Oystercatcher Courtship and fecundity, Sept 28


I walk from the women’s beach past Old Man’s Hat to Miilba’s mouth, careful to skirt around a pair of one-legged Oystercatchers sleeping by the sea.


The retreat of waves leaves luminous sand paintings left by waves and littered colour. I pick up a red cigarette lighter, but leave all the truant peel, so much belongs here already among the curved orange fragments.


On the return, I find the birds beachcombing high up on the beach.

The pair of Pied Oystercatchers fly past then change course, wheel around and land near another, that runs towards them, hunched, head forward, like a young gull. Then two of them side by side, necks stretched out, heads down, bills down follow the third. They don’t bob in this intimate parade, but keep their eyes lowered, like a pair of obsequious courtiers in the Forbidden Palace.

I presume it is the female strutting ahead, but I don’t know which are which. After a minute of this display, a pair fly off and the one left behind stands there and watches them fly away north.

The shoreline is littered with bright green Grey Mangrove seeds, and I marvel and worry at the fecundity and waste of reproduction strategies. Bluefin Tuna, the largest tuna that can live up to 40 years, produce 10 million eggs a year. Yet all three Bluefin tuna populations – the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern, are in severe decline from overfishing and illegal fishing.

My mother was born with a million eggs and by puberty had lost three quarters of them. From then on, she lost about a 1,000 (immature) eggs a month and only got to ovulate 300 or more. My father used just three of them.

One floats in its own small sea, no chance of taking root in this rock-walled prison, escape is a possibility, but what’s outside the growing swell?

Insider another pool, a wine-red Warratah anemone shelters in an overhang looking as soft and malleable as a heart.

The weird colours of a shell fragment catch my eye by, the blue-greens and gingerbread browns of handmade earthenware back in the seventies when signs to pottery dotted country roads.

The lump of coral eye sockets, bare bones, the polyp engineers all dead.

A whelk, the colour of the sandstone cliffs, fat body beaded like the head of The Venus of Willendorf, somersaults head over heels in a swirling topography. A black pebble’s shine conceals its violent history of insurgency, escaping the grip of Earth’s giant concretion.

The water rushes round, taking Hell’s Gates from behind. Our swimming hole seems to have moved.
The ritual of the tide washes any trace that I was here.

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