Our most recent walk explored a dark and mysterious wetland in Malvern Springs. It was an overcast and misty-wet morning. I pointed to our destination; a large group of paperbarks, with a thick green canopy. Some of the walkers looked a bit nervous as we left the sandy track and headed towards the heavily-shaded wetland.
During our walk, I talked about how animals and plants survive in their environment. The paperbark trees (Melaleuca preissiana) in this place grow tall and thin, competing for light.
I wanted the walkers to imagine the place we were in, what it would look like with water lapping around the base of the trees. In the past, this wetland may have had as much as 50 cm of water in it. Here's a photo I took in September 2008, after heavy rain. This is what the wetland should always look like in winter. (In summer, it dries out and the soil becomes hard.) On the day of our walk, the ground was quite hard and only slightly damp, because the rain was so light.
The children were excited, and found many interesting things to share; a broken eggshell, perhaps from an owl's nest, some Pink Fountain Triggerplants (Stylidium brunonianum), a small Wolf spider, a butterfly hanging upside-down to avoid the raindrops, grasshoppers, kangaroo scats, a mantis egg-case. To them, it was a magical place - so many things to see, and lots of questions to ask!
I had given the children some rubbish bags, gloves and tongs, and they burnt off their excess energy pouncing on drink cans and odd pieces of food wrapper that had somehow made their way into the wetland. (What a great way to tidy up a bush reserve!) The adults had relaxed; one even commented that the wetland had looked scary from outside, but was ok after all. One keen photographer found a Purple Enamel Orchid (Elythranthera brunonis), and someone else found Cowslip Orchids (Caladenia flava).
We discussed the need to look, listen and be aware of surroundings, including being careful where to walk. We talked about snakes and spiders, about the antlions waiting in the bottom of their sand pit traps to catch and eat ants. We admired the drifts of White Myrtle (Hypocalymma angustifolium). We looked at the vandalism of the paperbarks, and decided that vandalism is not the best way to interact with our wetlands.
I'm sure that these walkers will be good custodians of their local wetland treasure.