Monday, 27 May 2013

Brisbane's Babbling Brook

Meandering through some of Brisbane's biggest suburbs, the banks of Kedron Brook must almost be as busy as the Brisbane River as far as recreational use is concerned. If you have lived in or near the suburbs of Ferny Grove, Everton Park, Stafford, Lutwyche or Toombul, chances are that Kedron Brook has been a place for you to meet up with friends, walk your dog beside or base your exercise routine along. When I visited it today - a gloriously sunny autumn Sunday - there were crowds of people using it for all these purposes. I can now confirm that it is a great location for another activity - dip-netting for water bugs! Jogging is just so passé!

Walking from Lutwyche Bus Station through the suburb of Gordon Park, I came upon a stretch of the brook that was being completely ignored by the dog walkers, with lots of streamside vegetation still intact. This was to be my hunting ground:

Kedron Brook

For this venture into the mysterious world of water bugs, I was armed with the library book that had inspired this whole outing to begin with, and which has surely been the source of nightmares for anyone to set foot in my living room during the past month:

Feeling a little uneasy at getting up close and personal with strange-looking biting things, naturally the first animal I came across was a giant mosquito the size of my hand!

Tiger Cranefly

A consultation of my books, however, revealed it to be a non-bloodthirsty mosquito relative, called a Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma australasiae). Bobbing up and down gently on a waterside plant, I suddenly noticed there were several of these creatures, all sunning themselves in prime position.

Also warming themselves up after a cool start to the day were these dragonflies:

Above: Scarlet Percher Below: Blue Skimmer

One is called a Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes) and the other is called a Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum) - you can probably figure out which is which without looking at the tags. 

You might be wondering why I'm taking pictures of these insects when I said I would be looking for water bugs. The thing is, in some aspects, these are water bugs. Just like a butterfly that starts life as a caterpillar, both the dragonfly and the cranefly also have an equivalent stage, except it's spent under water and they look more like terrifying monsters than caterpillars. They have the predatory habits and demeanour to match that description too, eating anything smaller than themselves. Thankfully, I only saw the jewel-like adults as they whirred about the streamside.

Next, I hoped the dog walkers and Sunday strollers wouldn't raise their eyebrows in my direction as I laid down upon the river rocks and stared into the rock pools. Cut off from the river currents, they housed an interesting array of tiny animal life, including Little Basket Clams (Corbicula australis), Crawling Water Beetles (Haliplus sp.) and Fountain Snails (Physa acuta). 

From top to bottom: Little Basket Clam, Crawling Water Beetle, Fountain Snail

Checking my book once more, I was alarmed to read that some freshwater snails play host to the Liver Fluke Worm, a nasty parasite that can cause serious health problems in animals and humans. It would be terrible to suffer from years of shark paranoia, only to be finally taken out by an intestinal worm.

Also inside the rock pool were Atyid Shrimps (Caridina species). I was quite intrigued by the fact that I could almost see through this little guy - Glass Shrimp would make a nice name for it!

Atyid Shrimp

While pondering such Shakespearean thoughts, I almost didn't notice this little Wolf Spider (possibly Venatrix species) running straight towards me.

Brisbane Wolf Spider

It was about the size of a five cent piece, but I made sure to get out of its way regardless.

Just before packing up and getting ready to leave, I decided to sweep my net through the faster-flowing water, hoping to catch something from the underwater plants swaying in the current. To my surprise, I pulled a fish up out of the water from my very first plunge!


It is a juvenile Tandan (Tandanus tandanus), a native type of freshwater Catfish popular for aquariums. Like all Catfish, it has venomous spines behind each fin that I was careful to avoid. This was a little one the size of a finger, but apparently they can reach ninety centimetres in length if they live a full eight years.

Re-joining the cement path alongside the brook and surrounded by joggers, rollerbladers and dog-walkers once more, I felt privileged to have just emerged from a world unknown to my fellow humans. Seeing so many creatures in the pursuit of living always makes me feel more connected to the Universe somehow, and I wondered if the people around me had ever experienced that feeling.

At least, I hope it was connectedness that I was feeling, and not Liver Flukes.

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