The force is strong with this one


I’ve been watching the growth of vegetation in the little Styx (aka Chaucer Street Drain); lots of reeds, rushes, hyacinth, cress and all sorts of other things I don’t know the names of. Great habitat for dragonflies, ducks and poddy fish.


Up around Lambton Ker-rai Creek I’ve seen bobcats clearing this stuff but down here it’s kind of forgotten about. Which suits me. However, in the last-big-flow-but-one the force of the water barrelling out of the bridge beneath the rail track was such that it tore entire sections of reed bed up and out into the main creek where, for a few weeks, they bobbed up and down with the tide like islands.


Eventually they became stranded on the concrete bed by the receding tide where they broke up into smaller clumps, before being washed away completely by the last flood.


A walk up the little Styx shows just how powerful the flush of water through the narrowing of the channel there could be. The remaining reed beds are torn at the edges, the root mat of soil that holds them in place having been peeled away from the banking.


This section hung on after the first deluge but was weakened enough to get ripped up with the most recent pour through.


This is how it looks now; compare and contrast with the photo at the top of the post.


It’s already in the process of growing back, the roots of the lilies and bulrushes gripping the tiny cracks in the concrete. By 2039 you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was even a concrete drain ever there.

Floody detritus


If a week is a long time in politics (just ask Ted Baillieu) then it’s a lifetime down the drain. A couple of weeks ago I was standing amongst bottles, litter and garbage in the mangroves by the Carrington boardwalk, bemoaning the state of the estuary and the lack of action by The Authorities to the eager journo from the Herald.

Then … spladoosh!


By the time I took this picture the creek was on its way down. I’m not actually in the water here; there’s a ledge and, from here on downstream it was beginning to ebb. And I had Jambo looking out for me.


The poor old show copped it again. I was out and about on Saturday night and snapped this pic of the ferris wheel while waiting to turn out of Chatham Road. I was so glad to hear that Sunday picked up for them.


We’re still feeling the aftermath of the flood as the creek bed is still saturated and slippery and drainage pipes that come out of the fuel depot, the gasworks and all the roads are constantly running. This slab by the railway bridge is just about worn through.


And the litter boom by the TAFE gave up the ghost. But the result was a beautifully clean creek, if only for a day or so.


There have been quite a few casualties around the banking. Jambo caught an exhausted pigeon near Chinchen Street bridge, but this welcome swallow managed to slip into a crevice before he met the jaws of death. I’d actually walked right past it, and I think Jambo had too, and it was only a flutter of tail feathers in my peripheral vision that brought it to my attention.


Sadly, the next day I found this.


If a week’s a long time for a Victorian premier, then 24 hours is a lifetime for a swallow.

It’s nobody’s problem


Herald journo Ben Smee did a neat a piece on the litter in the Carrington mangroves, with a talky bit to camera by your’s truly. After much detailed investigation Scoop Smee discovered that all that mess in the Carrington mangroves is, in fact, nobody’s problem.

Well I’m glad that that’s sorted!

Much to the relief of the not-responsible organisations we had a tropical low on Saturday, the day the story appeared, and so the creek filled with a torrent and conveniently washed all that nasty litter away. To somewhere else, somewhere where it’s someone else’s responsibility. Maybe the UN. WHO. ASIO. Who cares, as long as it’s not us.


It was a mighty powerful flush all right. This branch probably doesn’t look much here but I can assure you it was bloody big. I took this photo on Saturday afternoon, getting Jambo out for a leg-stretch between squalls.


I was told that the tides on the Gold Coast were huge. They must have been pretty big here in Newcastle too as I was amazed to see the tide pushing back against the deluge this far up the system; it wasn’t even high tide for another few hours.


I was also amazed to see this lot. Plastic bottles really are to floods what cockroaches are to nuclear armageddon.


What does it take to get rid of them? (Did someone say “container deposit legislation”?)

This story does have a kind of happy ending. Ben’s article prompted a bunch of staff from Port Waratah Coal Services to get out and do an emu bob around the mangroves. Nice bit of PR for the coal loader, the volunteers did some great work and we all get a cleaner mangrove. I just hope we can somehow keep on top of the problem, that some authority will put their hand up and take responsibility.

As a small postscript, I sent an email to PWCS asking whoever received it to pass on my thanks and congratulations to the volunteers for getting out there and making a difference. I received an automated reply that said: “Thank you for contacting PWCS. Please be aware that emails delivered to this mailbox will not be read/actioned until Monday 7 January 2013. If the matter is urgent, please call the PWCS 24 hour Community Enquiry Line ,4907 2280, and follow the prompts. Thank You”

It’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t matter how big the organisation, it still takes some bunny to turn off the automatic email response when you get back from holiday. Wonder how many emails they’ve missed in the last seven weeks!


Pack away the ark


It was a hell of a rain, and while parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales are still struggling with rising river levels we here in Newcastle didn’t cop it too badly. Styx Creek filled very steadily then drained very steadily. By Tuesday afternoon the downstream flow went from bank to bank, but only to a few inches.

I went for a sticky beak with Jambo this morning. He’d been confined to barracks for two days and went berko, charging up and down, swimming across the creek then back again, burning up all that latent energy. We hit the junction with the Chaucer Street drain about 9.30 am, just as the tide was peaking. What a sight!


An iPhone hardly does it justice, but the tide at this point normally comes up in exhausted pulses. True, it’s still quite a sight as the saltwater merges with the fresh, but it’s usually just beck wide. This was bank to bank, really pushing in hard. The pulses were close together too, barely two minutes apart.


It really is hard to believe that just a few days ago we were all lolling around under the ceiling fan or staggering about in a heat-induced torpor. When I was having my evening walk just before the weekend I bumped into this family who were, like me, benefitting from the cool breeze that always blows down the creek even on the hottest days. And, of course, they didn’t have to cross all those busy main roads on their way back to New Lambton. Vicki would approve!


The same night, about a hundred yards downstream, I came across this recently departed eel. What a whopper! It can’t have been dead all that long and bore no signs of having been attacked by a bird of prey. Its skin was beautiful.


I’ve only ever eaten eel once, at the Japanese restaurant by the harbour, and it was delicious. I wasn’t tempted to take this fella home though.

It turned out to be a night of dead stuff. We came across a rat up near Chatham Road bridge, a very unlucky rat as Jambo’s DNA kicked in and he immediately did what ratting dogs are supposed to do. It was short, sharp and severe. If I said “No rats suffered in the making of this photo” I would be telling very large fibs. There was a fair degree of squealing for a few seconds then … silence. And one very pleased terrier, who wanted to carry it all the way home. I don’t think so.


Not the happiest ending for Ratty. But I suppose that that’s two less animals for the ark, next time we’re faced with a deluge.