Common Ghost Crab (Ocypode Cordimanus)

Australia has six known species, of Ghost crabs.

These little crabs are so good at camouflaging with the sand, thus their name, making it difficult to see them during the day, if for whatever reason, they happen to leave their burrow.

Ghost crabs are found on open sandy beaches, where they live in their immaculate burrows, (some known to be more than 4 feet), near the intertidal zone, in the dry sand. They are nocturnal and remain in their burrows to keep cool during the day and warm during the winter.

They can hold oxygen in their air sacs for about six weeks, handy when you hide and live under the sand.

During the night, Ghost crabs, fix and repair their burrow and feed on a variety of plant and animal debris that has been washed ashore.  These omnivores can even catch insects in mid-air; due to their 360 degree vision, that allows them to see in any direction.

Ghost crabs breathe through gills, which they keep moist at all times, by various methods, such as taking the moisture out of damp sand.

An interesting thing to do whilst relaxing on a quiet beach is to listen for the Ghost crabs, very distinct, bubbling sounds! They use their gill chambers to produce bubbly sounds.

The female Ghost crab incubates 1000’s of eggs inside her flap, and once matured, these eggs become marine larvae.  Mum releases her offspring into the sea, where they remain for about two months before returning back to the shore.

Did you know that the Ghost crab’s burrows are regarded as valuable ecological indicators for quickly assessing the impact of human disturbance on beach habitats?  And, they can travel across the sand up to 10 to 15km/hr.  Yes, they are fast movers, and that is why they are so hard to catch.  Isn’t it interesting that their generic name is ocypode, which in Greek means, fast -foot.

I remember one day while I was drying off after a swim, I decided to read and relax, I saw movement in the corner of my eye, and I spied a tiny Ghost crab, well camouflaged with the sand, right next to a small burrow. I went to pick it up and it quickly fled into its hole. I started digging but there was no way in this dry sand that I could find it.  The crab had dug down so deep; apparently, they can construct long pathed tunnels, to who knows where… hence another reason for the name, Ghost crab.

Of course, afterward I realised I should not have dug into his home, all that work would have been destroyed.  I vowed not to do that again.  We need to be sensitive to the ecosystem that in some environments are quite sensitive, the softer our footprint is, in the natural environment,  the better for us all; flora, fauna, marine life, and us humans.

By M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

References: PDF Brazilian Journal of Oceanography 57(2):149-152 / Coastal Habitat Awareness Program –OCCI / Ghost crab a tool for rapid assessment of human impacts on exposed sandy beaches. ELSEVIER. Biological Conservation. F.Barros 97 (2001) 399-404 / Personal observations.

 

 

 

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Holiday Birds

The Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel

Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel male c

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well. It is amazing how the more I share, about these subjects; the more I learn, the more my passion grows.

One day, as I sat in my garden, sipping on my tea and watching the nature that surrounded me, a male Koel, which I had noticed for a few years, jumped onto my blueberry bush and ever so gently ate three of my choicest berries. When he had had his fill, he jumped onto the edge of the bird bath to have a drink, and that’s when he saw me, and that’s when I took his photo.

Two weeks later, I saw, and managed to take a photo of the female Koel; this experience made me curious to know more about these striking birds and about some of their amazing character traits!

 female koel c

Here are some of my interesting facts; I thought might be nice to share.

The Koel is a member of the cuckoo family, it is also known as the rain bird or storm bird, as its call is usually more prevalent before or during a stormy weather.

The male has glossy black feathers and red eyes, where the female has glossy brown upperparts, heavily spotted with white, and a black crown. The upper parts of her body are generally buff-cream with numerous fine black bars, she has dark eyes; very pretty.

The young resemble the adult female.

Behaviour

 Like I said above they have some amazing traits, being migratory birds they fly into Australia from their northern winter homes, New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly the Philippines to breed in late September and October.

What they do then, is find a ready-made nest, then lay one single egg in the nest and leave.  Once the egg is hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest.  The chicks then becomes very vocal and demanding, cheeping constantly, while the foster parents, who are usually natives, and smaller in size, desperately search for food.

These foster parents are usually the Red Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbirds, Large Honey Eaters, Maggie-Lark and the Fig Bird.

Numbers of the Koel are increasing due to the abundant increase of their host.  During the breeding season they are found in Northern & Eastern Australia, South to Nowra, New South Wales, and tend to leave southern Australia around March.

The Koel adult is usually a shy bird; they can be heard more than seen.

Habitat

They are found in tall forests, woodlands, plantations and seen also in suburban gardens.

Diet

They love their fruit meal, for example, berries, with a special preference for figs, taken directly from the tree.

I think they like grapes and they definitely like my blueberries.  I have a fig tree too, now I know who has been nibbling on these.

It is lovely having a garden that can be a haven for birds, and small animals. I always have the birdbath filled with water especially ready for the hot days; I never use chemicals like herbicides, pesticides or weed killers in my garden, it will only affect these beautiful animals that visit, and the environment, not good for them or me.

If you would like to read my book ‘Emily’, which is a story about Emily’s journey of love, it showcases the Australian beach and bush, and good clean concepts of relationships. It is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Angus and Robertson/Bookworld, and other online stores.  It is available in paperback and ebook, so you can enjoy this beautiful story.

Love and Appreciate the Gift of Nature

By Margaret Ann Loveday ND  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife.  Lover of Nature)

References:

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Wikipedia

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