The Hooded Plover season is still in progress.
Some mixed results this year, but there is no doubt that the numbers of chicks successfully fledged over the breeding season is due, in part, to the time spent by dedicated people who monitored the beaches and nest locations during this holiday period. Observers’ accounts of numbers of eggs, hatchings, parent behaviour, presence of people, dogs, and predator activity provides some idea of the difficulty shore nesting birds experience when trying to rear their young.
It is probably a timely warning that White Tailed Spiders are active at this time of the year. They can be found indoors on curtains, in wardrobes etc. and are easily recognised by their elongated shape (1.5 – 2 cm in body length), cylindrical abdomen, which is black with a semi-circular, whitish spot at the posterior end. The consequences of being bitten by one of these spiders can be serious, and if a person has an allergic reaction, emergency surgery may be necessary. (Web editor’s note – see photo at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Whitetailbig.jpg)
There have been some interesting observations in the last few weeks. Sugar Gliders were spotted during an EcoLogic “Creatures of the Night” evening activity earlier last month. The Gliders were active and moving between the trees in full view of the visitors
Large numbers of Bluebottles, or Portuguese man-o-war have been found washed onto beaches at Urquhart Bluff, Steppe Beach, Sandy Gully and Anglesea. These sea jellies spend their entire life on the surface of the ocean and although the life cycle of these fascinating ocean ‘drifters’ is not fully understood, it seems that a combination of currents and on-shore winds is responsible for casting them ashore in southern Australia during summer. Bluebottles stranded on the beach may still be capable of inflicting a painful sting if handled.
There has also been an exciting new find by Margaret MacDonald along the beach between Fairhaven and Moggs Creek – clusters of Buoy Barnacles Dosima fascicularis. This animal resembles the Goose Barnacle, but has it own plastic-looking float. However, it hangs downwards from the water surface and is carried along by ocean currents. Apparently they have benefitted from human-generated flotsam and jetsam in the ocean as the tiny larvae will settle on any particle found floating on the surface and then, as the animal grows, it produces its own float, a foam like substance which looks and feels like a piece of polystyrene. Often others attach to the same float and they then communally grow the float so that it supports the group. (Web editor’s note – a fascinating series of photos are available at http://www.aphotomarine.com/barnacle_dosima_fascicularis_buoy_barnacle.html)
References. Rob Tarr, Marine Scene Jan 2011 article, Full Circle. Australia’s Southern Shores, Harry Breidahl. Spiders (commonly found in Melbourne) K.L.Walker.