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Fleurieu Shark Encounter

14 Apr

Fleurieu Shark Encounter

Dear Reader: 

Many years ago when I was young and less environmentally aware I spent much of my leisure time spearfishing on the Fleurieu Peninsula. And, as my last instalment of Fleurieu Marine blogs I would like to share a rather interesting encounter with a pair of Bronze Whaler Sharks.

We were snorkelling off Cape Jervis at the tip of the peninsula about 10 metres offshore skirting the edge of a strong current that flows between the mainland and Kangaroo Island.

 

Classic southern Fleurieu coastline

 It had been a successful morning and the floats we towed behind us were full of the reef fish we had speared. I spotted a sizeable flathead on the edge of a seagrass patch close to a rocky outcrop and tapped my partner on the shoulder to indicate that I was about to dive down and stalk it. As I reached out he jerked backwards through the water. Not possible I thought, until I felt a solid tug on my weight belt and was also inexplicably reversed. In those fleeting moment we both realised that something sizeable had attacked the fish on our floats. We looked at each other spat out our snorkels and rapidly discussed tactics: stay close, swim calmly and get to rocky shoreline in one piece.

We made it safely and hauled out the tattered remains of our catch. Standing on a rock we could see a pair of large Bronze Whaler sharks patrolling the underwater channel that we had been fishing.

 

Bronze Whaler Shark

In those less enlightened days I carried an explosive spearhead strapped to my leg and with the exuberance and foolhardiness of youth we hatched a plan to attract the sharks then hurl a lethally tipped handspear at one of them. The fish were thrown back and in an instant the water was broiling with sharks, dead fish and white foam. The spear was hurled; it missed by a considerable distance but fired on impact with the water and sank to the bottom.

My expensive spear and powerhead now resided on the sea bottom which was still being patrolled by expectant sharks. Needless to say it was several hours later and with considerable trepidation that I recovered the failed ‘shark-killing’ missile. Foolish days but the stuff of memories.

     

Bronze Whaler Shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus)

Length: around 3m.

  • Prefers shallow coastal waters including beach and reef areas and will venture into estuaries
  • Varied diet of bottom dwelling and pelagic fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus
  • Often hunts near schools of fish such as salmon
  • Gives birth to live between 7-20 live young
  • Sometimes seen around Cape Jervis and in the surf at Goolwa beach
  • Attacks on humans are rare as the sharks prey on much smaller animals
  • On occasions, harasses idiot divers

 

Cheers

Baz

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and text describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will attach a new image and notes to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

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Cuttlefish Meeting

24 Feb

More Cephalopods on the Reef

Dear Reader:

I am working my way patiently along the edge of the Noarlunga reef-on the shallow side near the jetty. The water is no more than a couple of metres deep and surprisingly clear. Small schools of mullet are congregating near the surface, their silver sides reflecting the light with sudden bright flashes. Just below me there are several recesses that cut under the rocks and I can see some movement in one: perhaps a leatherjacket or even some bullseyes. I swim down and hold onto a nearby rock until my eyes adjust to the light. To my delight my encounter is a little more exotic, a giant cuttlefish is hovering above the sandy substrate patiently waiting for some unfortunate critter to come near its temporary lair.

 

 

Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)

Length: mantle or body to 50cm.

  • Lives around reefs and over seagrass meadows
  • Hunts fish and crustaceans
  • Gather in winter in large groups to mate
  • Sexual reproduction and females attach clusters of eggs inside caves and crevices
  • Cuttles die shortly after mating
  • Can change colours rapidly to blend in with surroundings or display during courting
  • Like squid and octopus they can expel ink

Cheers

Baz

 

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about each animal that I encounter.

Calamari SA Style

31 Jan

Dear Reader

There is a flash of light in the dark waters surrounding me. I point the camera and fire off a few frames hoping for the best. The squid (Southern Calamari) have been accumulating beneath the Second Valley Jetty, attracted by fluorescent lures cast by fishers. They seem indifferent to my presence.

 

 

The next morning I venture into deeper waters and catch sight of a group of squid gliding through the ocean. Nice image.

 

And later that day I drive through to Normanville and enjoy ‘Salt and Pepper Squid’ a South Aussie favourite.

 

 

Yes! The humble squid, is an icon of Southern Australia’s marine culture be it a fascinating animal to study, an angler’s quarry or a fine meal.

 

Southern Calamari Squid (Sepioteuthis australis)

 Size: Length of body (mantle) up to 40 cm.

  • Lives around reefs and over seagrass meadows
  • Often hunts fish and crustaceans at night
  • Uses speed, eyesight, and two extra long tentacles to capture prey
  • Females attach cylindrical bunches of eggs to algae and seagrass
  • Pumps water though a central outlet to provide jet propulsion
  • Releases ink when threatened as a decoy

In my next blog we will explore some of the squid’s close relatives; cuttlefish and octopus. 

Cheers

Baz

Notes:

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about each animal that I encounter.

Rapid Bay’s Stripy Fish

1 Jan

Rapid Bay’s Stripy Fish

Dear Reader:

I am snorkelling just below the old Rapid Bay jetty. The poles are covered with sea squirts, sponges and a variety of algae. Seastars and urchins forage amongst this tangle of encrusting organisms and mixed schools of bait-fish dance around the timber uprights. Closer to the sea floor I can see some large rocks that form a shallow reef. Many are the result of mining or the remnants of an old breakwater. Like the jetty poles the reef has also been colonized by a myriad of marine invertebrates providing the perfect environment for the more residential species of fish that I am here to photograph.

 

In a slight depression near the bottom I come across a moonlighter swimming over a brownish coloured sponge.

 

 

Moonlighter (Tilodon sexfasciatus)

Size: Length to 40 cm.

  • Common around reefs and drop offs
  • Larger adults found in deeper water
  • Often seen around Aldinga Reef and Rapid Bay jetty
  • Opportunistic feeding on plankton, algae and tiny reef living invertebrates
  • juveniles inhabit shallow reefs
  • Not found in schools, adults solitary or in pairs

 

 Where the water is a little deeper I manage to position myself at the end of a narrow cave and capture a nice image of a pair of old wives that are using it as a shelter.

 

 

Old Wife (Enoplosus armatus)

Size: Length to 31 cm.

  • Found in schools over seagrass beds and alongside jetty poles
  • In pairs or solitary around reefs
  • Feed on small invertebrates such as shrimp and worms
  • Juveniles often shelter in seagrass beds
  • Have been observed cleaning parasites off other fish
  • Have a venomous spine on the first dorsal fin
  • Name comes from grunting sound made when captured

 

My final image is of a western talma a kind of butterfly-fish as it picks tiny invertebrates from some brown algae.

 

Western Talma ( Squareback Butterflyfish) (Chelmonops curiosus)

Size: Length to 20 cm.

  • Lives around rocky reefs often under ledges and near crevices to depths of 40 m.
  • Frequently seen along the steep rock faces of the Bluff at Victor Harbor
  • Uses its long slender mouth to pick at small invertebrates including crustaceans and worms as it moves slowly across the reef
  • Also eats algae
  • Often found in pairs

 

It has been a wonderful dive and Rapid Bay is a place to explore some of the State’s most enchanting wildlife in a great setting. And if you are lucky there is also the opportunity to catch sight of both leafy and weedy seadragons. But I’ll leave that adventure for another post.

 

Cheers

Baz

Notes:

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about the animals I encounter.

South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula underwater

2 Dec

Dear Reader:

 I am snorkelling along the edge of the reef just off Aldinga Beach. The water is shallow and warm with just a light breeze ruffling the surface. Below me the terrain changes from seagrass to sand with a little outcrop of rocky reef in between and I am intent on photographing the variety of marine organisms that inhabit these different habitats.

 

A patch of reef near the seagrass beds

 

The reef has numerous invertebrates clinging to, and encrusting its wide variety of niches and a biscuit star is my first sighting. This pentagonal little seastar can be found on reefs and rocky surfaces and has a number of colour variations between light orange to reddish. It has quite large overlapping plates on its surface and has an arm radius up to 7cms.

 

Biscuit star alongside sea snail on reef

 

Leaving the little patch of reef behind I start to scour the seagrass bed where it meets the sand patches. My choice of location pays dividends as I disturb a blue swimmer crab that has been hunting in the seagrass.

 

Blue swimmer crab does not want to be photographed

 

Blue swimmer crabs have large pincers on their two front legs and paddles on the rear pair. They can be seen moving along the bottom in weedy and sandy areas but often bury themselves in the soft sand and mud. These large crabs can be quite aggressive when approached and feed on live animals as well as scavenging. They are migratory appearing from September to April in SA waters. Taking female Blue Swimmer Crabs with eggs and animals under 11 cms is illegal and there is a personal bag limit of 20 crabs per day. These restrictions help preserve the numbers of this commercially and recreationally valuable species.

These invertebrates are just two of my many encounters on the reef and the bushland around the Fleurieu Peninsula and I shall continue this story in my next post.

Cheers

Baz

Notes:

Over the next few months I will be writing a book about the wildlife of the Fleurieu Peninsula. My posts will reflect the research I am doing and provide more detailed information about each animal that I encounter.

Hoseshoe Bay’s Coastal Wonders

1 Oct

Dear Reader:

The Soldiers Memorial Gardens overlooks Horseshoe Bay; one of the most picturesque locations on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Well kept lawns are surrounded by flower beds and fronted by massive Norfolk Island Pines that attract a wide variety of wildlife.

 

View of Bay from gardens

 

Today the grassed areas have just been mown and two beautiful, red-rumped parrots are feeding on some seed heads that have been scattered by the mower. Male birds are more colourful than the females with brighter plumage and a red splash of colour on the lower back. The gardener seems to have also stirred up some insects which are being vigorously hawked by a lively little wagtail.

 

Red rumped parrot

 

Wagtail

Near the gardens a track runs along the coast towards the jetty and then along the face of boulder strewn cliffs. Several wattle birds are gathering nectar from coastal blooms of agapanthus and I can see both terns and silver gulls patrolling the wave break in search of prey.

 

Wattle bird feeding

 

Local jetty and cliffs

 

There are rocky outcrops at both ends of Horseshoe Bay and small islands in the mouth. These are home to a myriad of sea creatures. Sweep, drummer and zebra fish are just a few of the fish species that abound here. The rugged, algae dominated rocks also provide habitats for a wealth of invertebrates including: crayfish, crabs, sea snails, sponges and starfish…to name but a few.

 

Sea snail (gastropod) probably a pheasant shell species

 

From a high point on the coastal path I have a good view of the bay and I take some time to sit and eat a snack from the Local Port Elliot bakery. Behind me I can hear the call of singing honeyeaters and in front the gentle rushing sound of the incoming tide and surf on the rocks….. a fine way to finish my visit to Horshoe Bay.

 

Singing honeyeater

 

Coastal walk and view of islands in bay

 

 Cheers

Baz

 

Additional notes

This is an easy walk which is quite suitable for families and seniors with public toilets, food outlets and parking nearby.

 

 I have recently spent time in Africa and the link below will allow you to enjoy images and text describing some of my encounters with the wonderful wildlife of Botswana and Zambia. I will attach a new image and notes to accompany each post.

https://wildlifemomentssa.blogspot.com

A Hot Semaphore Sunday

4 Mar

A Hot Semaphore Sunday

Dear Reader:

As I walk along the Semaphore jetty I can see several anglers working the shallows for silver whiting. Further along, another fisherman is jigging for squid. His bucket is half full of small baitfish and an opportunistic silver gull is sitting on the railing eying the contents as breakfast. The angler is unaware of his feathery adversary and a few minutes later the gull grabs a fish and heads off down the jetty.

1a

Silver gull

 

Semaphore is one of Adelaide’s original coastal suburbs and the jetty has been part of Adelaide’s beach scene for well over 100 years. It was originally used to moor pilot and customs craft. A coastal pathway follows the beachfront behind the dunes allowing visitors partial access to this protected area of sensitive coastal vegetation. The Esplanade, near the start of the jetty, is dominated by the iconic Palais Restaurant and Function Centre which was built in 1922. This Semaphore landmark has served as a bathing pavilion, dance hall, surf life saving club and kiosk before renovations in the 1990s.

1b

Lovely morning light

1g

View of the jetty and dunes over the function centre pavilion

 

Closer to the shore a young Pacific gull sits on a lighting fixture watching the antics of its smaller cousins and keeping a watchful eye on the ocean ready to patrol the shoreline in search of its next meal.

1c

Juvenile Pacific gull

 

It is getting warm by the time I walk off jetty on to the beach where I have left some snorkelling gear with a family who are enjoying the solitude of an early morning dip. The water is clear and there is little tidal movement as I enter from the beach. I follow the jetty poles out to sea as they provide shelter and food for a diverse collection of marine animals. It is not long before I notice a large blue swimming crab foraging near the bottom. We play a game of tag around the pole as the aggressive crustacean uses its powerful pincers to keep me at a distance.

1d

Agro blue swimmer crab

 

Half an hour in the water is enough to cool me off and I still want to walk along the pathway to search for birds and reptiles in the dunes before it gets too hot. Most of the bird life has sought shelter from the sun but I do encounter one singing honeyeater amongst the grasses that bind the loose sand of the dunes. Along one of the trails to the beach, a sleepy lizard emerges from under a coastal acacia bush to eye me suspiciously before disappearing amongst the ground cover.

1e

Singing honeyeater

1f

Shingleback or sleepy lizard, a kind of large skink

 

Over the next half hour I stroll down couple more paths and sit quietly amongst some of the coastal scrub watching for tell tale signs of animal life. Numerous doves peck amongst the ground covers and a group of wattle birds squabble noisily in one of the larger shrubs. However, as midday approaches the sun and heat has obviously taken its toll on both me and the wildlife and it is time for a cold drink and lunch. Needless to say, the Palais adequately provides both and as I look across the dunes from my table by the window, enjoying a delicate dessert, I reflect on how much I always enjoy my visits to Semaphore.

1h

What more do I need to say

 

Cheers

Baz

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