Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Come walk with me: Phillip Island

This afternoon was perfect for a dog walk along the beach: a sunny blue sky, a balmy 25°C and no wind at all. On the way down the board-walk, a broken mutton bird egg shell caught my attention. Perched on top of a clump of New Zealand spinach, its contents had been sucked clean -- probably by gulls. Here was evidence of one less chick for the rookery.

The only other person on the entire stretch of beach was a fisherman with a small shade tent and his dog. Consequently, as soon as we passed the man and his dog we let our two German shepherds off their leads for 45 minutes of free running and swimming.

Major found a huge stick on the beach and proudly strutted along the sand. Then he took the stick for a swim. Del stood by, waiting for an opportunity to take the stick, but Major is very possessive and dominant and wouldn't let her anywhere near his prized possession.

With the moon nearly full and the tide extra low, the exposed reef was clear to see with its beds of sea grass and clumps of sea grapes. I observed with disappointment that the diversity of seaweeds, shellfish and other small marine creatures living in the rock pools has diminished over the past 15 years -- at an alarming rate. This is due to the increasing pollution of Western Port Bay from shipping and the run-off from housing estates and industry.

As if on cue, a gas tanker moved up Western Port Bay's narrow shipping channel, its diesel motors remarkably quiet. I have no idea where it's heading. Perhaps Asia?

On King Island, in the 1980s, I remember the richness and diversity of life in the rock pools. Starfish, sea anemones, crabs, tiny silver fish, seaweeds the colours of the rainbow, abalone, mussels, limpets, brittle stars -- -- --.

Walking back up the track to the house, I paused beside a tall flowering dock. Even weeds have beauty.

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