What’s at the bottom of the garden?

Where does our backyard end?  The unwary burglar or, more plausibly, brush turkey fetishist leaping over the back fence and finding themselves falling off the small but perfectly formed cliff between our place and our downhill neighbours might think the answer obvious.  But clearly, property boundaries don’t mean a lot to the brush turkeys or the bowerbirds.  As far as they’re concerned, our backyard is just a part of Berowra Valley National Park with better snacks.

And since our yard is, in essence, a part-time storm drain, you could say that this is where our backyard ends:

Sometimes the view from the deck seems like a theatre backdrop, an artful two dimensional screen behind our suburban dramas.   Every evening, the cockies, wheeling and screeching, burst through the scenic backcloth.  Last weekend, a bit more quietly (bar the kayak-onto-roofrack related cursing) I did the same, plunging into the dawn mist towards the very bottom of the garden, the watery end point of our backyard.

In the 1990s, Berowra Creek was not a good place to be a fish. Sewage outflows from waterside communities at Dusty Hole and Berowra Waters and the landlubber suburbs to the south meant algal blooms, brick red water and floating fish.  As the cheery Hornsby Shire Biodiversity Plan ten years back noted “Some parts of the tributary creeks in the Berowra Creek catchment feature weed invasion, garden plants and waste, streambed siltation, rubbish and gross pollutants from stormwater drains, bank erosion, undercutting, tree death and poor water quality” (2006, 28).  It’s enough to make a gardener think long and hard about what might wash down the hill in the next heavy rain.

Thankfully there’s a whole lot less nitrogen going into the creek these days largely thanks to better poo processing.  I don’t have a lot of interest in fish. I don’t eat them, they make rubbish cuddly pets and they lay very tiny eggs far too infrequently.  But even to my disinterested eye, the backwaters and mangrove flats of the estuary look like fish paradise.  Okay, fish paradise probably doesn’t feature stingrays, cormorants or osprey, but you get my point.

Fishermen get up earlier than kingfishers, it seems.  People who say they’re “up with the birds” or even, in that eloquent Australianism “up before sparrow fart”, are clearly lying through their teeth.  The welcome swallows were barely out of the fluffy slippers and the ducks were still brushing their hair and cleaning their teeth, but the fishermen of the Hawkesbury were already out on the water, lurking in quiet bays or drifting mid-channel like tinny Mary Celestes.

The feathered fisherfolk only seemed to appear after the mist began to rise.  I’m not sure whether I can attribute that to poor avian night vision or my water spattered multifocals.  You’ve got to assume the rufous night heron can see in the dark, but I only saw it scoop up a take-away in a kind of disgruntled way, after some annoying canoeist with an inadequate zoom lens made a nap in the mangroves untenable, and that was long after sunrise.

For all the wildlife in these parts, that sharp edged snap of an azure kingfisher sparkling in flight is as much beyond me as a decent crop of salad potatoes, it seems.  But I’m not going to complain.  Over the last few weeks I’ve seen plenty of boats with girls’ names, but I haven’t seen too many Rubys, Calistas or Beverleys actually messing about in boats.  There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden and there are certainly plenty of fish, but there don’t seem to be quite as many fishwives.  Seems like it’s a rare privilege to be Her Outdoors.

9 thoughts on “What’s at the bottom of the garden?

  1. ‘a brush turkey fetishist’…is there such a thing?! 😉 In SE Qld they’re a menace, the stuff of nightmares. Thank you for a very entertaining read and more beautiful pictures!

    • Thanks! I am still wrestling with the photography-while-canoeing challenge – it’s something of a miracle that I haven’t dropped the camera in the water yet! I have to say, brush turkeys are a nightmare in my garden too. Nine teenagers and adults hanging out in our backyard at the moment, eating our chooks’ eggs as soon as they lay them, scarfing the chooks’ food and digging up any plants they can. The veggie garden looks like Alcatraz! Bring back the dingo, or perhaps the marsupial lion I say!

  2. What gorgeous scenery! It’s wonderful to see how attitudes and practices have changed resulting in great improvements in our environment. I would love to visit the “bottom of your garden.” It does look like a paradise. Excellent post and I always enjoy your humour. 🙂

    • Thanks Jane! I’m pushing the boundaries of garden blogging here but since my avian visitors don’t know the difference, I’m going to strategically ignore it too! It’s really noticeable how few women are out there in boats! Bush walking seems to be a much more equal opportunity outdoor pursuit…. I wonder why?

      • The females and boat thing is interesting. It’s got me thinking. I’ve often thought I would love to get into kayaking but having to lug it on and off a vehicle puts me off a bit. I am sure there are plenty of women who could handle that aspect though. I just have pathetic arms. To be honest, I would probably feel safer (in terms of creepy stalkers) kayaking down the river than hiking alone in the bush. When I was growing up it seemed to be a guy thing to go boating, but there’s really not much reason why it should be so. Trying to keep restless toddlers happy in a small boat may have been a challenge for me though. On hikes, you can let them burn off their energy a bit and do some exploration. So perhaps our tendency to still do much of the parenting means some of us find it easier to just walk. It’s an interesting thought. I started my blog just writing about hikes, but you may have noticed I’ve strayed from this topic a little. Push the boundaries of garden blogging as much as you like, I say. It’s your blog and you are the boss! Enjoy your day.

  3. Love this blog. Your patch is just amazing, half your luck! Suburban Toowoomba is a bit ordinary in comparison.

    I’ve found that wildlife seem far less threatened by a photographer in a canoe that walking. I don’t own a canoe, but whenever I’ve been able to borrow one I’ve been amazed by what a fantastic way it is to explore the landscape.

    Cheers.

  4. Thanks Robert! We are stupidly lucky – it is gorgeous around here. Yes, I think on the whole the birds etc seem less fazed by a canoeist than a walker – I guess if you are drifting towards them, not much is moving and you’re not making a lot of noise. I just have to figure out a way of getting a camera with a good zoom lens that doesn’t cark it when it gets splashed with water!

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