Sunday, 29 January 2012

First Snorkelling of the new year!

A gigantic spiny starfish (40cm across)

A Bib (centre, with white, chin barbel), 2 ballan 
wrasse and a spiny starfish share a cave.

A large Cotton-spinner sea cucumber.

And last but not least a Cat shark (Dogfish)

Finally back in mask and flippers for the first snorkel of the new year! 
Winter is a strange time to snorkel/dive, you never know what you might see. The usual coastal fish retreat to deeper water, which maintains a more constant temperature throughout the year. The abundant seaweed forests die back. At first it can look barren and imposing. But despite appearances and the freezing temperatures it's definitely worth a dip, as rarely seen deep water creatures venture closer in.
   The first thing to strike me was the large number of invertebrates. Every nook and gully was crammed with sea cucumbers, common and spiny starfish and velvet and edible crabs. The starfish and cucumbers, though quite common, are usually only abundant on deep reefs at 25m (82ft) or below. 
   But the what really made the trip worth while was the spotting of a Bib and a large cat shark.
The Bib is a smaller and less known cousin of the more famous (though unfortunately rare these days) Atlantic cod. It is more often found on wrecks below 35 metres, so you can imagine my surprise to find one lurking in a crevice in 16ft of water! 
   The last great spot was the discovery of a large (over a metre in length) lesser-spotted cat shark (Dogfish) I've seen them twice before at Talland, though this was the first time I managed to get so close, as shown in the video the shark, bored by my persistent attempts to film it, went to sleep under a patch of oarweed. You can sometimes find whole groups snoozing like this. 

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