My birthday falls at a very busy time of year and for most of my life it just seemed like too much of a bother to celebrate it. However, a few years ago I decided I would make an effort to make them more memorable. Since material things aren’t so important to me, I chose to make my days special by travelling somewhere new each year.
I’m rather fond of seagulls so I was delighted when one birthday trip to Wellington Point in the Redlands Shire, east of Brisbane resulted in me sharing a sunrise with a particularly friendly one. Strangely, it didn’t seem interested in my breakfast or in joining the other gulls by the jetty where the fishing boats were heading off for the day. Some people find seagulls annoying but they signify freedom to me and I find the smooth white and grey features of silver gulls beautiful. Joni Mitchell’s first album way back in 1968 was titled Song to a Seagull and includes a beautiful song by that name so I don’t feel completely weird in my affection for this sea bird.
I’ve made a couple of visits back to the area since. My most recent one ended in me learning a few interesting wildlife facts I never would have discovered had I not been actively searching for something to share on my blog.
Wellington Point was named in 1842 after the Duke of Wellington, however before white settlement the people of the Quandamooka lived in this area for thousands of years. Redlands Shire was inhabited by tribes of the Yuggera language group who were skilful hunters and fishers. Minjerribah or North Stradbroke Island is included in the Redlands Shire and apparently the men of Minjerribah had a special relationship with the local dolphins. They would call the dolphins by slapping the water and digging in the sand with their spears. The dolphins would then herd schools of fish into gutters where people would catch them in tow-row nets. The left-over fish would be fed to the dolphins. Seafood remained plentiful until Europeans began to commercially fish in the area, after which the numbers of dugong, turtle, oyster and fish numbers were drastically reduced.
The European settlement of Wellington Point and surrounding areas involved sugarcane and vegetable farms, a timber industry and tourism. Although much of the Redlands Shire has been developed, Wellington Point still has a quiet atmosphere and is popular for recreation.
Back to my walks now. As I mentioned earlier, my birthday visit to Wellington Point started with an intimate sunrise spent with a feathered friend. The sunrise itself wasn’t spectacular but my seagull pal made it a little more special.
As the sun rose I said goodbye to my mate and ventured off to take in more views. An ibis had set up position on a rubbish bin, ready for breakfast.
The other seagulls were busy preening themselves.What a shame about the human rubbish spoiling the scene.
My most recent trip to Wellington Point (or Wello as some locals call it – we have a habit of shortening words and adding an “o” in Australia) involved a morning of strolling along the foreshore paths and the boardwalk through the mangroves.
I like a nice jetty and find it interesting how a place can look quite different depending on the light. Here are two different views of Wellington Point jetty.
There were plenty of people about trying to catch their lunch however these seemed to be the only fish that were biting.
Toadfish used to be thought of as pests when I went fishing as a child. They were annoying as they often took the bait or bit off the small hooks. If caught, they couldn’t be eaten as they are extremely toxic. I had assumed that toadfish are common all over the world but apparently not so. Here in Queensland we have the common and the smooth variety. The family name Tetraodontidae means “four teeth” and these are fused forming a beak-like structure. I’m still trying to work out whether these are the smooth or common variety so if anyone can decide based on the Australian Museum descriptions, let me know.
As a child I think I was afraid of their teeth but I noticed for the first time on my walk how attractive their speckles are. I guess I wasn’t trying to catch a fish dinner though.
Continuing along I came to the mangrove reserve. Mangroves are unique and important ecosystems. There isn’t room in my blog to detail the importance of preserving them, but they provide breeding grounds and food sources for many organisms, reduce erosion of coastline, and even act as sinks for a variety of heavy trace metals.
I would have enjoyed the mangrove walk more if I hadn’t read far too many adult murder mysteries as a child. I felt just a little too alone among the mangroves. For once my walking pace became brisk as I returned to the more populated foreshore. Before leaving I caught a picture of an ibis feeding in the mudflats which is an unusual sight for me. Most times I see them feeding from rubbish bins at the university or venturing close to picnickers to steal lunch morsels.
I also noticed this fungi growing on a log which was below the high tide mark. I was surprised it could survive such salty conditions.
I came upon a couple of windsurfers. One was particularly talkative and gave me a lesson on the difference between the boards and sails from way back in ancient times (when I was a teenager) and the modern one he was using. In the old days when I tried windsurfing, the boards were long and narrow. Now they are wider and shorter, giving much more control.
I vividly remember one of my early experiences windsurfing. I needed to be rescued as when I hopped on the board, I got the hang of it far too quickly and shot out to sea. The only problem was that the people teaching me hadn’t got up to showing me the lesson on how to turn around. The hire people zoomed out on their inflatable dingy and instructed me on how to drop the sail and manoeuvre the board around. I fell in during the process which wasn’t ideal for my anxiety levels as the movie Jaws rushed through my mind and I also remembered the number of sharks that I’d seen from my father’s small fishing boat in the same area. I am still alive today though with no bite scars, just a lingering embarrassment!
I hadn’t seen much wildlife at this stage but the sight of a large flowering hibiscus tree got my heart fluttering. In the past I’ve seen them be home to hundreds of Tectocoris diophthalmus, the brightly coloured hibiscus harlequin or cotton harlequin bugs. After a good search I was rewarded by this sight – a female harlequin bug. I had no idea that they actually guard their eggs until hatching.
I also found a blue nymph and observed this encounter between an adult and a nymph.
The adult females are mostly orange but the males can be both blue and red or orange. These sap-sucking creatures are also known as stink bugs as when disturbed they can emit a bad smell which triggers others in the group to add to the smell. They not only feed on cultivated cotton and hibiscus plants but also Illawarra Flame tree flowers, bottlebrush and grevillea.
Wellington Point is popular with people of all ages.
One of my favourite residents of Wellington Point is the pelican. When I see them I can’t help but think of Mr Percival from the Colin Theile novel, Storm Boy, and the famous film based on it.
Colin Theile was one of my favourite Australian children’s authors as a child. In a recent post about Byron Bay I wrote that pictures could show the beauty of the ocean views more than any words I could ever use to describe it. I came across this yesterday by Theile which shows his talent as a writer. I may not be able to describe the sea well, but he certainly had a way with words.
“The green sea swept into the shallows and seethed there like slaking quicklime. It surged over the rocks, tossing up spangles of water like a juggler and catching them deftly again behind. It raced knee-deep through the clefts and crevices, twisted and tortured in a thousand ways, till it swept nuzzling and sucking into the holes at the base of the cliff. The whole reef was a shambles of foam, but it was bright in the sun, bright as a shattered mirror, exuberant and leaping with light.” – Colin Theile
Wellington Point is in the Redlands Shire which is also known for its koala population but after much walking and neck craning I wasn’t able to spot one. However, in December I was excited to spot my first wild koala near Warwick, west of Brisbane. It was high in the tree and there was glare behind it but I managed to get a picture of its rump. Unlike me, it was being sensible and snoozing during the midday heat.
While it may not be an extreme hiking destination, Wellington Point is a great escape from the city during the summer heat. Apparently, at low tide you can walk across to King Island, something I will have to try on another day. Given I am a slow walker, I wonder if I will become stranded. What a shame if I have to stay there and not return to the city until the next day…