The area including Wonboyn Lake, Baycliff and Greenglades is the subject of my final destination post for the year and it is a wonderful spot to explore in Summer! We were blown away by its beauty, variety and interest on our first visit last January and were equally enchanted on our second visit in late November. Like Merrica River to its immediate south (see last month’s post on the king orchids and wildflowers of Merrica River : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/11/22/the-kings-of-merrica-river/), it is situated in the northern part of Nadgee Nature Reserve, as can be seen in this photograph of a map from the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) board. To access this wonderful playground, travel south from Eden along the Princes Highway for 22.5 km, then turn left into Wonboyn Rd and follow it all the way to Myrtle Cove and Wonboyn, a small fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Wonboyn (10 km; 15 minutes). There are also a number of oyster leases, as well as a holiday resort on the opposite side. From Myrtle Cove, follow Nadgee Rd to the entrance of Nadgee Nature Reserve, where the road becomes the unsealed Greenglades Rd. The sign here indicates that Baycliff is 7 km away, while Greenglades is 4 km. This sign is also where the Jewfish Walk takes off. To access Baycliff, turn left off Greenglades Rd into Baycliff Rd (approximately 15 minutes to reach this point. Baycliff is 4 km and Greenglades 1 km from here). Progress becomes much slower now as you pass through extensive forests of eucalypts; banksias Banksia integrifolia and Banksia serrata; casuarinas; Bracelet Honey Myrtle Melaleuca armillaris and cassinias, as well as a fascinating parallel dune ridge-swale system, formed over the last 6000 years. You can walk across these dunes to Wonboyn Beach (central part) from the Bayliff Rd. Not long after the Wonboyn Beach car park, the road bifurcates with a 100 m road to the River car park on the left (with an 80 m walk to the lake – this would be the easiest spot to launch the canoe)…and the main access (600 m walk) to Wonboyn Lake and Baycliff on the right. Before I start to describe this incredible spot, I will start with a brief look at Wonboyn Lake itself.As can be seen from this NPWS board map at Myrtle Cove and the Wonboyn Jetty, Wonboyn Lake is a 10 km long tidal lake formed by the estuary and river mouth of Wonboyn River, as it flows into Disaster Bay. There is shoaling at the oceanic entrance and limited tidal exchange. The lake includes a variety of habitats from seagrass meadows to mangroves, saltmarsh and wetlands, providing homes for a wide diversity of flora and fauna. I just loved the extensive swamp plain of sea rush, sedges and grasses (accessed from the boardwalk on the Jewfish Walk) and the greens and golds of the grasses and reeds. The water on the edge is quite warm and shallow and is home to mudwhelks, bubble shells (photos 1 and 2), conical sand snails Polinices conicus, whose presence is verified by their clear jelly-like egg sacs (photo 3), and giant jellyfish (photo 4 – but take care walking near them, as their nearly invisible tentacles pack a powerful punch, as I learned only too painfully well!) It is also home to the native Sydney Rock Oyster Saccostrea glomerata, which has been commercially cultivated since the early 1900s. The oysters take two to three years to reach market size and they feed by filtering algae and other marine nutrients from the sea water. Each oyster filters at least 20 litres of water a day, keeping the lake water clean. Bay Cliff is a headland just south of the mouth of the Wonboyn River, as it enters Disaster Bay. The latter was a deep inland river valley in Pleistocene times, but at the end of the last ice age 6000 years ago, the rising waters flooded the river valleys, converting them to bays and lagoons and Baycliff became an island. You can imagine what it would have looked like from this picture (minus the sand dunes on the left) on the NPWS board. Over the last 6000 years, it has been reconnected to the mainland by a parallel beach dune barrier infill system and is now being overtaken by it. As sea levels rose, the large rivers in Eastern Victoria had difficulty carrying their loads to the continental shelf and were forced to dump their sediment load on the newly inundated areas. The sand was carried by the prevailing south-easterly swell from Cape Howe as long-shore drift in a north-easterly direction. Green Cape, the northernmost promontory of Disaster Bay, traps the moving sediment sourced from the continental shelf and long-shore drift, and the sediment is deposited as narrow sandy barriers at river mouths like that of the Wonboyn River. The NPWS board has a very good explanatory diagram, photographed here, describing the formation of parallel dune ridge systems. During storms, sand is eroded from the beach by wave action, then in calmer weather, forms a berm (defined as a narrow ledge or shelf/ a border barrier) parallel to the shoreline. Grasses and other debris trap the sand blown up from the beach, forming dunes. New dunes are formed from sand deposited by long-shore drift and the old dunes become beach ridges, separated by swales or depressions, a process which still continues today. In the Wonboyn area, there are at least 60 beach ridges, each 27 m apart and 30 of these ridges can be seen between the car park and the beach on the Wonboyn Beach walk. The oldest beach ridge (furthest from the sea) has been dated at 7800 years and 3 km of the original flooded bay has been filled in, so that Baycliff is no longer an island. It is the most extensive, least disturbed and best developed parallel dune system on the NSW coast and provides a wonderful record of oceanic, climatic and cultural change over the last 6000 years, as well as being an outstanding example of a major barrier infill sequence, illustrating Holocene coastal evolution. The NPWS board depicts this process very well. For more information, refer to a thesis written by Thomas Oliver at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5657&context=theses. Another good source of information about the basic process is : ‘Introduction to Coastal Processes and Geomorphology’ by R. Davidson-Arnott. See: https://sudartomas.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/introductiontocoastalprocessesandgeomorphology.pdf.
The underlying geology of Nadgee Nature Reserve is primarily late Devonian Merimbula Group sediments of sandstones, conglomerates, siltstones and shales, laid down 350 Million years ago. The coastline comprises of broken cliff lines, intertidal rock platforms, sandy and boulder beaches, sand barriers, estuaries, coastal lagoons and tidal and overwash features. It contains a wide diversity of habitats, including over 40 different vegetation associations, 700 plant species (including 6 rare plants and a large number of restricted plant species), 24 of which are at their southernmost geographical limit, 4 different types of rainforest and a large area of coastal heath land. Some of the plant communities include: Tall Open Forest; Moist Gully Forest; Dry Dune Forest (endangered); Estuarine Scrub; Saltmarsh communities (endangered); and Littoral Rainforest (also endangered). Here are a few of the plants in bloom in late November in the tall open forest on the road into Wonboyn.Moist Gully Forest occurs on deep sandy soils in sheltered gullies and is predominantly Monkey Gum Eucalyptus cypellocarpa and Rough-Barked Apple Angophora floribunda, with a mosaic understorey of tall shrubs ferns, grasses and sedges. The tree hollows provide shelter and nesting sites for yellow-bellied gliders, powerful owls and greater broad-nosed bats, not to mention mushrooms (see 2nd photo below)! Dry Dune Forest of White Stringybark Eucalyptus globoidea and Old Man Banksia Banksia serrata grows on the deep freely-draining and damp sandy soils close to the ocean. The banksia provide nectar for honeyeaters during their north-south migration in Autumn, as well as the threatened eastern pygmy possums. The two photos below show the difference in the foliage between Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia (leaves have entire edges) and Old Man Banksia (also called Saw Tooth Banksia for obvious reasons!) Banksia serrata (leaves have serrated edges). Wedding Bush Ricinocarpus tuberculatus is the predominant shrub in the heath understorey. On the edges of the estuary and lagoons, the low-lying flats are covered with Estuarine Scrub, a dense shrub and herb layer, predominated by Bracelet Honey Myrtle Melaleuca armillaris. Ringtail possums build their drays in the paperbarks, while yellow-tailed black cockatoos shred their bark in their search for wood grubs. The specialized Saltmarsh communities occur in intertidal zones, which are intermittently inundated by salt water , and are totally treeless. Dominated by sea rush Juncus krausii and endangered Australian Salt Grass Distichlis distichophylla, they also contain low succulent herbs and salt-tolerant grasses, sedges and samphires. Insects, birds, mammals and aquatic fauna (crabs, fish and molluscs) forage at different stages of the tide. Bats feed on the insects, swamp harriers on small mammals and birds and the endangered ground parrot Pezoporus wallicus feeds at the margins of the saltbush. These saltmarsh communities are threatened by rising sea levels and will have to move inland, which may be impeded by infrastructure development. Littoral Rainforest, once abundant along the east coast of Australia, has also been greatly reduced and fragmented by coastal development, sand mining and agriculture, making them increasingly vulnerable to damage by fire and weed invasions. Small stands still exist on the coastal headlands and beach sand dunes close to the ocean. Vegetation is characterized by moist, evergreen and leathery leaves. The dominant canopy species are Lilly Pilly Acmena smithii (photo 1) and Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum (photo 2), but there is also a wide variety of other trees, shrubs, herbs, ferns and vines, providing an important food resource and breeding habitat for migratory and marine birds, as well as being a protective buffer against erosion by damaging coastal winds. And finally, there are the really tough plants, which withstand the salt-laden drying coastal winds and cling to the cliffs like these pretty geranium and delicate-looking vines, or colonize the sand dunes like pigface and Beach Spinifex grass Spinifex longifolius.Nadgee Nature Reserve is home to 48 native mammal species, including the dingo; 216 bird species; 28 reptile species, like this skink on the rock platform and prehistoric-looking Lace Monitor Varanus varius climbing trees in the forest (photos below); 16 amphibian species and 16 species of bats. There are 37 threatened native animal species including : 7 Endangered species: Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea; Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans; Bush Stone-Curlew Burhinus grallarius; Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricllis; Little Tern Sterna albifrons; Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterous; and Southern Brown Bandicoot Isoodon obesulus. Vulnerable species include Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus (photo 1); Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris (photo 2); Glossy Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami; Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus; Striated Field Wren Calamanthus fuliginosus; Tiger Quoll Dasyurus maculates; Koala Phascolarctos cinereus; Yellow-bellied Glider Petaurus cinereus and a number of owls and other small marsupials and birds. Our second visit was an ornithologist’s dream day out. Not only did we see Sooty and Pied Oyster-Catchers, a Little Pied Cormorant, 3 Eastern Reef Egrets, Silver Gulls, a variety of Terns, a roosting Welcome Swallow and a White-Bellied Sea Eagle, but also Musk Lorikeets and Rainbow Lorikeets feeding on the flowering eucalypts, Grey Fantails and Rufous Fantails, White-Browed Scrub Wrens and Superb Fairy Wrens flitting around in the lower branches and Eastern Whipbirds and pigeons foraging the forest floor, as well as hearing a lyrebird mimic his entire repertoire. However, the highlight of the day was the enormous number (over 20 birds at one stage in a two foot wide puddle !) and collection of honeyeaters (a hive of honeyeaters?), drinking at road puddles: New Holland Honeyeaters, Yellow-Faced Honeyeaters, White-Naped Honeyeaters (I loved the cute juveniles!), a female Eastern Spinebill and the tiny Scarlet Honeyeaters- my absolute favourite and so many of them! There were 10 males together at one stage with all their females. There were also Brush Wattlebirds and a female Beautiful Firetail, an uncommon breeding resident finch in this area, as well as a colony of Bell Miners at the start of the Jewfish Walk. The intertidal rock platforms have a well-developped littoral fauna including starfish, sea anemones, cunjevoi and sea tulips, molluscs and crabs, and a wide variety of seaweed. We loved exploring the rock pools on the Baycliff headland (Photos 1 and 2) and rock platforms at Greenglades (Photos 3 and 4).The beds of bull kelp are quite significant, though declining in number and density with climate change, as are most of the seaweeds! Sea weeds, which produce over half the world’s oxygen supply and store one quarter of the world’s carbon, are an important indicator of atmospheric carbon and climate change, and their decline is a sign that the environment has a major problem.The ocean is also exceptionally rich in marine life, due to the meeting of the warm East Australian Current ( a 500 m deep and 100 to 200 km wide wedge of tropical water flowing south) and the cold ocean water of the Bass Strait, the warm water current spiralling east and drawing up cold water and sediments from the depths of the ocean floor, as illustrated in this diagram on the NPWS board. Often bait balls of concentrated prey form close to the shore, resulting in a feeding frenzy by larger fish, birds and mammals. Animals migrate south from tropical waters to feed on vast shoals of small fish and krill. Every year, 20 Million short-tailed shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris make the long journey from Russia and Japan to Australia to breed, while humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae return with their calves to the rich Antarctic waters every Spring, a journey of 5000 km, one of the longest of any mammal on Earth. See: http://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/whale-facts/about-whales/whale-migration.
Due to the huge diversity of fauna and flora, providing abundant food resources; the availability of water and fine-grained stone for tool making; and the large number of sheltered campsites, this area has a rich aboriginal heritage and was occupied for many years by the local Yuin people. Part of the Bundian Way, an ancient trading route between the coast and the high country, it was also popular as a meeting place for tribes from Wollongong in the north (Tharawal), Mallacoota in the south (Bidawal) and the Australian Alps and the Monaro in the west (Maneroo), who would gather to trade and barter goods and information and conduct ceremonies. Baycliff is still a place of great spiritual significance to the aboriginal people today. There are over 20 aboriginal sites in Nadgee Nature Reserve including open shell middens; shelters containing middens or art; open campsites on rock platforms, an axe grinding groove site and two burial sites. Many of them are clustered on the foreshore of Wonboyn Lake, as well as other estuaries and beaches, all areas highly vulnerable to disturbance. Extensive middens in the sand dunes and on rock platforms and estuarine edges contain shells of many species; bones of small mammals and macropods, seals, whales, birds and fish; and stone artefacts and hearths. The middens on the headland have spectacular views over the mouth of the Wonboyn River and Disaster Bay! The aborigines caught fish from the ocean and lake with spears, rock fish traps, lines and mesh; hunted animals in the forests and heath land; collected shellfish on the rock platforms and gathered plant material, including berries, leaves, tubers, seeds, flowers and nectar for food and medicine. The first photo below illustrates key components of aboriginal life: Lomandra, pigface, shells and bones and flint tools. I loved the following photo, which reminded me of a lizard’s head! The aborigines used the juice and leaves of pigface to treat blisters and burns and ate the flowers and sweet centres of its purple fruit raw. They dried, split and braided Lomandra leaves into baskets and bags, ate the tender leaf bases raw and ground the seed into a flour for making cakes. This beautiful area is still very popular today with fishermen, day trippers, bushwalkers, bird watchers, photographers and holiday makers. Fishermen catch dusky flathead, bream, tailor, trevalley, whiting , estuary perch and the occasional flathead and mulloway in Lake Wonboyn and salmon, tailor and even striped marlin in the surf. The jetty at Myrtle Cove even has a sink for cleaning fish. The area’s fishing legacy can be seen in the old rusty 1950s windlass from an old fishing settlement at Greenglades, a picnic area to the south of Baycliff on the edge of the wilderness area. We heard the lyrebird and saw our first Rufous Fantail for the season in the clearing and creek above the windlass (last photo). Greenglades has a lovely secluded beach, rocky outcrops, natural bushland and pristine water. There are three bushwalks in the Baycliff area:
Jewfish Walk: 700 m return (15 minutes) from the car park, through forest to the 100 m long boardwalk over a lowland swamp to the Wonboyn Lake foreshore.Wonboyn Beach Walk: 1.4 km return (45 minutes) from the car park across 30 ridge-swale couplets, through a low dense woodland of small to medium shrubs and coastal scrub to the beach, where we had extensive views south to Greenglades and Merrica River beach (photos 3 and 4) and north to Green Cape, Disaster Bay and Baycliff (photos 5 and 6).Baycliff Walk: 1.2 km (30 minutes) loop walk from the car park through coastal scrub of Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia and Bracelet Honey Myrtle Melaleuca armillaris to the saltmarsh communities of the lake foreshore, the river mouth, a long secluded beach and the rocky headland with beautiful views of Green Cape, the lighthouse and Disaster Bay.It is well worth visiting this stunningly beautiful area over the Summer for the beach and headland alone, as well as the cliffs, rock pools, lake and estuary! Happy Holidays! For more detailed information about Nadgee Nature Reserve, please consult the NPWS Management Plan: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/pomFinalNadgee.pdf, as well as its chapter in ‘Wild Places: Wilderness in Eastern New South Wales’ by Peter Prineas and Henry Gold. See: http://peterprineas.com.au/wild-places/book-reviews or google ‘Parallel beach dune systems Wonboyn’ to view this link: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=u6RwkTU6hsAC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=parallel+beach+dune+systems+wonboyn&source=bl&ots=bvACtneVS8&sig=ZgXr-z4L6f0MVP7I7WkC3nH6Kdc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimpoOpxcLQAhXClJQKHSpEB8gQ6AEIQDAF#v=onepage&q=parallel%20beach%20dune%20systems%20wonboyn&f=false