Kimberley Whale Watching – wildlife tours from Broome, Western Australia http://kimberleywhales.com.au 10 day whale watching and wildlife cruises along the Kimberley coast, ex Broome. Mon, 31 Jul 2017 04:54:26 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.3 37488247 New records of corals from Adele Island http://kimberleywhales.com.au/new-records-of-corals-from-adele-island/ Wed, 21 Jan 2015 01:29:19 +0000 http://kimberleywhales.com.au/?p=3980 Richards, Bryce and Bryce have recently published a paper highlighting the unique assemblage of corals, rollaliths and coraliths at Adele Island, the farethest island off the Kimberley coast.

A subtidal zone of mixed corallith and rhodolith habitat appears to be the most extensive on the Kimberley coast, and an atypical Organ Pipe Coral habitat zone has an unparalleled level of benthic cover.

Read the article here: bit.ly/AdeleIsland

An assemblage of corals on a small bombie near Adele Island off the Kimberley coast.

An assemblage of corals on a small bombie near Adele Island off the Kimberley coast.

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New locations for rare species discovered http://kimberleywhales.com.au/new-locations-rare-species-discovered/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/new-locations-rare-species-discovered/#respond Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:59:32 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=3412 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-21/new-populations-of-rare-species-discovered/5685418

Updated 

A survey of two islands in the Kimberley has uncovered new populations of native animals, including threatened species.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife and Balanggarra Rangers conducted an 18-day survey on Lacrosse Island, Buckle Head and a nearby mainland site.

A wide range of species were found, including the threatened golden-backed tree rat and a healthy population of the endangered northern quoll on Buckle Head.

A bandicoot was caught on camera on Buckle Head, but it is unclear if it was a threatened golden bandicoot, or the more common northern brown.

Principal research scientist at the department Lesley Gibson said the discovery of the tree rat was fantastic.

“It’s an amazing animal, and its distribution has shrunk quite considerably over the years,” she said.

“It’s believed … various threatening processes on the mainland in terms of fire and introduced animals have had an impact on its population and also on its habitat.

“It’s actually quite a beautiful looking animal and the fur is really quite soft, so it’s a very fragile looking animal I would say.”

The common rock rat was recorded on both islands, and the water rat on Lacrosse Island.

Buckle Head

New species of snails were also discovered.

“During our Kimberley island survey we discovered 80-odd species of land snails that are completely new to science,” Dr Gibson said.

“It tells us the Kimberley is a hot spot for land snail species.

“The protection of those islands is particularly important for protecting the biodiversity of land snails.”

Dr Gibson said some of the animals were potentially under threat from cane toads.

“We hope the cane toads aren’t able to get to all the islands off the Kimberley coast, and so when we find a new population of quolls on the island it’s potentially a refuge for that species,” she said.

“[But] a lot of the islands are quite close to the coast so there’s always the chance that they will naturally invade some of these islands.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said a diverse range of reptile species was observed at the three sites, including the giant slender blue tongue skink on Buckle Head.

The animal is only found in the northern Kimberley.

“Scientists also uncovered a collection of chewed Owenia nuts that they suspected had been deposited by the endemic scaly-tailed possum,” Mr Jacob said.

“The possums managed to elude their traps but a scaly-tailed possum was later identified on camera.”

Dr Gibson said plant species found on the sites were still being evaluated.

She said it was hoped to work with local Indigenous people to survey more sites in the future.

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Drones for whale research http://kimberleywhales.com.au/drones-whale-research/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/drones-whale-research/#respond Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:05:26 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=3408 ]]> http://kimberleywhales.com.au/drones-whale-research/feed/ 0 3408 Whale watching magic off Broome’s Cable Beach http://kimberleywhales.com.au/whale-watching-magic-off-broomes-cable-beach/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/whale-watching-magic-off-broomes-cable-beach/#respond Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:16:59 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=3505 We had a  wonderful whale watching interaction today with two very curious juvenile Humpback whales.  These two young cetaceans approached the boat, diving under and around the vessel, and circling the boat for nearly two hours.   The whales were just as curious about us as we were about them, and at one point one of the youngsters lay upside down under the vessel, with both pectoral fins outstretched, studying the underside of the boat.

We moved away twice but the whales followed the boat, seeking us out.  One of the whales displayed a clear hemisherical lump on the ventral surface (a female) and the other appeared to be a male.

Pair of juvenile Humpback whales off Broome's Cable Beach

Pair of juvenile Humpback whales off Broome’s Cable Beach

Juvenile Humpback whales off Broome's Cable Beach

Pair of juvenile Humpback whales off Broome’s Cable Beach

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Morning in the mangroves http://kimberleywhales.com.au/morning-mangroves/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/morning-mangroves/#respond Wed, 23 Apr 2014 02:20:35 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=2869 Broome’s Dampier Creek

It’s early morning in the mangroves lining Dampier Creek on the fringe of Broome’s Chinatown, and air is alive with birdsong.  A small female Broad-billed flycatcher alights briefly on mangrove pneumataphores, the spiky air-breathing roots that emerge from the mud at low tide, as a Bar-shouldered dove sings out above her.

There are around 6km² of mangroves surrounding Dampier Creek, one of the reasons that Roebuck Bay is listed as a RAMSAR wetland of international significance, and with eleven species listed in the Bay, Dampier Creek is important in that it has some of the highest species diversity and tallest trees.  There is a distinct zonation in the mangroves; typically Avicennia, Rhizophora and Ceriops in a landward direction.  Subject to Broome’s enormous tidal variations, the mangroves are covered by tides of up to 10m on a high spring tide.

A female Leader Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula) in the mangroves near Streeters Jetty, Dampier Creek, Broome.

A female Broad-billed Flycatcher (Myiagra ruficollis) in the mangroves near Streeters Jetty, Dampier Creek, Broome.

Red buds on a Mangrove Mistletoe in Dampier Creek, Broome

Red buds on a Mangrove Mistletoe in Dampier Creek, Broome

 

Rhizophora Stylosa mangrove flower, Dampier Creek, Broome

Rhizophora Stylosa mangrove flower, Dampier Creek, Broome

Lenticels, or pores, are visible n the woody pneumataphores of the mangroves in Dampier Creek.

Lenticels, or pores, are visible on the woody pneumataphores of the mangroves in Dampier Creek.

Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis) resting in the mangroves in Dampier Creek, Broome.

Bar-shouldered dove (Geopelia humeralis) resting in the mangroves in Dampier Creek, Broome.

 

Tracks in the mangroves, early morning.

Tracks in the mangroves, early morning.

A Mud Whelk (Tenebralia palustris) in the mangroves in Dampier Creek, Broome.

A Mud Whelk (Tenebralia palustris) in the mangroves in Dampier Creek, Broome.

For more information on Roebuck Bay see the Roebuck Bay Working Group website.

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Wet Season Wildlife in Roebuck Bay http://kimberleywhales.com.au/wet-season-wildlife-roebuck-bay/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/wet-season-wildlife-roebuck-bay/#respond Mon, 03 Mar 2014 00:31:39 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=2089

Heading across the bay to the waters off Thangoo, we spotted six of these gorgeous little newborn Zebra sharks (Stegostroma fasciatum) swimming along on the surface. Only about 30cm long at birth and fairly recently hatched, the pups hatch live from a clutch of up to ten eggs after a long incubation period. The eggs are relatively large at 17cm, with sticky fibres which allow them to stick to the seafloor.

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Juvenile Zebra shark

Juvenile Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) in the waters off Thangoo.

Zebra sharks are carpet sharks and one of the closest relatives of the whale shark. As adults, the sharks display beautiful leopard spots.  Ruthless nocturnal hunters, the adults hoover prey into their mouths, crushing it in their muscular, rotund cheeks. As they evolve into adulthood, the sharks, like most teenagers, go through a spotty stage. The juvenile stage of this species is so different in appearance to the adult, that for some time they were thought to be separate species.   Juvenile Zebra shark (image courtesy Wikipedia) We were able to capture this Barramundi mooching around near the surface (but only on film, alas no fishing lines on the boat).  There were plenty of big Barramundi hanging around the entrance to Crab Creek where the water was alive with mullet and other bait fish.

Barramundi - Roebuck Bay

Barramundi – Roebuck Bay

There were also several pairs of Three Spotted Swimmer Crabs (Portunus sanguinolentus), locked together in a mating embrace.

Three Spotted Swimmer Crabs (Portunus sanguinolentus)

One of the most remarkable things about the Kimberley wet season is the change in sea surface temperature in Roebuck Bay, and the influence of freshwater inundation from the enormous shallow wetlands on Roebuck Plains.  As millions of litres of freshwater flow off the plains, the inshore waters heat up as tidal mixing occurs near Crab Creek.  In the middle of the bay the water temperature was a relatively cool 28.3°c, but just off Crab Creek the water was 32°c.  In Dampier Creek, where very little freshwater is flowing into the creek, the temperature was back down to 29°c.

Wet season rain clouds cast dramatic shadows over Roebuck Plains in the Kimberley wet season.  Water from the plains drains into Roebuck Bay, bringing an inundation of fresh water. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2010)

Wet season rain clouds cast dramatic shadows over Roebuck Plains in the Kimberley wet season. Water from the plains drains into Roebuck Bay through many channels including Crab Creek.  (© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2014)

Tidal mixing off Crab Creek

At this time of year, the shores of Crab Creek are home to flocks of migratory shorebirds including Bar-tailed Godwits, which undertake epic journeys from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere to feed on the shores of Roebuck Bay. A flock of migratory shorebirds at Crab Creek on Roebuck Bay.

Flock of migratory shorebirds at Crab Creek on Roebuck Bay.

A juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle near Dampier Creek

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Spring Tide Sandbank Walk http://kimberleywhales.com.au/spring-tide-sandbank-walk/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/spring-tide-sandbank-walk/#respond Sat, 22 Feb 2014 13:58:45 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=3025 On a humid February evening, we took the boat out to a sandbank in the middle of Roebuck Bay to photograph the tropical marine life that is only exposed on this vast expanse of fine, silty sand on a very low spring tide.  Brightly coloured sponges, Comb stars, Brittle Stars, Feather Stars and crabs littered the sandbank, which covers an extensive area in the middle Roebuck Bay.  Of particular interest were the multitude of tiny Feather Stars associated with the sponges and pieces of coral; we counted fifteen on one yellow sponge.  We also found a sponge riddled with Five Lined Ribbon Worm, another new find.

As the tide receded,  Broad-billed Sandpipers foraged in the soft silt towards the water’s edge.  These Sandpipers are the only member of the genus Limicola.  Breeding in wet taiga bogs in Europe and Siberia, these beautiful little birds spend the boreal (northern) winter around Roebuck Bay, feeding by sight on insects and small crustaceans.

Bright orange sponge on the Broome sandbanks.  Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises

Bright orange sponge on a sandbank in the middle of Roebuck Bay at low tide on a spring tide cycle.

Colourful giant sponges litter the sandbank on a low tide.

Colourful giant sponges litter the sandbank on a low tide.

Yellow sponge and Feather Star.  Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, Broome, WA

Yellow sponge and Feather Star

Pink sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps) - Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, sandbank cruise

Sea cucumber

Kandy Curren photographing marine life in Roebuck Bay.  Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, Broome, WA

Kandy Curren photographing marine life in Roebuck Bay, Broome.

Anemone

Anemone and Feather Star

A Brittle star on the Roebuck Bay sandbank, Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, low tide sandbank cruise

Brittle star

A Comb star on the Roebuck Bay sandbank, Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, Broome, WA

A Comb star lies exposed on a low spring tide.

Two different sponges on the sandbank at low tide - Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises, Broome WA

Two different sponges on the sandbank at low tide.

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Walking the sandbank on a low spring tide.

A Broad-billed Sandpiper searches for prey on the sandbank.  The Sandpiper has a distinctive white eyebrow and a kink in the end of its bill.

A Broad-billed Sandpiper searches for prey on the sandbank.  The Sandpiper has a distinctive white eyebrow and a kink in the end of its bill.

 

 

Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises - Broome, WA

An incoming tide in Roebuck Bay covers the sandbanks exposed at low tide.

 

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Ghost crab http://kimberleywhales.com.au/ghost-crab/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/ghost-crab/#respond Wed, 19 Feb 2014 22:16:03 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=2062 A feisty Horn-eyed Ghost Crab (Horn-eyed Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) adopts a defensive position on Broome’s Cable Beach.  Ghost crabs are named for their pale carapace, and this particular species for the protrusions from its eye stalks.   Ocypode ceratiphthalmus is found on exposed, seaward beaches, and is active at night.

Ghost crabs have one claw larger than the other, and nest in burrows up to 200m from the low tide mark.  The burrows can be identified by conical piles of sand at the entrance.   Ocypode translates as “swift foot”.  Extremely fast runners, Ocypode ceratiphthalmus is one of the fastest crustaceans on sand, running on three legs (a common gait for ghost crabs) and reaching speeds of 7.2km per hour.

Horn-eyed Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalma) - image Kimberley Media

Horn-eyed Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus)

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Tiny wet season moth http://kimberleywhales.com.au/tiny-wet-season-moth/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/tiny-wet-season-moth/#respond Fri, 31 Jan 2014 15:09:13 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=1894 This tiny moth, only 1cm long, appeared after a period of heavy rain in Broome in late January 2014.   Moths belong to the order ‘Lepidoptera’ which means scaly wing, and are generally less colourful than butterflies, with no hooks at the end of the antennae.  They are nocturnal, and rest with the wings folded flat, rather than vertically as for butterflies.

Read more from the Australian Museum

A tiny moth, photographed in the wet season in Broome - Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises

A tiny moth, photographed in the wet season in Broome.

 

 

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Sea snake with a broken back http://kimberleywhales.com.au/sea-snake-broken-back/ http://kimberleywhales.com.au/sea-snake-broken-back/#respond Tue, 10 Sep 2013 13:19:41 +0000 http://www.kimberleywildlifecruises.com.au/?p=1887 Stokes' seasnake with a broken back - Kimberley Wildlife Expedition Cruises

Stokes’ seasnake with a broken back

We spotted this Stokes’ sea snake (Astrotia stokesii) swimming near the surface off Cable Beach today, with what seemed to be a broken back.  Whilst still able to stay afloat, the snake displayed difficulty in submerging or turning over, and was probably the victim of a boating accident.  Stokes’ sea snake is amongst the largest and bulkiest of all sea snakes, reaching two metres in length and 26 cm in girth.  Young snakes, such as this one, have between 28–34 transverse dark centred ellipses along the back with narrower black bars or a pattern of blotches between the ellipses.

The snakes are able to dive for between 30 minuets and two hours between breaths, and are known to be aggressive.

 

 

 

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