Winter loves Rottnest Island

How do you imagine spending a winter’s day? In a log cabin somewhere in the snow perhaps, with mulled wine simmering by a roaring fire. Or preferably huddled under the blankets at home with a movie & someone cuddly. Well, we were lucky enough to get shipped over to Rottnest for nearly 3 weeks’ work recently and were amazed at how glorious it is in the wintry weather.

I admit I felt more than a little over-eager when I packed the snorkel, fins & boardies. It paid off. After some early rain, we caught the sunrise on a perfect day fishing at Ricey Beach. We lost a rig and I decided to go in and save it. It was absolutely glorious in the water; plenty warmer than the air out – and I figured out why we weren’t catching anything, too. There were about 5,000 herring surrounding the hook, but they were all fast asleep. What an amazing sight.

A quokka at our door © AshNathens 2015

A quokka at our door © AshNathens 2015

It was Yoon-Mi’s first trip out to the Island (and my first trip in years) – and she’d never been fishing in her life. I gave her a quick demonstration at the Army Jetty, and thankfully grabbed a herring on the first cast just to keep up appearances of being super proficient. I gave her the sixty-second primer on humanely killing, gutting & cleaning a fish thinking, well, what better way to impress a girl than such a manly skill? I should have known better. My girl is all over this stuff. 24 hours later she was teaching me a trick or two about fish cleaning and preparation for the table. I couldn’t get her away form the water for the rest of the trip; hail, rain or shine, she was down there at sunrise and sunset with a line in the water.

Of course, the other thing she hadn’t ever seen before was a Quokka. Well, she had to get all grrly about something. They really are the laziest creatures on earth. In the middle of the day when they’re ready for a nap, they just curl their head over onto their belly, shut their eyes and pretend the world  doesn’t exist for a little while. They have absolutely no regard for personal safety – they will sleep like this anywhere. In the middle of a road, on a beach with a rising tide, near an Osprey nest… they care not a squat. Oh, to live with such utter disdain of the world and all its evils. We could all learn a thing from the well-fed, fearless little quokka.

One of the most wonderful things about Rottnest in winter is that there are so few people on the island… it made for a pretty perfect trip. We got out biking around the whole island without the swarms of people, or the flies that are always around in summer – what a bonus that is. Most nights we caught our own dinner, and I don’t think we saw a television once.

Given the result in the #Ashes – no TV was twice the blessing.

Rottnest in winter? I highly recommend it.


Gallery of images

Links: Rottnest (wiki)Rottnest Island (official) • Quokkas

A Sunset for the Salmon

This week I have been a bit shattered by overnight work, and I wanted a bit of time out of the house. A walk down by the water is always quite therapeutic, particularly at sunset, and particularly in my little part of the world. Well, any beach on the west coast of Australia, really. Watching the sun set over the ocean is a pretty special thing. It is very common to see dolphins playing in the bay here, but this was a bit more special. We arrived just as a pod of dolphins had finished rounding up what must have been an enormous school of Australian Salmon into shallow water. Here, they would likely feed to repletion. If you look at the photo below, you will see the ripples over the water where the salmon wallow, exhausted from being chased. I could often see dolphin fins arching just out past the school, waiting for the occasional salmon to try desperately flee back to the safety of deeper water.

Surrounded on one side by dolphins, one by swarms of hungry, pecking gulls and another by humans, the salmon had no chance. We watched people crowded shoulder to shoulder along the waterfront with rods and reels, pulling salmon out of water no more than 2 or 3 feet deep at most. They hardly fought as they came ashore. The dolphins must have been chasing the school into shallow water for some time.

Followed by a seafood basket from one of Perth’s very finest Fish & Chip shops, it was a pretty special afternoon… so long as you’re not a salmon.

For them it was pretty bloody brutal.

Perth Summer

It has been a long Perth summer of fires already, and February is only halfway done. It seems the majority of them are deliberately lit; PolAir is overhead most days on the lookout for the little pricks. Yoon-Mi is coping with the heat, despite how much she tells people she isn’t. She’s a lot braver than she lets on;) It has been confronting for her at times; smoky, hot days where she can’t turn on the air conditioning despite the mercury hitting 40°C – it’s a totally different life for her, I’m sure.

This place also has its pros – it’s a pretty special little summer spot, our Point Peron. We’re down there often and in the water by 8am. It’s far from the maddening crowds, and surrounded by reef so it’s often glassy and calm. Perfect for snorkelling, sunbathing and just generally getting our peace on. Then, of course, there’s the wildlife. The nudibranch pictured above; what a beautiful thing these are in their habitat. And so much more! Flea was pointing out a little fish to me yesterday, just a wee thing by the reef she found pretty. I pointed out the enormous octopus sitting below it to her.  She nearly walked on water. Camera: Olympus Tough TG3

An octopus garden: unkempt things at the best of times.

An octopus garden: unkempt things at the best of times.

A juvenile flathead. Very pretty, will be tasty!

A juvenile flathead. Very pretty, will be tasty!

And Flea loved swimming very fast in the opposite direction with a stingray.

The Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti)

Australia – Snakes, Spiders, Bone Melting Heat

Flea has had to do some adjusting since she moved here to Australia. A year ago she was safe in London, wrapped securely in a festive reindeer Christmas sweater. Snow fell gently outside her office window as she pondered her next cup of tea and (more importantly) which biscuit to have with it. Sometimes she might have 2 biscuits, but then she risked falling asleep on the tube on the way home. That’s about as dangerous as life got for her in London, England.

Although she’d visited Australia previously, I think she has found living here to be quite a different experience. She has loved discovering my favourite beaches and swimming/snorkelling spots, but I’ve had to explain that I’m absolutely NOT joking when I teach her how to avoid stepping on snakes.

The Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti)

A Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) found guarding our shoes from flies at the back door. What a lovely chap! Photo: © 2015 Ash Nathens

Her first and most passionate hatred this summer was for the Daddy Long Legs spider. As the weather warmed and they began to proliferate, she went on a frenzy with a straw broom attempting to destroy them all. After a few days of this, I explained I personally tend to leave the Daddy Long legs alone. I like them about the place.

“Why?!” she asked, pleading desperately with my apparent manly lack of general household cleanliness. “How can you stand the webs everywhere? It’s a horrid mess!”

“Well that’s quite true, my love,” I explained, “Their webs are quite annoying. But they do wonders for the Redback problem.”

“What problem? What’s a Redback?” she asked, not at all convinced.

I gave a brief run-down on the Australian Redback and explained that currently we didn’t have a problem because of the Daddy Long Legs. And when, two or three weeks later, the Redbacks started showing up (in shoes & behind the couch etc) she got a decent look at one and she’s been befriending Daddy Long Legs ever since. How Australian!

How very dangerous this place can be was highlighted to us all just before Christmas when my family visited from New South Wales. We were enjoying a stroll down by the beach in a popular area; families with children running about the place everywhere. We had stopped briefly along the waterfront to enjoy the view of pristine white sand and clean surf. Half a Brown Snake writhed furiously at our feet, the other half trying with desperate vigor to squeeze down a small opening in the footpath. What was causing it problems was obvious: its last meal. A large, mouse-shaped lump was prohibiting its escape; the large bulbous shape causing a blockage half way down. After a few moments it abandoned its escape and decided to just bask in the warm afternoon sun with us. Right there at our (rapidly retreating) feet. It wasn’t quite an adult, probably only about 3’6″in length, but at any size a Brown Snake has a bite that requires rapid medical attention. (nb: One onlooker believed this to be a Tiger Snake; he could be right. The similarities in juveniles of some species are subtle, and I’m no herpetologist. Regardless, either of these snakes nibbles on your ankle, you need to get to a hospital).

Brown Snake

Our gluttonous friend the Brown Snake

Last and arguably the most deadly of all: the heat. I suppose it’s like any other climate: if you grow up learning how to cope with it, you forget how hard it can be. Flea has just gone out for a bike ride – granted it’s only a very pleasant 29°C today  – but regardless, one does not go out cycling at 2pm during a Perth summer. She’s tough and doesn’t complain anywhere near as much as she’d like to, but I’m certain she’s also coming slightly unhinged in the heat;)

Flotsam

flot·sam · ˈflätsəm · things that have been rejected and are regarded as worthless

Point Peron is my little haven, a rugged & rocky headland surrounded by fingers of reef that create protected bays perfect for snorkelling & swimming. I’ve taken hundreds of photos there over the years I’ve lived in the area, but in recent times I tend to leave the camera at home so I can enjoy the time with family. When the weather is wild, we walk around the limestone cliffs and explore some of the World War II bunkers and canon mounts. When summer is in its prime, it’s a paradise for swimming & snorkelling in the heat of early morning and just before sunset. Our diving gear is always in the car.

This photograph was taken late last summer (earlier this year) – a collection of the things I found when I’m diving off the  western shore. An anemone, some spirals that form the centre of large shells that have long since fallen to pieces… and a myriad of fishing gear. It’s quite literally everywhere at the bottom of the bay. I bring it all home so it’s not ghost fishing. The shells I bring home for Jasmine. This just seemed such a pretty little collection:)

flotsam_2400

“Flotsam” (click for full size)