Forrestdale Lake (originally Lake Jandakot, it was renamed in 1973) lies within the Forrestdale Lake Nature Reserve which is about 25 kilometres south of the Perth CBD on the southern fringes of the Perth metropolitan area. The lake is shallow and seasonal with a large area 220 to 245 hectares of open water when full. In June or July, Lake Forrestdale starts to fill, and about the end of September, it reaches its maximum depth which is somewhere between 200 and 500mm depending upon the winter rains and it usually dries out by mid-summer. That was not always the case as the lake used to hold a lot more water than it does now, and some years it did not dry up at all. Diminishing rainfall, and ground water extraction from government and private bores are some of the reasons for the lake’s decreasing water levels.
Before white fellas came Lake Forrestdale was a special place for the Whadjuk Nyoongar who camped around its shores and hunted long-necked turtles, waterfowl and their eggs; koonacs and gilgies, possums, kangaroos, quendas and many other animals that are now locally extinct. The first white settlers were William and Alfred Skeet in 1885 and they had a licence to fell and sell timber. Shortly after most of the land around the lake was cleared for farming and grazing despite that the lake continued to be a major breeding site, migration stop-over and semi-permanent drought refuge area for waterbirds so in 1957 the lake was gazetted as an “A” class nature reserve for the conservation of flora and fauna and to provide a location for recreational sailing. On 7 June 1990, along with Thomsons Lake 10 kilometres to the west, it designated under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance and both lakes form the Forrestdale and Thomsons Lakes Ramsar Site. It’s easy to see why. More than 20,000 waterbirds have been recorded on Forrestdale Lake. It regularly supports more than 1% of the national population of five shorebirds: red-capped plover (with up to 1,300 recorded at any one time), black-winged stilt (3,840), red-necked avocet (1,113), long-toed stint (up to 80), and curlew sandpiper (2,000). In some years it supports more than 10,000 ducks, including Australian shelduck (up to 1,650 counted), Pacific black duck (5,500), grey teal (9,000), Australasian shoveler (2,000), and hardhead (1,053). The lake is one of the few sites in Western Australia where little ringed plover and little stint have been recorded more than once, and it is the only location in the state where white-rumped sandpiper has been recorded. A comprehensive list of all the bird species seen at the reserve can be seen at eBird Australia.
So when BSO (Beloved Significant Other) announced she was mounting a campaign to achieve croquet world domination I would use the opportunity of a weekend in Perth to have a gander at Forrestdale Lake Nature Reserve. So a quick peruse of the interwebs told me that the best place to start was was at the parking bay at the Skeet Memorial Park on Moore Street in Armadale. There I would find a comprehensive information board about the area and would also give me quick access to the bird observation platform. Having read all about all the different birds that use the lake I was expecting a birding nirvana. Unfortunately we’d had a dry winter and the water line was a good 600m from the platform which meant I had Buckley’s chance of seeing any water birds up close and personal.
Fall back plan was to walk around the lake and just photograph what I found on the way. Once you leave the main entrance area there is little signage except for the keep out variety which is attached to the continuous fence designed to, funnily enough, keep people out. It was quite a frustrating experience – I could hear plenty of bird activity on the other side of the fence but I had no way of getting closer. For much of the walk you are in a narrow corridor of about 5 or 6 metres between two substantial fences with signs saying you are under surveillance – it’s hardly a nature experience. I’ve been to military bases which are more friendly. I feel this is a hugely wasted opportunity. Thomson’s Lake is much more accessible to visitors, and the Spectacles also makes much of it Aboriginal cultural significance. I’ve written previously that if people are having less and less opportunities to interact with nature that will create an antipathy towards the natural world and consequently they will cease to care about it. So to get people to be more aware of environmental issues they must be encouraged to reconnect with nature. There is very little opportunity for the casual visitor to interact with all that Forrestdale Lake offers so in many ways it defeats its stated purpose of raising public awareness about the importance of this chain of wetlands. Normally I am very positive about these types of reserves and have written about them in the past in glowing terms. I don’t like being negative or critical, but I really do feel that this is a waste of resources.
Can I recommend the place as worth a visit? If you want a a bit of a walk with a nature experience then I would suggest that are better places and I’ve written about quite a few of them. If you are a die hard birder then I’d find out what the water levels are before visiting. There is little point in visiting if there is no water in the lake.
Oh and BSO (Beloved Significant Other had a better time of it than I did and achieved world croquet domination – well she won the State Mixed Doubles for Golf Croquet.