An Hour amongst the Seagrass

I decided on a whim this morning to have a good look at the seagrass which grows on the sea bed in Apollo Bay harbour. I’ve seen it many times from above the surface when doing a lap of the harbour on my surf ski. I’ve also noticed it out of the corner of my eye when I have used the harbour for an ocean swim on days when a big easterly makes the open sea an unattractive option.

So I donned the Patagonia wetsuit and fins and went for a snorkel. I was enthralled and very surprised by the beauty and variety of what I saw. These photos were all taken within 75m or so of the little beach in the harbour, and the water would not have been deeper than 6 feet at any point. I now can’t wait to snorkel around the points and reefs in the area when conditions permit.

 

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Marriners Lookout on the horizon, some yacht masts in the middle distance, and the seagrass.  This video gives a thirty second tour in slo-mo under the water at this point.
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There was a gentle current at times under the water. There was also a short length of some marine plant, which found its neutral buoyancy depth just below the surface where it floated vertically.  Its solitariness and stillness caught my eye. (You had to be there.)

 

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The main surf beach at Apollo Bay has no seagrass at all. I assume it requires sheltered water such as exists in the harbour. As this video shows, other plants do grow in among the sea grass. Following is another relaxing meander across the sea-bed garden (slo-mo video lasting 1 min 20 seconds) for those interested in such things.

 

 

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This primitive transparent jelly fish was somehow managing to stay out of the seagrass. Not sure if it was having a good day or not – but I do note it had assumed the universally recognised shape of a smile. (Disclaimer: I’m not a formally trained marine biologist.)
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This seagrass waving gently in the currents reminded me of a paddock of  long green grass waving gently in the wind.
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Floating between heaven and  earth.
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The uneven surface of the water momentarily lifted the curtain to reveal the sea bed and seagrass.
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The random curves on the surface of the sea seemed at times to perfectly frame the scenery above and below the water.
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Wind ruffled water from below looking a bit like clouds over this field of grass.
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Quite a number of fish swam across my path. I have no idea what species any of them were (save for the porcupine fish mentioned below). As a child I fished a lot off piers, and caught many porcupine fish.  Survivors were released into the wild. Flathead and snapper proved more elusive.

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More seagrass vistas.

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The Porcupine Fish

This 59″ video is another slo-mo wander through the seagrass, taken as I followed an active little porcupine fish who seemed to know his way around the byways of this locality.  It was an enjoyable if short tour. The stills immediately following are from this video.

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Surprise encounter with a stingray having a quiet bite to eat

I swam north along the edge of a rock wall leading to the little jetty. There seemed to be a lot of fish staying within cooee of the rocks no doubt because of the excellent shelter on offer in their nooks and crannies. My eyes were focussed on quite small fish, which was basically all I was seeing. So I did not register when confronted with the scene shown below that there was a larger thing feeding on the remains of a smaller thing.

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I did make a sudden stop when I realised that this was one of the big stingrays which call the harbour home.  I’d like to make clear that my pulse stayed the same and I was not hearing any ‘bomp bomp bomp bomp’ bass lines in my head. There are four or five large stingrays in the harbour, so well known to fishermen and  boaties that some have been given names. But I reckon this is the largest.  It  had a dead fish on a rock beneath it which it had substantially devoured before I arrived.
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I have encountered these at very close quarters in and outside the harbour when swimming or on my surf ski. They are never aggressive, but they do show interest sometimes and have on occasions followed me. I recall swimming over the sea grass here some years ago and crossing a sandy area in quite shallow water. I didn’t see the stingray there because when resting they can cover themselves with sand, and often the end of the tail is all that can be seen. So the first I knew of its presence was when the empty patch of sand suddenly came to life right beneath me and a large ray emerged to greet the day, and me as it turned out. I did a sharp turn away from him and put in what was probably a PB for 30-40m. I then slowed down and turned to confirm he was not in sight. But there he was, pretty much on my heels and following me. When I stopped so did he, and this time he slowly veered away and  headed off first, but much slower than I had done. In hindsight, I think he was mildly  interested in me (and not as a food source), but he was absolutely not aggressive. I regret bolting. I should’ve stayed to see what he would do.
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A beautiful creature. I have often thought it might be possible for humans to interact peacefully and quietly with these rays at close quarters, by e.g. feeding them in the shallows. It has happened elsewhere, but while the local rays don’t bother us, I have seen no sign that they have any real interest in getting to know humans.
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There was quite a bit of flapping of the outside of his ‘wings’ as he ate.

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I felt as though I had stumbled into this big stingray’s lair. I know of course that he and his mates treat the entire harbour and bay and probably beyond as their home and rightful place. But this spot with its large and apparently comfortable rocks and the dark jetty pole silhouettes receding into the green gloom in the background seemed entirely befitting for this denizen of the shallows.
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Perfectly positioned to feast on the fish remains beneath it. That’s a very substantial tail.

This 22″ video shows the stingray just after it had finished feeding. It seemed to pause as if conscious of my presence while not looking directly at me.  It eventually decided to move along.  As for the fish that was lunch, there wasn’t much of it left.

 

Simple pleasures.

5 thoughts on “An Hour amongst the Seagrass

  1. Hi John.

    The videos didn’t load for me here, but the stills and words paint an intriguing picture of harbour life.

    I am impressed that your examination of your surrounds is taking on a new, underwater dimension.

    I too reckon that big fella’ is a Smooth Stingray. The colour, markings and relatively short tail are consistent with the descriptions I’ve been reading in Swainston’s tome and online. At Walkerville North, they will come quite close to us, in a curious and gentle way. Your reaction falls within the “fight or flight” wiring our race has evolved over Millenia. 99.9% of the population would have done likewise.

    Hunto

    Like

  2. loved the shots particularly of the ray; it is one of those protective impulses we have to immediately shy away from a creature that might harm you though the chance is remote
    but John, are they only sting rays in the harbour? on the odd occasion I have seen the completely harmless skate at Kennett or Grey; still elicits the defensive retreat until you notice the lack of the stinger
    Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen any skates in the harbour or the bay at AB Richard, which of course is not to say they are not there. The stingrays have been in the harbour and outside in the bay ever since I have been coming here. Another fish I see on occasions on my swims is the smaller banjo shark (aka fiddler ray) which, like the skate, does not have a stinger on its thicker shorter tail. The banjo shark has colourful markings on its back. The stingrays I have encountered here are inquisitive and gentle creatures. I believe the one I photographed is called a smooth stingray, but as noted in the blog, I’m not a qualified observer.
      John

      Like

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