When you live in the desert and it rains, you take notice. And when it rains a lot, I photograph it! We’ve had a very wet, and cool, start to 2015, not that most of us mind. Though there are a few poor souls who are stranded out bush due to road closures. And, sadly, there is a 23 year old young man who was trying to ‘tube’ down the Todd River with a mate, and has gone missing. Messing with the forces of nature is a dangerous business.
One of the routes I take on my morning walk, is along the normally dry Todd River bed. Yesterday morning, the river was flowing heavily enough that it had crossed the Tuncks Road crossing and was heading out toward the Gap. I walked out into the middle of the river bed, which was still dry, to take a photo, as well as look back at the causeway.
“See the Todd flow three times and you’re a local,” it is said. We have been ‘locals’ since the second year we arrived, 21 years ago. But it is an ever curious sight, like a sleeping water serpent, awakening, sometimes fast and angry, other times, lazily going back to sleep again. One can see why the Indigenous people attach meaning to these events.
At 6.15 that same evening, the causeway was closed and this was the scene. Can you see the white marker behind the white car in the above photo, then again amidst rushing brown water in the photo below?
A few minutes later, we crossed Taffy Pick crossing. An hour later it was closed due to the rising water.
About 10 hours later, Taffy Pick was opened again. At Tuncks Road, the nearest causeway to our house, I shot a photo this morning, to put next to the one I took last evening from the same place.
We are predicted to receive two more days of heavy rain, as the monsoon from Western Australia bears down on us. Once the ground is saturated, as it now is, additional rain will cause the river to rise suddenly again. It is capable of flooding. We have seen it, though thankfully, our house is out of the flood zones.
A blogging friend asked me if we get lovely plants, flowers or animals to the area after such rains. At first I answered ‘No. Not really’. But I pondered further on her question. The Red Centre (as we are called) turns green, and that is a novelty, and especially beautiful against the red ochre dirt and rock. But most of the green means additional food for creatures… like mice. And mice are additional food for snakes… and you can put the pieces together. Then there are the gazillion additional flies and mosquitoes and at the moment we have a plague of mini grasshoppers that are denuding everything possible, except, of course, those flowers that give my husband hay fever!
However, there is one cute little species that appears after big rains, and that is Spencers Burrowing Frog. As you can imagine, we have few frogs here in the desert. When they do make an appearance they also make their presence known at night, calling each other in the dark ‘I’m here’… ‘I’m over here’… ‘C’mon over and let’s get jiggy with it’.
Their instinct draws them to water and, unfortunately, our spa is a natural target. But the chlorine in it will kill them pretty quickly. I rescued this little fellow this morning but am not sure he will survive the chlorine exposure. Not that he is likely to survive very long anyway. Their main objective is to mate and promulgate the species, and that will be done in a few weeks, after which all will go quiet again.
Spencers Burrowing Frogs have the ability to absorb large amounts of water (and presumably chlorine—eek!) and store it between their muscles. Burrowing Frogs vary in colour and markings and have digging ‘implements’ on the side of their back feet. In dry times they dig down backwards into the sand in search of a moist spot where they can sleep until heavy rain awakens them from their slumber. A short burst of activity then follows (he-he, we can guess what kind of activity!). Up to the surface they climb, feed and reproduce, before the water disappears.
There is nothing more humbling than living in a place where you witness the power of nature and its cycles so closely. It is a local phenomenon for many people to turn out and watch and photograph the river, for it is such a fleeting miracle of nature. When it disappears underground again, we have the added comfort of knowing our water supply is being replenished.
As my husband succinctly put it. “We’ve had enough rain now… but there will be more. It is the way it always happens in Australia.”