Wild South East

a nature blog of south-east Victoria, mostly Gippsland

Rockpool ramblings- Bear Gully

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Bear Gully Camp Ground is a great little beach camping area nestled away in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park in South Gippsland. On clear days you can see Wilson’s Promontory from the beach and even from some of the campsites.  We camped here recently but it’s unfortunate that these campsites have had a fee introduced in recent times. I suppose Parks Vic need to cover their maintenance costs somehow.

The beach is generally not suitable for swimming as it is mostly made up of extensive areas of rocks. This turned out to be a very interesting area to search in the tidal pools and our kids were constantly on their hand and knees peering into these worlds with amazement.

Our youngest daughter at a rock pool

Our youngest daughter at a rock pool

I managed to get up early one morning while the rest of the family were in dream land and the following photos are of some of the critters found on my rock pool ramblings. As it was early morning it was poor light so many of the photos don’t have much depth of field as I didn’t use a flash.

A pair of White-faced Herons seemed to have a territory of about 500 metres along the beach and were constantly flying back and forward searching for areas to hunt in the rock pools at low tide.

Pair of White-faced Herons hunting

Pair of White-faced Herons hunting

I did notice them taking fish and small crabs but they were so quick it was hard to get a photo of them catching it. They would often perch at the edge of a pool and watch intently at small fish which were caught in the pools at low tide before striking.

White-faced Heron ready to strike.

White-faced Heron ready to strike.

During high tide White-faced Herons seemed to rest for longer periods as their food sources were harder to find. Here a heron shares a rock at high tide with a pair of Pacific Gulls.

White-faced Heron with Pacific Gulls

White-faced Heron with Pacific Gulls

A pair of Sooty Oystercatchers were lurking in the background of the herons and seemed to be much more wary of my presence. This is a species which hunts almost predominantly along rocky shorelines and they eat a wide variety of small marine animals.

Sooty Oystercatchers

Sooty Oystercatchers

In almost all of the pools the dominant seaweed was the Neptune’s Necklace Hormosira banksii which formed extensive mats. This yellow-brown alga is a very successful species mostly due to the fact that no animals are known to feed on it as it contains repelling chemicals. It can reproduce either vegetatively or by releasing sperm and eggs into the water.

Neptune's Necklace- Hormosira
Neptune’s Necklace- Hormosira banksii
Neptune's Necklace forming dense mats

Neptune’s Necklace forming dense mats

The small dark green Sea Lettuce Ulva sp. is a small inconspicuous alga of rock pools and these were reasonably common. This species typically grow on rocks in intertidal rock pools and fish as well as sea snails are the main browsers of this species.

Sea Lettuce- Ulva sp.

Sea Lettuce- Ulva sp.

Two common sea grasses were the Sea Nymph Amphibolis antarctica and the Eelgrass Zostera sp. Both these are flowering plants and as such reproduce by dispersing seed.

Sea Nymph- Amphibolis antarctica

Sea Nymph- Amphibolis antarctica

Sea Nymph

Sea Nymph

Eelgrass- Zostera sp

Eelgrass- Zostera sp

A brilliantly coloured Waratah Anemone Actinia tenebrosa was found in one small rock pool. This small bright red anemone is found in rocky intertidal areas and can withdraw it’s tentacles completely if disturbed. It is also capable of capturing prey or inflicting pain on intruders with the use of stinging cells on some specialised tentacles.

Waratah Anemone- Actinia tenebrosa.

Waratah Anemone- Actinia tenebrosa.

The Five-armed Cushion Star is a tiny blue-green sea star which was fairly common on rocks once you got your eye in for it’s camouflaged body. These are one of the few sea stars which lay their eggs on rocks, usually in late winter, instead of a swimming larval stage.

Five-armed Cushion Star- Parvulastra exigua.

Five-armed Cushion Star- Parvulastra exigua.

Molluscs usually dominate the fauna in rock pools throughout Australia and Bear Gully was no exception. The Black Nerite Nerita sp (this one is most likely N. atramentosa) is a sea snail (Gastropod) and this was found mostly on the underside of rocks in large congregations.

Black Nerite- Nerita sp (possibly N. atramentosa) in typical congregations

Black Nerite- Nerita sp (possibly N. atramentosa) in typical congregations

Another common sea snail among many other species was the Ribbed Top Shell Austrocochlea constricta.

Ribbed Top Shell- Austrocochlea constricta

Ribbed Top Shell- Austrocochlea constricta

Limpets were also very common but they are ridiculously difficult to ID.

Limpets

Limpets

Chitons were present mostly underneath rocks and some such as this Southern Chiton Ischnochiton australis were quite large, maybe 7-8cm.

Ischnochiton australis

Ischnochiton australis

The Purple-mottled Shore Crab Cyclograpsus granulosus was by far the most common crab species. Almost every rock pool had a population of these small crabs and the colouration varied from a deep purple to almost brown but always with it’s distinct mottling. It feeds mostly on dead animals as well as vegetation, including algae.

Purple-mottled Shore Crab-  Cyclograpsus granulosus

Purple-mottled Shore Crab- Cyclograpsus granulosus

Another two species but in lower numbers were the slightly larger Burrowing Shore Crab Leptograpsodes octodentatus.

Burrowing Shore Crab- Leptograpsus octodentatus

Burrowing Shore Crab- Leptograpsus octodentatus

..and the Four-toothed Shore Crab Paragrapsus quadridentatus. This one is surrounded by Southern Chitons and had lost a claw. These feed mostly on dead animals and rotting vegetation.

Four-toothed Shore Crab- Paragrapsus quadridentatus surrounded by Chitons

Four-toothed Shore Crab- Paragrapsus quadridentatus surrounded by Chitons

An unusual crustacean was the Sea Centipede Euidotea peronii. This is an isopod and is related to land slaters, not centipedes. These were common under rocks and in washed-up seaweed and varied from green-brown to almost purple. This species can vary its colour depending on the colour of the seaweed it shelters in.

Sea Centipedes- Euidotea peronii. This pair was possibly mating.

Sea Centipedes- Euidotea peronii. This pair was possibly mating.

I could have spent hours looking in these rock pools but my stomach was crying out for breakfast so I headed back to the camp.

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7 thoughts on “Rockpool ramblings- Bear Gully

  1. I could have spent hours in those rock pools too. What diversity of life! I’ve never seen such variety in the pools up here. Great photos!

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  2. Excellent photos and good to have names as well – the rock pools are a foreign world to me.

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  3. Wow Craig,
    A whole ‘other world’. A wonderful cornucopia of sea-life. Great read, thanks.
    PW

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  4. Thanks Craig for the great pictures and ID’s. Brings back many happy memories of peering into Victorian rockpools as a kid. As much as I like living in Queensland, I do miss all the fabulous macroalgae (and the smell of them!) that live in the colder southern waters.

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  5. Hi Craig, do you know the name of the other macroalgae pictured in the photo with your sea ulva?
    Thank you

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    • Hi Charlotte, sorry for the late reply. I’m not too sure on the species as I haven’t been able to find any reference to it. It was reasonably common in the intertidal zone.
      Regards, Craig

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