It’s a lovely time of year for a walk on the beach. The crowds have gone and you may have the beach to yourself. It’s a time of storms which often wash sand out and reform the beach, while deposing all sorts of interesting flotsam on the beach. But this year it has been very calm winter, with no big storms (or rain), and by contrast sand has been building up and shells have been deposited on high energy surf beaches where there are normally few.
I hardly recognised the surf beach at Moruya’s South Head, with a large pool under the cliff, other rocks almost covered with sand and swathes of shells deposited near the high tide mark. The rocks now in the intertidal zone showed evidence of recent colonization with young limpets and blue periwinkles. Some barnacles were still alive but others had not survived the changed water levels.
The trail of a small animal with sharp claws that hopped along, probably a small marsupial.Jane Elek
The small rock crevices were filled with fast-growing green sea lettuce, Ulva sp. With less human traffic, there is a chance to see what animal traffic has been leaving tracks across the beach. Along the back of the beach was a trail of a small animal with sharp claws that hopped along, probably a small marsupial. Several tracks of different birds traversed the soft sand; keen birdwatchers could probably identify them. Further out was a zig-zag track from something burrowing under the sand. Around the edges and underneath clumps of seaweed were small tracks and burrows of the sand hoppers that feed on the seaweed and in turn provide a meal for birds.
I hardly recognised the surf beach at Moruya’s South Head, with a large pool under the cliff, other rocks almost covered with sand and swathes of shells deposited near the high tide mark.
Near the edge of the water, as the waves receded, small holes appeared in the sand, some from air bubbles and some from various worms that burrow deep in the sand. Since the weather has been so calm recently, very little was washed up. There were samples of the seaweed growing nearby, in this case mainly brown kelp, Ecklonia radiata, and crayweed, Phylospora comosa, as well as some seagrass. A few old specimens of the cunjevoi seasquirt had been washed up and some giant cuttlefish shells, Sepia apama, one with the remains of the animal still attached.
For anyone interested in shells, there was quite a feast washed up onto the beach shelf behind the main wave action. There would probably have been about fifty different types of small shells including species that live attached to rocks, such as limpets and abalone, as well as many snails and bivalves that burrow in the sand. The early morning sun sparkling on the water and the waves gently breaking onto the sand make our beaches lovely places to get some fresh air and exercise even if the water is a little too cool to enjoy.