Salt Marsh - 1

Almost all the large shorebird roosts on the southern end of the Great Sandy Strait occur where there are large areas of salt marsh.  The exceptions are the roosts out on sand banks in the middle of the Strait and most of these are underwater at the very high tides.
Salt marshes are areas of very low land in the intertidal areas.  They are covered with salt tolerant plants and areas of open salt pan.  Mangroves often fringe the area further out towards the sea.  Wallum vegetation grows where the dry land starts. Salt marshes are covered partially or wholly by water on every tide.  When the tide is out the sun shines directly onto the plants and dries everything out. This image showing tidal flows over saltmarsh is from the wikipedia page

These extremes of water and temperature have produced a very special and fragile environment.  When the plants are putting on new growth they are often bright green but the usual colors are red and brown.  The whole area can look very dry and burnt.  However, when the tide comes in it looks quite different.
Looking across the Mullens roost site at Cooloola Cove.  The foreground shows tracks made by 4wheel drive vehicles - one of the biggest threats to this environment in our area.  (Click on images to enlarge them.)
This is part of the same roost site but with the tide in.  The water is only a few centimeters deep but enough to cover most of the plants.   
Unfortunately, in the past, salt marshes were regarded as close to waste land and were often converted to farmland or filled and drained and used for housing estates.  It is now known that salt marshes provide an important filtration system between the land and the sea and support a diverse number of marine creatures.  For the shorebird watcher, it is possibly enough to know that these are the areas that shorebirds prefer.  There are other areas that the birds could roost in if they preferred but they come to these areas of salt marsh and thousands roost right here. When the tide goes out the bigger birds move out to the edge of the receding tide where the sand is soft.  The smaller birds move out across the salt marsh and hunt among the plants and in the small puddles left behind.  This is where it is easiest to see shorebirds such as Red-capped Plovers, Red-necked Stints, and Pacific Golden Plovers. 
An area of salt marsh when the tide was not very high -  Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers in the front, Gull-billed Terns behind, and Eastern Curlews in the back.
Red-necked Stints hunting for food among the plants and pools of water. 

Salt marsh plants growing with smaller mangroves provide excellent cover for a Pacific Golden Plover
Next  -  Plants of the salt marshes.