Pillar 1 - Safety beach bay trail
Gannets flashing from blue sky
at twenty metres up so high
feathered missiles down they fly
to fish below
among the dolphins herding fry,
This ‘Jingle’ or six-line rhyme was written in 2015 by Tom McCullough about the large white seabirds with yellow heads that usually are plunge-diving from high above and into the waters of Port Phillip Bay. These Australasian Gannets fly over groups of fish, especially in spring seasons when rounding up schools of young fish (called fry or white-bait) that feed on surface foods floating on top of warm seas.
Port Phillip bottle-nosed dolphins also hunt these small fish, and will swim in dolphin ‘pods’ or form a circle and close in on the school and for easier feeding. Gannets can see the dolphins and the disturbed surface waters from kilometres away and come to hover up to 30 metres above these active schools of fish, before diving down like high speed missiles, to take the unsuspecting little fish in their strong, sharp beaks.
Since the 1980s Australasian gannets have been nesting among the rocks in an artificial island called the Pope’s Eye, located off Queenscliff. Gannets are much larger than seagulls and need to catch lots of living fish every day to feed their young nestlings.
Try watching out to sea when you are travelling along the edge of Port Phillip Bay between September and March; you may be lucky to spot gannets and dolphins apparently hunting together.
Mornington Peninsula Shire funded these poetry pillars that were designed* by Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee Inc., in 2016 (*copyright T. McCullough).
There are 11 of these pillars with different ‘Jingles’ on each one. The pillars are spaced at intervals of about 200 metres apart, alongside the Bay Trail at Safety Beach foreshore. Marine Drive is parallel to the Bay Trail which runs from the south at Nepean Highway intersection, to the northern end at the Mt Martha cliffs (or Tassell’s Beach) opposite Bruce Road intersection, Martha Cove Marina’s channel entrance and S.B. Sailing Club building. Each pillar has two red ‘port’ squares or green ‘starboard’ triangles on it, similar to Channel Markers leading into an anchorage. They are meant to reflect our channel markers in Port Phillip Bay leading northward to Melbourne.
G. Patterson, Coastal Guide to nature and history Port Phillip Bay, pp. 153-161, Coastal Guide Books, Victoria, 2013.
For further information or questions, please write to: The Secretary, Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee, 65 Victoria Street, Safety Beach, Victoria, 3934.