Friday, February 27, 2009

Rottnest Island - Little Salmon Bay (4)

The last of my Little Salmon Bay "series".
Two more photos of what I found in the shallow reef.

A sea urchin

A common octopus

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rottnest Island - Little Salmon Bay (3)

I certainly didn't (and couldn't) photograph all those fishes that swam past me at the Little Salmon Bay. But I did get some close-up shots of two fishes that I wanted a lot - the crested morwong and the blue-spotted goatfish.

Western crested morwong (or magpie morwong)
(Cheilodactylus gibbosus)
Such a beautiful fish!
I have seen it in Cottesloe, Penguin Island, and the Marmion Marine Park. But I was never able to take a good shot of it till now. They have large rubbery lips, like other morwongs.

This is the best photo I ever took of the blue-spotted goatfish (Upeneichthys vlamingii).
The blue spots on the head and the body are so easy to see. It is also called the red mullet because it turns bright red after death.

Moon wrasse (Thalassoma lunare)
The colorful fish gets its name from the new-moon shape on its tail fin.

Stripey (Microcanthus strigatus)
If you have read my previous posts about stripeys, you will surely know I just love this fish! Watching a school of stripeys moving around on the reef - and swimming after them - was so much fun.

I have to admit this is not a very good photo. Anyway I suspect these are juvenile western king wrasses (Coris auricularis).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rottnest Island - Little Salmon Bay (2)

Well, back to the Rottness Island "series" again.

A male western king wrasses (Coris auricularis) about 30 cm in length

Another male western king wrasse of a similar size.
Look at the red/pink on their cheeks, I guess that's why they are also called the blushing wrasse.

This one is a female. Female and juvenile western king wrasses are known to set up cleaning stations on the reef. They help clean fishes that visit them of parasites.

A male and a female hanging out in the same spot

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Penguin Island marine life (4)

I just realized that I had forgotten to include the fan coral photos in my last few Penguin Island posts. So this will be the last of my Penguin Island posts instead.

In this photo, the bluish things in the fan coral branches are some brittle stars. See here for more images of fan corals and a closer look of brittle stars.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Penguin Island marine life (3)

One last post about the marine life Paul and I saw at Penguin Island.

Tarwhine (Rhabdosargus sarba)
They were hanging around in the same spot as the big school of tailors that I wrote about in my last post. The tailors swam near the surface; the tarwhine near the sandy bottom.

Western striped trumpeters (Pelates octolineatus)
I have seen a school of western striped trumpeters both times I snorkeled at the north-east side of the island. So they are regulars there I guess. But still, nothing beats the HUGE school of western striped trumpeters that I bumped into at South Cottesloe!

False Tasmanian blenny (Parablennius intermedius)
or Eyecheek blenny (Parablennius postomaculomaculatus) ?
I found this one and shortly after, another smaller one, perching on the reef surface when I was snorkeling at the west side of the island. It was about 5 cm in length. The blenny has two yellow antennae, called "cirri", over its eyes. And it has large eyes that can swivel in different directions.

Red-lipped morwong (Cheilodactylus rubrolabiatus)

1. Moonlighter (Tilodon sexfasciatum)
2. Zebra fish (Girella zebra)
3. Garfish (Hyporhampus melanochir)(?) - This fish has an elongated lower jaw.
4. Western talma (Chelmonops curiosus)

Other fishes sighted but not photographed or that images not shown here include old wives, stripeys, gobbleguts, blue-spotted goatfish and banded toadfish (toadies).

to JimSwims, a Dive-Oz forum member, who id the blenny as Eyecheek Blenny.

1. Beneath Busselton Jetty (2003) by Ann Storrie, Sue Morrison & Peter Morrison
2. Australian Marine Life (2000) by Graham J Edgar
3. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia (1986) by Barry Hutchins & Roger Swainston

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Penguin Island marine life (2) - Pomatomus saltatrix, the tailor

I saw a huge school of tailors (Pomatomus saltatrix, or Pomatomus saltator) on the west side of the island, which was exposed to the Indian Ocean. Where they were hanging around, the water was about 3 meters' deep.

These fish are migratory and travel the world's ocean, except the east Pacific.

Voracious and cannibalistic - that's what they are. Hence, they tend to swim in schools of similarly-sized fish. (I guess, if there's any small ones, they would have been quickly consumed by others(?) But how about the young?).

Look at them, how gorgeous!
But beware, they are called "Tailor" because they can cut nets and lines with their knife-edged teeth! Wikipedia says "They should be handled with care due to their ability to snap at an unwary hand." Anyway, in the US, they are called the bluefish.

Another interesting bit of information is this:
"The locations of beaches with feeding schools can usually be identified from a distance because of the associated crowd of anglers" (Graham Edgar's book).

to JimSwims, a Dive-Oz forum member who identified the name of this fish for me.

2. Australian Marine Life (2000) by Graham J Edgar
3. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia (1986) by Barry Hutchins & Roger Swainston

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Penguin Island marine life (1)

Today I went snorkeling at the Penguin Island with a friend, Paul. Going with a buddy not only makes it safer, but also more interesting. First, you get to interact with another person, not just with the fishes. Moreover, very often your buddy might spot an interesting creature that you miss.

We went to the west, south and north-east sides of the island. Generally, the water was rather murky or contained too much seaweed and other unknown debris. And to make it worse, it was a cloudy morning, so the underwater visibility wasn't that fantastic. Nevertheless, we still saw quite a number of interesting marine creatures when we hit the water.

And Paul was quite happy that he saw a wild penguin today.

One thing I noticed today is that there were so many ctenophores (comb jellies) in the water. Anyway, as comb jellies don't sting, it was nothing to worry about. I just think of them as some teabags, or maybe small plastic bags, drifting around in the water.

These creatures look plain but are nice to look at when there's sunlight. The hairs that run down the length of their bodies, when beating, will generate some rainbow-like colors.

Another thing I noticed today is that there seemed to be fewer purple-tipped sea anemones compared to the last two times I visited the island. Many of the sea anemones I saw just looked whitish.

Anyway, I did find this pretty sea anemone tucked away between seaweed in the shallow reef in north-east part of the island.

I checked out the colony of Zoanthus praelongus (sausage zoanthids) that I photographed during my last visit - they were still there. In fact the colony seemed to have grown. Also, most of them have retracted their tentacles, unlike what I saw before.

I found quite a number of western slate pencil urchins (Phyllacanthus irregularis) in holes and crevices in the reef. They are quite large, probably 10-15 cm across (including spines). They look really different from the usual sea urchins, which have sharp spines. They emerge at night to scrape algae from rocks. Since algae will not move whether it is day or night, I suppose they emerge at night as a way to avaoid predatots.

I saw a red sea star (Petricia vernicinia) for the first time! On its upper surface, there are many small balloon-like structures (the white bits) which they use for respiration and getting rid of waste.

Another exciting find (for me) is the orange feather star (Cenolia trichoptera)(?) I found it sitting next to a sea urchin inside a hole in the reef.

I saw the feather star for the first time when I was exploring the South Cottlesloe shore on a low-tide morning.

By the way, I also saw a sea cucumber and just like before, I couldn't get a sharp image. Arrghh!

While we were exploring the reef in teh north-east side of the island, Paul spotted a southern bailer (Melo miltonis) too. I first saw the animal when I snorkeled at Penguin Island last December.

Rottnest Island - Little Salmon Bay

When I was at Rottnest Island last week, I snorkelled at three different locations: Parker Point, Little Salmon Bay and Green Island. In my next few posts, I will be showing you photos I took at the Little Salmon Bay.

This underwater plaque marks the beginning of the Little Salmon Bay snorkel trail

The shallow reef where pink corals (Pocillopora damicornis) grow

More colonies of pink corals - no idea why a lot of them look a little too pale. Dead? Sick? Or just natural color variation? Or possibly a different species of reef-building coral?

Pink corals usually live in tropical waters. However, thanks to the warm Leeuwin Current, the otherwise temperate waters of Rottnest has become habitable to the pink corals.

A close-up of the pink corals

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rottnest Island - last post about Green Island

I guess I'll wrap up my series of posts about Green Island with this one.

Green Island is indeed a good snorkeling spot. I find a good variety of marine animals and plants there. What's really great is that they are so accessible - you don't have to go really deep or venture too far from shore to see something interesting. And I was so thrilled to find fan corals there too.

I am sure I will go back some time, and maybe spend a whole day there. There's so much to photograph!