Author Archives: Graham

About Graham

I take photos when I'm out and about, recording life on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Floating debris and tiny sergeant fish

I was out snorkeling with a friend when I noticed her taking photos of a small clump of floating debris. When I headed over to see what was so interesting about the debris, I saw a host of tiny fish swimming around and within the clump. This was a small example of how fish, particularly smaller fish, will use floating objects to give them some cover and security from predators.

Most of the fish appeared to be sergeant fish, probably Indo-Pacific Sergeants, no more than half an inch long, but with their dark bars quite distinct. There were a couple of other species there, too, in smaller numbers, but I’m not sure what they were.

The second photo gives a sense of scale and shows how small this little world was. It also shows the fish migrating across to check out whether this new clumpy thing might make a good new home. They did this with both of us, but returned to the floating debris, figuring wisely that it offered better shelter for them.

Posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Quiet Places.’ See more responses here.

Signs: Yes, but…

Back in June, I went to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to do a little hiking. The park had recently reopened and I thought it would be a good time to do some of the popular trails near the summit that are usually crowded. I was right about this because I saw hardly anyone all day.

One of the trails I hiked was the Byron Ledge Trail and when I got to a junction near the end of it I came across this sign. I knew the park had made the popular Kilauea Iki Trail one way, but I hadn’t known about it applying to any other trails.

As you might have guessed, I arrived at this spot from the pointy end of the arrow. I’d hiked the trail in the wrong direction. The problem was that there was nothing at the other end of the trail letting me know I shouldn’t enter. When I hiked Kilauea Iki later, it was the same: at the parking lot there was a sign saying hike this way, but nothing at the other entrances to the trail.

On my way out of the park I stopped at the entrance and mentioned this to the ranger on duty. When I returned to the park in August, I asked the ranger at the entrance if they were still doing one way traffic on some of the trails. She said they weren’t. I wasn’t surprised. To do it properly, it would require a lot of signage and, with the Visitor Center closed, it would be hard to get the message across to everyone who visits the park.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Water inlet

Behind the beach at Anaeho’omalu Bay are two fishponds, Kahapapa and Ku’uali’i. These ponds are typical of the kind that form behind a beach, which protects them from the ocean waves. The ponds are connected to the ocean by this channel, which allows was to come and go with the tides. A sluice gate was used to prevent fish using the channel as an escape route.

Where natural ponds weren’t available, they were created by enclosing areas with rock walls. I featured one such fishpond here.

In Hawaiian history, fishponds were very important. In such an isolated community it was important to have reliable food supplies. The ponds provided this, supplementing fish caught in the ocean. Many ponds have disappeared due to development, volcanic activity, tsunami, and the like. But the ones that survive are a bit of living history, used now more for education than for food.

For more information about Hawaiian fishponds go here.

A mantis buffet

At Upolu Airport, where I go walking a lot, there’s a mock orange hedge with a passion vine running through it. I check this hedge to see what’s happening on it and lately, it’s been overrun by flies. I don’t know why this is, but I wasn’t surprised when I noticed two praying mantises stationed in the hedge. They were having a field day.

The flies would flit around as flies do, but when one settled, a mantis would strike. Their success rate was quite high, but the flies were easy targets. The safest place to be was on one of the mantises, but that wasn’t a long term solution.

The scene remained the same over three or four days, and then, though the flies were still around, the mantises disappeared. I guess that’s understandable. I mean, how many flies do you think you could eat before you’d start looking for something different?

The golfball

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Towering.’ See more responses here.

Up near the top of Kohala Mountain is this array of towers. They sit in the middle of pastureland, surrounded by cattle and horses. The one with the large white ball on top is NEXRAD, the Next Generation Weather Radar, which provides current time information showing where clouds and rain are moving through the area. It’s also a navigation aid to local pilots who refer to it as the golfball.

The cattle don’t have access to the information from the golfball, but they know that when they’re wet, it’s raining, and when they’re dry, it’s not, and really that’s all anyone needs to know.

The morning dip

A whitetip reef shark passes below looking, I think, for a quiet place to get some rest.
A fourspot butterflyfish swims by a patch of cauliflower coral, some living, some dead. There are two spots on each side, but this fish was very small so the second spot was still filling in as space allowed.
A blue goatfish cruises by.
A green linckia sea star and lobster molt. Most green linckia have five arms but can have four or six. They’re able to reproduce by detaching an arm which will eventually develop into a new star.

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Morning Rituals.’ See more responses here.

Most mornings, I try to get in the water, as conditions and schedules allow. Morning is the best time for snorkeling as the water is usually calmer before the wind picks up as the day wears on. Visibility can vary from day to day and it can help to check surf reports to see if there are any swells moving in. But calm water doesn’t guarantee good visibility just as swells don’t always mean bad visibility. There’s only one way to be sure and that’s to jump in.

My favorite thing about snorkeling is that every day is different and I never know what I’ll see. Going to the same spot means I become familiar with some of the regulars, but there are always transient creatures passing through including rays and dolphins. And while those big creatures are great to encounter, it’s equally interesting to watch the activities of smaller fish and marine invertebrates.

It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t emerge prattling on about something I saw while I was in the water. And on those rare days, well, I’ve still had a good swim to set me up for the day ahead.

It wasn’t until I processed this photo of a goldring surgeonfish that I noticed the stocky hawkfish resting motionless below it.

Argemone glauca

Argemone glauca is an endemic plant, known in Hawaii as Pua Kala or Hawaiian Prickly Poppy. It favors the hot, dry, and sunny conditions on the west side of the island and can grow anywhere from the coast, where these were, all the way up to subalpine areas of the volcanoes.