Friday, December 03, 2004

Death at the Beach

Cronulla beach, with dead birds in foreground

Seeing as the temperatures had stabilised in the mid-20's, I decided to go for another walk yesterday. I took the train from King's Cross to the end of the line at Cronulla, and walked along the beach. The plan had been to walk all the way round the bay to Botany Bay National Park - but it was several miles (this is Australia), so I walked along for a couple of hours and came back. It was all very picturesque - dark clouds were hovering over the land, and made everything look very dramatic. There were a few surfers out, and one wake boarder - the seemingly suicidal pastime of strapping a small surfboard to a large kite and then being dragged through the water. The man had a helmet on - and no wonder - he was blasting through the waves parallel to the shore at a staggering speed. He probably got to Botany Bay in minutes.

On every beach you see unfortunate things that have been washed up, and Cronulla was no exception. Walking along the strand line there was a multitude of dead things that had been caught out by the tide, or a storm, or who knows what. The most surprising were the seabirds - I would estimate there were over 100 dead birds on the stretch of beach I walked on. They were all the same species, which I didn't recognise. Also washed up were lots of cuttlefish bones, a few bloated puffer fish, and countless insects that flew out to sea by mistake. A large group of seagulls were picking them off. There were also a lot of the ubiquitous stingers (small blue jellyfish). It wasn't until the walk back that I found out what happened to the seabirds - there was an unfortunate bird still alive, lying on it's back feebly waving it's feet and trying to flap it's wings. I thought about putting it out of it's misery, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. But I solved the mystery - it has been stung by a jellyfish and was paralysed. Presumably a group of birds had been fishing and stung by a swarm of jellyfish, and then drowned. Such is nature, I suppose.