railway edge of the Conservation Area to protect them from small critters who might damage or eat the young plants.
One of the main arterial roads leading into the city is next door to the eastern perimeter fence.
Under this road bridge is the Maribyrnong River walking path, which may be another option to getting to Newell’s Paddock next time. I would say its probably an hour’s brisk walk from my home for a healthy fit person, but I could get a bus to the Edgewater Estate Wetlands which is halfway there and then walk along the river path. Personally I’d rather do my walking inside the Conservation area, not waste my worn-out feet on the route TO Newell’s Paddock.
Anyway, the whole area is really quite extraordinary to walk around and quite an oasis in the urban jungle that is Footscray.
Next visit (on a cooler day in Autumn or even winter perhaps), I will see if I can get any close-up bird shots. This post gives you an overall view of the area and I won’t be making any more photos of the landscape. Spring might be a good time to photograph some of the wild flowers too.
If I had a car and could drive there in 15 minutes (as the crow flies), I imagine this wild life area might be worth visiting at dawn in winter, when fog or mist might make for some moody landscape shots. Just guessing of course 🙂