31 de marzo de 2024

Dive Report: Mangawhai Cliff Walk

1 hr snorkel
30 March 2024
High tide
Vis 6m
Wave height 1m
Wind 20 knots

Nice swim given it had been raining the day before. First time seeing centros on this coast, a thousand kina, large barren rocks, some small patches of ecklonia but carpophyllum the dominant remaining flora. Fish count below:

7 or so red moki a few additional juveniles
1 30cm snapper
A few parore
1 silver drummer
A few small goatfish
2 hiwihiwi
A school of piper
A school of kahawai
A few tiny schools of sweep (both types)
1 small school trevally
Many spotty, all sizes
1 banded wrasse
2 smallish leatherjacket

Publicado el 31 de marzo de 2024 a las 02:32 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 17 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de marzo de 2024

Dive Report: South of North Reef

22 March 2024
7:30 am High tide
Vis 7m
Wave height 0.5m
Wind 5 knots
54 minutes
Max depth 16.4m

This was the second dive of the day with @jordi_nz and having already done a beautiful but uneventful dawn dive (however it was unusual to see a few individual kahawai shoot past us). We left the beach in a kayak and paddle board heading towards North Reef. I was surprised to observe the water close to shore looked clearer than it was during our earlier dive at high tide. Maybe the swell was dying down. It only took 10 minutes to get to the dive site, we were a little bit south of North Reef and did a NW dive line.

About seven large snapper circled us at the surface and we slowly dropped down 7-8 meters. The first thing I noticed was the Ecklonia Radiata which was in a terrible state. I looked for urchins to blame but could only see a few kina and the odd centros (note we did not see crayfish on either dive). The kelp was lush last time I dived the area in April 2022. UPDATE: @clinton pointed out that this study was done in the area and implicates grazing by the lysianassid amphipod Orchomenella aahu in dieback of the kelp.

There were so many fish! Huge schools of silver sweep and koheru wre everywhere. Blue maomao and the odd butterfly perch joined the schools. Large snapper and red moki roamed everywhere. Big eye and slender roughy could be found under ledges and trenches, along with the odd sleeping moki. We saw also leatherjacket and eagle rays. Demoiseles were defending their eggs, we saw several Sandager's wrasse get chased away. I also saw the demoiseles swimming close to the eggs and doing a little wiggle to oxygenate them. To top it of we were circled by a school of large kingfish which is always a real treat. I recommend this dive spot and will return to see what happens to the kelp.

Publicado el 22 de marzo de 2024 a las 07:22 PM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 14 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de marzo de 2024

Tim's snorkel trail

2 March 2024
One hour after high tide
Vis: 8 m +

On page 109 of Island Notes by Tim Higham, he describes one of his favourite snorkel spots on Aotea / Great Barrier Island. It starts at a small wharf on the Northwestern side of Tryphena Harbour.

I was cold from my previous snorkel, the sun had gone and the wind was up but it was not long after high tide in late summer on Aotea where the water is always clear so I was keen to get in again. I was promised seagrass and eagle rays and the trip did not disappoint.

Lush subtidal meadows extend deep into the harbour right from the ramp where I find eagle rays, snapper and spotty. A leatherjacket evades my camera and I head for the complex rocket terrain where I was expecting to see crayfish and a barren that Tim described the development of around 2017/2018. In the book there is hope that the kelp that was lost to high temperatures would come back if there were enough crayfish and snapper to control the kina. Its been about six years and I still looks like barrens. The kelp along the edge of the barren looks stressed and the small crayfish and snapper I see are clearly not up to the job. Two large grey sponges here had large white scars which are correlated with temperature increases.

I found a few patches of exotic Caulerpa but it's not making strong inroads here. I find this odd given the boulder habitat is similar to Schooner Bay where exotic Caulerpa is pervasive. I was very pleased to not see it in the seagrass meadows.

Heading further south I get to the first few rocks he has told me to check out. It's hard to tell exactly where I am as the swell is obscuring the rocks. There are large schools of silver sweep here with New Zealand demoiselles and blue maomao in the mix. The water is thick with salps, some of the chains are still intact and I identify at least three different types, some seem to move. The salps prove hard to photograph and together with the bubbles from the waves on the rocks are making it hard to get good shots of other life.

Tim told me to stay on the outside of the rocks and to dive deep off the main rock to see kingfish. I didn't see any haku but I was impressed with a massive school of silver drummer and much smaller school of juvenile tāmure. The visibility here is amazing, it must be more than 10m. Heading back I see a butterfish by the first rocks. Tim mentioned I would see them. He also described octopus homes in the seagrass meadows so I look for those on the way back but seem to have missed them.

This was the best snorkel I have had on the island, I loved the range of habitats and fish diversity, highly recommend.

Publicado el 04 de marzo de 2024 a las 03:32 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 30 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de febrero de 2024

Dive report Horuhoru Rock

13 February 2024
10:40am High tide
Vis 5-7m
Wave height 0.5m
Wind 5 knots
Current minimal
45 minutes
Max depth 22m

[ I arrived around 1pm to see two dead juvenile gannets on the rocks. I checked to see they were not alive after the one I saved last week made an amazing recovery. I'd love to know if these are juveniles falling from the colony above or crash landing, the weather has been very mild. ]

Efforts to restore soft-sedimen kūtai / green-lipped mussel beds in the Hauraki Gulf are hampered by a lack of a reference bed. I have been visually documenting soft-sediment beds for 10 years now and was quite interested in kūtai I found growing in mussel shell near Ahaaha Rocks. A beautiful and better reference bed with similar shell dynamics was found off Waiheke by Craig Thorburn. It's small and may be fed by kūtai shell from the rocks above. I theorised there would be similar habitat below the kūtai on this wall at Horuhoru Rock.

I anchored 10-15m away from the rock and swam over to the rock face so I could descend the wall. It was nice to see juvenile kūtai recruiting below the low tide line. Swimming north I found a shelf at around 7m covered in kūtai shell with small live kūtai growing on the shell (not attached to rock). There were fine branching red algae (coralline) nearby which could have acted and settlement substrate. Last week I documented large beds of juvenile mussels growing just above and below the low tide line here. These mussels have been protected by rāhui for the last two years.

Dropping to about 18m I found what I was looking for at the bottom of the wall, live kūtai growing in a kūtai shell drift. The drift changed elevation dramatically as I headed south (both up and down) I recorded a max depth of 22m. Unlike the shallower Waiheke bed there was no Ecklonia in the bed and no association of anemones with the live kūtai. I have not seen predatory eleven-armed starfish at either bed. I did see two starfish eating triton here. In places the drift was more than 30cm deep with large kūtai shell (much thicker than anywhere else).

The kūtai shell bed extended from the rock for several meters but the live mussels did not continue and soon the habitat was better described as dog cockle shell drift. Heading back I found my anchor on the kūtai shell which may be one of the reasons the kūtai bed is not bigger. However I did not observe any kūtai recruitment or settlement structures at this depth.

I explored the edge of the rock further south which had ledges and a pretty cave before heading back and up my anchor chain.

Publicado el 14 de febrero de 2024 a las 04:31 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 19 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Dive report Tarahiki Island

13 February 2024
10:40am High tide
Vis 9m
Wave height 0.5m
Wind 5 knots
Current 0 (slack)
53 minutes
Max depth 18.6m

Launched from Kawakawa Bay and boated up the east side of Ponui Island. No workups but I did see a few shearwater on John Dory which was odd. I got a close up look at the rare breed of Donkey that are feral on the island. It was disappointing to see the damage they and other livestock were doing to the foreshore and shorebird breeding habitat.

I anchored on a visible barren (8m) in the Western Bay and decided on an east-west transect. I saw three eagle rays while looking for an anchor spot and one swam up as I descended, I saw Orca on the other side of the island after I left. The kelp was in good shape with just a few patches of barren. Some of the sponges looked damaged and I will send photos to University of Auckland researchers. There were a few sweep but no maomao, many spotty, a few small snapper and one silver drummer around the kelp. I did not see any red moki. I great surprise was a large shark causing past me from behind, I saw it too late to get and identifiable photograph and it was swimming to fast for me to catch up, it was very exciting to see as it was the first time I have seen a shark while scuba diving in the Gulf. I imagine the excellent visibility was one of the reasons I saw it.

Not long after that I was joined by a huge school of jack mackerel (one of the largest I have experienced). They stayed with me for 15 minutes. I also saw a really big school of goatfish after that. There was a lot of variation in the terrain and I documented the sponges, a large stiff hydroid was a highlight and some of the undersides were very complex. Just before the edge of the rocky reef I was briefly joined by several large kingfish. The reef finished next to a large dog cockle bed at around 18m. I explored that for a few minutes then headed back. The visibility had declined a lot by the time I got back to the boat, which was strange as I had not noticed any current, it was still awesome, just grainy.

It was cool to see three reef heron while I was drying off and several spotted shags flying past. Great spot, looking forward to seeing more fish here in future.

Publicado el 14 de febrero de 2024 a las 03:14 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 37 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de enero de 2024

Dive report Okahu Bay: MS1

26 January 2024
8:50am High tide

Launched kayak at the boat ramp and anchored south east of the MS1 bed using my previous observations on the iNaturalist app as a guide. There was barely a ripple on the surface and the sky was clear. My plan was to explore the wider shell area to investigate the mud habitat that had built up on top of the shell over the last two years.

At 8:30am I descended to 6m and was pleased to find 1m vis at on the seafloor. The tide was slack - no current. I could see I was on the shell as in places bioturbating invertebrates had bout small bits of shell to the surface. I swam east to easily locate the mussel bed. The bed looked similar to previous dives but the live mussels did look big. I was pleased not to see any eleven-armed starfish predating the mussels, a dramatic change from March last year. It was also great to see lots of large mottled triplefins in the bed. There was broken mussel shell in the bed and some further out including signs of snapper digging in the bed.

Swimming towards the breakwater I found a weird looking shape in the mud and thought it might be a buried horse mussel, as soon as I poked it I realised it was actually a stargazers mouth! I photographed it then tried to get it to move by pushing my fingers under it, the fish didn't swim away and dug it self back into the mud. I left it hunting and (presumably for bridled goby) and explored the breakwater.

There were clumps of juvenile mussels on the seafloor at the base of the breakwater which is about 1m higher than the surrounding sediment and shelly not muddy. I cant tell if these juveniles attached here or fell of the poles but many looked to be blues. There is more spat attachment substrate like the ostrich plume hydroids near the breakwater than in the mussel bed. I'm concerned about the white bleached look on the finger sponges which can be found on the mussel bed, shell platform and pylons.

I headed SE and then circled back to the breakwater side of the kayak before exiting after 66minutes underwater. The current was only just noticeable.

I just cant get my head around how much mud has accumulated on the elevated shell platform in the last two years. The last monitoring report has it at 2cm. My finger tests definitely confirm that, it might be closer to 3cm.

Publicado el 27 de enero de 2024 a las 07:32 PM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 19 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de enero de 2024

Dive report: East Jones Bay

Jan 18, 2024
High tide 1:30pm
Sunny /cloudy
10 knots a bit choppy
9-13 m
Transect West looking for Caulerpa
Vis 7 m

Launched kayak from Jones Bay carpark. Quick paddle across the bay to the dive site. I wanted to check this area for exotic Caulerpa and also wanted to know if there were rhodolith on this side of the bay (I found neither). I anchored about 50 meters off shore just after high tide. I was very pleased with the visibility and after checking out the area under the kayak where there was a little bit of Ecklonia, I swam West for 100-200m into the current then turned as it began to pick up. Returning (bang on) to my anchor I did a little investigation before surfacing.

I really enjoyed documenting the different sponge species but was most excited by the tubeworm matts which were thick and dominated the benthos. There were spotty and common triplefin closer to the Ecklonia where I also saw one adult tāmure /snapper and one leatherjacket. A juvenile trevally also swan with me for a bit. I didn't see any fish further out into the bay.

Publicado el 18 de enero de 2024 a las 09:34 PM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 29 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de agosto de 2023

Dive report: Schooner Bay

Aug 12, 2023
One hour after high tide
Visibility around 8m
Sunny, no wind, waves or current
Freediving 8m max, mostly 3-5m
One hour swim

I walked the bay at low tide then entered the water when the sun came out. I swam straight out from the end of the road (SW) then headed east towards the rocks. I explored the intersection between the rock and sand substrate for 200-300 meters then headed towards the shore and looped back in shallower water.

Exotic Calupera covered most rocks but was in the early stages and was not thick like in Okupu Bay where it has been established longer. I didn't see any bare patches of rocks here where matts of exotic Calupera have been dislodged creating large holes in the biogenic blanket. I also did not see any Unwanted Organisms in either bay (Other than exotic Calupera). There were still many rocks with no exotic Calupera, these were covered in diverse native algae, mostly Coraline turf. Exotic Calupera was expanding into the kina barrens and smothering the shorter native algae, however most rocks were covered in Ecklonia and the tall brown kelps looked unaffected by exotic Calupera (once at full size). Exotic Calupera was under the Ecklonia canopy but limited to rocks, it was not really encroaching onto the sand here.

A few sponges were being smothered by the exotic Calupera but the main habitat being smothered was Coraline turf.

The water was full of salps, mostly broken up but a few chains. Fish seen: Schools of spotty. A few parore, small red moki, banded wrase, violet sweep and triplefins. Just one young sand daggers wrasse, a leather jacket and a small snapper.

Publicado el 13 de agosto de 2023 a las 06:22 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 24 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de julio de 2023

Dive report: Million Bay

Jul 11, 2023
High tide 2:00pm
10-15 knots but westerly and very calm
4.6 m
Transect at 120° looking for Caulerpa
Vis 3-4 m

Two NNZD and a pair of VOC on Baddleys Beach as I got in the water. I walked through the water for about 100 meters then snorkelled further out into the bay. I nearly made it to the mouth of the bay (about 1km) before doing a surface swim back with 70 bar.

I was surprised by the great vis and healthy looking cockle bed. The seagrass condition was poor and I didn't see any fish larger than my fingers other than a snake eel whose hole was very shallow (2.1 m). It was sandy to about 3 m which is well out into the bay, which was very shallow. The crimson jellies seemed abundant for this time of year.

Publicado el 12 de julio de 2023 a las 01:21 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 11 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de junio de 2023

Dive Report, Zig Zag Reef, Long Bay

4 June 2023
High tide 7:30am
Calm, overcast
10 or so knots the day before but westerly, 4-5 knots during dive also westerly
With @jordi_nz
57 minutes

Arrived at the park (in the dark) when the gates opened at 6am. It took me an hour to get my gear on / ready with lots of trips to the beach. We left the beach with the sun just rising, waves were only 30cm or so. Light breeze. I led on kayak with Garmin InReach for co-ordinates. Jordi followed with BCD and tank on his paddle board!

We anchored 20m east of the reef and it took us 15 minutes to find the balls. Jordi saw them first as we were searching in a spiral from where we thought they were. Visibility was 3-4m with lots of strands of phytoplankton mucus in the water. While looking I saw many snapper and a school of large jack mackerel, neither of which liked having my bright lights pointed at them.

The reef looked similar to January (good given the storms) but much more cinematic in the low light. I saw spotty, sweep, juvenile goatfish and juvenile snapper but the fish were all wary of me. The only one that stayed still for a photo was the crested blenny. The most interesting find for me was the tubular hydroids (I think) which I haven't seen before. I was disappointed with the amount of silt on the sponges but impressed with how clean the ascidians (Synoicum kuranui) we in comparison. The tiny amount of swell was still enough to make manual focus difficult, I had another go at the many crimson jellyfish but they elude me.

Two groups of people wanted to talk to us back on the beach, they asked us what we were catching and we had to explain that its a marine reserve. This is not the first time I have been asked that on this beach, I'm surprised by the lack of awareness.

Publicado el 04 de junio de 2023 a las 04:34 AM por shaun-lee shaun-lee | 10 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario