Another sunrise, another paddle through a flooded river valley. At Port Stephens the wide Karuah River meets the Myall as it meanders south, just behind the coastal dunes.
And where the water flowing from the network of wetlands and lagoons that is Myall Lakes joins the estuary, in a river delta protected from the destructive power of the Pacific waves, there’s Corrie Island.
A spot so fabulous for cautious amateur photographers in small and ancient boats, I circumnavigated it at the crack of dawn not once but twice over the silly season. I may have been so exhausted I wept all over my Christmas crackers but it was worth it.
Just down the river from the RAMSAR protected wetlands at Myall Lakes, migratory birds that breed in the far north spend the arctic winters hanging out here. I saw red knots (heads up: not very red in the non-breeding season) and grey tailed tattlers, far eastern curlews and bar tailed godwits. In fact, I was treated to a bold dispay of the very barred tail of the bar tailed godwit, that tail that make the longest uninterrupted migration flight of any bird’s behind.
The eastern ospreys, in my previous experience elusive canopy lurkers, proved so indifferent to human proximity that I actually got bored with taking photos of them posing in the beautiful dawn light, and starting trying to snap the LBBs in the beachside brush, while the ospreys observed my inadequate efforts with golden eyes.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, here come the dolphins.
The famous pod of Port Stephens dolphins – well, the easterly, sociable estuarine pod, one of two quite distinct groups that lives in the harbour – swung by to check me out. I stopped still in the swell, watching them case the beach. At one point the still water by the boat upwelled and the tip of a bottle nose appeared above the surface for just a second or two a couple of metres off the bow.
A couple of mornings later, I was back, having rashly promised my birdwatching brother dolphins, ospreys and eagles. No need for a refund: they arrived one after another, right on cue.
And in between boat trips, it wasn’t just overeating and board games either. There was also watching the local bird life overeating.
A baby sitella not quite sure how to handle the festive gift of a caterpillar…
And an Australian hobby enjoying Christmas dinner with us, swooping in to a branch above our holiday rental for some yuletide disembowelling.
I think we’ll be back.