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  • mel anderson

Mangroves and Clay Pans

This is Barngarla country on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula.

These photos are from the coastal clay pans at sunrise after huge storms of heavy rain and a howling wind the previous night. I have never heard the sound of wind quite like it, the variations of timbre and angles of sound - the wind talks to you here!

The clay pans extend behind the mangroves back from the beach, covering a huge low lying area. With quite significant distances between high and low tide, these red clay pans are interspersed and merge into a white clay pan as the water creeps through the mangroves and then around and behind to the some salt pans and coastal vegetation.

With such a variety of plants and a great deal of succulents that appear to be well adapted to the arid climate, I was lucky enough to be here when it seemed like every type of flower and bush was blossoming and alive with every colour.

There are mostly low bushes, interesting succulents and scrubby plants, with the occasional sapling and quite a few old tree stumps on a small rise set back from the coast. The older trees had sadly been cut down and only stumps were left but there were new younger trees establishing themselves.

The red clay was so wet and thick I thought someone was following me as the clods of earth landed heavily and loudly behind me as they fell from my boots. The mangroves and red and white clay pans extend for many miles along the coast. With such a long, flat area, the tides cover and uncover huge expanses of mangroves throughout the day making for an ever-changing landscape. There are few trees, but this little hill had a number of stumps dotted around with gnarled and twisted roots.

One of the things that blew my mind was the variation of colours and diversity of plant life in the clay pans. So many shades of green, reds, whites, yellows, oranges, and more. It was a visual feast of colour and especially so in the low light of dawn.

And this ground cover and beautiful diversity of vegetation? I had to educate myself, and I learned of the 'samphire', the succulent plants I had seen in many shapes, sizes and colours that were tolerant of the salt water that was nearby and would wash over them at times.

I heard many little birds and saw thousands of empty snail shells. As the sun rose in the early light, snails started making their way along the paths and the wet clay to wherever it is snails are required to be in the daytime. To see all the empty shells I presumed that there were also many little creatures who lived and loved and spent their lives along this coastal scrub.

An entire world of life below and just above the surface. Hidden, for now, but I imagine rich with life where I could not see. Comparing this diverse environment with the miles upon miles of wheat fields with the shimmer of heat hanging heavily over the single species of crop, I felt a pang for the loss of entire ecosystems and the little creatures they contain.


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