Sunday, 7 July 2013

Creek Fishing in the Redlands


Hilliards Creek
Situated to the south-east of Brisbane, the Redlands shire encompasses many areas of natural beauty, including the Cleveland foreshore and North Stradbroke Island. It is also one of the fastest growing suburban areas in Australia, and would be unrecognisable to those who knew it as a rural outpost just 25 years ago. Despite this surge in development, even the busy suburbs of Wellington Point, Ormiston and Cleveland retain areas of natural bushland set aside to preserve populations of Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis), from which other forms of wildlife benefit also. On my visit there today, I was interested in looking at how these other creatures are faring, particularly the fish living in Hilliards Creek.


The first step was to find somewhere quiet to lay my fish trap down. Not too far away from the Ormiston College sporting grounds, I found this peaceful little tributary of the main creek in Doug Tiller Reserve, which was perfect.

Hilliards Creek tributary

Baiting a mesh cage with vegemite sandwiches (leaving one left over for my lunch), I lowered the trap into the water and left it there for half an hour while I ate. Sitting on a waterside log in the canopy-filtered sunlight was pleasant, and the birds kept me company. I was particularly entranced by an Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) that fluttered down to the leaf litter periodically to snatch up an insect or grub. I also watched a Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) dig a nest hole into the stream bank ahead of me, just behind the palm frond seen in the above photo.


Creek birds - clockwise, top left: Striated Pardalote, Darter, Torresian Crow and Eastern Yellow Robin


When it was time to pull the trap up, only one fish had swum inside, but I was nevertheless pleased to see it was a native variety and not one of the many exotic species that have infested Brisbane's waterways. A quick consultation of my guide book pointed out the identifying features of a Western Carp Gudgeon (Hypseleotris klunzingeri).

Western Carp Gudgeon

Despite being a somewhat plain fish at the moment, male Gudgeons undergo a spectacular transformation during the breeding season, when their scales turn black and their fins become a fiery red. This change presumably aids the female fish in choosing the correct partner for herself, as many Gudgeon species look quite similar otherwise.

A quick sweep of the area with a dip net revealed many Indistinct Shrimp (Caradina indistincta) and a single Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki). As its name suggests, the latter creature is a predator of mosquito larvae, and was introduced from the USA in 1925 to reduce mosquito numbers in urban areas. Overall, the fish has failed to satisfactorily perform its assigned duty and has instead gone on to decimate native fish and frog populations by eating their spawn. I was pleased that a day spent dip-netting and trapping only produced one of these fish, though I'm sure plenty more live in the creek.

Moving on to a section of the creek that resembled an open-ended lagoon, I reset the fish trap hoping to find some different species. Instead, all I found were more Carp Gudgeons, perhaps because I was reluctant to throw the trap too far out from the shore due to snags. Disappointed, I pulled the trap in and threw the remaining bread bait out into the water, only to see schools of small Sea Mullet (Mugil cephalus) arrive and begin to devour each piece.

Open waters along Hilliards Creek. INSET: Sea Mullet

Sea Mullet are somewhat misnamed as they can also live in freshwater, as these young fish show. They only reproduce in saltwater however, and huge schools of adults migrate out of the rivers and estuaries each winter to breeding grounds along the coast. The Aboriginal people of Moreton Bay could predict when these migrations would occur, but knew to net the fish only after they'd spawned, thereby ensuring the future sustainability of their harvest.

Our fishing practices are not so wise. On the way back through the reserve, I came upon two young men throwing firecrackers into the water, each one exploding with a loud boom. Because sound travels further underwater, the noise of the explosion can kill every fish along that stretch of water by sending them into severe shock. Disappointed by this total lack of regard for such a beautiful natural area, I reported the incident to the local Police, who will hopefully keep an eye on the area. Having wildlife share our suburbs with us is a privileged occurrence, not a guaranteed certainty, and we must have zero tolerance for such wilful and mindless destruction.


15 comments:

  1. a serene spot. Your post hasn't quantified (though maybe earier posts have) - if you trap the fish to take home, or you're trapping the fish for research purposes. I'm suspecting the latter but maybe I missed you saying... It is really disturbing about the fire-crackers; a lot just don't 'get it' about nature and their true value. I also saw a yellow robin yesterday in a similar setting; I love that little bird but also the pardalotes; haven't sighted them for myself; another beauty

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    1. Thanks for inquiring Carole - I should have made it clear that I pull the fish up, take a picture and put them back. There are enough people out there taking things from nature, so I just try take some knowledge and some peace. So much info comes about from amateur naturalists too (like the recent Night Parrot sighting) so I'm happy to try and play my part in that. The Yellow Robin is by far and away one of my favourite bush birds because they always know the most peaceful, soul-restoring part of a forest. I try to linger in the spot that I see them! :)

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  2. Hi Christian,

    How lovely to have an Australian follower! You don't seem to have a followers button so I'll wait till you put one in. I'll stick you on my blog list though so I'll be able to get to you that way.

    I'm so excited to see your antipodean wildlife. So different from ours. That Robin is exquisite. Looking forward to your next post!

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    1. Hi Em!

      Thanks so much for the kind words and the offer to "follow" - I'm new to blogging and appreciate the tip (all tips in fact!) so will install a button ASAP.

      Following your blog was a must after seeing your photos of such a lovely and poetic location. I lived in the UK for a few years but never made it to Dartmoor and already I've come to regret that! :)

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  3. It is so unusual to find a naturalist interested in and studying fish Christian. Obviously you know your birds too and I look forward to more of your adventures in the bush. Your last paragraph is so sad and as you point out the native people had such an affinity with the natural world which the present day world seems to have lost.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Phil and I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Birds were my first interest in the natural world, but now I am curious about all creatures and enjoy the challenges of identifying fish, insects, etc. And yes, I agree on your last point too - modern society sees the wilderness as a resource but not a home, so there is less respect.

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  4. beautiful waters and reflections - and very different trees from what we get here. love the yellow robin - just saw one on carole m.'s blog today, too!

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    1. Thank you! It was definitely a beautiful spot to stumble upon and yes, the Yellow Robins are out and about! Winter birding in Australia can be very good as the birds have no nests to hide and are less skittish.

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  5. Great to see a few natives in the rivers - many of the creeks around Melbourne contain nothing but carp.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart! I was quite surprised at the abundance of natives myself. When I did some research before visiting the site, there were lots of fishing forums describing the massive Tilapia that apparently live in the creek!

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  6. Really interested to see your wildlife. Here on the hills of North Wales could not be more different. It makes me realise quite how little I know! I am also struck by the use of vegemite sandwiches for bait - genius!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! The vegemite sandwiches would work as bait for an Australian adult human, so I figured they'd be good enough for fish! ;-)

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  7. Great post. I do agree that the waterways here in Brisbane are becoming crowded with exotic species like Guppies and Tilapias. Lets hope our waterways can be better managed.

    Kind Regards

    Ben

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    1. Thanks Ben, yes there's definitely Tilapia in this creek which is a shame. I did a quick survey of Downfall Creek last year and found nothing but exotics also :(

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  8. Is it too late in winter to find any sea mullet down there?
    I went down today about 8am, threw some bread in about 4 different spots in the creek and didn't see one fish.

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