The Fresh Air Kids is a group of local families that want their children to spend time in the great outdoors, learning through playing in nature.
A community partnership with the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee, Fresh Air Kids aims to encourage local coastal kids to grow up observing the environment in more detail than even most adults do.
The program aims to foster a child’s instinctive curiosity about the natural world, helping them to understand natural phenomena by experience and play.
Fresh Air Kids explores the Great Ocean Road coastline and bush environments each week to discover the secret stories of the local area.
Fresh Air Kids is led by Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Education Leader Peter Crowcroft who believes there are many amazing things happening all the time all around us.
“For those who don’t understand what the environment is saying, and even those who think they do, our coastal landscapes and bush lands are unique and fascinating ecosystems.
“Each week we will explore, discover and discuss the secret stories of our coastline and record them to share with others through this blog,” Pete said.
Week 1 | 7.3.2017
Participants | Dharma, Darcy, Claudia, Noah, Naia
Written by Peter Crowcroft
The first meeting of Fresh Air Kids was held after school on Tuesday the 7th March in extremely rough and easterly gale conditions at Point Roadknight.
These are the stories we discovered:
A huge drift of Salps
The easterly wind and waves had washed ashore thousands upon thousands of creatures known as salps. These animals can become so numerous in the ocean that they outnumber krill, and can form long chains, all connected to each other.
They respond extremely quickly to a bloom of microscopic phytoplankton (tiny marine plants which they feed on) and can clone themselves as well as reproducing sexually.
The presence of salps on our beach tells us that phytoplankton has been blooming recently in Bass Strait, which correlates to the of nice sunny days the coast has had recently.
A mass molting of Smooth Shore Crabs
Tucked into the corner of Point Roadknight in the masses of salps and seaweed, the current had brought in a large amount of what at first looked like dead crabs.
The Fresh Air Kids and I had a closer look and realised it was just the shell (exoskeleton) of the Smooth Shore Crab, Paragrapsus sp. Crabs shed their exoskeleton in a similar way to a snake taking off its skin, and they tend to all do it at the same time around the full moon.
This told us that right now at Roadknight there are lots of crabs 10% to 15% larger who are all soft bodied until their new exoskeleton hardens. We checked for males (triangles) and females (semi-circles) on the undersides of the shells, and left them on the beach.
Coastal geology and erosion
We walked out to the point in a gale of easterly wind and swell, taking refuge in the jagged and gnarled rocks along the way.
We could imagine how over a long period of time even these rocks would get broken down and eroded away by such ferocious wind, which is exactly how the amazing shapes of Point Roadknight have come to be.
We talked about how the rocks were formed to begin with, a process from many years ago and deep under the ground.
Fur-seal rests from the storm
We came across a Fur-seal pup on the rock platform taking shelter from the storm. It was clearly not in a healthy state, but after watching it for a while from a distance we left it to its unfortunate fate.
A certain number of Fur-seal pups do not survive the tough journey to adulthood, especially after getting caught in rough conditions out at sea.
It is good to know however that the population has bounced back after they were nearly driven to extinction during the days of wanton killing of seals for their fur and oil.
Hoodie breeding season ends
The last sight on our first ever exploration was a flock of Hooded Plovers out on the point, we saw 6 individuals all together feeding in the shoreline. Hoodies flocking like this tells us it is the end of the breeding season.
Unfortunately for the two Point Roadknight Hoodie pairs the 2016/17 season was unsuccessful after 5 months breeding and laying eggs, not one survived to become an adult bird.
It is a tough job for these beach-nesting birds, having to deal with the usual culprits of dogs and people in the restricted area scaring the parents, and even feral cats and fox’s eating the eggs and chicks.
What is really concerning is that this season we lost a lot of nests simply to the ocean washing them away. Tides are reaching higher up the beach and into the dunes on a more regular basis during what is usually the calmer season.
This is certainly the start of the environment telling us a very important story about coastal life in the future; one that we should all be observing very closely and would be silly to ignore.
There is so much to see and take in for the kids in just an hour and a half. I wonder what we will discover next week.
We’ll be meeting again weekly in Term 2, and encourage Anglesea families to join us each week on Tuesdays at 4pm. For more details please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,