26 January, 2013

Australia Day 2013

With Australia Day and the long weekend upon us, things were busy on the Barwon.
I went out for a run a little before 9am, heading down to Breakwater and back up to Princes Bridge then Moorabool St. It was definitely the morning for it as there were joggers, walkers and cyclists aplenty, not to mention a range of organised events.
Had I been a little more enthusiastic, I could have joined the weekly 5km Parkrun from Balyang Sanctuary, Landy Field was a hive of activity, hosting the Victorian Athletics Country Championships and a little upstream on the rowing mile, the crews were out for day one of the 132nd W.H. Pincott Barwon Regatta.
I survived the run, dodged the crowds and headed home to recuperate. The weather was mild and overcast with a bit of a breeze blowing, but with limited options I decided to drag out the kayaks and hit the river again - steering well clear of rowers of course!
The next item on my "to do list" was to paddle from Barwon Heads up to Tait's Point. Recent experience suggested that upstream would be the easier option, although not having to spend an indeterminate amount of time trying to find the point at which Lake Connewarre drains into the river channel for the final part of the journey to Bass Strait was also an inducement.
So, decision made, Sarah and I were deposited at Barwon Heads for an afternoon on the river. It was about an hour and a half past high tide, but there was still plenty of water flowing upstream and a fairly stiff breeze was blowing in from somewhere near the Apple Isle.
Looking back at Barwon Heads Bridge
Our decision turned out to be a good one as both wind and tide propelled us upriver in a manner that was more like surfing than paddling at times. My first discovery as we navigated through a number of mudflats and shallow sections a kilometre or two upstream was a small group of Pied Oyster-catchers who - contrary to what I have since read - were more than happy to allow me to approach relatively closely. They did however, have their limits, so I didn't get the perfect shot, but this was the first time I had seen them on the Barwon, so I took what I could get.
Pied Oyster-catchers on the mudflats at Barwon Heads
Finding the channel again once we had rounded the corner and were less at risk of being carted off into the shipping lanes of Bass Strait, we made relatively easy progress past the fishermen both in boats and on the shore.

This part of the river is quite different from the rest, being mostly a marine environment. The birds we saw were gulls, terns, stints, cormorants, swans, ducks, spoonbills - and of course the oyster-catchers. Instead of the reeds lining the channel through Reedy Lake, the gums and grassland below the Barrabool Hills or even the sub-tropical rainforest of Lake Elizabeth, there were mangroves, moonahs and extensive saltmarsh and even as far upriver as Lake Connewarre, the water is still saline.
The Barwon within the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve
Once past the inhabited areas and into the Connewarre State Game Reserve, the land was completely flat as the saltmarsh took over from the mangroves. We hopped out for a look around at one point and snapped a few shots, but there wasn't much to be seen so we were soon on our way again.
A small "island" of Red-necked Stints
A little further along we came across a flock of Red-necked Stints, flying en masse just above the surface of the water before landing on a mudflat in the middle of the stream.
From there it was a short paddle and we were winding our way into Lake Connewarre. This was easier said than done as the river at the edge of the lake is shallow and splits around a number of small islands and mudflats.
Walking across Lake Connewarre
Once inside the lake, things didn't immediately improve and at one point, we found ourselves walking across the lake in ankle-deep water across a sandbar before we finally reached some deeper water. At this point, things became a little tiresome.
The sky had cleared and the sun was out, but the southerly had picked up a bit and made the final 2.5km of our journey somewhat of an exercise in endurance, however we made it to Tait's Point and summoned the cavalry to take us home.
Tait's Point
While we waited, we introduced ourselves to some visitors enjoying the view and then I headed around the point for a couple of quick shots before we headed home for a roast lamb dinner - it is Australia Day after all!

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