The waves were not particularly tall; perhaps one to two metres. Their rise and fall was not dramatic as I expected they would become across a stormy sea. Nevertheless they were sufficiently active to make loud, deep, resonant sounds all day. Jeanette was disturbed by their constant booming. As we neared the northern end of Marrawah Beach she shouted with an edge of great irritation, ‘the sea is SO noisy’.
When I look at these photos my memories let me re-feel the movement of the air; the push and pull of the endless windy onshore breezes. Against my skin. Against my sun-screened face. Against my unhatted hair. With the sun warming those mobile air currents, I walked with bare arms. It felt like one of those days with a high UV rating and I hoped not to be windburnt or sunburnt at the end of the walk.
In some photos above, the tiny dots of birds can be seen. In the main, these birds were large sea birds, so their comparatively small size is an indicator of the scale of the spaces in front of me each time I pointed the camera.
Apart from the occasional Dominican Gull (sometimes known as the Kelp Gull) that bobbed as thin waves washed onto the beach, the majority of birds we saw were Oystercatchers. In particular we noticed lots of pairs of Pied Oystercatchers, and sometimes small groups. Parks and Wildlife Services provides the following information; ‘The name “oystercatcher” is a misnomer because they seldom eat oysters. Pied Oystercatchers feed mainly on bivalve molluscs, which are found by sight, or by probing their long bills in the mud. Worms, crustaceans and insects are also eaten.’
I did see one pair of Sooty Oystercatchers. Parks and Wildlife Services says; ‘The Sooty Oystercatcher is a coastal bird, preferring rocky shores in contrast to the Pied Oystercatcher, which is frequently found on beaches. The Sooty Oystercatcher will, however, occasionally be seen on sandy beaches. It is found either singularly or in pairs.’ Closer to Mt Cameron West, I noticed a single Black Faced Cormorant fishing near a rocky platform.
The most delightful sight of the day was a tiny sand scampering bird that led us along sections of the beach, by running parallel to the sea but between us and the dunes. At first we only saw movement and then our eyes became accustomed to their sandy coloured feathers which provided perfect camouflage when they stood still. We believed this was the Hooded Plover which apparently has a black head. The birds we saw were very tiny, moved fast and everything about them seemed dusty. But it is conceivable their heads were dark and the combination of intense sun and movement blurred the darkness into something softer. Despite seeing them in pairs and assuming one was male and the other female, perhaps most pairs that we concentrated on were two females – the colouring of females is softer. I realise there are a number of native plovers and migratory plovers that frequent the Tasmanian shorelines. I cannot be sure that the birds we saw are the Hooded Plovers, but since the information panel at the southern end of Marrawah Beach listed these birds I am inclined to think that is what they are – albeit immature rather than adult. Perhaps just out of their nests.My travel buddy and I had childhoods next to water and so we try to take any chance to be near it again. In anticipation of the big ocean, we brought our wet suits with us on this trip. Unfortunately, we never got to use them. All we did was to paddle a little at the water’s edge and consider, if good health had been ours, that we would have splashed our way out into the briny with abandon – although we may not have ventured out as far as a couple of young men did one afternoon. They didn’t get into trouble so I assume they were locals and knew and understood the conditions of the ocean on Marrawah Beach.