Saturday, October 31, 2009

#14: Rock lobster, anemone, thornfish and more seadragons

I went out and did another dive today, although this one was in a rocky pool. All my training looking for the cryptic seadragons is paying off since I'm now more a tuned to cryptic species like tiny thornfish.

I also spotted this swimming anenome. At night these agile anemones move high up on the plant and extend their tentacles to catch floating prey and during the day they collapse and looks like a sack of beans.

Swimming anemone photo (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

Like many of the dive sites where I saw seadragons, this dive location was also teeming with mysis shrimp. These tiny shrimp are primary diet of sea dragons and a popular food item for many other fish as well. In this video you can see hundreds of little mysis shrimp (all the white specks) swimming in the water column.


Friday, October 30, 2009

#13: An Aquarium visit and more dive photos featuring invertebrates

Today I visited a small aquarium called Seahorse World located in Beauty Point, Tasmania. They display over seven species of seahorses in addition to other local fish and invertebrates, and actively breed thousands of pot-bellied seahorses for research.

Pot-belly seahorses (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

I also got the chance to do a dive to see a deep water temperate reef that was very similar to the habitat that we display our sea dragons in at the aquarium. The invertebrate life was pretty spectacular. There were loads of sponges and ascidians in addition to hundreds of butterfly perch and southern hulafish. Both species of fish we currently display in our exhibit. It was difficult to get a good photo of the general habitat since it was relatively dark and the visibility was low, unfortunately.

Tomorrow I head out for another dive.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

#12: Last dive with weedy seadragons

I did my last dive with weedy seadragons today and was once again moved by how amazing and beautiful these creatures are. I am certainly going to miss my daily dives with dragons. It's difficult to describe how remarkable it is to see these creatures in their natural habitat so with that being said I'll leave you to enjoy some of my favorite weedy seadragon photos and videos.

Weedy seadragons (Photos: Jeremy Brodt)

Next stop Tasmania!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#11: Spider crabs, soldierfish and Australian fur seal footage

Our first dive today wasn't sea dragon related, but we still came across some great animals like this group of spider crabs (there must have been 50 or more on the surrounding stumps) and this soldierfish.

Spider crabs (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

We did yet another sunset/evening dive in an attempt to catch some weedy sea dragon breeding behavior, but unfortunately the water visibility wasn't very good so it was harder to find dragons. We did find a few, but they often became distracted by our presence and would swim away.

Regardless, the dive was quite eventful thanks to a curious juvenile Australian fur seal that became interested by my presence.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#10: Seeing seadragons doesn't get old...

Even though I've been fortunate enough to see at least a dozen weedy seadragons each dive (starting here, and more here and here), it truly never gets old. Seeing such extraordinary animals in their natural habitat is truly awe inspiring.

On our dive today we were blessed with great visibility and therefore got an even better look at the dragons.

Weedy seadragons (Photos: Jeremy Brodt)

Not only was there an abundance of weedy seadragons, but we also saw a fiddler ray
and some cowfish. However, my favorite sighting of the day was this snail that was apparently in quite a hurry based on the trail it left behind.


Monday, October 26, 2009

#9: A new seadragon location with stargazers, leaffish and cuttlefish

Today I dove at a new location to see seadragons. Although, near the beginning of our dive we came across a stargazer buried in the sand, and a Forster's leaffish hidden in the weeds. Then we stumbled upon more weedy seadragons!

We did another dive just before sunset and saw lots of seadragons. Nearly all the males we saw had eggs on their tails and there were lots of juveniles that appeared to be popping out of the weeds.

In addition to all the dragons I got lucky and caught this large cuttlefish on video as it was swimming by.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

#8: Diving among the seadragons and stingrays

Today I went to a site that was filled with weedy seadragons. Again, I must have come across at least 15-20 dragons and again nearly all were males with eggs on their tails. Here are a couple of my favorite dragon photos of the day.

Weedy seadragon (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

Weedy seadragon (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

As I was swimming along the pier I came across a school of globe fish. I was also pleasantly surprised when I looked up from having my heads in the weeds looking for seadragons to see a beautiful wedgenose skate swim by. Then I was surprised again when a very large (probably close to 7' long from tip to tail) smooth or black stingray swam by again.

It was quite an exciting dive and I even went back for a night dive at the same spot to try to catch some sea dragon mating behavior which typically occurs right at sunset. We saw lots of dragons (and lots of juveniles that were likely 6-8 months old), but most of the adult males already had eggs. I did stumble upon one pair near the end of my dive, but they didn't come together to court before I had to get out of the water.

Hopefully tomorrow will yield another eventful sea dragon dive!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#7: Seeing flounders, gobies, leather jackets, sea stars and more...

During today's dive I was hoping to come across pot-bellied seahorses, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find any. However, while looking hard I did come across some other interesting cryptic species like flounder and gobies. I also spent quite a deal of time chasing this blue-lined leather jacket around a pillar in an attempt to get a full body photo, however, I had to settle with a "hide and seek" photo.

In addition to all the great fish there are lots of very beautiful and colorful invertebrates. These Australian biscuit stars are my absolute favorite. They come in a variety of different colors. In fact, it seems everyone that you come across is unique. There are also many large eleven-armed sea stars that are often 12-15" in diameter.

Eleven-armed sea star (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

Tomorrow I head out for another good seadragon site.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

#6: Dragons! First seadragon sightings of the expedition

I saw my first weedy seadragon today! Not even 10 minutes into the dive I saw my first dragon! I saw about 15-20 dragons total throughout my dive. It was quite a spectacular thing to witness. They are such beautiful fish and are quite graceful.

(Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

One of the primary reasons that I came to Australia when I did was because it is spring here which means that its sea dragon breeding season. In fact, many of the seadragons I saw were males carrying eggs on their tail.

Like other syngnathids (seahorses, pipefish, & sea dragons) the male actually takes care of the eggs. With seahorses, the eggs are deposited by the female in the males brood pouch. With seadragons the female deposits the eggs on the males tail which becomes thick and spongy to receive the eggs.

Here are some other neat fish that I saw during my dive:

(Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

Tomorrow's dive won't likely yield many seadragons, but we may get so see some seahorses so stay tuned.


Friday, October 16, 2009

#5: A visit to Phillip Island during the seadragon expedition

On the way to Phillip Island I stopped at the Koala conservation center to see one of Australia's most famous marsupials up close.

Koala napping (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

The penguin parade was incredible! We weren't allowed to take photos of the penguins as they came ashore (so as to not scare them with flashes), however, here's a picture from their website.

Little blue penguin under a boardwalk (Photo: Phillip Island tours)

Now that I've had some time to get settled in and have some fun around Melbourne it's time to get down to business.

Tomorrow I head south of Melbourne to meet with a local seadragon expert and hopefully get in my first dive.

Here's hoping my next post will be about my first seadragon sighting!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

#4: A visit to the Melbourne Aquarium

I toured the Melbourne Aquarium today and got to observe their seadragon display.

Seadragon exhibit

After seeing their dragons and other local specimens I am now even more eager to do some diving this weekend.

Here another highlight from my aquarium visit:

King Penguin

Tomorrow I take a trip down to Phillip Island to see the "penguin parade."


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#3: Australia! Starting the seadragon expedition...

I've now arrived in Australia! I've spent the last day and a half getting acquainted with Melbourne. Here are a few photos of my travels throughout this beautiful city.

Flinders Station

Seadragon exhibit at the Melbourne Museum

I saw my first weedy sea dragon in Australia today, however, it was just a preserved specimen from the Melbourne Museum. Tomorrow I visit the Melbourne Aquarium.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

#2: The really long plane ride

I begin my journey today. It'll take me over 24 hours to get to Australia to begin the seadragon expedition. Yep, I'll lose an entire day of my life. I leave on Saturday and arrive there on Monday. My first stop will be Melbourne where I'll spend some time getting over my jet lag and visiting the Melbourne Aquarium.

 Bags packed and ready to go

So with my iPod charged, plenty of reading material at hand, and the anticipation of a remarkable journey ahead, I'm off!


Monday, October 5, 2009

#1: Getting Ready for the Seadragon Expedition

In just under one week I will be heading "down under" to the Southern coast of Australia to do some diving to observe weedy and leafy seadragons in the wild. These remarkable fish are related to sea horses and are endemic to the temperate waters of the southern coast of Australia.

A weedy seadragon in the Aquarium's seadragon exhibit

Here's a video I took inside the exhibit:

While in Australia I will spend a week diving with a local seadragon expert near Melbourne to see weedy sea dragons, then travel to Tasmania to visit an aquarium called Seahorse World, and finally I will travel to Adelaide, South Australia to meet with the conservation organization Reef Watch as well as do some diving to see leafy sea dragons. Right now I am solidifying my plans and testing out some new gear to bring along.