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
Help….what is this!?
Eel…we put it back in a rock-pool
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!
Great shots! Makes me want to be on a reef rather than in Michigan.
The “what is it” shot are sea cucumbers. There are actually at least three of them in that picture. My first guess (and it’s a wild one without the aid of keys in front of me) is the genus Pentacta. Holothurian identification is quite difficult. Nifty little suspension feeders. The “hole” at the top of the one in the center will open up and long feathery feeding tentacles come out. Fascinating creatures.
Nice marine diversity. I live in the mountains so I dont get to see these treats very often. Coincidently, I am now on a little beach excursion and family vacation so I will be probing the rocks and sand of Ecuador soon. For the first time in about 8 months I am enjoying the warm sea breeze and the soothing sound of waves.
Another super cool post Clare. The shark is probably a pretty big brownbanded bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum (if not it’s something very similar). Very cool little sharks these; pretty easy to breed in captivity so you often see them in public aquaria. I’m very much hoping I see some of your nice aussie shark species next month when I’m in queensland!
My favourite reef-walking site is Heron island in Queensland. Tons of epaulette sharks and even a wobbegong.
@Kirby….yes… we saw the little feathery feeding things in action!
@Renato….enjoy the coast and hope you see some nice birds!
@tai haku…I hoped you would know the shark! Enjoy Queensland and it would be interesting to know how the reefs there coped in the cyclonic weather this year.
@Duncan…reef walks are good fun and good to know you have also enjoyed them.