blacks beach low tide One of the things I love most about beaches is that beyond the sand and the surf lies so much life and the fact that it changes everyday. My first time out at Blacks Beach in Mackay during low tide, I witnessed something I had never seen before; amazing patterns left behind by the tide as far as the eye could see. blacks beach low tide

blacks beach low tide

blacks beach low tide

IMG_1004 It’s like this everyday…a work of art! One night as the sun started setting behind the trees, a rain cloud came and made the biggest rainbow I think I’ve ever seen. So big, I couldn’t fit it all in the frame. blacks beach rainbow

The animals on the beach are amazing as well. These creepy jelly like things are actually sea snail egg masses. They have the consistency of a jellyfish but upon closer inspection, have tiny dots in them which are the larvae of snails. These things are everywhere and come in different sizes.

sea snail egg mass

leaden sea snail egg mass

I have to say I was completely baffled when I saw this though:

starfish buried in sand

I thought some wise guy had drawn it in the sand until i wiped away part of the arm and saw the REAL starfish underneath! This is him upside down. His cute little legs were kicking, looking like sharp little teeth. He was just burying himself in the sand to search for food and to hide from predators (oops, sorry about that!). Unfortunately I haven’t seen any this perfect again, but I look everyday!

upside down starfish

Now…on to the freaky crabs!! At first, I had seen these, what I like to call “miniature donut holes”, all over the beach. And I mean ALL over. Stretching for miles. Watching the video closely, I now believe that these are actually their droppings and not that they’re taking the sand out of the holes. They extract organic matter out of the sand to eat and then excrete it, which is apparent when you watch closely. Everyone has their own “driveway” and “yard”, sharing space with their neighbors.

soldier crab decoration on beach

soldier crab sand balls

long trail soldier crab sand balls

Just the other day, I found out who was behind all of it when the tide went out in the morning. It was THEM!


Millions of soldier crabs. Funniest little things I’ve ever seen on 10 legs (8 not counting the claws). They run in groups and as you get close, they corkscrew themselves into the sand and disappear. I witnessed one of them running along and out of nowhere a larger different crab came up out of the sand and attacked it! Poked a hole in his shell and ate him alive! Eeeewwww! Poor thing!!

Getting attacked and eaten alive
Getting attacked and eaten alive

They’re not that big, as you can see in the video below. Here’s one trying to hide from me as I approached. Think the sand was too dry to bury into. Love those little knees!!

soldier crab

Here are some to give you an idea of their size and to see them hide:

Speaking of crabs, I went out to the spit which is pretty far down the beach and saw this dead crab with great claws. Almost looks like a fish face!

colorful crab claws

There are also sand dollars galore here doing things I’ve once again, never seen before. I saw these round things with trails behind them and was pretty sure they were sand dollars. They were just right under the surface and like everyone else, they were all over the place. I dug one up and confirmed it.

live sand dollar

Sand dollar races
Sand dollar races

sand dollar on beach

They aren’t very big, the largest I’ve seen is only about 2″ in diameter. Here’s a dead one:

sand dollar blacks beach mackay

Of course the seashells here are really nice and I was happy to find someone living in this one scouring around in the shallows. It’s a Volute Amoria Zebra.

Volute Amoria zebra (melanistic)

Let’s move on to the land! I heard some squawking and saw 10 red tailed black cockatoos in a tree right on the beach! What a treat that was! These are so beautiful and I’ve never seen them in the wild before.

red tailed black cockatoo mackay

red tailed black cockatoo

red tailed black cockatoos

Females have more of a yellow/orange tail which is how you can tell them apart. These two were preening each other.

red tailed black cockatoo

How regal! I love them! But they do a lot of damage to crops and orchards, so it’s a love/hate relationship with farmers. As I was walking to the spit through the woods, I saw a lot of the green ant nests and I don’t think I’ve ever shown a photo of them on my blog before. The green ones are active, the dead looking leaves mean there’s nobody home! If you knock on their house, they will gladly come out to greet you!

active green ant nest

abandoned green ant nest

There are a couple of really pretty birds by the house. Rainbow bee eaters and sunbirds. The bee eaters are gorgeous and I actually caught a photo of one with a wasp in its beak.

rainbow bee catcher

The little sunbirds are a bit bigger than hummingbirds and make the cutest nests! They even build a roof over the entrance.

sun bird

sunbird nest


Needless to say, there’s been plenty to keep me occupied here! Two more weeks, then I’m off to the Whitsundays! blacks beach mackay

16 thoughts on “Beyond Blacks Beach

  1. Thanks for sharing your stroll along the beach. Every picture was a treasure. Mother Nature is forever amazing.

  2. And you say you gave up working in an office for this? Don’t you miss the quiet hum of fluorescent lights?

  3. These are some of your best photos ever. The first two and the rainbow especially. You should send them to CNN for the daily photo. Even Traveler Magazine. Dad

  4. Fabulous. I have always loved shells and as a kid dreamed of being in some exotic place where those things you buy at souvenir stores actually exist in the wild! Crabs, birds, I love it!!!! P.S. Your Dad is right!

  5. I just made some amazing comment about the shells and crabs then me fat fingers lost it. Anyway, so gorgeous. And your Dad is right, just sayin’

  6. Hi Steph…
    no idea where you are now, but I lived at Mission Beach years ago. I also loved the beach crabs there. Amazing stuff.

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