March 26, 2013

A nice sort of swamp

There's a swamp within walking distance of where I live. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not.

It's an ephemeral swamp — ’wetland’ is the preferred term, I believe. It fills during rainy spells and drains through the sandy soil and into the aquifer below during dry times.

It was full last time I walked by at the end of a wet summer. Today, however, the water level has dropped, not a great deal but enough to expose a rim of sloping bank below the high water mark.

The wetland is surrounded by a little park at its southern extremity and by bushland — casuarina, acacia, tea tree, bitou bush, lantana and more — on its other edges. When it was full I found it home to a big population of water birds and enjoyed the splashing spectacle of a huge black swan making a noisy landing a few metres away. This morning there were no swans but other water birds there were aplenty — a multititude of those brown/black native ducks; a couple tall, white ibis with their long, black beaks; a grey heron standing in the shallows on its long, thin legs; and a few of those black swamp hens with their bright orange beaks. In the bush nearby I saw some finger length blue wrens flitting from branch to branch, their tail fathers upright, and on the edge of the bushland there was the tweeting of small birds unseen. What was seen, and heard, was a flock of big black crows with their raucous call.

An incomplete walking track takes you to the wetland. It's been incomplete for some years now, the concrete section at one end ending abruptly where locals have ducked under the fence and made their own spontaneous track through the long grass below the acacia and tea tree along the western side of the wetland.

The track passes a timber viewing platform on the shore of the wetland — thought why anyone would build such a substantial structure and leave it isolated, without a connecting track, can only be understood when you realise that it was government — the Department of Defence - that handed the land over to the council and that built the platform and the concrete track, and then decided to leave it unfinished where it runs up against a chainlink fence.

The chainlink fence, though, has proven no barrier to locals. In their common sense they've removed an entire strip to make their own informal track past the wetland. And that sandy trail through the scrub, there's something more enticing to it than there is to the formal, concrete footpath. Come to think of it, it might be best that the footpath is left incomplete.

The wetland and its surrounding bushland is a patch of nature in the city. Surrounded by housing, those who can read the topography know that it is at the low point of the bowl formed by the surrounding land, at the bottom of this little urban catchment.

View previous story on the wetland.



Story and photos by Russ Grayson

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