Along The Track: Teach Fishing

So the old story goes:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach him to fish
And he’ll sit in a boat all day drinking beer. (at least I think that’s how it goes)

EE was out for the day, and as the weather was fine in the afternoon, I decided to go to a special place at Point Cook park. We don’t usually go out that far, as its a long haul through some very loose slippery sand so we avoid it.

A point in the park was formed millenia ago when the great western plains lava flows occurred. The lava jutted a tongue out into what was to become Port Phillip Bay. Over the years, sand has been deposited on both sides of the rocks, and two tiny little bays have been formed with the sand keeping the water shallow.
On low tide the point can go out for about 150m or more, and on very low tide the sands are exposed and its possible to walk out most of the way.

The rocks form a lovely resting spot for the seabirds and it’s not unusual, even on high tide, to find cormorants, gulls and terns, and occassionally swans and pelicans making the most of the view.

I like it as a quiet, lonesome place. One of my preferred solo birding spots.

So I pushed on through the pine plantation, slogging over the hot slippery sand until I reached the coolness of the shoreline. Then a few minutes along the beach to the point. Luck would have it, it was late on a falling tide so there was some exposed sand I could walk out on. Because of the little bays, the water is pretty shallow and it’s easy to take off boots and socks and roll up the Levis and wade out a bit.

Greater Crested Terns were in abundance and fishing further out, but returning to enjoy a meal on the rocks. A scattering of Red-necked Stints were also in attendance, getting ready for their epic journey.
When I walk out in the water paralled to the rocks, the birds generally are relaxed and don’t seem to pay any attention. Except for a pair of Pied Oystercatchers, that immediately moved as far away as they could to the sand on the far side. Then they do what Oystercatchers do best. They glared at me.

A tern came in with its latest catch and seemed to want to brag to everyone about its good fortune, and flew about from rock to rock cackling and playing with the meal.

I moved back to the sanddune and sat on the grass with a brew of the Earl’s finest and soaked up the feeling of isolation.

With a loud call and wing flurry the gulls all took to the air and at first I missed the action, then a dark shape flew over the rocks. Regaining composure, and the camera, I called out to no one in particular, “Arctic Jaeger”, and as there was no one else, its just as well I didn’t call to anyone in particular.

Sure enough. A Jaeger was looking for an afternoon snack, and what better way than to relieve some hapless gull of its meal.
But they were gone. It turned to head along the beachline, just as an unsuspecting Tern flew in with its latest meal. The Jaeger summed the matter up in a split second and the chase was on. Jaegers have a surprising turn of speed and incredible air contol, at one point, its head was going in one direction, its wings in another, the body in yet another direction and its feet controlling the action.

Somehow the Tern managed to lose enough height to get onto the sand, and mantle its meal with its wings. Thwarted the Jaeger moved along the beach to retrieve some other offering and in the flick of a wing was gone.

Time had run out, so it was time for me to slog back through the pines and home.


Greater Crested Terns
A Greater Crested Tern doing a spin dry to remove excess water
A young Greater Crested Tern picking up from the shallows
One of a handful of Red-necked Stints working the area
Showing off its prize
Don’t play with your food.
Arctic Jaegar. A summer visitor, not one I’d usually see, and certainly not in close to shore
A very surprised Tern
Jaeger applying the brakes
A serious chase and one the Tern does not want to lose
Closing in
The Tern was heading for the safety of the beach and managed to land with its food intact.
Thwarted the Jaeger collected something from the beach before flying off
And for bonus points! As I was leaving a Black-faced Cormorant flew in. They normally reside futher south in the Bay, so its been good to have a few around.