As Australia’s national capital, Canberra is known for impressive government buildings and institutions, but it is also a “bush capital’ with great natural assets on the doorstep of every household in the city. This includes Jerrabomberra Wetlands, which are home to a diverse array of birds within a five minute drive of the parliamentary triangle.
The wetlands are situated on the eastern edge of Lake Burley Griffin, which is an artificial lake that separates the north and south of the city, created by the damming of the Molonglo River (which incidental flows through to the Murray Darling Basin for thousands of kilometres to Adelaide, in South Australia). The wetlands were created in 1962 and they are about 5km from Canberra CBD, but within a 20 minute walk of the recently renovated suburb of Kingston Foreshore. An excellent cycleway also passes through the wetlands, providing easy access to the rest of Canberra. A car park is also located in the reserve.
The facilities within the wetlands are excellent, as the paths are well graded and level, covering all parts of the reserve. Canberra’s inland location makes a visit to this wetland quite different from the coastal habitats of all other major Australian cities. It is surprising how many coastal waterbirds also live inland, so long as water is available.
On most visits to Jerrabomberra Wetlands, I’ve seen all the common inland water birds, including Royal Spoonbills that were actively exploring the reedy mudflats. Migratory species also visit the wetland from as far as the northern hemisphere, including Latham’s Snipe from Japan & Siberia.
Canberra’s distinct seasons include a relatively cold winter by Australian standards. The trees and shrubs around the lake and wetland are always interesting at any time of year. Cootamundra Wattle trees (Acacia baileyana)are commonplace here, with massive displays bright yellow flowers throughout winter and into early spring. Colours change with the seasons with more flowers in spring followed by dry parched foliage at the height of summer.
I went to JW reserve quite often when I was living in Canberra for six years, but its also great to go back whenever I visit. It’s so quiet and peaceful, but still close to the city. Every time I’ve visited, there has always been a lot of bird activity, even when there have been drought conditions. The reserve is very large, and it feels like you have the place to yourself most of the time, even on weekends.
There are a number of bird hides and clearly marked paths that go to all corners of the wetland. If you have an afternoon, can incorporate the wetlands into a longer walk around the eastern basin of Lake Burley Griffin. Other parts of the path around the lake go through dairy farmland, large parks with big trees and the Kingston foreshore, which has a wide range of restaurants and cafes.
Jerrabomberra Wetland Trust: local website dedicated to happenings in the wetland.
E-bird Statistics for the wetlands: over 200 bird species have been recorded here.
Lake Burley Griffin: a wealth of information on the wetlands and other places to see along the 40km shores of the lake,