Friday, February 29, 2008

Funnel weed

Funnel weed (Padina species) has another name - peacock's tail; personally I don't think it is as pretty as a peacock's tail.

I saw this at Mettams Pool. The upper surface of the 'leaves' (fronds) is calcified - a feature common in green and red algae but not so in brown algae.

Robust growth of Padina on the North Cottelsoe Reef.

Padina growing between Sargassum (?) on the North Cottelsoe Reef.

Lots of Padina clusters on the South Cottesloe Reef.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 - fantastic ocean life documentaries! - this is a great website where you can see some fantastic ocean life documentaries! Thanks to Chris Johnson, filmmaker and photographer of EarthOcean for the green light to link to EarthOcean!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hot days

Hot days like this weeks' remind me of the beaches.

Mettams Pool, Marmion Marine Park

Mettams Pool, Marmion Marine Park

Hamersley Pool, Marmion Marine Park

Hamersley Pool, Marmion Marine Park

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) near the Busselton Jetty.

Crested tern (Sterna bergii) at North Beach, Marmion Marine Park.

Crested terns (Sterna bergii) on the Penguin Island.

Bridled terns (Sterna anaethetus) on the Penguin Island.

Pied cormorants (Phalacrocorax various) at the South Cottesloe Beach.

Silver gulls (Larus novaehollandiae) on the Penguin Island

Monday, February 25, 2008

Southern bailer

Southern bailer (Melo miltonis)

It's called a bailer because its shell has long been used by Aboriginal Australians to hold or carry water.

I saw it one morning at the Monkey Mia beach. It is supposed to be nocturnal (active at night) and often stays buried under the sand in the daytime. So I had no idea what it was doing here.

Monkey Mia beach at dawn.

Seagrasses - not just some wild grasses!

The seagrass bed (wireweed, Amphibolis) at Parker Point Marine Sanctuary, Rottness Island.

I have friends who don't like to have seagrasses where they swim. One told me of his fear that his legs might get tangled up in the seagrasses and then he would be pulled down by the plants ... to the depth of the ocean. And I have friends who don't care about the seagrasses when they snorkel, they just want to look for fishes and corals. Seagrasses are, to them, something in the background, not one of the main actors, like the marine animals.

I like seagrasses or marine plants in general. When I set foot on a beach, I will first look around for dark patches in the water. To me, the presence of marine plants indicates the presence of marine animals. The dark patches are signs of marine life in the waters. Beaches without marine plants but only bare sandy bottom are like deserts to me.

I am not pretending to be anything. But come on, I think people should treat the act of destroying meadows of seagrasses or marine plants as equivalent to deforestation. No, I am serious. When you destroy a seagrass bed, you destroy not just the plants. You would also damage the homes of fishes (including sea horses) and other marine animals. And the homes of other marine plants, like the red algae in the photo below.

Some red algae growing on the wireweed. And if you look carefully, you could see some seven sea trumpeters (Pelsartia humeralis) on the right.

And no, a restored seagrass bed won't be the same as before, just like a regrown forest won't be. If you are interested, this is a BBC webpage about seagrasses.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Animals or plants?

You see, I enjoy beachcombing with my friends, although I am not sure if they feel the same. And I am always so excited to share with them the bit of knowledge I have about marine creatures or plants on the shore. Saying this makes me feel dirty - but it always amuses me when they couldn't make out whether what they are looking at is an animal or a plant.

Although I study plants most part of my uni life, I did spend the first few years studying animals. I have always enjoyed reading about animals, especially marine animals. And my favorite animal is the dolphin! If that matters at all.

Some of the lectures I have enjoyed when I did my bachelor's degree were about animal biodiversity and marine invertebrates. Those lectures have taught me things like:
  • Corals, sponges and sea anemones are not plants, ever.
  • Jellyfish and starfish are not fish.
  • A seahorse - obviously not a horse - is a fish.

Snorkeling on the North Cottesloe Reef

Yesterday's great conditions at the South Cottesloe Beach have encouraged me to go to Cottesloe again today. But instead of heading for the South Cottesloe Reef, I went to the North Cottesloe Beach. The water was still calm and reasonably clear like yesterday's.

I was in the water for about an hour. I didn't see as many types of fishes as yesterday. But I saw two spotted jellyfishes about 15 cm across. The jellyfishes were a bit orangish with lots of white spots on the medusa (their umbrella-like structure). They had no tentacles around the edge of the medusa. They did have some oral arms or mouth arms. Beneath these, there were some translucent tentacles with white roundish tips. These seem to fit the textbook description of a spotted jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata).

A spotted jellyfish that I spotted in the Swan River.

Anyway, what's really amazing is that one of them was 'covered' in maybe a hundred (?) small fishes, whose name is again I-don't-know. These small fishes remained close to the surface of the jellyfish whichever way it swam. Obviously a case of symbiosis, or rather commensalism. It benefits the small fishes to hang around the jellyfish - for safety reasons, but the jellyfish is neither harmed nor helped by the fishes. A case of a marine creature being generous and helping the needy? Well, these fishes must be immune to the stings of this jellyfish, too.

And I also saw a comb jellyfish and a box jellyfish!

The comb jellyfish had some bands of cilia (tiny hair-like structures) along the length of its body. When these were beating, you would see some luminescent rainbow colours moving down its body. Very nice.

The box jellyfish, well, it was on its own this time. I actually ran into a group of them the first time I snorkeled at North Cottesloe. Still, the sight of a transparent jellyfish with a box-like medusa and only four tentacles hanging from fours corners is enough to make me run for my life. I don't like stingers - deadly or not.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

South Cottesoe Beach is a beauty today! AGAIN!!

AGAIN! The South Cottesloe Beach is a beauty today! The second time I saw such fantastic water conditions since my first visit here last October.

The waters of the South Cottesloe Beach was calm and quite clear this morning. But alas, I was the only one snorkeling there. Where have all the snorkelers gone?

When I went to the South Cottesloe Beach this morning, I didn't really expect much. But when I saw from the bus there were hardly any waves at the North Cottesloe Beach, I knew I would have a great snorkel today! And I did. Except, really really unfortunately, last week's snorkel at North Cottesloe left me with a leaked camera, which is now sitting in a camera repair shop! Otherwise, this post will be filled with clips and photos of the fishes I saw this morning.

Wow, tell me that's not breathtaking! But it's better still underwater.

There's usually sharp rocks by the water edge but I think they were covered in sand today.

Being part of the Cottesloe Reef Fish Habitat Protection Area, the South Cottesloe Reef naturally has lots to offer when it comes to fishes! And today, the visibility must be up to 4 m I think. And the waters were calm. So I was treated to the sights of so many types of fishes in just an hour's snorkel!

I saw these:
  • A school of about 15 sea trumpeters (Pelsartia humeralis), big and small. Looks like when the weather is fine, daddy and mommy will take the kids out for a walk... or a swim.
  • A school of maybe 30 or so common buffalo bream (Kyphosus sydneyanus). No, not the western buffalo bream. These guys have a black edge to their tails. And very fat and tough looking. Their mustaches make them looks so stern!
  • A small school of Australian herrings (Arripis georgiana)
  • McCulloch's (or western?) scalyfins. It is hard to tell when they swam away so quickly and when they were a few meters below me.
  • A ray (stingray?) with pointed pectoral fins. This one was swimming about 3 meters ahead of me for a while before it disappeared. It was about 60 cm across at 3 m away.
  • A big school (maybe 60?) of tarwhine (Rhabdosargus sarba)
  • A small school of some whitish fish with a dark stripe along the side of their body. Above the band, the body looks grayish and below, whitish. They have two barbels (feelers) near their mouths which they use to stir up the sand and search for food I think. I think I saw some southern goatfish or red mullet (Upeneichthys vlamingii), but I am not sure.
  • And some fishes that I have seen again and again but still don't know their name.
  • Oh, and two different types of jellyfish too. One was orange with brownish yellow spots and was the size of a ping-pong ball. The other was transparent and its name is I-don't-know. But it is definitely not a box jellyfish. That I am sure.
Pretty impressive, huh? I saw all these in just an hour.

Overall, today's snorkel was pretty satisfactory. First, I saw so many fishes. On poor visibility days, I would see only maybe a third of these or even less. Second, I became more confident in deeper water, extending my 'comfort depth' to probably 4 or 5 meters today. And I practised duck-diving too. Many times. I still need to practise more as I still have trouble balancing the pressure in my ears. But I am getting there. That I know.

And well, if it wasn't because I was already shivering from cold and there's work to do in the lab this morning, I would have checked out the North Cottesloe Reef too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fishes of Mettams Pool, Marmion Marine Park (1) - Banded toadfish

Banded toadfish (Torquigener pleurogramma)

This is member of the pufferfish family.

Puffer fishes are really amazing creatures if you ask me. When threatened or when they freak out, the puffer fish simply puffs up its elastic belly with water or air. This makes it appear bigger suddenly, surprising its enemy. The pufferfish will then run for its life while its enemy is still trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Sometimes I wish I could do that.

I read this on Wikipedia:
  • Many members of the pufferfish family have a toxin named tetrodotoxin in their liver and other organs, for example, their skin. I think many are aware of this.
  • But what I didn't know is this: apparently, tetrodotoxin is produced by bacteria that the fish eats up! and that the toxin is a thousand times more deadly than cyanide. Wow!
You must take a look at this article on Wikipedia!

Another interesting bit of info is this. Some scientists managed to isolate some chemical from the pufferfish toxin and used it to make a powerful painkiller. It was reportedly 3000 times more powerful than morphine. No side effects and non-addictive! Wow - again!

Also, there is this story on this website of how a pet pufferfish would come and watch when its owner sing to it and go away when its owner stops singing. This is a website about keeping the pufferfish as a pet.

For crying out loud - did that pufferfish try to act like a dog?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trigg Beach

The Trigg Island is one of the places described in the book More Dive & Snorkel Sites in Western Australia.

Nevertheless, for some unknown reason, I am just not a big fan of Trigg Beach when it comes to snorkeling. I went there once with my gear and decided to beachcomb instead. And I found a dead seaweed decorator crab!

The seaweed decorator crab

I found this seaweed decorator crab while I was beachcombing ... at the Trigg Beach I think. I added the green and orange battery to give you an idea of it's small size. And on the left of it, I put a small bunch of seaweed to show how similar they look.

The upper side of the same crab. Doesn't it just look like a small bunch of seaweed!

Apparently, this amazing animal can pick and plant seaweeds on its back, which is covered by hook-like hairs. Over time, it's back gets coated in seaweeds and this disguises the animal protecting it from enemies. And it is not all bad for the seaweed; the plant actually grows.

So how do you like growing some seaweeds on your back?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (7) - Banded toadfish

I have almost forgotten about the banded toadfish (Torquigener pleurogramma). How could I! They are the ones I always see when I go to the South Cottesloe Reef.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (6) - What fish is this?

Well, I actually saw this fish while snorkeling at North Cottesloe. But I remember seeing a similar one on the South Cottesloe Reef during one of my first visits there. I have no idea what it's called. But it is really big, about 60 cm in length I think.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Video quality...arrghh!

Over the past few days, I have been uploading my clips to video-sharing websites and then trying embedding them into this blog again. I was hoping by doing this I could find a way to prevent the drastic reduction in video quality that happened when I uploaded clips onto this blog directly.

I tried YouTube, Yahoo Video, Google Video, Stage6, etc, but none was really satisfactory. Stage6 seems quite promising in terms of video quality but it takes ages to get my clips published. And then I bumped into Viddler offers better video quality than the rest. The best I could find at the moment anyway.

And I have just replaced all clips on this blog with the ones I uploaded to

From now on, I will feel better whenever I add a clip to this blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There are still more photos I want to take

What I show on this blog is definitely a small sample of what I see when I snorkel. There are still fishes and other marine life whose photos I just can't take for some reasons.

Reasons like some fishes just flee the moments we see each other. I have seen magpie morwongs, some female Western King wrasses, and an octopus (this is not a fish) when I snorkeled but couldn't get any snapshots of them. Go away! You're an underwater paparazzi or something'!

Sometimes these fishes just race by in a big school right in front of your face. I have seen some longish white fish (sea mullet maybe) doing that. And by the time you have recovered from the little shock and are ready with your camera, they are no where to be seen! Honk! Honk! Hey mister, you're in the way!

And sometimes the water conditions are simply lousy. Too much sand suspending in the water. Or too much seagrass or seaweed debris around that a school of fish hanging out in a pit looks like a group of boys playing in a rubbish dump. But that is perfectly fine. What matters is that you just couldn't get a nice photo. Howya mate, great you could join us! It's so much fun swimming in a rubbish dump! HOORAY!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (5) - Sea trumpeters

I have got a few clips of a big school of sea trumpeters. Anyway, considering the reduction in video quality after the clips are uploaded, it probably makes more sense to just show you some photos.

Sea trumpeters (Pelsartia humeralis)

Just added this clip to prove my point.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Green algae

Green algae covered the rocky shore of North Beach in September 2007.

Sea grapes - Caulerpa racemosa
I found this at Mettams Pool. You can find many patches of them underwater in Marmion Marine Park and on the South Cottesloe Reef. They are pretty common.

Sea cactus - Caulerpa cactoides

Sea lettuce - Ulva species

Sea lettuce - Ulva species

Sea lettuce - Ulva species

No idea what these three are called. The last one looks just like hair or fur.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (4) - Banded sweep (Scorpis georgiana)

I reckon the banded sweep must look really impressive when they are in a large school.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (3) - McCulloch's scalyfin

The McCullochs scalyfin (Parma mccullochi) - they are also lone rangers and are harder to spot compared to the red-lipped morwong.


- 18 Feb 2008 -
Ben Saunders, a PhD researcher who studies scalyfins, just told me that this video is "in fact of a western Scalyfin, Parma occidentalis. It has the concave forehead and slightly more ‘beaky’ mouth. "

I am not sure if it is even possible to see those features on the fish as the clip's quality is really less than desirable. But if it is about scalyfins and it is coming from Ben, I know I have gotta believe it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (2) - Stripey

The stripey (Microcanthus strigatus) - I have only seen a small school of them once when the water of the South Cottesloe reef was very, very clear and calm.

Fishes on the South Cottesloe Reef (1) - Red-lipped morwong and Banded sweep

The red-lipped morwong (Cheilodactylus rublolabiatus) is one fish I always see whenever I snorkel on the South Cottesloe reef. These lone-rangers can be quite camera-shy. But their colors are so nice to look at.

The banded sweep (Scorpis georgiana) - another lone-ranger. But occasionally I see them in pairs.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bickley Bay, Rottnest Island (again)

Bickley Bay at dawn. Magical isn't it?
Offshore is Wallace Island.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sea urchins

I found this sea urchin on the underside of a rock. It was quite big, about 10 cm in diameter.

I found this when I was beachcombing. This one is not that big, maybe 5 or 6 cm in diameter.

Another find while I was beachcombing. This is the test or skeletal shell that was washed ashore after the sea urchin died. Several spines still stuck to the test.

I found this one when I visited the Yallingup Lagoon. This one is just a few cm in diameter.