Tag Archives: marine biology

Exploring Pearl Beach, Australia.

Although I’m not far off hitting a half century, I still haven’t lost a child-like appreciation for the tiny rock pools and their ephemeral cast of creatures ranging from small to the miscroscopic. Indeed, I still can’t resist the temptation to stick my finger in the water and poke something. I love fixating on a snail looking for any possible signs of movement, even if it was only a tad of a micro-millimetre. While such rock pools are nowhere big enough to be an octopus’s garden, they have that same sense of awe and magic.


Limpet in a rock pool. 

Yesterday, Geoff and I drove to Pearl Beach, which is about 15 minutes drive away. When you look at the featured image, the row of buildings on the adjacent beach is pretty close to home. Map of Pearl Beach


In typical fashion, I’d mixed up the date of the Pearl Beach Food & Wine Festival and we turned up a week late only to find an art exhibition in the hall instead and a half-hour wait for fish & chips. Hence, we ended up walking along the beach and onto the rocks. Well, at least our feet were doing the walking while our eyes were out on stalks with the camera at the ready. That’s right. I’m talking about a real Nikon SLR camera with a zoom lens and not one of those pathetic excuses for a camera AKA your mobile phone.

Pearl Beach North

Pearl Beach, NSW. 

Personally, I don’t need much encouragement to find spectacular beauty in the everyday, especially when it looks like this. However, knowing that people on the opposite side of the world who’ve never been to Australia, will get to share in these places through my blog, has helped me  to appreciate our everyday yet  incredible, unique beauty through fresh eyes.


Rock Platform, Pearl Beach. 

Pearl Beach is located 92 km north of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast and about a 15 minute drive from Woy Woy of Spike Milligan fame. Nestled away from civilization via a steep winding road through the National Park, Pearl Beach has a smattering of beach houses hiding in the bush and a community hall which forms the social hub. Real estate prices are comparatively steep and Pearl Beach has become a bit of a hide out for the rich and famous where they appear remarkably understated, blending into the landscape. There’s also a very strong artistic influence and writers and artists are lurking in the undergrowth, cafe or somewhere along the beach and rock pools. I used to take my kids to playgroup there where Santa would turn up on a vintage fire truck siren blaring. There’s also a yoga group meeting there, which I’m planning to try out in a few weeks after the school holidays. Somehow yoga in Pearl Beach has added appeal and I’ll let you know how that pans out.

Pearl Beach Swimming Pool

Pearl Beach Pool

Speaking about our trip to Pearl Beach, we had an unexpected detour on the way home. We spotted a sign for an art and garage sale down a side street just before we drove back up the hill towards civilization. If you’ve got to know me at all, you’ll know that I’m an op shop and garage sale junkie and I’m hugely into retro and antiques. Indeed, I’m not really from the modern era.

Orange Table

This table is just begging for a serving of bacon and eggs. 

So, I was delighted to spot a vintage laminex table with original chairs which took me time travelling back to my childhood. I’m sure we had a table and chairs something like that…or perhaps it was my grandparents’. I could almost feel my small self trying to heave myself up and onto the seat…such a battle when you’re toddling around. I managed to resist the table but I did by an antique picture frame which has waratah’s carved into the wood, a wooden box with compartments inside to help me get more organized, an Oroton bag for $5.00 (you beauty!!) and a Companion to Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories, which has a lot of incredible insights into one of Australia’s greatest writers and a few good writing tips thrown in as well. It was written in 1959 and it’s currently sitting right beside me and I want to read and work through it immediately before it gets buried in my other good intentions.


Garage Sale.

While there’s no photographic proof, a certain no-name violinist gave an impromptu recital at the garage sale to demonstrate a violin which was up for sale. Of course, the identity of this bold, shameless violinist remains a mystery but if you read in between the lines, you might be able to work it out. BTW the demo might’ve had a negative effect because as far as I know, the violin didn’t sell.

So, we ended up having quite an unexpected trip to Pearl Beach and today my husband went back to the garage sale and bought our son a surfboard. Looks like he’ll be extending his wings from sailing on still water to taking on the waves. Bring it on.

Best wishes,



Clean Up Australia Day 2015

Last Sunday, we joined hundreds and thousands of Australians donning yellow rubber gloves and grabbing a rubbish bag for  Clean up Australia Day, where the community comes together to remove mountains of rubbish and trash from our sparkling  waterways and gloriously golden, sandy beaches.

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Ian Kiernan AO

Ian Kiernan AO

Clean up Australia Day , Clean up Australia whose mission is “To inspire and work with communities to clean up and fix up our Earth”, is the brain child of Ian Kiernan AO. In 1986/87 Keirnan represented Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race and during this event he was disgusted by the huge amount of trash he observed floating around in the world’s oceans.  In particular, having waited years to see the Sargasso Sea’s legendary long golden seaweed, Kiernan’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

“Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

You see, the Sargasso Sea is the huge, slowly rotating eye of the North Atlantic Gyre, where the currents not only attract the beautiful golden seaweed but also the world’s trash. While not as big as the Pacific Trash Vortex, it’s still not pretty and yet another reminder of humanity’s brutal impact on our beautiful, precious and increasingly precarious planet.

You can read about blogger Sebastian Smith’s trip to the Sargasso Sea here and appreciate it’s beauty: http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/Swimming-in-the-abyss-of-the-Sargasso-Sea

Fired up on his return to Sydney, Kiernan took action and launched a clean up of Sydney Harbour. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydney siders joining in to help. Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne. Success fueled success and the following year, Clean Up Australia Day was born.

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

I actually met Ian Kiernan back in my past life working in environmental marketing  and Ian Kiernan presented the awards at a function I’d organised. I was in my 20s at the time and had to ring him on his mobile to confirm and I was shaking in my boots. Imagine ringing up the man Australians fondly call “Mr Yucky Poo”. He was lovely but I was more than just a little nervous!!

Fast-forwarding to 2015, I was thankful we were doing Clean Up Australia Day with the kids’ scout group.

You see, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t know where to start cleaning up.

Our house would be a great place to start. We could sure use an army of volunteers to clean up our backyard. Then, we could move onto our attic, where a more diverse array of stuff than the Pacific  Junk Vortex, lies in storage.  Every now and then we look up and say a few prayers hoping all that stuff doesn’t feel overpowered by gravity and comes crashing down through the ceiling, yearning to get back down to Earth.

These  troubles are beating me on the home front. So, when it comes to cleaning up the entire country, it’s pretty intimidating. Overwhelming even and just the sort of thing that will get me catastrophising in all sorts of ways which aren’t pretty.

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

After all, Australia isn’t exactly a tiny little speck in the ocean. Oh no! It has an area of about 7.692 million square kilometres and the Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,876 km (22,292 mi) with an additional 23,859 km (14,825 mi) of island coastlines.

That’s a hell of a lot of cleaning up!!

“How do you eat an elephant?

One mouthful at a time.”

Also, left to my own devices, I could also be tempted to head down to our national capital, Canberra, to clean Australia of some of its politicians and even more so, the media which is probably generating most of the rubbish spewing from these quarters. I’ve been particularly unimpressed this week that there has been further debate about the national leadership while two Australians in compassionate circumstances, are about to be executed in Indonesia. I would hope that this isn’t the only pressing matter our government should be dealing with right now either. Meanwhile, they should all be sent back to primary school where they could learn how to get along. (Perhaps, I should introduce them all to the Golden Rule?!!)

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the rubbish our politicians are spewing out at the moment. Our NSW Premier is in the throws of selling off the State. I’m surprised that he hasn’t sold off  his own suit. Indeed, I suspect all of our public toilets are about to be privatised and we’ll all be left busting in the lurch…not just Little Johnny!

Thank goodness there’s an election coming up. Ciao bella! We’ll give them all the flush.

By the way, my apologies to the majority of politicians who make a tireless contribution to our community and aren’t trying to bring about leadership spills!

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

So without any detours via Canberra or NSW Parliament House, I was on location with the scouts signing people up and handing out gloves and bags to cubs, scouts and families and our token community volunteer. The scouts have an inflatable rescue boat which we used to ferry the volunteers to Pelican and Riley Islands in Woy Woy to clean up. As my broken foot is still tender, I was on deck chair duties while Geoff helped set up the Gazebo and BBQ and started cooking the snags. He did a very good job too. Australian sausages are usually incinerated charcoal but these were cooked to perfection.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

While the sausage sandwiches might have filled them up, the scouts were attracted to my homemade choc-chip cookies like flies to a BBQ. I’ve since decided to throw out my copy of How to Win friends & Influence People and just hand out cookies instead. Who knows, I might even make it in politics?!! Indeed, could the humble cookie lead me on a path towards world domination. Who knows but I’d certainly get the scouts’ vote. Shame they’re all under 18 and can’t vote.

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

I don’t know what sort of junk you expect to find doing such a clean up. However, I would not have expected the kids to find hundreds of golf balls so far away from any golf course. It’s looking like there’s some sort of clandestine golf tournament being held somewhere along the waterfront at night. Given the number of golf balls found, this thing must be drawing quite a crowd. However, I can’t held wondering how the poor unsuspecting fish feel when a flying golf ball suddenly belts them on the head. They’d have trouble swimming in a straight line after that!

The scouts also found some Coke cans dating back to the 1980s. That’s well before any of those kids were even thought about let alone born. I was their age back then so it really does go to show how long this rubbish hangs around polluting our natural environment. Yet another reminder of the negative impact humans are having on our precious environment.

However, these Coke cans could be recycled.

Apparently, 80% of the rubbish salvaged from Clean Up Australia Day is recyclable, so all this junk could and should have been recycled instead of chucking it into our waterways. However, now that it’s been salvaged,  it also means, I would presume, that all this rubbish is now off to the recycling centre. Good stuff!!

Meanwhile back at Pelican Island, our scout group sure knows how to carpe diem seize the day. The kids were out in the kayaks, playing beach volleyball and yes, scoffing all those choc chip cookies. The sun was intense and in between swims, there was the challenge of trying to catch little peoples on the run and apply sunscreen over wet skin dripping with seawater. Oh yes…and trying to keep hats on heads. One of these days, the freckles will cease to be a case of join the dots if we’re not vigilant.

Now that the sun has set on Clean Up Australia Day as good as it was for our scout group to get out there and do their bit, my inspiration goes back to Ian Kiernan. He was one person facing a huge job of trying to get the rubbish out of our oceans and the first steps of this incredible visionary have been replicated right around Australia for the last 25 years showing just what is possible when humanity comes together for good. Who would have thought you’d be able to motivate the masses to get out there and fish foul rubbish, syringes, broken glass, stinky cigarette butts out of the water without being paid a fortune? It’s quite incredible!!

Before I head off, thought I’d share Greg Bray’s thoughts that every day needs to be Clean Up Australia Day: https://gregbraywriter.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/everyday-is-clean-up-australia-day/

Now that I’ve seen that we can change the world, I wonder what it’s going to take to clean up our backyard.

Hmm, perhaps I need to offer hose Scouts some more choc chip cookies!

xx Rowena














































































































































































Exploring Our Borrowed Backyard, Palm Beach.

We can’t all be Christopher Columbus or Captain Cook exploring the high seas in search of hidden lands. However, we should never overlook the many treasures in our own backyards. Most of the time, they’re not even buried but staring us straight in the face. You could say that I’m lucky because our borrowed backyard is particularly stunning but many of the houses and the boats around here are left vacant, which always strikes me as odd. I’m sure every house has its story. However, I am here and I am definitely making the most of every single second. Well, at least that’s my intention.

Our Border Collie Bilbo out on the mud flats. No doubt he is looking for his tennis ball. He doesn't care about the view and certainly tries to avoid the water.

Our Border Collie Bilbo is out searching for the meaning of life. For him, that meaning is very simple. It’s his tennis ball and of course…food! Although he swears that all his bulk is only fur, we know a coverup when we see one.

It just so happens that our borrowed backyard is a tidal expanse of mud and sand stretching from Careel Bay, Avalon through to Dark Gully, Palm Beach. While mud might not have the instant appeal of golden beach sand, it has a certain je ne sais quoi and a squelch factor which is hard to beat. I don’t know if this kind of mud is any good for your skin or whether it’s full of glow in the dark heavy metals which have nothing to do with thrashing guitars but it is fun with a capital F…especially for kids and nature lovers alike. The crabs particularly love it although I wish they’d grow a little bigger!!

A Miss in mud.

A Miss in mud.

Setting out from the Avalon end, I’ll let you in on what was a fleeting, temporary find. We found a lounge room set up in the mangroves. Somebody, had picked up what had been fairly top of the line cane chairs from one of the council cleanup piles beside the road and set them up along side an upturned wooden crate as a table and a lounge chair. I was quite excited to stumble into this secret world.Conjuring images of drinking port by candlelight Dead Poet’s Society style once the weather warmed up, I was looking forward to sneaking in late one night after sunset when the tide wasn’t in. However, when I returned only a few days later, it was gone. Removed. I gather this little makeshift venue wasn’t considered suitably “Palm Beach” and somebody had made a fatal call to council.

Just perfect for a Dead Poet's Society...the lounge room in the mangroves.

Just perfect for a Dead Poet’s Society…the lounge room in the mangroves. Shame it was only so temporary.

Before you start noticing the critters in the mud, you’ll be struck by the amazing array of bird life. 116 species of birds have been recorded as having been seen in Careel Bay, no doubt feasting on all the baby fish. Of course, there are the usual seagulls and every now and then the plovers take up residence, nesting in one of the empty backyards and fiercely dive bombing passers-by screeching and squawking as well.They can be a real terrifying menace…especially for the kids.

Grey Heron at Sunset, Pittwater. Really makes me wish to be a bird!

Grey Heron at Sunset, Pittwater. Really makes me wish to be a bird!

Much more impressive, are the stately grey Herons.

There are also a few pelicans. I’ve loved pelicans ever since I watched the movie Storm Bay based on the novel by Colin Thiele as a child. Pelicans have always been “Mr Percivals” like the pelican from the film.

Most beautiful of the land birds you’ll find around Careel Bay are the Rainbow Lorikeets.

There are large flocks of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos along the waterfront sustained as much by people, as the food nature provides.

There are large flocks of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos along the waterfront sustained as much by people, as the food nature provides.

You’ll also spot the odd Sulphur Crested Cockatoo during the day but the cockatoos take over centre stage just before sunset when they congregate in the trees along the waterfront before swooping en masse across Careel Bay performing a deafening sunset screech as they head for the National Park. It’s quite a spectacle to watch , although you might need a good set of ear plugs. They’re almost as deafening as a heavy metal band.

Crab of unspecified type. Wish I could zap it with my wand and I won't mention the rest.

Crab of unspecified type. Wish I could zap it with my wand and I won’t mention the rest.

You don’t even need to take a close look at the mud to notice the many, many holes which turn the mud into some kind of moonscape. Towards the Avalon end, the sand crabs rule the roost and as you move towards Palm Beach and Dark Gully, the soldier crabs have set up residence. These are amazing critters which march in their thousands across the mud, raised up on legs like stilts. They look like something out of Star Wars. These crabs can be a little bit scary to a certain person when they’re on the move but the rest of us find them intriguingly spectacular.

Soldier crab.

Soldier crab.

There’s also poetry in the mud with the ebb and flow of the tides. You really find out what it means that the tide waits for no one living on the edge of a tidal zone. While you’re getting yourself organised to get out on the kayak, the water miraculously disappears and you’re left high and dry. When the tide goes out, an entire underwater world is magically revealed and it’s way to far to lug out the kayak. Likewise, I’ve been caught out and the tide has come in while I’ve been out walking. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter if we get a bit wet but it’s not so good for visitors heading back home on the ferry without a change of clothes.

However, there’s not just poetry but also art out there in the mud.

Art in the crumbling boat ramps which are slowly being eaten by moss and colonised by oysters which convert their simple wooden pillars onto ornate Grecian columns.

Surprisingly, there are a few rather dead looking boat ramps along the waterfront. They remind me of Wordsworth's poem: "The Deserted Village". I also see this as the seas reclaiming its ground. Mankind thinks we can tame the sea but...

Surprisingly, there are a few rather dead looking boat ramps along the waterfront. They remind me of Wordsworth’s poem: “The Deserted Village”. I also see this as the seas reclaiming its ground. Mankind thinks we can tame the sea but…

There’s also art in the amazing ripples through the mud.

Art in nature...such incredible ripples in the sand.

Art in nature…such incredible ripples in the sand.

Eventually, as our walk continues, we reach Dark Gully. Dark Gully is a small cove which opens up into quite an expanse of mud at low tide. It is called Dark Gully because it is shaded from the sun. I have always loved exploring and was delighted to find a little creek flowing into Dark Gully. I tried walking along it a bit but didn’t get very far as it is rather smelly and overgrown. Much better looking at the photos.

Dark Gully, Palm Beach looking out onto Pittwater at low tide.

Dark Gully, Palm Beach looking out onto Pittwater at low tide.

As you walk around Dark Gully, you will spot an intriguing sandstone cave with a door. I’m convinced that it’s a pirate’s lair but haven’t spotted any comings and goings quite yet. Obviously, the pirates come and go by water at night when there’s a full moon and a high tide. After all, pirates need to be discreet and keep their headquarters under wraps.

I have also enjoyed watching the clouds roll by and even soaking in their reflections in the shallows.

Dreaming by the Sea...cloud reflections at Dark Gully, Palm Beach.

Dreaming by the Sea…cloud reflections at Dark Gully, Palm Beach.

Last but not least are all the dog walkers along the flats.

After all my bad press, Lady found herself on the lead when we went walking with Geoff. She walked very, very nicely as well. Could teach Bilbo a thing or two!

After all my bad press, Lady found herself on the lead when we went walking with Geoff. She walked very, very nicely as well. Could teach Bilbo a thing or two!

As much as I love exploring the mud and shallows finding all sorts of crabs, birds and exotic critters, I have to say that my favourite experience on the mud flats has been watching the sunset over the water. The entire sky can turn a brilliant orange and this is reflected in the rippled waters down below. Sometimes, the sunset looks like thick oozy melting cheese and is such a magnficently bright golden yellow. Even though I am quite a stress head, even I manage to relax and unwind watching these sunsets and being on the East coast, it is a rare thing to see the sunset over a body of water.

The sun setting over Pittwater, Palm Beach.

The sun setting over Pittwater, Palm Beach.

sunset Palm Beach

Lady at Palm Beach

As the sun sets over Palm Beach, school holidays are rapidly drawing to a close. It’s going to be very, very hard to go home.

xx Rowena