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.
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)
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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More of our travel photos on flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels