A halo of fish

Banded Wobbegong

There’s a cave near the Bower that is often frequented by a very large Banded Wobbegong. Today it lay there with a halo of silver fish above it’s head presenting an irresistible photo opportunity.

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Sharks galore!

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.

An underwater garden

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!

The boys are back in town!

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.

Photobombed – by a fish!

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!

From the Sharkives

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.

A new fish in the reserve

The water has cooled to 20 degrees but it was still surprising to find a few tropicals clinging on and a new fish I haven’t ever seen before, the Blotched Bigeye. Not a very nice name and it was a fortuitous find as I was photographing another fish when these eyes kept coming into the side of the viewfinder, and they are big eyes!

A larger than normally found bluehead wrasse was cruising the reef, with the blue and yellow moon wrasse, and I even found a dot-dash butterflyfish, the first I think I have found this year. A few Half and Half Puller remain, plenty of iridescent Neon Damsels, even a Fire Damsel.

Plenty to see in relatively clear water