21 February, 2015

Eels not seals

Over the last week, I have spent quite a few hours paddling on the river. On Sunday, after hearing from friends that they had spotted a seal in the section of the river immediately below the lower breakwater, I headed down from town for a look.
As I got close to the lower breakwater, I began seeing small floats every hundred metres or so down the middle of the river. Curious, I had a look. What I discovered was that these (there were about a dozen of them), were floats marking the positions of commercial eel traps which had been placed in the river.
Float belonging to a commercial eel trap on the river
Whilst I have seen individual fishermen catching eels on the Barwon before, this is the first time I have come across a commercial venture. A little research suggests that there are two commercial licences for eel fishing on the Barwon, with details of the eels and the industry in general outlined in an article by the Environment Department. The licences cover areas from Queen's Park to Lake Connewarre and part of the river downstream of the lake.
Below the break things were different. There were no traps but fish of some description (I couldn't see which but would assume Short-finned eels) were jumping in the channel between the breakwater and the lake. Alas, there was no sign of the seal which had no doubt been making the most of the plentiful food supply. I did however come across three fishermen who were very pleased there was no seal to eat the fish they were trying to catch!

Something breaking the surface
Once I reached Lake Connewarre, conditions were still mild so I thought I'd continue down to Barwon Heads to see if I could spot my "prey", however whilst I enjoyed the paddle (despite the stiff breeze which popped up as I approached the Heads), there was still no sign of the seal.
On the plus side, I did get some more great shots of the river downstream of the lake.
The western end of Lake Connewarre
In addition to a number of scenic shots of water and blue sky, I also snapped a number of very blurry shots of the numerous skydivers who were also making the most of the fine conditions. At one point I also managed a shot of one of the planes coming and going from the nearby Barwon Heads Airport and passing over the lake.
The view overhead
As I threaded my way through the myriad of channels, trying to find the exit from the lake to the river below, I spotted hundreds of birds of a variety of species all making use of the various sand banks around, including a pair of Pied oystercatchers
Pied oystercatchers on the flats
and quite a number of Caspian terns, which I don't remember seeing along the river before, including this pair, one of whom has clearly been banded for research purposes.
Caspian terns
A little further downstream through the state game reserve, the scenery was as flat as always, but no less impressive for that.
Below Lake Connewarre
One thing I did note which I don't remember seeing before, was what appear to be areas of bank erosion through the swampy part of the river which leads into the mangroves at Barwon Heads. Whether this is natural or not, I don't know.

Bank erosion along the lower Barwon
Past this point, the wind picked up and the paddling became hard work, but I made it to the Heads without issue and took the easy option of a ride home.

02 February, 2015

Yell for Cadel!

Following the Momentum Energy People's Ride and the women's race on Saturday 31st January, Sunday saw the inaugural staging of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. As I did the day before, I headed off on Sunday to various points along the Barwon in order to snap some photos of the men in action.
My first stop was once again the Breakwater Bridge which the peloton hit about 15 minutes into the race. With threatening, grey skies overhead, I joined a group of locals and waited for the travelling circus to arrive. This they did with the usual parade of zooming motorbikes and support cars accompanied by the expected cavalcade of police vehicles.
All together over the Breakwater Bridge
A few short seconds and they were off to Barwon Heads and with drizzle beginning to fall, I was off to Queen's Park to await the return of the field, with enough time for a coffee stop along the way. Once there, I sussed out my options, selected a spot and as the rain continued to fall, I ate lunch and kept an eye on the live stream to see how far off the riders were. As I waited, I was joined by increasing numbers of the locals who had come out from the surrounding homes to watch the race pass by, which it eventually did at about 2pm.

The entourage crossing the Queen's Park Bridge ahead of the riders
I snapped away along with everyone else as the three leading riders swept across the bridge closely followed by the peloton with a number of riders off the back.
Again the riders disappeared, although not so quickly this time, as the field was quite spread and their next move was a sharp left up the 20% gradient on Melville Ave.
The lead riders clear the bridge with the peloton hot on its heels
I suspect the front rider was not so much smiling for the camera as grimacing
Once they had passed, I followed on foot at a much more leisurely pace and headed off to my next viewing location overlooking Queen's Park at the top of the Deviation. Once again, I waited with another group of locals as the riders hit the first lap of the 20km street circuit around Geelong. I estimated a wait of about 20 minutes and I was pretty close to the mark.
The leading trio hit the Deviation
The peloton about to descend
With thunderous-looking grey clouds in the background, the field were over the hill and gone in short order, on their way to climb the cement works hill, (known by us locals as "Cementies"). At about this point, the rain started to come down again - harder. My next test was to see if I could ride the 5km back to the Barwon Bridge in town in the time it took them to ride the 10.5km to the same point via Geelong West and the Waterfront. And the answer was? Not quite. I did make it to the opposite side of the river in time to grab a few more snaps but then had to cross the river and wait to catch them on the third (and final) lap of the street circuit.
This I managed to do and set myself up at the bottom of the bend in the hope of some good action shots. Although the man of the moment didn't oblige by appearing front and centre in any of my photos, I did get a reasonable shot of some of the Team Cannondale-Garmin boys taking the bend for the final time.
Team Cannondale-Garmin rounding the bend on Barrabool Road

Then there was just one final climb for me, up from the river and down to the Waterfront, hopefully in time for the big finish. This time, I arrived with more than a few minutes to spare and took up position about 100m from the finish line to wait.
The sprint for the finish line
It didn't take long for the riders to appear and then the sprint for the finish line was well and truly on. When it was all done and dusted, the win went to Gianni Meersman of Extixx-Quick Step, second was Simon Clarke from Orica GreenEDGE and third was Nathan Haas from Team Cannondale-Garmin With Cadel finishing fifth.
Cadel and son Robel heading for the presentation area after the race
As the riders headed for their tents, we headed over to watch the presentations before heading home to wait for next year's race...