The thing I miss most about living in the CBD is the wildlife. It’s part of why I enjoy getting out of the city and hitting regions like the Yarra Ranges, The Murray River or Victoria’s High Country. And you know you’ve left the city when you have a flock of galahs swoop into a nearby river gum and spend the next 15 minutes bantering between themselves like drunks at a party.
Unless of course instead of driving hours into regional Victoria you simply walked to the edge of the CBD and stepped a few metres into the Royal Park.
In the space of a couple of hours I found myself enjoying the company of literally hundreds and hundreds of parrots. I simply followed the scent of flowering gum trees into the parks behind Flemington Road and Royal Parade, and listened to the constant chatter of snacking lorikeets. I’ve provided a map below so you can go explore for yourself, and I implore that you do.
Autumn is magic for the cool clear skies and sunny weather in Melbourne. I know for a fact that you could use a little more exercise, only it’s hard to motivate yourself to go for a walk when the streets are choc-full of tourists and students who never learned how to walk properly. So I took a shortcut for my walk last week, and jumped on a free tram to the Queen Victoria Market. From there I walked.
There are several parks on the edge of the city, mostly focused on public sports fields but all with a rich collection of eucalypts that are heavenly treats for parrots. I started my walk up at Princess Park, because I used to live up that way when I worked at the University of Melbourne. In the space of a few minutes I found a small flock of Galahs passing through, and several hordes of Musk Lorikeets and their more cheeky cousins the Rainbow Lorikeets.
The Rainbows are show stoppers. Amazing displays of colour from blue head to yellow tail. They are quite bold as they dangle themselves on the far reach of bushy branches, in search of green gum nuts. The trick to locating birds in the wild is to understand what they like to eat. In Autumn, the flowering gums offer generous temptation to the Lorikeets.
I am a professional photographer, so naturally I packed a modest sized camera for my walkabout the parks. For those who are interested I can recommend the Lumix G9 with a 100-400mm lens if you want to chase birds yourself. You can read more about my experiences with that rig at Photography for Travellers.
I had a good run with the parrots up near the Princess Hill Tennis Club, in Princess Park, but the best was yet to come. I walked across Royal Parade and towards the Melbourne Zoo, and the Walker Oval. This section of parklands is dedicated to rugby and turns out to be a hot spot for Galahs. The modest club house here is overlooked by a lovely old river gum, with twisty and spacious trunks compared to the other gum trees you find in Melbourne’s parks. The open canopy and stubby branches are preferred by the Galah for socialising, giving them room to interact and keep an eye on what’s going on around them.
Galah’s like to feed in the grasses, but hang out in the trees.
Lorikeets by comparison enjoy the bushy canopies for their feeding. They selectively pull gum nuts from the tips of branches, exhibiting amazing balance as they clamber through the leafy bits. They are happy to dangle upside down and even in the midst of munching they will pause to chatter to their companions. It’s a happy sound they share, a bit like singing but in punctuated little bursts.
The Rainbow Lorikeets are the bigger ones you’ll find and generally easier to spot. That flash of orange in the chest and a bright purple-blue head really stand out in the right light. The Musk Lorikeets are smaller, blended into the leaves better and generally less showy. But they are very cute and gave me something of a challenge to get close enough to photograph.
There’s a little section of trail in Royal Park, behind the Royal Children’s Hospital, which meets the tram stop. There’s a water tap here so you can give your dog a drink, and which the parrots have worked out is equally nice for a cleansing bath. The lorikeets come here and shake it up big time. When they’re done splashing about they sit in the nearby trees and preen their feathers into condition. It’s a communal event, with several birds sharing the space.
I have to remind myself that I am in fact still walking distance from the Melbourne CBD. There are several tram routes that connect the city to the parks. From the top of Royal Park you look out across the skyline, as though it were another world away. It’s magnificent.
You don’t have to be a bird expert to enjoy the parrots. I started taking a greater interest in the local birds thanks to Parrot of the Day, who can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I also recommend you take a look at Wild Melbourne if you want to stay in touch with all the wild creatures that live around and beyond our city.
I love having a home in the CBD and all the benefits it offers. I do wish instead of a carpark next door that we had a vibrant park with tall gum trees and a constant flow of birds. Failing that, I can hop on a tram and wander through the parks any day of the week and spend time with the parrot of Melbourne.
One last word. There are other treasures to enjoy than the parrots of course. There’s a pair of Peregrine Falcons that nest in the middle of Collins St each year and raise a chick. The same parks I photographed these parrots are also home to lots of other lovely birds. You will notice in Royal Park that the Magpies are very casual about humans, and won’t move off the track just because you’re walking through. This is great if you want to practice your bird photography or test a new zoom lens 🙂