Last Sunday we decided it was high time we took advantage of the low tide to explore the reef on the Indian Ocean side of Broome. The tides were perfect, as low tide would be 0.78m at 5:30pm after a high of 9.93m at 11am. This may seem like a large tide, but it got even bigger during this week and the largest was on Tuesday when it went from 10.56m to 0.29m. This is a huge amount of water to be moving over a 6 hour period and there was no room left on the beaches of Roebuck Bay. Most of the shorebirds flew out onto the rain soaked areas inland to roost for a few hours until they could return to feed on the mudflats. Migration is really starting now and each evening shorebirds take to the air to head north to breed. We try and take a few people with us when we go to explore the reef and this is partly to show how rich the environment is, but also because the more pairs of eyes we have the more creatures we find! The Broome Bird Observatory has recently employed a new couple and we thought they should see what else the Broome area has to offer. Chris Hassell of Global Flyway Network has concentrated all of his research in Roebuck Bay and had never been to the reef on low tide. A friend who volunteers each year to monitor Flatback Turtles breeding along the coast was invited and also two young Dutch shorebird research students. We had the extra eyes and we were onto the beach…….

Great Knot feeding on the reef

Sorry shorebirds….we are not looking at you today….we are on a mission and want some adventure and we must do it before the tide comes back in and before it goes dark! The quickest way to maximise your time on the reef is to go up the beach about 2km and then out onto the reef and explore all the way back south. To have people with you that have never been on the reef highlights all the different creatures and hardly a minute went by when we did not see something new or different. There was a constant call “what is this?” , “look at that”, “quick, get over here for this”….what a perfect end to a weekend….and of course the sun setting over the Indian Ocean was pretty spectacular as well! We saw 5 sharks in the reef and 2 Hawksbill Turtles, lots of sea cucumbers, clams, brittle stars, feather stars, our first eel, large cod that jumped from pool to pool once they saw you and numerous unidentified creatures. Here’s a few of the photos that I took when I wasn’t peering into rock pools in awe!

Octopus-presumed to be female as the larger of two after a mating session.

Live Cowrie shell

Clams

Cushion star

Hawksbill Turtle

Help….what is this!?

Eel…we put it back in a rock-pool

Unidentified shark-striped

It was amazing that despite all of the coastal erosion during this year’s cyclone season it has had very little effect on the reef. We are looking forward to another adventure on the reef in future months.

If any of you can help with further identification of the creatures in these photos it would be much appreciated!

 

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Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!