Monday, December 24, 2012

Hooked on Bidgee-Widgee

Bidgee-Widgee (Acaena novae-zelandiae) is a native ground-cover of Australia and New Zealand which is endemic to the Point Smythe area.
It is through the burrs produced in Summer which attach to socks, pants or shoelaces that most people realise they have had an interaction with Bidgee-Widgee, unwittingly drafted as agents of seed dispersal. Each seed has four spines which terminate in minute barbs that hook onto clothing or animal hair, similar plants overseas inspired the invention of hook & loop fasteners like Velcro.

It does play an important role in soil binding and erosion control, and is tolerant of a wide range of conditions from shade to full sun, wet to dry soils, making it worthy of consideration for the local home garden. So the next time Bidgee-Widgee covers your socks in burrs, look on the bright side that your socks have become a free packet of seed!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hot Hot Hot!!!

Common Brown Butterfly Heteronympha merope (male)
During the sweltering heatwave afflicting most of southern Australia this week, one could be excused for thinking that all animals suffer as we do in the heat. Ectothermic (cold blooded) animals however have a metabolism that works much more efficiently at temperatures that would risk heat-stroke for any bird or mammal species, including us. Often considered as "primitive lifeforms" it is only by observations during hot weather that this misconception can be challenged. 

Pale-flecked Garden Sunskink Lampropholis guichenoti

Unknown Bull Ant Myrmecia sp.

                                 Common Bottle-daisy Lagenophora stipitata

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Something To Sing About

All the signs that Spring has arrived in Venus Bay abound. The melodious calls of birds proclaiming territory and breeding rights fill the bush, and one of the most musical is the Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis is hard for your ears to miss. (Male pictured above, females are duller and lack the black & white head markings).

The plants are also getting into the mood, with many beginning their flowering. The Running Postman Kennedia prostrata (above) delivers a crimson treat with its pea-like blooms. For keener eyes are the small Native Violets Viola hederacea (below) whose flower stalk stands only 10cms tall at most.

The Silky Guiana Flower Hibbertia sericea var. sericea (below).
What would Spring be without a Fungi responding to the rains and warmth? An Earth Star Geastrum sp. (right) adds yet another colour and texture to the community of life playing out the seasonal vocation of procreation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Focusing on Andersen Inlet erosion risks

Once the peat layer is compromised the salt marsh quickly disintergratedsand is being washed further into the inlet and trees provide little resistance to erosion

I guess there has been a lot of discussion in this blog about changes on the surf beach at Venus Bay but in reality the most significant erosion is going on all along Andersen Inlet.The deeper channels (think of them as a submerged meandering but tidal streams) are snaking back and forth changing position within the inlet progressively widening the inlet and eroding its banks (particularly at Inverloch, on the north eastern side, and around doyle’s road, on the western side. Sand is progressively  moving deeper into the inlet and this hinders the development of mangroves, which are really the only way to slow down eroding the shores. The open “beaches” allow waves to undercut the peat layer of the salt marshes and once compromised like this the salt marshes quickly wash away. Trees offer only slightly more resistance but they soon also succumb to the erosion.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Did the earth move for you?

alvin earthLast nights earthquake between Moe & Mirboo North, best estimates at the moment a 5.4 Magnitude at 8:54PM, gave the folk in Melbourne a good shaking, but how was it felt at Venus Bay?
Geoscience Australia likes to get reliable first hand accounts of what people felt, as it helps them improve both the assessment and prediction of the effects of earthquakes & damage. If you want to help here is the link,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Having fun …BUT

 IMGP4776 IMGP4777 IMGP4778
These very noisy mechanized wave runners are obviously have fun, albeit in a high risk way BUT they certainly didn’t impress the other beach one users. The fishermen were muttering about yoboos, the pipi gathers were yabbering about the strong smell of the spilt fuel and the tradition board riders shaking their heads in despair, What I notice is their wasn’t a single bird to be seen anywhere close by. Yet up at beach five there were plenty.
Is this a case of NIMBY over-reaction or is jet skying one of those recreations that really does needs to be controlled in national parks?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kings Tides and beach profile


At the same time as last weeks, transit of venus there was also a full moon and a very low atmospheric depression out to the east over the Tasman Sea.. Perfect conditions for a really high tide. I did check the beach on the 7th. and could only see the old erosion face from last year and the regrowth on the sand screen below them. There was a slight notch in several location that looked as if it could be more than a few days old but it was not very extensive (these are labeled in white in the above photo). I revisited the same areas south of beach one today and can see a fresh cut (only 5 to 20cm tall) but extending most of the way along the beach (labeled in yellow). Also the beach below the cut does seem to be “steeper”. So I suspect there has been some significant erosion/sand movement along the beach in the past week. So the picture that the erosion events are most likely to occur with the king tides (full moon) and atmospheric lows does have a little more circumstantial support.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Venus Bay Inspired Art

The Last Pipi Harvest at Venus Bay

Mixed Media on Canvas
102 by 102cm
By Norm Hanson 2012
imageThis is a story of anthropogenic extinction, as written into future stone. The ochre coloured sandstone [1] was at one time a thriving beach, brimming with life and specifically a prolific population of Donax Deltiodes, also known as Pipis or Surf clams. However the Pipis were so yummy and they were harvested in such numbers that fewer and fewer shells reached maturity each year. Then suddenly in one season, the entire population failed to reproduce. Worse the rich food chain of the beautiful beach collapsed, with their demise, and the once thriving beach became a pale version of itself. Only a few brave worm burrows [2] could be found. Then all signs of life disappeared [3].

This story need not come true.

The work was created first as a mould of the main units in the sand south of Beach one. This included leaving some of the worm burrow/air holes undisturbed. broken Pipis and other shells where collected nearby and scattered in the mould. The mould was filled with expanding polyurethane foam and cover with the canvas, burried and left to harden for an hour or so. The foam on canvas mould was next painted with several coats of sand, gesso and latex to create an absorbent sandstone like finish. Finally this was “stained” and painted with various oxides. It represents a future geological rock face, perhaps a few million years into our future. This rock face runs close to the bedding planes with the oldest layers, the ochre sandstone on the lower left, closest to you. You are looking "up" in time.

This work will be on display at the Mount View Art Show, 14th - 17th June 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Transit of Venus

Second contact of Ingress taken in 2004Providing the skies are cloud free, Venus Bay will be a great place to observe the Transit of Venus. Remember you must not look directly at the sun SERIOUS EYE DAMAGE MAY RESULT.
The transits of Venus, they are like an eclipses, are very rare but when they occur there are two such events 8 years apart. During the transit Venus is positioned between us and the sun and casts a shadow. Unlike an eclipse of the moon this show is small and seen as a small dark dot as it moves across the face of the sun.
This is only the fifth transit since James Cook travelled to Tahitti in 1769 to make observation there. Astronomers back in England wanted to know exactly how long the transit took and from that they predicted they would be able to compute the distance of the earth and Venus from the sun. This trip is also famous because on the way back to England he reach Australia, called it New South Wales and claimed it for England.


There are four key events in the transit
First touches the sun
8:18 AM
Just inside the Sun, ingress
8:34 AM
Just inside the Sun, egress
2:27 PM
Last Touches the Sun
2:45 PM


Where is the best place to observe?

Well really anywhere around Venus Bay you can see the sun at the times above. Remember the sun will be relatively low in the sky during the Ingress. So I might start my own observations just near lees Road and Jupiter avenue intersection, on the bike track as it comes off the little rise. There is a very clear view of the eastern sky from here. During the Egress the car park at Beach One is a good location as it has a good view of the north western sky.

The Venus Bay, Tarwin Lower Men’s Shed are having activities around observing the transit, weather permitting, including a sausage sizzle & live music from local artists. They will have a solar telescope for safe viewing of the transit, solar flares, sunspots and active regions of the sun. Gold Coin Donation. Check the May edition of Matter of Fact Newsletter for more details.

How to Observe?

I will be using the same method used by captain cook. I will project an image of the sun onto a screen using my telescope. I took the picture below of the transit in 2004 and I’m hoping I can do better this time.
Taken in Wheelers Hill on 8 June 2004
The Sydney observatory has a great factsheet on the 6 June 2012 Transit of Venus. If you’d like more information of making observations yourself, it will even help you do the calculations of distance to the sun and Venus if you want to independently verify the astronomers work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sand in movement

Panoramic photo taken on Tuesday at Beach 1 showing some erosion occurring to the fore-dune. Notice the water pooling in the bottom right.

This next photo is facing SE at the same site and the undulating effect from the pooling water extends to the horizon.  Truly a dynamic environment!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bad weather for Sailors, but good for Diatoms

Beach One was the location of a mass stranding of Velella lata, more commonly known as by-the-wind-sailors. These little blue creatures are no more than 5cm long and are related to jellyfishes and anemones. Their natural habitat is on the surface of the open ocean, where the Velella feed on plankton.

They move across the ocean with their distinctive transparent "sail" catching the wind, visible in this first picture.

Every now and again a change of wind direction (like the cold blast we are currently experiencing) blows thousands of Velella helplessly towards the shore.
This second picture shows the underside of the Velella where its feeding tentacles are visible.

The same sort of weather that was responsible for the stranding of the Velella brought waters rich in nutrients that has allowed the Diatoms to bloom along the surf of Beach One.

This picture taken this morning at Beach One showing the characteristic browny-green "stain" of a Diatom bloom.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


There is no set definition of what a weed is, other than that they are always undesirable. In the context here I am referring to plants that are not endemic to an area, and that escape into our natural areas to become weeds.

This is undesirable for two main reasons;

  • It changes our natural areas from being natural, which is the reason those areas are valued in the first place.

  • It alters the balance in the ecosystem. The weeds out compete the native seedlings, so natural regeneration gets hampered. The native animals are all linked to the native vegetation and start to struggle, and pest animal species often displace them.

What can we all do?

Learn to recognise a few of the weeds, and which ones are particularly nasty. Below are a couple of useful links,

South Gippsland Weeds;

and the DPI's weed site;

The weeds pictured are from top to bottom; Ragwort Senecio jacobaea, Inkweed Phytolacca octandra & Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Celebrating Australia Day


What better place to celebrate Australia Day than on Beach One. Good job all you nippers and dedicated surf club patrols.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Death on the Beach

The Life Cycles of the Natural world play out daily along the coast at Venus Bay. Sometime you are confronted by the site of dead birds, like the albatross below, penguins, seals, dolphins and even whale. Unfortunately such deaths happen, frequently related to storms at sea. If you come across such birds, particularly penguins, it is a good idea to check for leg bands, its is import to note which leg is banded and the order of colours and any letters or numbers. Also if the cause of death is clearly not natural (eg the bird, fish is tangled in a net, line) they probably should be recorded. We don't need to be forensic experts or act as" the wildlife police", but significant changes in our environment may be signaled by other species.
Even Natural deaths when in larger numbers are worth recorded, for example our site was probably the first to note the large number of mutton birds that died and washed up in beaches all along Australian beach last year.

BUT please inspect these animals and birds with respect, a very rare and endangered species may need to be the subject or further scientific study.

VBOPing on Google+

VBOPing is now on Google+, not fully sure how we can us all the facilities of google+ but if you are on Google+ start following and watch for share circles and links. Also add the Hashcode #VBOP to your post so we can find it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Coastal Walk Report

The "Geology Rocks" coastal walk along Pt. Smythe yesterday was enjoyed by around 20 people who took the chance for a guided tour through the different environments and habitats of the area. We got to see much of the local plant and animal life, including bracket fungi (species unknown), the White Elderberry Sambucus gaudichaudian which are bearing their pale fruits.

We also saw a few dead birds washed up onto the beach. There was a Muttonbird Puffinus sp. ,and an Albatross (possibly a juvenile Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora). They most likely perished as a result of a storm event out at sea.

Thanks to Norm and Bruce for making the tour engaging, informative and fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So this is summer …

What is the saying? “Beautiful one day, overcast the next” …Welcome to Venus Bay 2012

This summer so far has not been the typical hot blazing sun and deep blue cloudless skies. yet on the beach there are signs that it has been a much more typical summer than the past few years (at least for the beach profile)


The Erosion at the top of the beach seems to be very limited (last big events being in November) and the scarps are drying and collapsing leaving a steep wedge of sand rather a vertical cliff (except where marram grass clumps are hold up some areas (as shown above). The Average Height Tide Line is 10 to 20 meters seaward from these scarps, which has meant that the flatten out upper part of the beach (the summer berm) has been able to be strongly developed along the beach. This an area where dried out seaweed and other beach debris can accumulate. the sand dries out and is more susceptible to wind erosion so this part of the beach is flatter.  This is an important habitat for the shore nesting birds (like the hooded plovers). Hopefully they are enjoying this summer on the beach.

BTW its the Walk out on Point Smythe TODAY!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Point Symthe – Geology walk to Inlet & Ocean Beaches

soldier crabYou will find this years geology walk out on Point Smythe area (not to Point Smythe itself) in the Summer by the Sea program list under Geology Rocks!. Sorry no rocks to see but plenty else, including geological processes in action. Perhaps a few experiments on the beach. The route this years has been trimmed (no big dunes to walk up) and there is still plenty to see, in less than 5km.

Fri 20 January 1.30pm – 3.30pm

Bookings Essential (03) 5674 3738

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pipi Plunder continues

Just in case you missed the item on Channel 7 last night. Here is a link to their story (sorry about the ad at the start but that's the way Yahoo7 have set up the embed link).. There is a lot more to the story than is covered in this news item, and I agree the majority of recreation pipi collectors probably do following the guidelines. Clearly a massive amount of the beach is being turned over all day long in January (and that is a lot of work just to get your 2 litres of fresh pipi). I for one an a bit disappointed that the fisheries department representatives are playing such a conciliatory hand. SO are they blind, or just pretending to be so, perhaps it is time the authorities got stronger feedback. SO if you witness any of the following blatant and clearly organised flouting of the recreational catch limits

1) “mule” family groups tipping their catch into larger buckets and carrying those buckets into the dunes.
2) Young male “runners” (often holding radios or mobile phones)collecting the buckets in the dunes and carrying them along tracks in the dunes.
3)  People with radio or mobile phones marshalling vans in the beach car parks. (Clearly these vehicles are not full of holiday makers) The licence plates on these vans will probably give the best way to find the organizers of these rackets.
Please take photos and/or report you observations to 13 FISH (a free call number)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adventures in Environmental Science

The Rounded Noon Flower Disphyma crassifolium subsp. clavellatum, sometimes called Pigface, an endemic species of our coastline are coming into flower now.

I would also like to post a link to a film I made called Adventures in Environmental Science which is about some of the activities of the Venus Bay Observation Project.

I am hoping that those who do view the film would find it to be educational and entertaining, but most of all I hope it inspires others to be brave and become involved and add their contribution to the Venus Bay Observation Project.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Summer 2012 edition of Coastline is available for down load at the DSE website.

This cover a wide range of cpastal matters and in particular a lot of local community groups concerned with there part of our beautiful Victorian coastline.

Whilst at the website check out this year Summer by the Sea program.