Beach Sweep Shoalwater Foreshore

KRMB Excursion February 2020

A group of 8 members met up on a beautiful morning for our first outing of the year. Arriving at the carpark on Arcadia Drive, Shoalwater, we looked out over the beautiful vista that is Shoalwater Marine Park with Shoalwater Beach beneath us and Penguin and Seal Islands plus several other rocky outcrops further out. The beach was busy with some anglers, kayakers, divers and swimmers. On Seal Island more than a dozen male sea lions were spotted hauled out on the beach while a large colony of Cormorants were nesting on top of the island. A nesting colony of Pelicans could be seen on Penguin Island and a steady stream of Pelicans flew overhead all morning, possibly on their way to Lake Richmond. As we gathered, a single Pied Oystercatcher took off from the water’s edge; it would turn out to be the only wading bird spotted. We decided to walk south along the footpath to see what birds and invertebrates were using the coastal vegetation in the dunes between the footpath and the beach. Above us a large flock of Little Corellas was feeding on the pinecones from Norfolk Island Pines; the footpath was covered in the debris they dropped.

Daniel Heald was checking the shrubbery for invertebrates with little success until we came upon a Chenille Honeymyrtle (Melaleuca huegelii) in flower. It had attracted three species of wasps (European Paper Wasp plus two unidentified native species) and three species of native bees together with European Honey Bees.

We found a small Acacia sp. shrub that was covered with a web that had been made by small, very fast, caterpillars, not spiders. These caterpillars have been observed in this area and at Point Peron on other occasions, but as yet we have not been able to identify the parent species.

A young female Red and Blue Damselfly (Xanthagrion erythroneurum) was also sighted resting on a branch of an Acacia sp. shrub.

A number of bird species were sighted in the dune vegetation including a rare opportunity to see both Laughing Dove and Spotted Dove together in a small dead tree. Also present were Singing Honeyeaters, White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Willie Wagtail, White-browed Scrubwren, Australian Ravens and Magpie-lark. Overhead, Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins were busy feeding.

We then moved down onto the beach for the return walk back to the car park. Daniel pointed out numerous Ghost Crab holes on the beach, all with signs of activity around the entrance.

Daniel also pointed out Pipis (Donax deltoides) that were visible for a short period as the waves receded. In most places the beach was free of sea grass or seaweed wrack but a deposit of seaweed was found in one area and Daniel explained the different types present. Close by a dead Common Sand Crab (Ovalipes australiensis) was found on the beach – it appeared to have been only recently washed up (or possibly caught by an angler) as it had not been attacked by the Ghost Crabs. A freshly opened Pipi shell was also found amongst the seaweed. It possibly was part of breakfast for the Pied Oystercatcher we had seen earlier. Very few sea birds were spotted on our walk along the beach; only Silver Gulls, Pied Cormorants and a lone Crested Tern were recorded.

Arriving back at the car park we found a spot in the shade of one of the Norfolk Island Pines to have a well-earned cuppa and snacks. While enjoying our morning tea a Whistling Kite and a pair of Australian Shelducks were seen flying past; these brought our total to 18 species of birds, with surprisingly few seabirds. The results were entered into the Birdata app as a general survey. To round out our morning our attention was drawn to one of the tour boats that approached quite close to the beach. The reason was soon evident when we spotted a pod of Dolphins not far off the beach (the tour boat was giving the customers a close up view). It was a great way to wind up a very pleasant morning.

Colin Prickett