Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge


24th June 2001

[Map of Back Bay]

It was Sunday and a lovely day, and Saren was visiting and wanted to see the local green sights. Saren and I had walked around the Seashore State Park in the morning, and then we came home and picked up Anne and headed for Back Bay. Properly, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. We had a long drive to get there, and the most interesting part was driving through Sandbridge. This is a narrow spit of sand which contains many beach houses. Most are on stilts like good Queenslanders, but have some interesting features. Many have a widow's walk at the top, which now serves sunbakers rather than anxious wives trying to see if they are widows by watching the weather and the sea. Some houses were octagonal. Nearly all were made of untreated wood, which fades to a silvery grey in time and is supposed to look fashionable but usually manages to look tacky. The best ones had oiled wood which retained the striking colour of the wood. Next best was the vinyl siding. My opinion on this topic is usually shouted down.

Back Bay is a huge area, about 7700 acres. It was established in 1938 to provide living area for the migratory birds, and anything else that wanted to live there and be protected. Like snakes. See below. It's a long spike of land with the sea on one side and the waterways on the other side. It's got a fair variety of terrain - beach, dunes, marsh and woodland. We got to see all but the woodland. We arrived mid-afternoon and I was worried that we wouldn't have enough time to see much. However, it's open from sunrise to sunset, and as it's summer this means it closes at about 8:00pm, so we had plenty of time.

We stopped at the Visitors Centre first. Like most places here, it was full of dead stuffed birds and animals to show us what was disappearing. Even a tiger fur, confiscated from a smuggler. I bought a great T-shirt. Green, of course.

[Back Bay Visitors Centre]

As you can see from the big map, there is a lot to do and many miles of walking tracks. We decided to do the Bay Trail, which is the side away from the seaside. Like the Virginia Marine Science Museum, they have walkways built out over the marshland so you can get right out into it without disturbing the wildlife too much. [Map of the Back Bay
  trails around the Visitors Centre]

Lots of marsh grasses, the bay washing up against the walkways, little pools with turtles sunning themselves. Very peaceful and very pretty. Birdcall and frogcall, and the soft lapping of the water to listen to. Lovely dank, marshy smells. This was a delight to walk around. [Turtle in marsh]

Lots of good opportunities of photos, with a wide variety of terrain to choose from. Here's one of my favourite photos. [Waterlilies at Back Bay]

Can't take a set of photos without some humans in at least one. Out on the walkways are little resting and viewing areas, and this is the one where you could sit and watch the osprey platform. We sat and looked at the osprey platform.

[Saren and Anne at Back Bay]

In the dead centre of this photograph, you can see a little wooden thing sticking up in the sky like a T. That is the osprey platform. If you look at the closeup, you can see a large nest on the platform with one osprey sitting in it, and another one outside the nest on the right.

[The osprey platform across
the water at Back Bay] [Closeup of the osprey platform]

After walking out of the marshes, we headed back inland a bit and walked on raised paths through the marsh grasses. Lots of frogs here, especially a frog that sounded like a sheep baa-ing.

[The walkway into the marsh]

After we did the inland bit, Anne went for a wander down the Seaside Trail while Saren and I struck out for the longer walk heading towards False Cape. First of we all, we headed left along Dune Trail to have a look at the seashore.

[Dune Trail at Back Bay]

Here's the beach. I stayed on the boardwalk and waited for Saren while she went down to the sea and had a paddle. I didn't have the right shoes for walking on that sand, and I'm not much of a beach person anyway. Dry sand makes me irritable, although I am very fond of walking on wet sand and sloshing through the water.

[The end of Dune Trail at
Back Bay]

While Saren paddled and looked at pelicans and birds, I looked around me and was quite taken by the desolate looking dunes.

[The Dunes of Dune Trail at
Back Bay]

We walked back to the main path and kept walking towards False Cape. I hesitate to call it a walking track. Lots of gravel made it a very hard walk and I got very tired from the slipsliding around. I think it's designed more for bikes and cars than walkers. [Main track to False Cape]

While we were walking along, I was concentrating on where I was going and trying not to slip-slide all over the place with gravel. Saren stopped me and suggested I not walk on the snake. It had come onto the track and stopped. It just waited till it saw what we were going to do. I got reasonably close and took the photo, and it disdainfully ignored me. Then we walked round it and just kept walking, and when I looked back, it was still in the same position. I'm sure it knows it's protected and it takes full advantage of the fact.

[The snake at Back Bay]

We kept walking till we had to turn back inland, and then we walked further along the inland path, still heading for False Cape, until my feet protested too much. I was the one who gave in and asked if we could turn back. Saren was eager for more walking, but I had already done some miles earlier in the morning and I'm an old, fat lazy man so I cried enough and she gracefully acceded. We walked back along the inland path and saw some wonderful sights.

[Curve in waterway at Back

Lots of water and small creeks, and lots of waterbirds. Herons and other wader type birds. There were occasional rest stops where you could sit and watch the birds and the water.

[Herons in the waterway at
Back Bay]

We made it back to the Visitors Centre, and Anne was waiting for us. I was very grateful to sit down in the car and rest. We were a bit tired and a bit thirsty, but a few beers later we were fine.