Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus)
Eastern Australian Salmon (Arripis trutta)
Dusky Whaler in the shallows
Whilst you can’t fail to see the hordes of Port Jackson and Crested Horn sharks around at the moment in the midst of their breeding season, and the ubiquitous Spotted and Ornate Wobbegong sharks, there are a few other shy visitors at the moment. There a few Dusky Whalers cruising around the bay, but in addition to this there have been three shy Grey Nurse Sharks too.
I snapped a shot today of one as it cruised passed me!
As well as the sharks there was action at the surface as large shoals of feeding salmon streamed past in their hundreds, like the sharks looking for a feed on the huge amounts of Yellowtail Scad present at Fairy Bower.
A male weedy seadragon with eggs
Close-up of a Port Jackson Shark’s mouth
The wind has been everywhere recently, Westerlies, Southerlies and Northerlies. Cabbage Tree Bay has been fairly sheltered and after spotting a large Grey Nurse Shark last weekend I was keen to get in again.
Some interesting behaviour witnessed today was the Eastern Maori Wrasse eating the eggs held on the tail of the male Weedy Seadragon. The eggs are very nutritious for predators and watching the hungry wrasse out-manoeuvre the poor Seadragon for an easy meal was fascinating, as time and time again they darted in for a feed. I only paused to take a couple of photos so as not to cause further stress.
There are so many Port Jackson sharks now, predominantly male, cruising across the reefs looking for love.
Even in wintry conditions there is plenty to see. Today I was surprised to find a Clown Toby hiding amongst the seaweed and a large shoal of stripey catfish sheltering by the reef to avoid the swell.
Headband Humbug (Dascylus reticulatus)
Red hard coral
Two types of Ascidian sponge
Half-banded Sea-perch in sponge
Matt behind a fan coral
Cauliflower coral, a new species
Coralline algae often mistaken for hard coral
Today my best dive buddy, Matt, joined me on one of our favourite dives in the aquatic reserve. The hardest part of the dive is getting in and out as you have to climb over a fence, down a cliff face, then over a sizeable cliff rockfall zone to get to the entry and exit point, all in full dive gear and camera equipment.
We call it extreme diving, but the reward is access to a beautiful dive spot we call “The Canyons”. The area is rich in corals, sponges, weedy seadragons, and seals have even been spotted here on several occasions.
New corals are appearing and spreading so rapidly they will be accessible to the majority of divers in a few years. One of them is a new species described as recently as 2013 from a specimen from Lord Howe island. Large mats of this hard tropical coral cover the reefs and with them come the species that associate with them.
Coralline algae colonies abound, these purple hard growths often being mistaken for corals are actually an algae.
Sponges abound too in all shapes and sizes from yellow spherical ones, concave mushroom-like ones that fish like to sit in, long finger-like clusters, even purple and blue ones in a variety of shapes and sizes.
This dive is weather dependent and can be quite dangerous if you haven’t dived it before, but here’s hoping to continued calm conditions!
Crested Horn Shark
Yes they are – with Port Jackson Shark breeding season imminent all the keen males are arriving early, patrolling the reefs anxiously as they await their potential partners arrival. I even witnessed a confused engagement between a crested horn shark and a port Jackson. Whether it was a territorial skirmish or mistaken attraction I could not be sure.
Further out I was lucky to find a large weedy seadragon, so I took a couple of shots so as not to stress it then moved on.
Lots of critters around and great visibility meant a very enjoyable day was spent underwater on a day that saw Sydney record it’s hottest July day ever – nudging 26 degrees.
Mr Gnome and friend
Once in a while you find a random object on the ocean floor. I found this gnome and judging by its worn facade I contemplated its story as I lined it up for a photo. Just as I pressed the shutter a small eastern maori wrasse popped in to kiss Mr Gnomeo on the cheek – no wonder he’s smiling!
Toothbrush leatherjacket (male)
Eastern Smooth Boxfish
A month’s rain in a few days….so they say. Well wet it has been and the inner harbour has turned the colour of a milky coffee. Choosing a gap in the downpours I found it quite pleasant at Fairy Bower. The Dusky Whalers are still there in numbers and growing by the day. Many will leave in the next few weeks, leaving their nursery for bigger adventures.
Lots of different cleaning stations were operational, with Boxfish queuing up for a session with clingfish, the Blackfish shoals were happy for Mados and Old Wives to perform cleaning duties, then Drummer were queuing up for a traditional workover from the cleaner wrasse. Very busy today!
The water may be cooling down but the shark action is still here for a few more weeks. The bay is full of juvenile dusky whaler sharks, getting more acclimatised to divers by the day. They are also growing fast and will soon leave the shark nursery that is the aquatic reserve.
Dusky Whaler Shark (Carcharhinus obscurus)