Walking at nightfall is great for a few things, capturing photos of a small flock of pelicans near the seawall just before parking to explore the mangrove boardwalk was the first exciting surprise. One quick photo turned into more.
Tonight’s was a much faster walk. Mr nearly 8’s best memory was of running. He ran a lot tonight, over and back, over and back. “It’s the best way to escape the midgies” he said, shaking arms and legs as he bounced in place. I asked him later about midgies. His description: “very annoying, itchy, biting, super-small creatures that treat you like you’re midgie heaven.”
The tide was nearly at its lowest, still running out. Puddles were nearly empty, crabs blended with the mud. The golds of the setting sun faded to dusk and gloom chased us through the mangroves.
These combined with spooky bent branches and intriguing holes sparked a wonderful imaginative walk. At the first turn Mr 6 was exclaiming, “I didn’t know there were ships in the mangroves!”
Cobwebs and seagrass draped a mainmast and yardarms, the decks buried below the mangrove mud.
Mr 6’s best memory was the monster log! Sprawled low in the mud. Limbs askew it’s hollow eyes watched the boardwalk for an unwary walker. The story of how it came to be there narrated by Mr 6. I wish I could remember it all instead of the odd phrase. The sighting of this monster was the first in a series of epic adventures that described several monsters and their habits, each unique to the mangrove habitat. Each adventure more gory and gruesome than the last.
Butterflies, dragonflies and birds flitted in front of us as we walked to the bird hide. A pelican spiralled higher and higher before disappearing as we were distracted by flocks of birds in the wetlands. Boring to stay too long, even with all the hidey holes and the birds catching a lunch.
Chasing a butterfly into gardens of replanted natives is much more fun. Racing down the hill even better. Scrunching through the gravel was also entertaining. The older boys looked at and exclaimed that they’d found the mangroves. “The stalks that look like dead sticks aren’t really dead but are part of the mangrove.”
Little one was much more excited to find a ‘pider! Cries of “There’s a ‘pider web! And there’s another ‘pider web” echoed through the area as Mr 2’s excitement grew. He was very careful not to get too close to the sticky web though, because spiders can be dangerous.
Meanwhile the older two had found crabs. “I’ve spotted more than 10 crabs!” we were assured. There’s more and more here! Although I knew the mangrove mud was a perfect nursery ground for crabs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crabs in this area. Boys were fascinated for ages until hunger overcame Mr nearly 6’s interest. Mr nearly 8 was very keen to try and take photos of the ones with the red claws. “They’re fiddler crabs. Crabs hide in the mud very well. We could only see them because they were moving.” Mr nearly 6 was upset on the crab’s behalf when he realised some of the birds were eating them. Both adults casually said it was part of their life. Everything is food for something else. Mr 8 reminded Mr 6 that he’d eaten crab meat when we’d had fish and chips the other night.
Another sight that was new for us was the small flock of spoonbills, wading through the puddles. Mr 8 again very keen to photograph these too. As the birds moved around, a loud popping sound echoed through the mangroves. We speculated whether this was the sound of beaks clacking or something else. As the boys devoured their feast, a sign was discovered showing the fiddler crabs and identifying the noisemaker as a “popping shrimp”.
Walking along, small schools of tiny fish were spotted in one waterhole. “Look for the ripples, then find the fish.” Skimmers in another puddle. Patterns left by seagrass hooked around mangrove stalks. A fallen moth, trapped on the surface of a small waterhole, was a source of fascination. Every time it frantically flapped its wings, ripples appeared in the water.
There seemed to be more rubbish than normal trapped in the stalks of the mangroves. Discussion about this took the form of a mini-lecture as Mr almost 6 told us that people should be more careful and take their rubbish not leave it to make a mess of the mangroves. Later discussion identified that there was more rubbish than normal today. Mr almost 6 wasn’t able to identify a reason. (Easter weekend, storm last night washed street rubbish into storm drains). We’ll have to explore that a little more.
We left the boardwalk and returned across a creek and along a bike path to the car. Mushroom/fungi provided a brief distraction. Mr 2: “Probably it’s got an eye”.
Mr 6 and Mr 8 compared the feel of the top and bottom of the mushroom. Mr 6 discovered how easy it is to knock the mushroom over – much to Mr 8’s disgust!
Short sticks became the focus of the final moments of the walk. Mr 6 found one the perfect size. Mr 2 practiced stamping on sticks to break them into small parts. Mr 6 stirred water to make mud in a small gully under a minibridge. Several thrusts at the water led to him planting his stick “to make it a tall building!” Unfortunately, not a very stable building.
Photos and text by Michele Buck
Making Memories, Meandering in Murky Muddy Mangrove Worlds