Monday, December 29, 2008

Catfish Frenzy


Lee Point is currently experiencing westerly winds and lots of fresh water from all the run off. As a result, I keep seeing sharks foraging close to shore. After catching several Fork-tailed Catfish Arius sp. and one with three different small shark bites, I understand why I see the sharks patrolling the surf line.

I also caught and released a Shovel-nose Ray Rhinobatos typus. I am not sure what these cat fish and rays are feeding on but they are attracted to the wave action which is certainly having an effect on the sandy bottom. At low tide the beach is no longer smooth and flat but full of troughs and pot holes for lack of a a more descriptive picture.
One type of ray which looks like an Eagle Ray Aetobatus narinari is actually surfing the waves as it catches bait fish.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Westerlies Have Returned

The westerlies have returned and turned the beach into a surf zone if your game. The sun is back, the mozzies have been snapped up by the Bee-eater Merops apiaster whose snapping noise is a most welcome sound, as I figure one more mosquito has bitten the bullet.

FFI saw a pair of Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica in the vine forest as fruit is everywhere although the pair I saw seems to prefer the ground.

I caught a small Lemon shark Negaprion brevirostris off the beach in the surf zone. I was surprised to see many small sharks working in close to the beach & in such rough conditions.

While I was fishing off of the beach a very large Caspian Tern Sterna caspia was also fishing. This bird was an excellent diver as well as hovering effortlessly when lining up a target.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tropical Cyclone Billy

Tropical Cyclone Billy passed by and we have had 173 mm of rain. For the last two days, westerly winds have made kayaking impossible.




Friday, December 12, 2008

Purple Yam

When I first saw the distinctive Gardenia megasperma I was then surprised at just how many grew in the woodlands. Without their showy white flower they are easily just part of a green mosaic background. The same has happened with the yam vine.
The yam Ipomoea abrupta has a very beautiful purple flower
that is impossible to miss.
Now that they are coming into bloom they are every where.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Low Tide Lemon Shark


Sunrise three days running, just past the small shore break, during the low tide lull, small sharks were working where the turbid outflow was creating a ribbon-like line with the incoming clear tidal current. I cast a small popper when I saw their fins break the surface but they seemed intent on something else. Both Friday and Saturday were intense fishing, as schools of Trevally Caranx ignobilis, QueenFish Scomberoides commersonnianus and mackerel, were everywhere again feeding on small baitfish.

On Sunday, as I floated near the Lee Point rock outcrop, in fairly shallow water, a vortex spun my kayak around and as I peered over the starboard a fish about the size of a young horse was peering back at me. I didn’t have time to panic but as I assessed my situation I must admit I contemplated going in for the day.

I stayed out and not long after caught a Trevally which fought hard under the kayak. I expected it to be munched at any time and I brought it onto the deck as quick as possible as to not have a lurching shark try to grab it next to the kayak. I caught several more without any issues that I know about.

I saw the same or another similar sized shark 20 minutes later, but it seemed intent on heading in the opposite direction. I never saw its dorsal fin break the water, but I consistently saw smaller fins working the surface the rest of the low tide session. I also saw quite a few large rays in the cloudy outgoing tidal flow so I am thinking they were after specific prey which is still as yet unknown.

The shark I saw looked more bronze than this one. Local expert Dr Helen Larson of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, suggested it was perhaps a Lemon Shark Negaprion brevirostris. The shark I saw was more bronze than this one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

So Similar So Different

The Native Cherry Exocarpuos latifolius has a hard green seed sitting atop a sweet and luscious red fruit with prominent round leaves. The fruit is very editable.

A very similar plant Strychnos lucida the Strychnine Tree also has round leaves and orange coloured fruit but it contains strychnine. The round leaves have three prominent veins.

With the recent wet weather many plants are producing fruit. According to some sources the fruiting of these two similarly looking plants usually occurs at different times of the year. So in most years the fruiting season is an additional telltale to help avoid picking the wrong fruit.

Yesterday I met an indigenous family out looking for Hibiscus tree limbs for a fishing spear and they were also gathering Green Plum fruit. They were from Groote Eylandt and had relations living in Darwin. I was there foraging off the Green Plum and the Native Cherry. When I showed John the Native Cherry tree he did not seem too interested in it and it made me wonder if it is too much like Strychnine Tree or just didn’t grow on Groote Eylandt.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hot Humid Westerlies

It has been blowing a consistent 10-20 knots
from the west for five days now.
The mozzies have been restless,
kayaking can only be done
in places sheltering from the westerlies
and very little rain has fallen to relieve the 80% humidity.

These must be the winds that the Makassan traders
used when they sailed from Indonesia to start the Trepang hunting.

Still, the flowering and fruiting has been nothing short of extraordinary. I have been able to snack and walk every day this week.

I started eating the Green Plums Buchanania obovata
when they were a bit bitter,
but I used to like to eat green unripe apples as a kid.

Now that they are soft and ripe they are very sweet
and almost taste like a ripe banana,
but the green ants Oecophylla sp. guard them
so part of the harvest is removing unwanted guests
from entering your mouth.

The Peanut Tree Sterculia quadrifida
has been my next stop.
When the pods are brown the black seed contains
a soft paste that tastes a bit like a peanut.

One of the most striking flowers is the
Wild Orange Capparis umbonata
while its fruit is nothing like an orange.

The Wild Orange fruit is almost like a walnut inside
and very unpalatable so far.

The Jacob's Bloodwood Eucalyptus jacobsiana
is in full bloom on the cliffs
behind the coastal vine forest.
Birds were the first on the scene,
but now the insects are in on the feast.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What A Week For Flowers

FFThe Swamp Bloodwood Eucalyptus ptychocarpa was a surprise package and I must get back to capture its scarlet flowers.

The Mistletoe Amyema sanguineum var pulchrum is in full bloom and adding an exciting red to gum trees it prefers as hosts.

Quite a strange flowering plant was the Helicteres isora which was only flowering for a short period of time on one single day. Too bad if you were a bee and the wind was blowing the wrong direction.


The Green Plum Buchanania obovata is fruiting and I am determined to beat the Imperial Pigeons to taste this delight.

On our last walk into the grey soil district we discovered the rain had brought on the Freshwater Mangrove Barringtonia acutangula. We will definitely get back soon to see the splendid flowers in bloom.

We found our first herb growing in the middle of an old 4-wheel track. It smelled of spearmint and we think it might be Cleome viscosa which was used by the indigenous Aboriginals as a decongestant among other uses.


Now that I know what the Billy Goat Plum Terminalia ferdinandiana looks like they are everywhere. Its hard to believe the fruit is one of the best sources of Vitamin C to be found.

The Apple Gum Eucalyptus polysciada is flowering in some locations but not others. The bark is peeling away and makes this a very attractive gum tree, small but very creative.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wolf Herring Move In

On Sunday I caught and released several of these Wolf Herring. They have large canine teeth and are full of bones. It appeears there are still a few bait fish around although I could not examine the gut of the fish I caught. Low neap tide was around 10:00.

Dorab wolf-herring Chirocentrus dorab, a species of wolf herring (family Chirocentridae). Drawing by former FishBase artist Robbie Cada.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Waiting For More Rain

The bait fish have all but disappeared from the reef. I was told they were schools of Australian Herring. This morning I was lucky enough to catch lunch. I saw several mackeral shopping for lunch as well so I was lucky they left these Giant Trevally Caranx ignobilis for me.

There is plenty of fruit around the tropical vine forests so it in not surprising to finally see a pair of Sphecotheres viridis Figbirds. They were very melodical and entertained me for several minutes with their songs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not So Smooth

Although I have to wait a year to see the beautiful orange flowers,
the bark of the Scarlet Gum Eucalyptus phoenicea changes my perspective about gum trees always having smooth silky bark.
The elongated seeds help to identify this plant that loves the rocky granite hills where I often ride my mountain bike.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Training Your Vision to See

I ran across an amazing Sand Paper Fig Fiscus scobina on my walk yesterday.

Today I saw a another huge Sand Paper Fig shrub I had ridden past countless times. After you take the time to identify a tree you invariably start seeing it all over the place. You can eat the fruit when ripe and the leaves are rough enough to use as sandpaper.

I saw several Long-tailed Finches Poephila acuticauda amongst the tall grass. They are suppose to be quite common but I generally see the Double-Barred Finch variety Taeniopygia bichenovii more often than not.

A Paper Bark Tree Melaleuca dealbata growing near the Arafura Sea is in flower to the delight of the Rainbow and Varied Lorikeets.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lost My Favourite Lure


Yesterday I caught plenty of fish.
A lure became an instant favourite but needed refurbishing with a new ring and treble hook. Both had been unceremoniously removed during a piscatorial attack.

This morning it was attacked and then last seen in the jaws of a flying Mackerel of decent size. That was an amazing lure, just minutes before it caught a small Giant Trevally
and then flew around my kayak courtesy of a Tern who mistook it for a fallen fish.
What a morning, a bit rough but no red tide which was hanging around the beach at low tide yesterday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Out On The Savannah


Everywhere the Gardenia megasperma are in bloom.

Their perfume is intoxicating and the white flowers
can easily be seen. I am amazed at just how many Gardenia plants
there are considering it seems I never knew they were there at all.

The Salt Marsh Mosquitoes Aedes vigilax,
are active in the Monsoon Vine Forest.
Anywhere there was shade they were present in numbers.
The tides are neap tides but spring tides are
just around the corner and
I guess the females need to give their young a
feed or two before the eggs are laid.

The Cocky Apple Planchonella careya is starting to fruit.
The flowers are very delicate and fall off easily.
You can eat the fruit,
but so far I have not been impressed with bush fruit.

In the open woodland, where I often walk,
there are several very stately species of Eucalyptus.
One very tall and majestic example is the
Eucalyptus polycarpa.

Earlier in the year the Maranthes corymbose flowered
and now the fruit is ripe.
The Torres Strait Pigeon Ducula bicolour
has been feeding on the seeds.
The seeds looked succulent,
but were in fact, very woody and dry.

The Masked Plover Vanellus miles
egg has hatched and as predicted
the parents got very aerobatic
trying to persuade me to stay away
from their hatchling.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Biting Off More Than I Could Chew

Early morning on Lee Point.

I had just settled into the kayak when my handline started unravelling on the kayak deck.

Australian barracuda Sphyraena novaehollandiae

When I brought up this fellow it wasn't hard to see it would make things a bit too cosy in the narrow confines I fish in. Since it was also decidedly green, I towed it to shore with handline and paddle in hand, while it thrashed around and made several attempts to escape. I managed to remove the popper and get it back into the water as quick as possible.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


What a week!

We got our first night rain this week and as a result the green tree frogs were out attrating their mates and depositing eggs ANYWHERE THEY COULD.

March Flies are now on the go. I was attacked riding my mountain bike! What an attitude.

I have spent the last two weekends kayaking at Lee Point.
During the spring tides last week I saw three dolphins in the sandy bottom area feeding. According to Carol Palmer [] these dolphins could be locals.

This weekend during the neap tides I saw them again and for sure it was an Australian snubfin because I saw its head. Before today I only saw its small dorsal fin. Two weeks ago I saw them near the shore in Shoal Bay moving towards Lee Point as the tide was starting to go out. They seem to prefer the sandy bottoms and I think they are after the mullet.

I also saw a couple of green sea turtles surface near my kayak. They looked very strange as they steretched out their necks. They looked a bit like little ETs.

Monday, September 29, 2008

On The Water

My new arrival!

Getting out onto the Arafura via Shoal Bay with very little room to spare.

It's like old times! Surfing!
Sort of deliberate like a prowling fin near the shore.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Urban Ride

It rained today
and a ride through the urban sidewalks was sweetened by the fragrance of many flowering trees.

This is a variety of Syzygium which produces editable fruit. I was told it's common name is white bush apple.

According to Tantalite [] the fruit is ripe in December if the tree is growing in the bush. Native trees flowering out of sync with their native counterparts. How confusing!
Link: []

Another strange flowering plant was the freshwater mangrove Barringtonia acutangula.

The caterpillar, known as the Itchy Grub lives on the tree and can cause a nasty rash IF YOU BRUSH AGAINST IT so one common name is the itichy tree.

As well as the unusual flowers, the bark is ground up and has been used by the Indigenous Australians to de-oxygenate the river streams to harvest the stunned fish.

In the story "YathalamarraLand of the waterlily" this tree plays a significant role. According to Margie West:

"The Mundukul ‘rainbow’ site at Wulŋir that Malangi did paint is a restricted site because the Snake himself is considered to be malagatj (extremely dangerous). At this site there is a lone nithuk, freshwater mangrove tree (Barringtonia acutangula), which is regarded as poisonous and people in the region pound the bark to stun fish. If anyone goes too close to this site unannounced, or breaks a branch from this tree, Mundukul will spit lightning, unleash destructive storms, and may swallow people whole. Malangi was concerned about the possible interference with this dangerous place and recounted how the desecration of ancestrally significant trees in his Glyde River country once made him and his younger brother Charlie Boyun extremely ill, leading to his brother’s death a short time afterwards.