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I saw a little miracle yesterday.  It probably happens every year, but this time I was witness to it.  After a delightful picnic on the Cooks River we took a friend to see Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland, which by the way, is fully grown & is now a thriving metropolis of birds, turtles, frogs, lizards, dragonflies & other living beings.  Walking up the side path that runs alongside the concrete stormwater channel that is Cup & Saucer Creek, our friend called our attention to something happening in the stormwater channel.  As we moved to look down into the concrete channel, thousands of small fish flicked in the shallow water & changed direction showing that they were fully aware of our presence.

Cup & Saucer Creek 2011

The concrete stormwater channel looks like all other stormwater channels in the area. It is dry concrete further away from the Cooks River with very shallow water increasing to something that would be perhaps less than 1-metre (39 inches) deep by the time it enters the river.  It’s tidal so the depth changes & also when it rains.

In the extremely shallow end, which would be between 8-20 cm deep (3 – 8 inches), were many schools of very small fish turning & swimming as one unit, some turning on their side looking like flashes of sliver light in the murky water.  Each school had hundreds of fish.

The fish quickly assessed us as limited threat (or their primal drive was too strong to stop) & continued on with their water dance.  It was quite amazing to watch & even more so because this was happening in a concrete environment, not somewhere that one thinks of for a David-Attenborough-type experience.

I have no idea how long it lasts, but if our goldfish are any indication, this probably happens every day for a couple of weeks until the females release all of their eggs.  Amazing too that the Herons were absent because food was in abundance.

Canterbury Council who now manage the very beautiful & entirely successful Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland have put up an educational sign that has a photo of what the creek looked like in 1901.  The difference could not be more marked.  From what was once quite a large creek with small waterfall, ‘modern progress’ has changed it into a concrete stormwater channel.  That the spawning of fish still occurs here despite the environmental changes is astounding to me.  It also gives me hope of the resilience of nature to adapt to quite radical changes.  Many species don’t & so we lose them from areas or they become extinct.  Here at Cup & Saucer Creek, we have spawning of fish that was probably observed by other people in 1901 & for thousands of years before.

I made a 3 minute-21 second video of this little urban miracle here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz95HSoNBSU

Cup & Saucer Creek 1901. This photo is taken from Canterbury Council' s educational sign about Cup & Saucer Creek & Wetland.

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