The shag net

Hundreds of birds
fly fast and low
skimming over the water
wings waving like
flapping flags flying.
Suddenly the front line
slows and slips
into the water
diving question marks
as they curve and plunge
one row after another
the water swirls
and they surface again
one row after another.
The pelicans follow
dipping and scooping
with their pouchy beaks
deep down
as they lift their wings
clear of the water
to keep them dry.
The shags stand on the rocks
or the river wall
wings outstretched to dry.
The pelicans rest beside the river
rows of oval shapes
pouchy beaks tucked in
under large white wings.

Copyright Sandra Roe

The view of Forrestdale Lake from the boardwalk

The path came through fringing paperbarks
over squelchy ground
too boggy and wet to walk on.
A band of rushes
light straw colour
an exotic weed
infests the circle edge.
A strand of blue water
reflects the sky.
Distance hazes the view.
On what appears to be a sand bar
in the centre
stands a line of black swans
around forty or fifty of them
familiar shapes
beloved black density
shimmering in early spring light
some standing still
others flashing white under wings.
Another blue line
behind the sandy shallows
leads to the band of trees
on the other side
and the wide blue sky.

Black Swans

early morning
I see them
bold black on sunfrost grass
long necks stretch
swing around
gentle construction cranes
gather sticks grass
plastic bits
nest and
eggs laid
take turns feeding brooding
beak opens for cooling
wings umbrella raised
shielding hatching
cygnets floating
between proud parents
feeding learning
growing quickly
running along feeling wings
lift off into lake
soar over river

Copyright Sandra Roe

Thomsons Lake

This time I know the way in
through the gate
in the vermin fence.
The rough track goes down
towards the water
and encircles the lake
but fringing rushes
block my way
to the edge.
It is too far
a very long walk
to the other side
and the bird outlook.
I am alone
and feeling unwell
I cannot make the distance
and I pause with my camera
to console myself
with the arum lily glory
the vermin weed
under the gum tree.
But a quick rustling
and between the rushes
and the gum tree
six kangaroos bound past.

Copyright Sandra Roe

Forrestdale Lake Reserve near Perth, Western Australia

The Arum Lillies look pretty but they are a serious weed in south west Western Australia.  Farming around Forrestdale Lake (about 25 km south of Perth) began in 1893, and in the 1920s sheep and cattle grazing took over from agriculture. During the 1940s the west side of the lake was heavily grazed by livestock, particularly during the dry summers when the lake’s fringing vegetation served as supplementary fodder.  As a result, the land on the west side of the lake (pictured here) lacks native understorey plants and is infested with introduced plants such as these arum lillies.


Our First University

Our university settled into the bushland
by the river
on the sandy coastal plain
and grew its treasures.
Winthrop Hall
laid the form
balconette and arches
porches colonnades
pitched terracotta roofs
and cordova tiles
harmony symmetry and restraint
carved out of local limestone
and sandstone
this Mediterranean pastiche
honouring ages past
and students present.
Rose window looks east to
watch pelicans on the river.
Reflection pond eyes the sky
for floating ducks.
Clocktower looks over forecourt
to highway north
and watches this
Australian Renaissance spread
line colour form and scale
south through gardens
open green spaces
libraries courtyards theatres
and faculty buildings.
Winthrop’s sand quarry
just west
is the Sunken Garden for
quiet hidden repose
entertainment and frolics.
Tropical Grove
waves trees and filters sunlight
onto birds and benches.
Great Court
campus inner realm
frames Reid Library
and its walkway
with lawns azaleas trees
moat with black ducks
and the occasional kookaburra.

Copyright Sandra Roe

Swan River 2

Noongar fishing hunting
talking camping lighting fires.
Europe in boats
looking naming assessing
watching five hundred black swans
rising stirring wings
settling townships
bludgeoning black swans
while breeding and moulting
dumping refuse and sewage
into shallows
setting the brewery by the river
for water and transport
and dumping waste
reshaping the river
against flooding
for boat access
and more dry land
for cropping and building
removing the mouth’s rocky bar
making the harbour
the estuary more salty
building retaining walls
reducing shallow habitat
pouring scum and ooze
from the power station
reclaiming more land
for the freeway and interchange
ongoing community action
cleaning and conservation
retaining some pockets of original vegetation
fringing forest, salt marshes and rushes
banning bird shooting
establishing swanneries
restoring the icon
all waterbirds are now remaining
if reduced in number
three habitats for wading birds
Point Waylen at Alfred Cove
and Pelican Point.

Copyright Sandra Roe

Swan River 1

Remnants of ancient rivers
chains of salt lakes
remain beyond the Darling Range.
The Avon
a new river
left the raised Yilgarn Plateau
and fell into the rifted valley
to become the Swan
flowed onto the coastal plain
carved out Perth Canyon
the broad deep abyss
now out there
and the sea level moved and moved
back and forth
until at last
Rottnest became the Island
and the sea water
drowned the scoured river valley
to form the Swan River estuary.

Copyright Sandra Roe