Our Redlands Story Competition runner-up: One of the Redlands best kept secrets – Point Halloran (Hazel Porteous)

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to immigrate to Australia, the land of opportunity, more than 20 years ago.  Our dream was to live somewhere with a climate that was conducive to an outdoor lifestyle all year round. Having travelled extensively around the world, we feel blessed to now live in the Redlands.  It was only a few years ago we moved from Sydney to this warmer sub-tropical climate. A more relaxed pace, away from the chaos and commotion of the cities, and a less metropolitan community also beckoned us.

Being keen mariners, we hoped to find somewhere idyllic to settle where we could sail in sheltered waters. So we followed the coastline looking for moored boats in a protected waterway.  This led us to Point Halloran in Victoria Point.  The appeal of Moreton Bay Marine Park was enticing and a pertinent choice for water sports and recreation, so we chose this spot to relocate to.

According to the sign on Point O’Halloran Road, Point Halloran is an environmental precinct, however initially we were oblivious to this, not realizing how lucky we were to be able to call this area home.

On first walking through Point Halloran Reserve, we were surprised to read on the placard that it was home to the largest colony of koalas in south-east Queensland.  We followed the boardwalk through stands of phragmites. These beds of reeds provided concealment for an array of colourful birdlife. The area transformed into a forest of tall trees, eventually interspersed with lush foliage and elegant tree ferns. The late afternoon sun’s rays penetrated the canopy of the dell, spikes of light piercing the shadowed haze creating a magical effect, where I could imagine fairies and elves hidden in their homes. Dragon lizards, frozen like statues on the pathway, were camouflaged by their inertness. On our approach they quickly scuttled away, rustling through the undergrowth and disappearing without a trace. On the other side of the trail scenic ponds were home to egrets, ibis and a variety of ducks, including coots and mallards. Vibrant water lilies, a fragile life projecting from the gloomy waters, bloomed in shades of white, lilac and mauve.  An orchestra of bird calls filled the atmosphere with music as brightly coloured butterflies danced in front of my eyes.

On our return we followed the interpretive plaques along the dirt paths through more forests of scribbly gums, eucalypts and paperbark trees. Tree roots crossed the pathway in a maze of designs and the pungent odour of rotting leaves teased our nostrils. With our necks tilted and eyes scanning the top branches of trees for koalas that we thought we would never see, we placed our feet carefully so as not to trip over. Daring to hope for the unexpected, I was amazed when my husband spotted one in a tree.  I had difficulty making out its shape as its woolly white and grey coat camouflaged against the silvery trunk whilst it relaxed, munching on a complimentary supply of gum leaves.  Through the lens of my SLR camera, I could see its outline more clearly and realized there was not one koala in the tree, but two, perhaps even a mating pair.  My heart melted watching these endearing marsupials.  Not wanting to leave, I had to tear myself away. What a memorable moment to be honoured with the experience of seeing unique wildlife in its natural environment.  Since then I have seen koalas in this reserve on two other occasions as well as wallabies and each time this reminds me of the beautiful area I now live in, and I cherish these moments.

Not only does Point Halloran have this beautiful reserve but also the Egret Colony Wetlands.  Following the path from Marianne Street, I discovered colonies of flying foxes hanging from the trees. It was the smell of their droppings that initially alerted me to their presence. Hanging upside down from branches with their wings cloaked around their bodies and only their furry heads protruding, they were startled by my close proximity. The noise, as they alerted each other of the danger, was nothing compared to the whooping of their wings as they flew too close to me for my liking. The goose pimples on my arms stood out, and the hairs on the back of my neck were raised, only disappearing when my attention was drawn to four tiny ducklings waddling behind their mother as she traced the pathway back to the water. I have since visited the area to discover these fruit bats have moved on.

Further along the bay, I navigated the walkway along the esplanade where people were exercising their dogs or cycling, and children rode their scooters or were roller skating.  Most people had a friendly smile and many stopped to chat.  Sitting on one of the benches provided, I breathed the fresh briny seawater scent, clearing my sinuses and settling my mind. The windless day left the surface of the sea as smooth as a mirror, with only the tiniest of ripples in the wake of a pelican resting motionless before it rose, flapping its wings as it soared to higher elevations. The sapphire sky, reflected in the depths of the azure sea, mirrored the images of boats moored in the bay.

I watched the brahminy kites as they rode the thermals high into the air. Their snowy head and chests stood out against the chestnut plumage of their wings, which made them easily visible
in the cloudless powder blue skies as they tried to spot their next target.  In amongst the gnarly roots of the mangrove trees that were tangled in the shallow mud flats, tiny fish or
crabs were secreted by the tidal waters, hidden from my sight but clearly visible to this bird of prey.  It released a mewing scream as it called to its partner and they circled together, searching for food.

With the palm trees behind me, I watched the shorebirds at low tide as they congregated in flocks,noisily communicating to each other on the sand banks littered with pebbles and
tiny rocks.  They probed for the tiny crustaceans burrowed down holes on the sandy beach and upturned stones looking for worms, before the tide turned and buried their feeding ground.  Taking off together, they flew a V-shaped formation like military aircraft and were a sight to behold.

Longing to be out on the water, I returned home to wheel my kayak down to the bay.  The new ramp installed made it easy to transport it down to the shoreline, and with the tide now high, it floated easily without me having to drag it across the sand or mud.  Out in the bay, I felt the warmth of the sun caress my face and my legs, which were already tanned to a golden hue. The
gentle breeze tousled my hair as I rhythmically dipped each end of my oar, propelling my craft forward.  The sun sparkled creating a mosaic of diamonds on each ripple or wave.  A movement caught my attention, and I held my breath as a turtle surfaced in the shallower waters, close the shore.  It was only for a moment as it dived back underwater in search of seagrass to feed on.

Another day we sailed out to Peel Island.  At Horseshoe Bay I discovered an empty stretch of sun-bleached sand without a mark on it.  As I walked along the shore of this national park, I briefly left behind my foot prints, before the cerulean water gently lapped away any evidence of my presence. Dolphins play in the shallower waters, the occasional whale has been sighted breaching, although many more can be seen from Point Lookout as they migrate north, and there are also dugongs in the bay. Back home as dusk descended, I watched stone curlews blend motionlessly into my front garden, inconspicuous amongst the earthy tones of pebbles. These large birds, with their multi-coloured cream and brown feathers, and round yellow eyes thought we could not see them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Two adults and a juvenile, overturned gravel and probed their beaks into the rich red soil of the Redlands in search of insects or beetles. When I moved inside, I listened to the cacophony of their wailing to each other.

I had never envisaged the extent of natural wildlife we would encounter in the Redlands, and I hope all residents and visitors can be guardians of these unique creatures and landscapes, so they are around for future generations to enjoy.

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