Tuross River kayak trip

My hectic work schedule and the thermometer hitting 40 for the last 3 days, had me feling rattey and  in much need of an escape to the coast. Mr P had discovered some excellent kayaking spots along the Tuross River on his last 2 solo trips and was keen to show off the fishing and bird life in the area.

We arrived in the early Thursday afternoon, I was still not sparking on all cylinders and decided to veg out and tackle a longer paddle around Horse Iisland after a good nights sleep. This is such a pristine waterway.

Friday morning and I set off in a thick fog for a paddle around Horse Island, I always feel a bit nervous paddling with my camera gear, even in dry bags. My lenses are great only if you get up reasonably close to the subject. This Willy Wagtail was very obliging and didn’t seem to mind me hanging around it’s nest trying to get a good shot.
The paddle around Horse Island (named, we think because it is shaped like a horse) takes around 1 hour not counting stops for birding, I managed it in about 2 hours. I was battling the tide and a strong north easterly breeze on my way back to the camp site.
Sunday morning we were both on the water by 7am, Mr P off to his fishing spot and I went further down river to Borang Island. I never knew that this lake existed, lots of birds in this quiet backwater surrounded by now defunct dairy farms. The trip  took around 2 and a half hours, in that time the fisherman had been busy, wcatching this stud 70cm flathead. 

Christmas Roadtrip

Our early departure from Canberra on Friday meant we missed the majority of the traffic, exiting for the coast. After a shortstop at Surf Beach to drop the Christmas goodies into the family’s freezer for safe keeping we headed down to Tuross. The plan being 2 nights camping before taking up a holiday house at Tomakin with friends and some of the kids.

After a sleepless night I decided to ride over the the chemist for some pain killers, this was going to be the only way I would be able to get back in the kayak any time soon. The holiday making hoardes are yet to arrive and we have had he place pretty much to ourselves, no paddling for the next few days. On to Narooma and as the fish are not biting I walked over to the great little fish shop at the bridge for the makings of the seafood paella.
Sunday morning and back up to Broulee to collect the house key, this is the second visit to this beach house for Christmas. It is a great spot, right on the beach with amazing views down the coast. No road trips this week as Dusty has been converted into an extra bedroom. The days quickly meld into one another, swimming, eating, paddling, walking, cycling and drinking. Not necessarily in that order. 
While we have been idling away in a quiet little backwater, the south coast’s population has quadrupled. We have headed back down the coast to Corunna Lake and Bermagui for the last few days, of our holiday. Last night we went to sleep watching the prawner’s lamps twinkling around the edge of the lake. It was a full house this morning with 7 campervans lined up along the foreshore.

Days end – Mystery Bay

Red Necks at Tuross

That was the sales pitch used by real estate agents in the 60’s and Tuross Heads is still a gem of a spot and our destination for the 2nd road trip of Summer. A later start from Canberra saw us at the Rustic Pizza again for our pickup at 6:50pm.

There are camps that are just too good to share, some of you may be able to guess the location of this one.

Great overnight camp


The reason why we were up so early.


Perfect paddling conditions

Tuross Lake is the breeding site of several endangered bird species. Before the king tides and heavy swells of the last 2 days there were 70  Fairy Terns and Little Terns nests on the  sand spit at the lake entrance. By Sunday morning these were reduced significantly. Hopefully it is still early enough in the season for these birds to lay more eggs.

Another endangered species Sooty Oystercatcher

Both Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers were observed either with chicks or sitting on eggs.

These Red Necked Stints breed in the Arctic and make the long distance flight to Tuross to escape the Northern Winter. Another species at risk.
These Hooded Plovers put on a great decoy display, that involved Mrs Plover running around pretending to have a broken leg. Thankfully she finally settled down and went back to nest sitting all under Mr Plover’s watchful eye.
Frank (20months) and his dad out collecting drift oysters, love the raft!
This is a popular spot for kayaking, the locals have cleverly dredged a channel from the beach the deeper part of the lake, all under the guise of digging for oysters.

Our first roadtrip for Summer

Destination Preddys Wharf.

An early start meant that I was able to get away from work by 3pm. The Friday afternoon traffic down the Clyde was orderly, probably the increased police presence helped. A wet road, down a mountain needs  a bit of respect.  At least 3 drivers were having a bad start to their weekend.

A stop in Moruya, for bait and a wood fired pizza, at a new place I had spotted on a previous trip. We opted for the Moruya River, great choice, just the right amount of anchovies. It was raining by the time we arrived at Preddys Wharf. So beer and pizza and wait for the rain to stop, in my case in bed early with my book.

Fish for lunch and diner, was the challenge and Mr P came up trumps. Shovel nose shark fillets and a nice pan size bream. Saturday morning and not a breath of wind, perfect  glassy conditions for my paddle up the Moruya River to the heads. Of note was a flock of 30 Little Terns, perched on the rocks.
After a trip to the Moruya markets and a stop in Broulee for the SMH, we headed to Tomakin, by now the sun was shining and we launched the kayaks and paddled up the Tomakin River. Mr P dropped a very nice bream, bigger than the earlier catch. I obligingly paddled back and collected the landing net from Dusty.
We decided to camp the night at Windsock Beach and try the beach for some salmon. No visible gutters along the beach and a large school of dolphins meant that the beach was not going to be fishing today. Fortunately there is always birding.


Noisy Friar Birds

Capital Weekend

It was decided to have a weekend close to home, so no long road trip, just a couple of outings in between cleaning up my patch in the garden and catching up with friends.

On my drive to work, I often pass birders setting off for an early morning walk through Callum Brae Nature Reserve. The lucky buggers!  So, Saturday morning and I was up at sparrows. There were already a couple of cars parked, at the gate on Mugga Lane when I arrived at 6:00. The circuit of the reserve took about 90 minutes. This is definitely the best time of day, and no snakes.

Birds of note were, Black faced cuckoo-shrike, Wedge Tail Eagle, Straited Thorn-bills nesting, Rufous Whistler and Buff Rumped Thorn-bill. 17 species all up, that I could confidently identify. 
Sunday morning, we finished off the last of the cleanup of spent annuals in the front garden. Time to pack a picnic lunch, load the kayaks onto the trailer and head the 20 minutes down the road south to Tharwa Village on the edge of the Namadgi National Park.

 We are so lucky to have this great area on our doorstep, our destination today was the Tharwa Sandwash and the Gigerline Nature Reserve. We have walked this area a few times, but this was our first paddle in the Murrumbidgee River.

The Sandwash parking area has nice shade trees, with picnic tables. There is easy carry to the river for the kayaks via a  rock stairway. A group had been camping overnight in swags. Fishing is not permitted, I didn’t see any No Camping signs.

We headed up stream towards Angle Crossing. There were plenty of birds visible along the banks, of special note was a Black fronted Dotterel, all on its lonesome and 2 Little Corellas.

Mr P hoisted his sail, and copped some heckling from the campers. He  made good time up stream with the wind. This is still very much a work in progress, so no photos yet. We decided that we needed to adapt a fly proof eating area, before our trip in May. Another use for my large roll of camouflage netting.  

Far South Coast Weekend

After consulting the Bureau of Met. on Friday it was decided that the proposed trip to Bendalong would have to be postponed.  The rain depression along the coast was moving north and the Far South Coast  looked like having more stable weather. We decided to take the Snowy Mountains Highway down the Brown Mountain to Bermagui on Friday afternoon.

We arrived at Bermi (local lingo) around 7 oclock and the southerly was still in full swing. We found a camp near Wallaga Lake and settled in for the night, we were a little closer to the road that we would have usually pulled up. fortunately the rain drummed out any traffic sounds.

Saturday morning and Wallaga Lake was alive with birds, it was too choppy for a paddle so we picked up the SMH and headed to Camel Rock. The rain had now stopped and I set off to walk to around the headland back to the lake via Murana Point. Mr P settled in with the paper and his new Wilbur Smith read.

North of Camel Rock

Mt Dromaderry and Wallaga Lake          

Shell Midden on Murana Point

The headland scrub was alive with superb fairy wrens, whip birds and red browed finches. Birds of note were 2 juvenile sea eagles and a wedge tail eagle hunting around the cliff.

I then spent the rest of the morning checking the 100s of dead Shearwaters on the beach for bands.  Gruesome task, the odds of finding a banded bird are a bit like winning the lottery.

Bird Banding at Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve, NSW

Many thanks go to my gorgeous nephew Lee and Master Bird Bander, Mark Clayton for including me in their latest bird banding trip to Charcoal Tank, NR near West Wyalong.

Friday was going to be a scorcher with an expected 37 degrees forecast for the western plains. I left Canberra around midday and stopped to stock up on supplies in Yass. I wasn’t going to need much in the way of food, the plan was to eat out both nights. My rendezvous point with the banders was the West Wyalong Services Club at 1900 hours.

The wheat harvest is currently in full swing across most of the central west area, local croppers were casting nervous eyes skyward as the cool change and storm clouds rolled in. By the time I had reached Barmedman, the storm had passed and the temperature dropped to 2O dregees, it was still very humid.

Barmedman grain silo

I arrived at the club in WW and watched as car loads of very glamorous looking folk piled inside, definately not birders! More like a night at the Logies, all that was missing was the red carpet. Turns out it was the year 12 formal. Fridays night’s dinner was pretty ordinary, it was decided to try another regular haunt, the Long Hong Chinese restaurant for tommorrow night.

There is no shortage of hotels, motels and restaurants along Main street. The town is at the intesection of 3 highways and half way point between Brisbane and Adelaide. The reason for the trip was not to crtitque restaurants and look at beautiful old federation architecture, but to band birds.

Federation architecture in West Wyalong

Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve has been the site of a very comprehensive banding program for the past 19 years. The reserve conserves a woodland of mugga iron bark and black cypress pine growing on the lower slopes and green, blue and bull mallee on gravelly ridges.

Lee carefully releases a White Plumed Honeyeater 
Mr Red-capped robin is banded

Bird paparazzi

The banding party was made up of members of the Canberra Ornitholigists Group as well as bird banders from Sweden and Canberra.  Any time spent in good company and in the outdoors is always rewarding and I added another 10 birds to my life list.
 I departed the camp at 930hrs on Sunday and headed for the mineral pool at Barmedman; a flushing loo, a shower and a swim in the mineral pool, just what I need after a couple of nights bush camping. I also managed to pick up 3 White Winged Trillers that I missed at CT as well as a new bird for me, a White Browed Woodswalllow. It was soon time to chase the storms back to Canberra and plan for the next adventure.
Mineral Pool at Barmedman

Narooma, swimming, fishing and wooden boats

No work Friday, meant that we headed to the coast early. Mr P took Dusty down  the mountain on Thursday and I hitched a lift with No1 daughter and No1 grandchild on early Friday morning. We made for Batemans Bay, we had a date with family to make our Christmas puddings.

Puddings made and Mr P arrived showing off his fishing spoils from the previous night. We hit the road south at around 2 o’clock for a night of fishing up the river. No joy on the fishing front, it was a perfect night though for dinner around the fire and a bottle of red.  Saturday dawned and I set off for an early morning paddle, at that magic time when the mist  rises off the water, before the breeze comes up. P kept up with the fishing, but apart from being bitten off by a stingwray it was pretty uneventful.
Nice flathead
After a clean up of rubbish from  around the camp site we headed into Narooma for the Wooden Boat Afloat at Fosters Bay. It was a picture perfect day for snappers, Narooma has the most amazing blue water and you need a just the right light to show it off.

Fosters Bay has some really cute boat sheds. After a wander through the sheds set up as art galleries and some lunch we drove over to Bar Beach, to do what everyone does at Bar, sit and chat with mates, swim and more chatting. Fortunately we made the most of the glorious weather before the Southerly hit on Sunday mid morning.

Overnight Campers Steal Prime Real Estate

I have been following the ongoing dispute between grey nomads and local councils over the closure free camps sites and rest areas along the east coast of Australia with interest over the past months. These councils are being lobbied by members of the powerful Caravan Park Owners Association.

These same caravan park owners were not at all concerned when they filled their parks with en-suite cabins and drove many of the local motels and hotels out of business a few years ago. The reasoning behind the closures is usually the high cost to up keep the primitive facilities and the need to provide a sustainable alternative.

The  desicions to close many of the sites is exacerbated by the fact that some backpackers just don’t get that it is not OK to wash your dishes in the public toilet sink or throw your rubbish in the bush if there is no bin. Let alone when you crap in the bush you need to dig a hole and bury it.

How do we educate our visitors to adhere to these simple principles of Leave No Trace?

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Always leave a camp site cleaner that you found it
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimise campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate to landowners and other visitors 
Simple no frills camp sites are part of our easy going way of life that need to be maintained and protected. The other alternative is a lineup of Big4’s in every town. Let me know your opinions.

Swinging Bridge, Wee Jasper, NSW

Saturday morning.

We had an important engagement, on the DC social calendar on Saturday morning, No1 grandchild’s No1 birthday party. This meant that we would not be on the road until after midday. 

Wee Jasper is about 100 klms. from Canberra and after  a stop at the shops in Yass we  arrived around 3 o’clock. There are 4 camping reserves in the area, run by Wee Jasper Reserves. We checked out Billy Grace, Swinging Bridge and Micalong Greek. Billy Grace and Micalong Creek have flush toilets and were well patronised. We chose Swinging Bridge and apart from a couple of fishermen we had it to ourselves. None of us minding the long drop loos. 

 The camp sites are  spread out along the bank of the  Goodradigbee River with of plenty of  shade. Best of all you can have a camp fire (you need to bring your own wood) we did and also scavanged some from the other side of the river. The kayaks came in handy for this. The birding was great especially from the water though it was delinately too cold for more than a quick swim.  I managed to tick off 23 species on my bird list, add to that a number of small birds that were too quick to identify. The new prototype sailing kayak was given a test run more on this in the weeks to come.

Wee Jasper is close enough to Canberra for us to delay our return till  early Monday morning, enabling the un-retired to be in the office by 9 o’clock.