Rock Pooling

Muddy, brown swirling flood waters. Semi submerged flotsam and jetsam from way upstream. Deceptive currents invisible on the surface but strong enough to sweep away the humble tinny. Best head to the coast then, beyond where the rivers expel their coffee coloured dregs and where the magnitude of the Pacific surf has the power to wash away and dilute the murky masses of water that empty into it. Floods punctuated the close of a Sydney summer that never really was. Thank goodness for Rock pools, their crystal clear waters renewed daily by a fresh tide that inundates it. Perfect for exploring whatever the weather.

Mesmerised….

Emerald city….

Pretty shells all in a row…

King Neptune’s necklace…

A rose petal bubble shell (very exciting find!)..

Pipeline..

Sea urchin…

Sticking…

Potholes…

Mr Pincy…

at the kiosk..

Someone else’s sandcastle

What did you do last summer? :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Haggle of Herons?

Source: google.com.au via Charley on Pinterest

Finally, we swept the cobwebs off the tinny on Sunday and headed for the Georges River to check out our new stomping ground. We move house in two weeks and we are beyond excitement.

A planned two hour trip turned into four, giving me a chance to flex my newly licensed tinny driving muscles. We have explored parts of George’s River before, which I wrote about here, and here.

One of the main purposes of the outing was to check out a tiny mangrove inlet that runs parallel to our new street, below our block. I was pleased to discover that all you can see from the water is a dense tract of bushland and mangroves, with the houses in our street hidden away behind.

Mangrove...somewhere on the George's River

Over the last few weeks I’ve been racking my brains for a suitable house name, possibly translated into Cornish. As we entered the little bay (which shall remain unnamed), we noticed a large group of herons sunning themselves on a disused jetty . I have always thought that herons were solitary birds, hunting alone in a quiet backwater, still as statues scanning the water for their next meal. This bunch numbered at least ten. My mum tells me the proper term is a “heronry” and she’d know because she’s a bird nerd.

When I got home I looked it up in Burnum Burnum’s Wild Things and would you believe there was the white faced heron on page one, the first species listed? I also looked it up on backyard birds where the heron’s nesting habit is described as “an untidy structure of sticks, placed in a tree.” Yep, that sounds appropriate. So there it is, our new home, perched among the trees above the mangroves shall be called “Herons Nest”.

If your house was a nest what kind of a bird would you be?

Wake up we're at the beach!

Queue at the boat ramp

Surf’s Up

Oh, where to start? As sad as I am to admit, when I check the BOM website these days I’m mainly interested in whether its going to rain or not (washing). Friday arvo web surfing at work used to be all about the Saturday Nor’ Easter (skiffs) or the Sunday Southerly Buster (CYC Winter series). This is why, having not checked the marine forecast, it was a pleasant surprise to find the surf conditions absolutely pumping off South Cronulla last Friday.

Surf's up!

Blown spume

Flung Spray

One more wave

I took the kids down to the beach to make sandcastles and rid myself of the cabin fever that was still lurking from Thursday and the working week.

King of the castle

Fort Banksia

The surf conditions had created that lovely aura of diffused winter light; rays of sunshine bursting through millions of almost invisible droplets thrown up by the spume.

If you’ve been reading along for a while you’ll know that Banksias are my favourite Australian native tree. I think of them as the oaks of the Southern hemisphere. I especially like them when they are perched in the vicinity of salt water….

Perched

Wild thing

Windswept

Banksia and Boat

Banksia's seen better days

When I’d had my fill of Banksias we made a beeline for the sand at South Cronulla, where there was a body boarding competition underway. Shire mums, if you thought your boys were in school, you might want to take a look…

Scores on the door

The beach and the promenade had that distinct off season feel about it when the locals are out and about soaking up the relative peace and quiet. We joined in for an hour or two…

Bubbles I

Bubbles II

Bubbles III

The salty air effect

Post snooze

End of the day

Did anyone else get to suck up last week’s surf? Here’s the rest of the pics :)

 

 

Maianbar Crab Fest!

Serge and the Soldier

If you really want to impress your overseas visitors, skip the Opera House and Bondi Beach and take them on a tinny tour of The Shire. They’ll thank you for it. Our tinny takes a maximum of four people (apparently maritime regulations consider Rhubarb as cargo) so we left the kids with the outlaws on Sunday morning and headed up South West Arm under cloudy skies and the threat of rain. As always these conditions meant there was nobody else about.  Since I had my hands free (no children to restrain) I took a few movies on the camera which I’ve published to You Tube and included below. Initially I thought it was going to be uneventful with not much of visual interest to write home about, but as usual Port Hacking came up trumps.

Hot Cross bun and thermos stop….

The ever optimistic Rhubarb

The tinny

We stumbled on some sculpture by the sea….

Sculpture by the Sea

Rhubarb in her element…..

When we stopped at Maianbar to give Ruby a burn we came across hundreds and hundreds of soldier crabs. I was sad that the children weren’t with us as they would have loved these pretty little pink and blue “Mr Pincys”. We’ll have to plan a return trip to Maianbar at very low tide again and hope they come out to play. I’m also wondering whether these critters would make a good soft shell crab salad? Can you eat soldier crabs?

A crab in the hand's worth two on the sand

No paparrazzi please

Going...going....

Almost gone

 Soldiers on the march….

Have fun on the water this Easter Weekend, wherever you are. We’re heading to Colo River for a spot of camping :)

Up Muddy Creek without a Paddle

playing pooh sticks

Well actually we did have a paddle but just for emergencies and as we turned the last bend in the creek we cut the motor and drifted quietly to a halt. The put put noise of the engine was now replaced by the intermittent deafening sound of cicadas, or “avacadas” as they have come to be referred in our house, along with “mermalades” (mermaids) and seaweeds (seeds in mandarins).

Although not her first time in a boat, this was Hattie’s first trip in the tinny. Rhubarb stayed at home just to minimise the potential chaos on board.

The entrance to muddy creek just across from Swallow Rock is easy to miss and you’d only get all the way up there in a tinnie or a kyack.  You need to go at high tide and we chose a cool, still overcast day for Hattie’s first outing.

We were rewarded for our peaceful drift up the last few metres by what I think was a water dragon sitting on a rock trying to pretend he wasnt there…..

If I can't see you...you can't see me

…and whilst sitting giving Hattie some lunch I saw the speedy orange and blue flash of a kingfisher zoom past, way to quick for me to catch on film.

Tea break

At the end of the creek are some large sandstone rocks which if you can batt away a bit of foliage you can walk through to some beautiful paddling pools and filled by slow flowing waterfalls as a result of recent heavy rains. A quick trip up muddy creek saw us only a few hundered metres from the boat ramp, but once you are around the bend, hidden by the gum trees and having a good brain cleansing courtesy of the avacadas, you could be a million miles from anywhere.

Whale Tails from Cape Solander

Willing whale watcher

Whilst still waiting for Jones baby number two to make an appearance, we decided last Thursday to head down to Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park to see if we could spot some whales on their migration North. On the way down I had been careful to set expectations with my two and a half year old that we might not see any whales (or dolphins) as they could be “hiding” underneath the water. Luckily I was wrong.

At the Cape we joined a small crowd of others, lucky enough to be free for a spot of ocean gazing on a Thursday afternoon. Unless you can get out in a suitable vessel there is a much smaller window of opportunity to watch the whales from the shore during the winter since on the trip North they travel further inshore to avoid the Eastern Australian Current whereas on the migration South back to the Antarctic they head offshore to take advantage of the favourable current.

There are quite a few spots in Sydney where you can watch from the shore including Long reef and North Head. Cape Solander is a good spot for people who are less mobile as you can drive right up to the lookout spot and gaze out to sea from your car.

The view South

However if you are taking small children it is advisable to have plenty of pairs of hands to supervise as although there is a barrier, it is not childproof and the cliff edge is only about 10 metres from the roadway. If you want to concentrate on the whale spotting you’ll need another adult around to take turns.

Superb Blue Wren or Variegated Wren?

We got out and had a look from the viewing platform where a group of volunteers are camped out counting the whales as they pass. They also were able to tell us that the majority of sightings including the ones we saw were humpbacks and they post the tally on a white board nearby.

We were lucky enough to spot about ten whales in four separate groups and got a good look at them through the binoculars. I even managed to capture a few on camera, but sadly, like my Jibbon Beach dolphins the photos are purely evidence that we were not telling tales!

What a fluke!

What I found particularly interesting was the speed at which each pod was passing us. They certainly had a bit of pace on, keen to reach the warmer waters of Queensland, which I can completely understand!

Even though you don’t get to see these beautiful creatures as clearly as you would from a whale watching vessel, for me the pleasure is in simply seeing enough of a splash to know that they are there, making their annual trip North as they have done for centuries.

Useful Information

Cape Solander is also a good starting point for a number of coastal walks South through Botany Bay National Park and into the Royal. Unfortunately for us the start to the walk had been cordoned off for some reason.

The National Park has a visitor centre which includes a discovery centre as well as an environmental education centre that is used by school groups. The visitor centre has an exhibition that depicts the first meeting between aboriginal people and the crew of the Endeavour as well as some beautiful marine art on display. There is also a small theatre that screens a short film of whale footage in the bay and surrounding coastline as well as recordings of whale songs which Tess was not completely convinced about!

The visitor centre also provides some useful information and pamphlets on whale watching and wildlife in the park, plus a gift shop and kiosk.

Getting There

Cape Solander is about one hour drive South of Sydney CBD. Parking is available at the visitor centre and a shuttle bus runs on weekends to take you to the lookout. There is also parking at the point which was plentiful on a weekday but may be crowded on a weekend.

Google Map

Other popular whale watching spots in NSW

  • Cape Byron
  • Iluka Bluff
  • Angourie Headland
  • Muttonbird Island
  • Smoky Cape
  • Tacking Point
  • Point Perpendicular
  • Seal Rocks Lighthouse
  • Boat Harbour
  • Newcastle Headlands
  • Wybung Head
  • Norah Head
  • Crackneck Lookout
  • The Skillion
  • Coppacabana
  • Gerrin Point
  • Box Head
  • Barrenjoey Head
  • Bilgola Head
  • Long Reef Point
  • North Head
  • Dobroyd Head
  • South Head
  • Bondi’s Ben Buckler
  • Stanwell Tops
  • Jervis Bay
  • Moruya Head
  • Montague Island
  • Eden
  • Boyds Tower
  • Green Cape

Links

Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Wildlife Preservation Society Australia

International Fund for Animal Welfare (Whale pages)

Australian Society of Marine Artists

Rain Fairies Work Their Mushroom Magic

Magic Mushrooms

There seemed no end to the rain this week. Today the sun did come out and even though a hectic birthday party circuit put pay to a tinny trip this weekend, I did spot this amazing explosion of fungi bursting from a tree trunk at Gray’s Point when taking Rhubarb down to the point for swim.

I think the tree may have been dead or dying and the fungi visual proof of the rotting wood inside the trunk, boosted by the recent heavy rainfall. Not having an Australian fungi field guide, I turned to the internet to try and identify them and came across a great site with lots of photos. I think they might be “Orange Fan Brackets” or Anthracophyllum archeri,  described by Bill Leithhead as: “Cap to 35 mm, pale orange to bright red, usually reddish-brown. Gills decurrent, shallow and widely spaced, paler colour than cap, duller; maybe adnate to very short lateral stem. Spore print white. Australian forests and woodlands.” Although they may not be orange enough? Are there any fungi folk out there in the blogosphere? 

The aroma of the fungi was almost as impressive as the vision; if I could have identified them as edible they’d have been whipped into my favourite Antonio Carluccio mushroom risotto to warm the cockles!

Bad Weather Always Looks Worse Through a Window

Sunshine on a rainy day

I couldn’t agree more with whoever penned this anonymous anecdote. Despite the fact that I have lately been complaining on the domestic front about the incessant rain we have had in Sydney, we did manage to get out in the tinny between the showers, the Sunday before last. I have been so busy catching up on washing and drying since that I haven’t had time to write about it.

Its also true that kids don’t notice the cold and only care about getting wet when adults make a fuss. I’m also a great believer in going outside and getting cold, just so you can come back in, put the kettle on and get warm again, not to mention the lack of crowds at the boat ramp.

So with all this in mind we rugged up and headed down to Southwest Arm to get out of the house and cure the encroaching cabin fever, armed with a thermos full of Bill Granger’s tomato soup and “healthier” chocolate brownies.

Lucky Dip

Even if you don’t have a tinny I highly recommend embracing the rain and getting out into some native bush to blow away the cobwebs. There will be lots of waterfalls running and the moisture really brings out that unmistakable blend of eucalypt, moss and sandy Sydney soil. If you’re still not convinced here’s a couple of rainy day quotes to coax you into it.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.  ~Author Unknown

For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.  ~George Gissing, “Winter,” The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1903

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains.  One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.  ~Adeline Knapp

Grays Point to Jibbon Beach: Autumn Days on Port Hacking

Tinny Track to Jibbon Beach

A clearing fog, steam powered chugger, dolphins splashing off Jibbon beach and little boys fishing from the wharfs dotted along the river bank. Just picture it. Well actually you’ll have to because a combination of wriggling toddler, unsympathetic tinny skipper, technical camera problems and having the agility that comes with being  seven months pregnant meant I hardly captured any of it on camera. By the time we got to Jibbon beach the camera was actually confiscated from me due to the ridiculousness of my predicament and the general angst it was causing on board. Imagine the chaos if Rhubarb had been in attendance?

When we got to Jibbon beach my frustration evapourated. What a stunning spot to pull up for morning tea and a dig around in the sand.

Jibbon Beach

No sooner had we laid eyes on the beach and started assessing how to land, I spotted some activity in the water beyond an anchored dive boat; dolphins! I’ve seen my fair share of dolphins on races and deliveries and the thrill of getting close to them never goes away. This time though the thrill was taken to a level I haven’t experienced before. Sharing the moment with your two year old daughter for the first time and who has so far only seen dolphins in story books, was simply magic. I wish I could have bottled the excitement. Of course the confiscated camera was immediately reclaimed but I’m afraid the shots I managed are, at best, just evidence of what we saw, along with a vast number of snaps of splashes and ripples where dolphins had been.

Spot the fin

And a nose....?

Absolute Proof!

The pod of dolphins soon departed and we headed back toward the beach to attempt to land. However not long after we pulled up we realised that the small surge would actually make landing the tinny a bit tricky with the current capabilities of the crew on board so we set the anchor, cracked open the thermos and put the camera away. A happy hour was then spent soaking up the autumn sun.

Useful information and activities

  • Jibbon beach is part of a number of Royal National Park bush walks and makes a great spot for a picnic a swim or as a stop off on the way to surf Jibbon bombora.
  •  The water is very clear (listed on NSW parks and wildlife as the cleanest beach in Port hacking complying with 100% of bacterial indicators) and so is perfect for snorkeling.
  • On May 15th Parks and Wildlife are running a discovery activity “Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving”. Join an Aboriginal Discovery ranger and take a leisurely stroll along Jibbon Beach to the rock engravings at Jibbon Point, hear why this site is important to the Aboriginal people. For more info click on the link below.

Getting to Jibbon Beach

  • We took the tinny from Swallow Rock Boat ramp at Grays Point, a distance of about 2.5 nautical miles.  If you’d like the navionics track file please drop me an email. I still haven’t managed to upload the file type to the blog yet!
  • You can drive to Bundeena (about a 1 hour and 15 minute trip from Sydney CBD) and then walk along to the beach from the ferry wharf. There are also numerous bush walking tracks that lead to Bundeena including the Jibbon Beach Loop
  • You can also reach Bundeena by ferry from Cronulla (and Cronulla via train on the Illawarra line)

Useful Links

Google Map of Jibbon Beach

Great Information on walking the Jibbon Loop Track from Wild Walks

Swallow Rock Boat Ramp

Cronulla Ferry Time Table

Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving Discovery Activity (scroll down)

Red Jacks Point: Pelican Amphitheatre

Red Jacks Point

Did you know that April is Children and Nature Awareness Month? Yesterday we signed up for the Great Outdoor Challenge, an event created by 5 Orange Potatoes as part of the US based Children and Nature Network’s efforts to inspire kids to get outdoors.  We’ve done a few trips in the tinny in recent weeks but fur, feathers and foliage have been a little thin on the ground. So with the Great Outdoor Challenge  in mind and a real incentive to get some photos, we headed down to Red Jacks Point on Port Hacking, where thankfully our luck improved.

After a doing a refreshing 20 knots from Deer Park where the no wash zone ends, we pulled up at Redman’s Point in very shallow water, only really suitable for a tinny or flat bottomed boat that is easy to launch from the sand. We switched off the engine and let the tinny drift across the sea grass beds whilst we finished off the CWA fruit cake from the Easter Show, washed down with a cup of tea from the thermos.  Bliss.

We were shortly joined by half a dozen pelicans who were probably attracted by the fish that could also be seen jumping out of and near the surface of the water. Every now and then a cormorant popped its head up and I wondered if they were fishing cooperatively, something that is unique to the little black cormorant species. The pelicans swam around the tinny in a wide circle (probably eyeing Rhubarb with some caution) creating a kind of reverse amphitheatre with the performance on the outside and the audience floating in the middle. I filmed a short piece of footage of two of them paddling past which I can’t seem to load on the blog so will try and post on the facebook page. I love the way their tail ends bob up and down just slightly as they glide along. I’m always amazed at their ability to take off from the water, being such a large and heavy looking bird.

Pelican Performer

Tessa can recognise and identify pelicans but whilst this was being shot was more interested in ferreting out some cheese from the coolbag, as you can hear in the background of the footage. I have learned that an assortment of healthy snacks can do wonders for extending the range of short attention spans on boat trips.

Stingray...De de doo doo doo doo

I was also lucky enough to see a brown stingray cruising through the sea grass beds but unfortunately wasn’t quick enough to catch it on camera; sometimes you just have to focus on looking and observing and enjoy the moment. Although the sea grass beds look quite barren on first glance, I can assure you they host a whole ecosystem of plants and animals just waiting to be investigated with a snorkel (note to self to leave one permanently in the boat).

Lilli Pilli Sand Flat

Hitching a Ride

By now the tide had dropped a fair bit so we all hopped out and dragged the tinny across the shallows back to the main channel, (a good workout for the thighs) and headed over to a sand flat at Lilli Pilli where we all had a swim and Tessa was fascinated by the worm trails in the sand. These little signs of life on the surface of the beach reminded me of the outlines depicted in some of the aboriginal rock carvings that I’ve seen around Sydney.

Secret Tunnellers

Relaxing Reg

To top off a superb autumn morning on the water we spotted the resident sea eagles circling over Grays Point. They were flying high on a thermal so the photo below is purely evidential! I’ll have to get a better zoom!

Grays Point Resident Sea Eagles

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