Eventful morning on the shores of Tumby Bay
15 February 2023
TUMBY BAY - They drive to the end of the track and park their cars. Then they walk down to the beach across the white sand, and stand on the rocks staring at the ocean.
Just visible on the horizon is Reevesby Island, the largest of the 20 or so islands and islets of the Sir Joseph Banks Group that lie about 20 twenty kilometres southeast of Tumby Bay.
As Charlie and I watch, it’s uncertain whether the visitors have noticed Reevesby Island.
Occasionally one will take a photograph.
Then they usually turn from staring at the ocean to stare along the beach as it curves around the cove.
They decide it’s too far to walk to the rocks at the end of the beach.
Half of Tumby Island is just visible beyond the cove, looking part of the mainland.
The optical illusion makes the walk look much longer than it is.
So they walk back up to their cars and drive away.
With the beach again deserted and quiet, Charlie and I head off on our walk.
Charlie likes to paddle among the rocky outcrops that lie just off the beach.
He’ll sniff at anything washed up overnight.
Apart from the odd plastic bottle or length of rope, which I collect to take home for the waste bin, there’s only nature’s debris mixed in with mounds of washed up tape weed.
Charlie and I say hello to the two silver gulls that call the middle of the beach home.
The female is quiet and demure and the male noisy and aggressive. More than once we’ve watched him chase away much larger Pacific gulls, known here as mully gulls.
This morning, the larger mully gulls are busy collecting sea urchins and dropping them on the rocks at the end of the cove where they break open and provide a tasty meal.
A pair of pied oyster catchers watch this for a while, then go back to rummaging along the shoreline.
A gaggle of quick-footed hooded plovers examine the wave wash for algae, seagrass and other accumulated beach-wrack washed to the beach by tide, wind and waves.
Further out in the water, black and white cormorants sit on the wave-washed outcrops drying wings and feathers after a morning’s fishing.
Fleet winged terns speed overhead and hover in the warm air currents.
Much above them are the two osprey that live on Tumby Island, hunting over the scrubby sandhills.
Charlie and I debate whether we’ll walk over the rocky platform to the next cove and maybe come back along Ski Beach and cut back to the car through the dunes.
The little cove is directly opposite Tumby Island and is backed by low compacted sand cliffs.
Few people go there and it’s bound to be deserted.
Charlie decides in the affirmative and trots off ahead of me.
He’s much more agile on the rocks but waits for me at the point where we have to scale rocks and cross dunes to get to the cove.
On the climb down to the cove we see a couple of little penguins that have come down from Lipson Island heading out to sea again.
Sometimes black swans paddle off the cove but we don’t see any today. At this time of the year they are moulting and land bound.
However, we do spot a couple of dabbling Pacific black ducks.
Charlie and I sit in the stillness of the cove for a while before heading across the wide, wave-cut platform around the point, being careful not to cut ourselves on the sharp semi-fossilised pipi shells cemented into the platform’s surface.
On the way we check out the larger rock pools for interesting shells. I pick up a nice helmet shell and put it in my pocket.
We cross the white sandy point onto the grainy granite sand of Ski Beach. In the distance we can see Tumby Bay town. Closer to us, a couple of pelicans paddling just offshore.
The tide is too high to expose the sandbar that runs across to Tumby Island and which is home to a huge colony of razor fish.
People come in four wheel drives to collect the fan-shaped razor fish. A small pile of shells indicates where they have been in the past.
The only evidence of them this morning are the wheel tracks on the beach
At certain times of the year collectors from as far away as Victoria come to plunder the razor fish but not today.
I walk across the smooth sand while Charlie rummages in piles of beached seagrass looking for smelly things to roll in.
After a few hundred metres we come to the place in the dunes where the path back to our car begins.
There is no sign that the path exists and sometimes I walk past it, but Charlie knows exactly where it is.
He heads off along the path and I walk fast to keep up.
Occasionally we come across basking brown snakes. Very venomous and Charlie always shies away from them.
I’m afraid that one day he might fail to see one.
The path rises up from the beach, winding through coastal mallee, acacia, tea tree, sheoak and nitre bush.
We stop to catch our breath in a shady spot at the top of the dunes and then walk down towards where I’ve parked the car.
Nearby is a camper van and a car with Queensland number plates. The owners emerge from the beach and drive off before we reach them.
I give Charlie a quick towelling to rid his legs of sand on and we hop into the little red Suzuki.
I head home wondering what we’ll have for lunch.
Thanks, Phil. I bags first copy of 'The Kiap's Wife'.
Good to know you are still writing. Best wishes.
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 16 February 2023 at 07:33 PM
About 300 metres from the footy club oval, Richard.
Not many birds to see, a few spoggies and the usual million or so pink galahs.
Occasionally some raw-boned youths appear chasing a misshapen leather ball and knocking their heads together watched by a bunch of noisy beer guzzling geriatrics on the sidelines.
Lot more peaceful on the beach.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 16 February 2023 at 03:26 PM
Phil - You can take in a few different sights - and do some laps - at the Tumby Bay Footy Club oval. It can't be that far away from the Fitzpatrick household.
Of course the Tumby Bay Blues are a member club of the Great Flinders League - seven participating clubs in all.
With the way post-Covid things are shaping up, volunteers at footy clubs and many other organisations are in short supply. There'd probably be an opening with the Blues. And the 2023 season is getting closer and closer.
Posted by: Richard Jones | 16 February 2023 at 02:35 PM
I thought so Phil.
As a long term close personal friend with several Cockers, I know they have a gift for communicating their wishes and suggestions to their human friends.
The head turned on its side with an inquiring look or the direct stare with an expectant expression or that slightly mournful look of disapproval if you fail to take the hint - all examples of how they manipulate us.
May you take great joy from Charlie as I did from his distant relative of the same name.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 15 February 2023 at 03:02 PM
I've got two books in the oven at the moment Chips.
One is a dystopian thing based on the survivors from an unnamed global catastrophe rebuilding their lives. It's called 'Edgar and Eve'.
The other is a romantic novel set in a coastal sub-district in PNG circa 1965. It's called 'The Kiap's Wife'.
They're proceeding in parallel at a leisurely pace.
And to Bernard.... Eyre Peninsula is littered with misspelt place names, mostly related to Matthew Flinders.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 15 February 2023 at 09:54 AM
Superb descriptions, Phil.
With your literary skills at peak performance it must be time to write another book. Is it?
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 15 February 2023 at 09:15 AM
Dear Phil - I suspect your pet dog Charlie was named after Steinbeck's travelling poodle, Charley.
I also notice Reevesby Island in SA is spelt differently from the Sydney suburb of Revesby, which was named in honour of Sir Joseph Banks following the inheritance of his father's estate at Revesby Abbey in Lincolnshire.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 15 February 2023 at 08:41 AM
Yep, Charlie is a blue roan Cocker.
We also had his mother but she unfortunately passed away with cancer a year or so ago.
They're one of a kind, all with unique personalities.
You can google mully gull so I think the 'u' version has been around for a while.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 15 February 2023 at 08:38 AM
Another tough day at the office for Phil and Charlie.
My Mum was a Port Lincoln girl and she always called Pacific Gulls 'Molly Gulls'.
Is there a chance that the New Zealand dialect has infiltrated Tumby Bay, with the pronunciation changing by stealth?
By the way, is Charlie a Cocker Spaniel?
Posted by: Chris Overland | 15 February 2023 at 07:26 AM