Freo to the burbs

by THEA TERPSTRA, Mt Pleasant

TEN years ago I left Fremantle to go and live in the suburbs.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d last. I had been spoiled living in the port city, being able to walk to the beach, markets, movies, cafes and art galleries.

And while I wasn’t moving that far afield, it was certainly far enough to experience a mild form of culture shock.

What I missed most about Freo, once ensconced in the suburbs, were the high ceilings, the familiar scent of ocean, my old community and my abundantly fruiting fig tree.

And if I’m honest I also missed the architecture and the history – those porous limestone facades, decorative gables and curved bullnose verandas.

Nonetheless, I persevered. Whatever the burbs had to offer, I was determined to find it…and make the best of it.

As it happened, the area that I’d plonked myself into had two small wetland reserves, both within walking distance from my new abode.

Booragoon and Blue Gum lakes make up the northernmost end of the eastern chain of the Beeliar Wetlands.

Being a nature lover since childhood, I became fascinated by these spaces with their diverse wildlife and rich indigenous history.

They became sanctuaries of sorts, places I could go to get some respite from the hustle and bustle of the built environment.

Sadly, a few years into my suburban venture, my mother passed away.

In coming to terms with my loss, I began to spend even more time at the wetlands in what felt like nature’s remedial “embrace”.

Over time, I began to notice the amazing variety of birdlife that resided, visited and bred there. And the more birds I saw, the more I wanted to see.

My curiosity was piqued, and gradually without even realising, my grief was assuaged by a healthy dose of bird-inspired biophilia.

On daily walks with my dog, I grew to know not only the birds (over 80 species) but also the “rhythm” of each wetland.

We might spot a great egret in full breeding plumage, or a white-necked heron lunging for a meal.

And as the water level dropped over summer, Dotterels, Stilts and Spoonbills would make an appearance; the latter foraging the shallow, muddy depths while intermittently flipping morsels into their spatulate bills.

Then, when the lakes had all but dried up, a hovering black-shouldered kite could be seen scanning the beds for unsuspecting rodents.

As the rains increased over winter, things seemed to quieten significantly, but spring saw the return of the nankeen night herons and pink-eared ducks (to breed at Booragoon Lake).

Coots, grebes, swamphens and the returning black swan couple could also be seen constructing their nests once more.

It’s these wetlands where I now feel most at home, most at ease.

Squatting on their muddy banks, soaking up their primeval ambiance.

This is where I come to reconnect with nature, to flood my senses, forget my woes and regain my equilibrium.

These are the “champions” of my neighbourhood, and I simply can’t imagine living anywhere else…for now.

They became sanctuaries of sorts, places I could go to get some respite from the hustle and bustle of the built environment.

Sadly, a few years into my suburban venture, my mother passed away.

In coming to terms with my loss, I began to spend even more time at the wetlands in what felt like nature’s remedial “embrace”.

Over time, I began to notice the amazing variety of birdlife that resided, visited and bred there. And the more birds I saw, the more I wanted to see.

My curiosity was piqued, and gradually without even realising, my grief was assuaged by a healthy dose of bird-inspired biophilia.

On daily walks with my dog, I grew to know not only the birds (over 80 species) but also the “rhythm” of each wetland.

We might spot a great egret in full breeding plumage, or a white-necked heron lunging for a meal.

And as the water level dropped over summer, Dotterels, Stilts and Spoonbills would make an appearance; the latter foraging the shallow, muddy depths while intermittently flipping morsels into their spatulate bills.

Then, when the lakes had all but dried up, a hovering black-shouldered kite could be seen scanning the beds for unsuspecting rodents.

As the rains increased over winter, things seemed to quieten significantly, but spring saw the return of the nankeen night herons and pink-eared ducks (to breed at Booragoon Lake).

Coots, grebes, swamphens and the returning black swan couple could also be seen constructing their nests once more.

It’s these wetlands where I now feel most at home, most at ease.

Squatting on their muddy banks, soaking up their primeval ambiance.

This is where I come to reconnect with nature, to flood my senses, forget my woes and regain my equilibrium.

These are the “champions” of my neighbourhood, and I simply can’t imagine living anywhere else…for now.

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