Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rock Pools at the Wollongong Lighthouse

Wollongong is easily accessible from Robertson, as it is about 45 minutes drive (only) from Robertson, down Macquarie Pass.

Today I went with David Young, to explore the rock pools near the Wollongong lighthouse. David has strong memories of exploring these rock pools and ledges, as a child. And I found this visit to explore the rock pools very enjoyable.
Here is a tiny, but fully functional "Blow Hole" in a small rock pool.
This photo was taken on 1/500th speed, with F9 aperture.
For me the highlight of the day was hearing a call of a Sooty Oystercatcher, (Haematopus fuliginosus), and then tracking it down. When I first spotted it , it was about 100 metres away, working its way around the rocks, collecting food. We managed to move closer to the bird, and get some reasonable photos. The call of this species is a strong, shrill call, and it carries a long way, even over the constant sound of crashing waves, and wind. The call is quite distinctive (of an Oystercatcher, any way), and I find that the best way to find this bird is to follow up the direction of the call, if you should be lucky enough to hear it (see link below for a sound file which you can play, to help recognise the call). The bird is not totally shy, but it is very dark, and so it is fairly hard to see, I was lying on top of a raised rock ledge about 60 metres distant from the bird, snapping furiously, in order to get these shots, without scaring the bird. They are quite shy, and will fly away if disturbed.This particular bird had a band on its leg. This is really interesting, as this species in classed as "Vulnerable" on the NSW Threatened Species listings. And the fact that this bird has been banded means that some researchers have been working hard to study these birds - and hopefully to ensure their survival. The linked page (from the DECC website for Threatened Species) has a sound file, which you can double click, to hear the call of this rare and vulnerable bird.

Sooty Oystercatcher has picked out some food from amongst the rocks.
Here you can see the bright red beak (and eye) and the coral pink legs.
When I was a child, my father was a registered "Bird Bander" with CSIRO. Dad was an amateur bander, not a professional researcher, but he (and my brother Brendan and I) banded many thousands of birds. And Dad did a did a vast amount of good scientific reporting of the statistical analysis of the work we did. Along the way, hopefully I learnt something too. I loved banding the small birds which we caught in nets, in the bush behind Canberra. But it is very satisfying for me to spot this lovely wild bird carrying a band on its leg.

Given that David and I were keeping a low profile, on the rock ledge, we were rewarded with this bird having slowly worked its way closer and closer towards us (without it being scared away). That's why these later photos are closer shots. And then the second point of particular interest to me was a "Sea Slug" grazing its way around the edge of one of the myriad rock pools. As a person who grew up in Melbourne, I have only ever seen one Sea Slug before. So, I was quite excited about this.

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