I can’t lie, one of my favourite things to do in Perth is to walk around the bridges and look for those wing drying shags. Shags, also known as darter birds, are medium to large fish loving birds. There are numerous colonies living, hunting and just hanging along the banks of the Swan. Sometimes they are mistakenly called cormorants. The cormorants are very similar but do not have those snake like necks. The darter birds go mostly ignored by the cyclists and joggers but for the tourists and walkers they are a fascinating distraction.
I have a particular favourite that I recognise by his beautiful velvety black coat and two sad looking tail feathers. We sometimes give meaningful head nods to each other as I walk by, but more often than not I will stop for a chat.
I have given my feathered friend the nickname Elvis, for want of a better one. He seems to recognise me each week and now allows me to take close up photos for his regular weekly photo shoot.
The best route to see the shags of the Swan River is by doing the 10km walk around the bridges. This route takes you around the Narrows and Causeway Bridges. You don’t have to walk all the way around to see the shags, you may just choose to do a section. I often like starting from South Perth foreshore, near the Boatshed. Bonus is the parking is free. I then go anticlockwise to the Causeway Bridge . This bridge section is a little tricky as you have to share the narrow, uneven path with cyclists. Once you have crossed over the river you turn left and head to Elizabeth Quay. I like to stop at the Wharf – On the Point for a coffee. Alternatively, if you can last another half an hour or so, The Reveley at Elizabeth Quay is a welcome pit-stop for a caffeine fix.
Speaking of Elizabeth Quay, the best spot for “shag spotting” is just behind the Isle of Voyage restaurant, where the ferry enters. A many a shag can be seen drying their wings out on the rocky embankment.
From Elizabeth Quay you cross the small footbridge and follow the path leading to the Narrows Bridge. Once you have crossed the bridge its a pleasant stroll back along the South Perth foreshore.
Please remember on your journey that the river is home to these beautiful creatures. Treat them with respect.