Down by the Riverside*


I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve lived in and around Perth since 1988 and the first time I went to Riverside Gardens in Bayswater was in 2017 when I was making a video about that year’s Avon Descent – it is the finishing line. I didn’t pay much attention to the surroundings as I was concentrating on the event. Recently I went again, but this time I was using the garden’s carpark as a jumping off point to explore the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary.

Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary by Paul Amyes on
The entrance to the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary in Bayswater, Western Australia.


Eric Singleton was an avid bird watcher from Embleton. In the 1970’s he observed over 70 species of bird in the area and his efforts led to the City of Bayswater deciding to preserve the wetlands in 1977. After a few wobbly patches the council and the Department of Parks and Wildlife in 2014 embarked upon a $3 million project to increase the biodiversity and improve the the water quality in the sanctuary and consequently the Swan River. Apparently it prevents a staggering 40 tonnes of sediment and rubbish, 1.35 tonnes of nitrogen, and 200 Kg of phosphorus from reaching the river each year. It does this by diverting water from the Bayswater Brook and directing it through a series of marshes  which filter the pollutants out. So while you may think that you are looking a bird sanctuary comprised of a series of marshland and pools what you are actually looking at is a cunningly disguised water treatment facility. The system works well and the wetland has seen a huge upswing in the amount of wildlife species that use it. One hundred and four bird species have been sighted there. All of this in an urban setting is quite remarkable. Some of the animals you can expect to see are:

  • Purple swamp hen
  • Little pied cormorant
  • White-faced heron
  • Black fronted dotterel
  • Australian white ibis
  • Dusky moorhen
  • Grey fantail
  • motorbike frog
  • Dwarf skink
  • Oblong turtle


Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary by Paul Amyes on
Great Egret (Ardea alba modesta). Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary.


Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary by Paul Amyes on
Yellow billed spoonbill, Platalea flavipes. Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary, Western Australia.


Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary by Paul Amyes on
Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos) called kokoko by the original Nyoongar inhabitants.


Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary by Paul Amyes on
Mimal or Australian Darter (Anhinga melanogaster subspecies novaehollandiae). Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary, Western Australia.

I visited on a Saturday and I was not prepared for what I saw. It was absolutely chockers. There were dog walkers galore, cyclists, picnickers, kids playing, kayakers on the river. The car park was used by a huge variety of food trucks doing a roaring trade selling to the hungry masses. There were even stalls selling dog treats. Once I got clear of the gardens and into the bird sanctuary proper it was a totally different story. I was the only person there. Just me and the birds. You could still hear the noise from the gardens and the surrounding suburbs, but you still had the feeling of getting away. I think to get the most out of the location in terms of seeing wildlife you’d be looking at visiting at dawn or dusk during the week. After a leisurely walk back to the car park I enjoyed a very nice Bánh mì from the Vietnamese food truck for lunch. 


Riverside Gardens by Paul Amyes on
Riverside Gardens in Bayswater is a popular paddle sport venue and clubs such as the Bayswater Paddle-sports Club maintain facilities there.


Riverside Gardens by Paul Amyes on
On the weekends visitors can enjoy the numerous food trucks at the Riverside Gardens in Bayswater.

* Todays musical reference is to the Afro-American spiritual “Down by the Riverside” (also known as “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More” and “Gonna lay down my burden”). The song originates from the American Civil War (1861-1865) but wasn’t published until 1918. It’s pacifist imagery has seen it used as an anti-war protest song and included in collections of socialist and labour songs. Over the years it has been recorded by hundreds of different artists but my current favourite version is this one by Ben and Micah Hester as part of the “Southern Gospel Revival”.