Trying not to die while snorkelling around Lady Elliot Island was a bit tricky, as I am not great in the water, however I managed to survive. Thankfully I was not required to scuba dive to see the amazing marine life that encircle this jewel-like coral cay….that would have been a terminal experience for me!
Lady Elliot is the southernmost island in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park. I was lucky enough to spend 3 seasons there as the Artist-in-Residence at Peter Gash’s beautiful Eco-Resort, and plan to return for a fourth season when I have the time. This will complete a 4 season odyssey for me to capture the arrival, nesting, fledging and departure of many species of seabirds that breed on the cay. This straight forward sounding breeding process was seriously impacted by a wild storm that decimated a large nesting colony of black noddys while I was there in 2015….Witnessing this catastrophe of upset nests, broken eggs and dead nestlings made me better appreciate the day to day challenges of these plucky birds. Unfortunately these storms are a relatively common event.
Despite its small size, some 100,000 birds descend on this coral cay each year, making it one of the most prolific sites for seabirds in the GBR. Of the 57 species recorded from the island 14 species return each year to breed. Long days spent sketching and watching the island and marine wildlife up-close-and-personal rewarded me with some of my favourite works. For me it is essential to spend time observing animals in the field – I cannot do artistic justice to my subjects unless I know them personally! A glance at my Lady Elliot portfolio takes me straight back to a particular curve of the beach or section of inshore reef where I found the crabs, terns, manta-rays and turtles. Memories of trying to breathe water through my snorkel are now behind me, and what I most remember is the colour of the water and the crunch of coral sand under my feet… superb! Bring on season four!