Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Albany snorkel - Little Beach Lagoon

A few friends and I hired a car and drove down to Albany for a short holiday end of last December. Naturally I wouldn't miss the opportunity to don a mask and snorkel and explore the underwater territories of Albany. I snorkeled at a few spots - Shelter Island (near Mutton Bird Island), Whaling Cove, and Mistaken Island, but they were not really that interesting. Anyway, the last place I went for a snorkel in Albany turned out to be a great spot - a secluded lagoon about 200 m north of the Little Beach.

31 Dec 2009

Little Beach, a beach in the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserves, located about 35 km east of Albany. The water looked a little choppy and it seemed to be mainly sandy bottom in the bay, so I decided not to snorkel there.

The little lagoon that I spotted while we were driving towards the Little Beach car park. The shot was taken looking south towards Little Beach.

Another shot of the calm and secluded lagoon.

It was about 5 pm when we got there. My friends changed their minds and decided not to go in for a swim because it began to get cold. From my last few snorkels, I realized it was hard to duck-dive with my thick wetsuit (5 mm), without using a weight belt. So, despite the chill, I decided to go in without my wetsuit.

The lagoon was shallow, perhaps only 4-5 feet in the deep end. Visibility was fantastic, possibly because of the shallow depth. It is mainly a sandy bottom (with some silt I think), and dotted with rock boulders. For almost an hour, I was the only person in the lagoon. So it was like my personal snorkeling spot!

There are lots of zebra fish (Girella zebra) in the lagoon everywhere I turned. Most of them are about 15 cm in length, not as large as the ones I have seen before. Adults can apparently grow to 50 cm in length. That got me thinking if the lagoon was something like a nursery for the fish.

These zebra fish are really not shy and would just carry on their business around me. Many times when I got too near, they would just swim a short distance away and turn around and started hovering with their snouts facing me, like they were watching me. And after a while, they would just forget about me and carry on their business gain. Lovely!

I saw some stripeys (Microcanthus strigatus) too.

There are a number of juvenile moonlighters (a.k.a. six-banded coralfish)(Tilodon sexfaciatus) in the lagoon. An adult moonlighter apparently loses the large black spot at the rear of the dorsal fin.

This is another fish that wouldn't care about an approaching snorkeler. It just continued to hover about three feet ahead of me and just let me snap away with my camera! The fish is 15-20 cm in length.

Based on the shape of the fish and the pale stripe that runs down the midline of its snout, it's probably a breaksea cod (Epinephelides armatus). A breaksea cod also has a distinctive black botch surround its anus, hence its other name "Black-arse cod". Unfortunately, I didn't get any good shots of its anus.

I almost missed this little fella who's sitting quietly at the bottom. Based my really deficient fish ID knowledge, I thought it was some kind of flathead, but Shadowkiller (of Dive-Oz) suggested that it's probably a goby.

Shrimps! Lots of shrimps under the rocks and in the crevices between the rock!

I still couldn't find the species name of these fellas. Anyway, unlike the shrimps that I have seen before (at low tide off South Cottesloe and snorkeling in the Swan River), these little fellas just don't care about snorkelers! They just wouldn't go away when I brought my camera near them to get some close-up shots! For a while I thought that's acting more like domestic insects than shrimps.

I also found a few sea hare egg masses here and there in the lagoon, but couldn't find any sea hares.

This one looks like a sponge to me. I just took the photo because it reminded me of cotton candy.

Overall, I think the attraction of this little unnamed lagoon next to the more well-known Little Beach is that it's shallow, small but the residents here just don't care about snorkelers!

Happy Australia Day!

Update 27 Jan 2010:
I just found out from JimSwims (member of Dive-Oz forum) that the shrimps in the photos above are Palaemon serenus. He called them "cleaner shrimps"; other websites call them "red-handed shrimps" (HERE and HERE).

Museum Victoria website says this:
The red-handed shrimp is glassy clear, with red stripes across the wrists of its long second chelipeds..."

"This shrimp is frequently seen as a pair of red dots and another of black dots moving across the floor of rock pools (Chai: Interesting!) These are the bands on the chelipeds and the eyes..."

"The species is a scavenger cleaning up dead fish and shellfish... "


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
What a great way to spend Australia Day.
Excellent clear water.
I think your flat fish is indeed a Flathead (of which I have caught a few in my time).

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Denis,

It surely looks like a flathead to me. Anyway marine life id has never been my strong point : (

Excellent clear water with heaps of fishes is a great way to spend any day if you asked me : )