Pneumatophores spring up…

May 15, 2009

This piece was first published in Wet Ink magazine – Summer 2009 and is a reflective essay on paddling Moona Moona Creek near Huskisson. One of my favourite paddling spots with clear water, interesting scenery and an abundance of bird life.

The morning light is filtered by the clouds, dark brooding layers build over the mountains, yet here, beside the creek, there is a contemplative calm as I slide my kayak into the still waters of Moona Creek.

As I paddle upstream, rusted tin signs marking expired oyster leases hang dejectedly from the mangroves. Today, those oyster’s descendents continue to embed themselves in a muddy womb. Sharing the oyster’s pasture whelk shells resembling whipped ice-cream lay scattered throughout the shallows, like autumn leaves fallen to the grass.

In the shallows fish race to and fro, barely visible, their presence is revealed by a slash of water and after ripple, agile mullet torpedo across sandy patches and dive into shadows, a blackfish pokes its head out of a weed patch before retracting quickly. Smudges of activity flit through the waters around me, their owner’s identity remaining unknown.

Rounding a subtle bend in the creek the reflections become stronger, I realise that where the bank vegetation ends and its reflected image begins becomes a blur. Neither image moves, the landscape is bound into that moment of time. Looking into the water all I see are the canopies and upper limbs of the surrounding trees. I see, and then feel myself drawn into this place, it wraps and holds me until the darting flash of an azure kingfisher jolts me into the present.

The creek weaves and winds like a maze, the main channel is surrounded by mangroves and smaller channels send their tentacles pushing through the banks and reeds, cutting through the sandy soils. They are placid now but in times of heavy rain these channels flow with vigour. I have seen aerial photograph of the creek, its kilometres of length tightly packed into an intricate spiders web. To unwind and measure the coils of its travels would be an interesting mathematical project.

At the upper limits of my paddle the creek is still, very still. The waters turn darker and deeper, tannins from fallen leaves stain the water, I am paddling in a well brewed cup of tea. Bubbles rest on the surface, there is no wind, no movement. The bubbles and water lie frozen, as though a spell has been cast and they are locked as one, guarded by sedges and grassy banks.

From the water to the sky, smudges of cloud rain over me, the overcast day accentuates the silvers and greys of their floating form, their splodges of wet ink stain the waters.

I linger on my return where the creek narrows and a fallen casuarina tree provides shelter for many fish. Around the snag small mullet skip back and forth on the surface, while cautious bream and blackfish linger in the shadows, ebbing and flowing with the current. The barren trunk and limbs of the casuarina, now devoid of delicate comb like leaves acts as a sanctuary. A staging post for juvenile fish as they mature and grow, until, with the currents in their favour, they run out to the bay and take their place in nature’s grand adventure.

Pausing, I sense that the tide has changed and that it is running to a low; small eddies appear behind mangrove roots, the water flowing fan like around them. Below me, the surface sea grasses bend, and any loose lank pieces are tossed and turned on a graceful downstream journey.

I drift with the flow of the ebbing tide. Around me grey mangrove pneumatophores spring up like a five day growth, pushing through the sand and mud to dot the shallows. Their porcupine-like quills surround the parent tree’s structure. At low tide the pneumatophore quills absorb vital oxygen when their stubble is exposed to the air. In areas where the tide has departed, intermittent ‘pops’ echo out of the saturated mud, the last gasp of the tidal flats and their inhabitants before the waters return and flood the stippled surface. Soldier crabs march en-mass, embracing the falling tide.

Mangroves stand as abstracts sculptures, with knotted and bent arthritic woody fingers and limbs, polished to shades of silver and grey after years of exposure to the elements. Their carved, twisted forms guard the banks. I drift in and out of their shadows, sliding over voluptuously formed roots. I gently grasp the smooth overhead branches to pivot and propel myself when their growth becomes too dense to paddle.

The oldest mangroves are hollowed out at their bases, silvery canopies and legs support the trunk. I peer through these carved woody tunnels to see the delicate olive green reflection of leaves against the burnished patina of the timber.

Tiny semaphore crabs scamper animatedly back and forth, in and out of the woody canyons. The mangroves have become rotundas of nature. The crabs venture from their stage into the pock-marked mud and form a shimmering mass of movement.

Behind the grey mangroves that kiss the waters edge lie the river mangroves; smaller, bushy like plants that act in the rearguard, buffering the salt marsh and grasses from the tide’s path. Mangroves are hardy, vital plants that absorb oxygen and expel the salt through their leaves. In periods of no rain, the salt that passes through the plant collects on the upper side of the leaf in visible amounts. The mangrove environment is a haven for marine life, the twisted structures acting as fertile and protective breeding ground for fish and invertebrates.

I remember reading in the local paper of a well meaning man who had spent ten years removing old and young mangroves along a major river. He thought they were a weed that threatened to choke the river of life. As I paddle among the mangroves, the fish and the waters, I see only a wild invigorating beauty.

Location Note

Moona Moona Creek is a sanctuary zone within the Jervis Bay Marine Park on the NSW South Coast.  No fishing or collecting is allowed in the creek’s upper reaches.

haiku

February 20, 2008
holiday crowds
hermit crabs tumble
on the ebbing tide
 
quiet afternoon rain
scribbly gum bark
falls to the forest floor
 
walking the beach
my footprints
fade behind me

Literature and the Environment

February 20, 2008

Interested in literature and the environment, nature writing and sense of place for example?

Check out the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment

Well worth a read!

Roadkill

February 20, 2008

Far too often seen in many regional areas (or indeed Wakehurst Parkway in Sydney’s northern beaches) is the vehicle based carnage of roo, wallaby, echidna, many birds, pesky rabbits, blue – tongues and the odd bandicoot. Some deaths are unavoidable – we all know that, many cases however involve speed and lthe lack of a simple driver awareness for time of day and the environment we travel in. Main road 92 from Nowra to Braidwood via Nerriga will prove interesting as the road widening and sealing occur and the traffic level increases. I once thought it would be a good thing with improved access to Canberra and beyond, recent large tree clearings around the sensitive and historic Bullee Gap might prove a long term negative. Watching with interest!

These images are of a bandicoot run over outside our home, I moved the body off the road and onto the grass to record, the young foetus was semi-released by the car. These marsupials gestate for 12.5 days and are carried in the pouch for 50 odd days.

For more info on bandicoots see the blogroll

Bandicoot with foetus - roadkill snow07-002.jpg

Book Review – The Wild Places

February 20, 2008

The Wild Places

 

By Robert McFarlane (Granta, 2007) RRP – $35.00    www.granta.com

 

 

Robert McFarlane became familiar to many readers with his 2003 award-winning Mountains of the Mind – A History of a Fascination, an exploration into the attraction that mountain environments have on those driven to experience them. McFarlane returns with a new exploration, this time a personal and reflective journey through Britain and its remaining wild places. That there are still wild places in Britain is perhaps the most surprising belief of all, yet McFarlane travels through moors, valleys, islands, rivers, and forests. In doing so he reflects on and considers the nature of wildness and of man’s both appreciative and often exploitative relationship with it. This is a moving, thoughtful and beautifully written collection of journeys that will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys nature writing and good literature.

 

Rainbow Lorikeets

November 22, 2007

Screaming chanting

Begging pleading

 

Hanging hopping

Climbing dropping

 

Red and green

Green and red

 

Noisy garrulous

Blur of motion

 

Wonderful livers of life

Spring Poems

November 21, 2007

Driving Past Roadkill

young echidna near the crossing

frantic wallaby after the roundabout

lumbering wombat on the bridge

nocturnal possum on the straight

Squished

Squashed

Smashed

Bashed

 

monday morning sadness

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Bewong

 

They say the burgers are good at Bewong

The coffee steams in frosty morning light

As calves ruminate over passing traffic

What is the hurry?

Travellers and workers

Stop and fuel both tank and stomach

at the truck stop

The Cicada’s Return

November 20, 2007

Well the cicadas have returned, the frog in the pond reverberates with a monochromatic ‘tok’ and the whales that have so enthusiastically embraced the bay have moved on. In the garden a family of pee-wees entertain with cheeky enthusiasm and the raucous bellicose lorikeets and rosellas present their cacophony of colour while performing trapeze like movements in search of nectar.

As good as it gets – penguins and no wind?

May 6, 2007

The autumn weather continues to spoil on weekends. As I sit and write, the courtyard is sun drenched with the only intrusion the noisy call of some wattle birds. An Eastern Spinebill has been entertaining us on a nearby New Zealand Christmas Bush. It chirps and calls while flitting in out of the flowering tree eliciting nectar from the round brush like beacons of red. Honeybees are back-lit by the afternoon sun and their activity never ceases….

With a mill pond presenting itself on the bay this morning there was no option following the morning beach walk but to throw the kayak on the roof and return to Plantation Point. The waters are unbelievably clear at present and looking into and through the water,  the visibility through the Polaroids was full of depth and nuance.

There were quite  a few other boats and paddlers on the water with a number doing Hyams to Vincentia and vica-versa. I paddled at a gentle pace while peering into the kelpy depths and rocky shoals,  sandy stretches hidden beneath the translucent green waters became the norm once past the point.

Near Blenheim Beach I became aware of a chirpy bark near me and observed a Little Penguin on the surface calling. As it dived another popped up some 50 me to the North. It too called, and the ‘chuck chuck’ barking continued on and off as the penguins surfaced in between dives. Soon, another pair surfaced a few metres away and had a quick look around before returning to the depths. The calm conditions made for an wonderfully intimate nature experience and I paddled back to the car appreciative of the fragile yet alive nature of the Bay.

Autumn Bliss – Paddling and Beaching

April 21, 2007

I jumped in the kayak at Plantation Point this morning and paddled out past the reef and in absolutely tranquility – clear waters, no wind and warming sun cruised past Nelsons, Blenheim, Greenfields and Chinamans beaches to Hyams Beach. This was autumn paddling as good as it gets. A real stillness  surrounded me with only the odd scattering baitfish  skipping the surface as I paddled.

A few families were snorkelling and relaxing and scuba divers were preparing to head out to the reef a hundred metres or so from shore.

It was all very civilised as I sat back with my other half and the coffee she picked up from the general store. In fact it was so nice we headed home and grabbed the snorkel gear and went to Greenfields for an hour – plenty of morwong, whiting, blackfish and annoying pin head sized algae that stung!

There was hardly anyone on the beach, this is best time of the year in the Bay!


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