Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ella Bay, Turtles and me

A few people have asked what got me interested in Ella Bay so I thought the blog is a great place to tell it!

I was at the Bramston Beach boat ramp last December putting the kayak on the car when my kayaking friend Tim Connolly paddled into the creek. After telling him about a cluster of marine turtle nests near Joyce Creek Tim suggested we visit Ella Bay as he had seen what he believed to be marine turtle sign on the beach there. I had never seen this place that everyone raves about so how could I refuse the invitation!

On 13 December 2008 we went to the beach armed with cameras, pads, gps unit and an appetite for adventure. We weren’t disappointed! We only walked half the bay and recorded 25 fresh marine turtle nests. Of course we saw more but I only wanted to record the good fresh ones.We saw some great big nests, little nests, big tracks, little tracks, they were all there! It was an exciting time as we had found so many nests in one area.
One of the highlights of the day was photographing an Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis sitting on the beach next to marine turtle tracks!
There were some sad aspects too as we found a turtle skull on the beach in front of an old hut/campsite which I photographed and Tim buried it in a spot where vehicles would not crush it.It was a stark reminder of the mortality of these endangered ocean wanderers. Later the skull was identified as a Green Turtle skull, a listed vulnerable species.

It was also disappointing to see so many vehicle tracks on the beach. The public have no vehicles access to this beach however the developer’s people have vehicular access to it. Satoris chairman has now banned staff from driving the beach areas where there are turtle nests which is a positive step in the right direction!

Ok back to the story. On 22 December 2008 Sara Dobson and I went for a second trip to Ella Bay. We knew it would be a great day when we saw a total of 6 White Breasted Sea Eagles Haliaeetus leucogaster flying together over Ella Bay.
We surveyed most of Ella Bay north to Cooper Creek. It was a big day and we found over a dozen more marine turtle nests. The beach north of the initial Ella Bay survey was more eroded and therefore less attractive as a Marine Turtle nesting area. It was surprising to see Beach Calophyllum trees in the ocean clinging to life and a striking reminder of the strong erosion and deposition forces at work on this coastline.
Sara enjoyed a cautious shallow dip at Cooper Creek while I stood on croc watch! The water was very clear but one must remember ALL waterways in this part of the world can and often do contain Saltwater Crocodiles Crocodylus porosus. Tim regularly sees one at Ella Bay that’s over 12 feet long so if you’re planning a walk ay Ella Bay please stay croc safe!
On the way back we saw some Beach Thick Knees Esacus neglectus and Sara was lucky enough to get a photo of these handsome birds.
They are listed as Vulnerable and it’s always best to give them plenty of space as they don’t enjoy human disturbance.

Unfortunately the future doesn’t look good for them at Ella Bay with the developer estimating a population of almost 5000 people within their proposed urban development. Ditto for Endangered Marine Turtles, Frogs and Cassowaries too!

I could rabbit on about nest numbers and distances but Ramon at oceansentry.org has been kind enough to put all this survey stuff on his web site so if you would like to see some great maps or read the survey check it out at:
Ramon is a champion and I strongly recommend his site to everyone.

If you want to hear me rabbit on about Ella Bay and see some neat photos check out the ABC interview Marine turtle nests found at Ella Bay

Well that’s a snapshot of my Ella Bay experience.

My greatest wish is for our Federal Environment Minister, Mr Peter Garrett AM MP to display his wisdom and foresight by protecting this magnificent bay for all Australians, and indeed the world.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I know I am already aware of your interest in Ella Bay, but it was good to read how that journey began...

    One thing I have not been fortunate to spot there are the turtles. I love turtles, and wish that no one was allowed to kill them (not even for food).

    A 12 foot croc you say? My goodness, Darcy would make a delicious snack for him/her!

    ps. removed previous comment as I had made a spelling error. lol.

  3. Hi Amanda last season was a beauty for turtles but there are a lot less nesting throughout the region this season.
    Our local Ma:mu traditional owners have a TUMRA agreement to refrain from hunting turtles and Dugong which is something I support very strongly.
    Don't let that Darcy into the local creeks and he is a lot safer swimming on the beach!
    Thanks for your comments Amanda.


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