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Posts Tagged ‘Ulladulla’

Racecourse Beach, Ulladulla, NSW      ©  JT  of <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

If you take a walk along Racecourse Beach at Ulladulla at any time of the year, chances are that you will meet only a handful of other people.  And the odds are even better that those people will walk right on by and not even notice a tiny bird that makes its home on the beach and in these sand dunes.  It’s hard to see – it’s tiny and it’s so well camouflaged.

Look in the centre of this beach shot – see the bird?      ©   DY   of <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It’s not until this petite bird moves with its scurrying ways that you realise that it’s there at all.  It runs quickly along the sand before pausing suddenly.  As you approach, it flies off  for a just short distance and then begins to hunt for food again.

Three species of little plovers live in this area – but which of the three is this one?

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)      ©   DY   of  <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

A closer look shows the reddish cap, clean white brow and breast and the sandy coloured back of the Australian native Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus).  This bird was on the beach on its own but they are often seen in pairs or small groups. Red-capped Plovers frequent dunes, beaches, river banks and the margins of inland lakes.

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

We watched in fascination as this tiny bird, only 15cm high, ran towards the incoming wavelets to catch the tiny insects off the surface or crustaceans turned over by the waves.

Rock shelf at Racecourse Beach, Ulladulla, NSW      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

At the northern end of Racecourse Beach is a large rock shelf where we found the other two species of small plover – again both well camouflaged and very hard to see at first.

Well camouflaged Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

This small native Australian plover (20cm), sometimes called a dotterel, is fairly rare on the NSW south coast.  It is more commonly found in Tasmania, along the coastal areas of Southern Australia and the south west of WA.  It frequents ocean beaches, sand dunes, estuarine mud flats, exposed reefs as well as inland salt lakes in Western Australia.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It’s a shy bird and easily disturbed so we had to move very slowly towards it.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

 But patience was well rewarded with a good look at this well marked small bird. It’s entirely black-hooded, including the throat and shoulders, broken only by a very smart looking white nape band. The back is light-grey brown with a touch of black on the tail. The red bill is tipped with black. The red eye ring is rather lost in the black face.

Double-banded Plover      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

While watching the Hooded Plover, another bird flew in , so tiny it was almost invisible.

Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It was not at all shy, came close and posed very nicely to have its portrait taken. This was the Double-banded Plover, a trans-Tasman migrant. It breeds in New Zealand in  summer  and visits Australia during the winter months.  It was probably a fairly new arrival.

Double-banded plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

In New Zealand during the breeding period in summer, this bird sports a clearly defined black collar and deep reddish buff breast band.  But when it’s in Australia during winter, these markings are muted, appearing as the softer buff coloured breast bands seen here.

Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

This is definitely not a shy bird. It seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in it!  While in Australia, it frequents seashores and mudflats of eastern and southern coasts.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

Sharing the rock shelf with the plovers was a Sooty Oystercatcher.  Not as common as the Pied Oystercatcher, this shy bird inhabits undisturbed ocean shores, preferring rocky ledges and reefs.  It feeds on crustaceans, sea worms and molluscs using its strong, stout bill to break open shells and to prise limpets from rocks. There was plenty of food here!

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

Not even a rising tide with its crashing incoming waves deterred this bird from its search for food. It’s a very solidly built bird with entirely black plumage and that makes it very difficult to photograph unless it can be shown against the white of the waves.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

But again patience was rewarded, and as the bird approached us, I was able to get that conspicuous red  bill… and the red eye that is usually somewhat lost in the black face.

Seagull      ©  JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

The only other bird on the rock ledge that morning was the smartly dressed but very common sea-side bird, the seagull.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

And close by was yet another of those much rarer birds, a petite Hooded Plover.

Racecourse Beach rock shelf, Ulladulla, NSW      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

 Once again the tide was on the turn – it was time to go and leave the birds in peace.

Photography   ©  DY and JT   of  ‘jtdytravels’

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Just south of Ulladulla on the south coast of NSW is Burrill Lake, a small shallow lake where flocks of Australian black swans often stop by to feed on sea grasses and to rest.

An inlet joins the lake to the sea.  Storms and high seas have scoured out a rock platform and it was this rock platform that was to be my challenge  – camera in hand of course.

After months of slow and painful rehabilitation from having my knee changed over from my ageing, crumbling, arthritic original to a new state of the art piece of  technology, I finally felt that I could tackle such a walk.  It was a glorious autumn day but nothing was sunnier or warmer than my feeling of joy and freedom as I carefully made my way across the rocks, checking out life in the pools and enjoying the smell and sound of the sea.

Very soon I was joined by one of my favourite birds, the Australian Pelican. Not exactly a winner in the beauty class but this is a bird with character – and an extraordinary bill.

And rock hopping with me was a very cheeky seagull.

In dry rock pools, a seaweed commonly called ‘Neptune’s Necklace’, ‘sea grapes’ or ‘bubble weed’, ( Hormosira banksii),  added a 3D dimension to nature’s abstract art.

The habitat of this Australian and New Zealand seaweed is between tide-marks, so that for one part of the day the plants are submerged, for another they are floating, and for the third, and generally longest portion, they are stranded high and dry, as they are here.

In rock pools where they were still afloat, it was easy to see that these strings of almost hollow ‘beads’ are coated with a slimy layer that conserves moisture during low tide. The beads also contain a gas that helps them to float higher as the tide rises allowing them to flow with any current and still receive sunlight at high tide.  Sea urchins, crustaceans and some fish eat this seaweed.  And because it stays moist, the plant also provides protection for small rock pool creatures during hot, low tide periods.

In the shallow pools, tiny sea snails rested, each in its own uniquely decorated shell.

These shores had recently been pounded by huge storm waves but now a gentle sea left glistening rocks in its wake.

At the end of the rock shelf, the sea made more of a splash on barnacle encrusted rocks.

Many thousands of barnacles are stuck onto the rocks in densely packed ‘communities’.

These tiny creatures are related to prawns, lobsters and yabbies. They are protected by calcareous plates which form a dome like a volcano. The top entrance is covered by another two plates. When the tide turns and the barnacles are once more covered by water, the two top plates open and feather like limbs, called cirri, beat through the water filtering the plankton on which they feed and directing the food into their mouths.

While the sea was relatively calm, a fisherman tried his luck from the rocks…

… and my sister and I worked out how to use our new cameras. (photo DY)

From the rock ledge, I noticed a path leading around the headland to the next bay… maybe another time… the tide was on the turn and it was time to go home.

But even in the car park there were plants to photograph like this Mesembryanthemum,  (Carpobrotus acinaciforme), a native plant of South Africa widely seen in coastal areas of Australia.  The long name means “midday flowering” and that refers to the fact that the flower head closes at night when there are no helpful pollinators around.  By closing, the flower can protect its ‘gametes’, or reproductive cells, from night-time dews, frost, wind and predators.  They are a drought tolerant ground cover with a tendency to form thick mats and thus stabilise soil or sand. They are invasive and can choke out native plants.

Sometimes it’s the leaves of a plant that are the most photogenic, like this Melianthus, another native of South Africa.  This evergreen perennial shrub of about 3m (10′) has the common name of “touch-me-not”because it has an unpleasant smell when touched.  In spring and summer it produces reddish-brown tubular flowers above the leaves which are  followed by pale green pods containing black seeds.  It’s a good bird attracting plant.

 Behind the dunes there were several Australian native Coastal Banksia trees, (Banksia integrifolia), with their yellow flower spikes, or inflorescence. Each spike is made up of several hundred flowers densely packed in a spiral around a cylindrical woody axis. One common name for this tree is Honeysuckle and birds certainly find the banksia’s nectar very tasty.  After flowering, old flower parts wither and fall away over a period of several months, revealing the seed “cone”.  The seeds are black with a feathery black ‘wing’ that helps them to ‘fly’ to the ground.  The tree has a twisted gnarled trunk with rough grey bark and whirls of dark green leaves that are paler underneath.

The young banksia flower spikes are also very attractive.

And when the sun is lower in the sky, and if you are prepared to lie in the grass to get the very best shot, then even the humble dandelion makes a very photogenic subject!

Photography    ©   JT  of ‘jtdytravels’

(Mesembryanthemum, Melianthus and Dandelion photos ©  DY of ‘jtdytravels’)

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