Pillar 5 - Safety beach bay trail

An east-west passage in our sky
where pelicans and ibis fly
‘tween Western Port/Mud Island, aye!
to Swan Bay too.
Great vee-lines for the keenest eye;
a travelling zoo!

This ‘Jingle’ was written by Tom McCullough in 2015 about some remarkable activities seen in the sky above Safety Beach every winter and spring. Strings of large flying birds usually can be seen crossing the sky from east to west or in the opposite direction, at different times of the day. It is as if invisible corridors or passages criss-cross our north/south shoreline. Most of the birds seen in great numbers are either Straw-necked or White Ibis (threskiomis), but huge Pelicans also travel the same passage, though fewer in number.  Large birds tend to use thermal uplifts on still days, when the land heats up and they circle effortlessly upwards to very high altitudes (up to a kilometre or more) before gliding ‘downhill’ without a flap of the wings, across the Bay or inland along the Kangerong Basin.

The changing tide levels of Port Phillip and Western Port bays attract the birds to different feeding grounds every day. As the six hours between tidal falls and rises occur, fresh food is available on mudflats at different parts of the shorelines.

There are various feeding and nesting areas protected by the International Ramsar Convention, and these are located in a virtual straight line running between upper Western Port Bay, Mud Island off Sorrento, and Swan Bay near Queenscliff. This line also runs along the Kangerong Basin where Safety Beach residents see long lines or vee-formations of ibis travelling to and fro all winter. All this airborne traffic is like a travelling zoo in the sky. It is probably caused by the birds following tidal food sources during the daytime and returning to their nests every evening. 

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, 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.