Author Archives: Graham

About Graham

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

Hawaiian stilt feeding

Hawaiian stilts are endemic, but also endangered because of loss of habitat and a rise in predators. They’re easy to identify with their strong black and white coloration, long black beak, and even longer pink legs. This one was wading in deeper water than I usually see them, probing for arthropods and insects.

Going, going, gone

Last week I posted some octopus photos here. A few days after taking those photos, I had another octopus encounter which I enjoyed a good deal.

I swam over a rocky ledge and saw an octopus in the middle of a large, flat rock. The rock was pale, but speckled and the octopus was quite white with brown markings. When an octopus gets angry it will flush white, but that wasn’t what was happening with this one. Its paleness was an attempt to blend in.

I stopped and the octopus froze. I took a couple of photos. There was another rock a short way away with a dark area where it overlapped the rock the octopus was on. Very slowly, the octopus oozed out a tentacle toward that dark area (top photo). Once the tip reached the shadow it appeared to drop anchor. Then the body of the octopus followed, hauled along on that anchored tentacle. A few moments later, the bulk of the octopus reached the shadows and slipped from view.

It was a slow, deliberate process and I couldn’t help laughing to myself. It appeared as though the octopus hoped that by sliding off in this incremental way I wouldn’t notice its departure. Such a pretty octopus though.

Cliff ladder

My regular walk around Upolu Airport almost always occurs in the afternoon when I walk along the coast towards the east. This usually puts the sun at my back and the wind in my face. Last Friday, I went out in the morning and so walked in the other direction with both the sun and wind at my back. I was surprised by how strange it felt to do this. Approaching spots where I tend to stop and look for things in the water felt weird. I guess it shows what a creature of habit I’ve become.

One other oddity was this ladder propped halfway down the cliff face. I’d never noticed it before. Now, it might be a recent addition, but it’s also possible it’s been there for years because it is somewhat hidden when walking in the opposite direction.

The ladder was probably put there by someone who goes down onto the rocks to harvest opihi. The opihi is an edible limpet that is something of a delicacy in Hawaii. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Some people eat them right after they pry them from a rock. It’s a dangerous business though. They’re found on rocks right at the water’s edge and an opihi picker can easily slip or be swept into the ocean by big, breaking waves.

When I got home, I noticed the figure at the top of the photo. I hadn’t seen him at the time, but he’s an opihi picker who I ran into a little later on my walk.

Posted in response to Bushboy’s Last on the Card challenge. See more responses here.

Sulphur Banks Trail

One of the trails I took on my last visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the Sulphur Banks Trail, otherwise known as Ha’akulamanu Trail. It’s not far from the visitor center and so is usually popular with visitors because it’s an easy walk, about 1.2 miles roundtrip, and pretty level the whole way. But with few visitors around currently, I had the trail to myself.

This trail is one of several areas in the park where signs of volcanic heat can be seen even when there’s not an active eruption. Steam swirls upwards. The smell of rotten eggs indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide in the air, one of the volcanic gases leaking from the ground along with sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.

The yellow tint of the ground is due to the sulphurous gases and close examination reveals the sulphur crystals that have been deposited there. The crystals photo was taken at one of the displays along the trail. It wouldn’t be wise to thrust one’s camera too close to one of the active vents, such as those in the bottom photo.

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

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

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay beach

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Beautiful Beaches.’ See more offerings here.

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay, at Waikoloa Resort, is often referred to as A Bay for reasons that aren’t hard to figure out. In normal times this is a very popular spot. The beach is a long curve of pale sand with palms at either end. It’s popular with sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelers. There’s also a restaurant and bar at one end of the beach, facilities nearby, and shops not far away. And Ocean Sports operates various cruises out of the bay on a catamaran or glass-bottomed boat.

There’s a hike I like to do, which goes south from A Bay, and on previous visits I’ve skirted the crowds which are usually found there. However, these are not normal times. On my last visit I headed north. There was one person in the water, two on the beach. The ocean lapped gently against the shore. An offshore breeze rustled the palm fronds. Usually when I hike places like this, I’m an aberration with shoes and a fanny pack, marching through swathes of bikinis and board shorts and roasting flesh. On this occasion, I was an aberration just by being there.

More spinner dolphin photos

Three spinner dolphins catch the light as they cruise through the water.
A trio of spinner dolphins diving past me.

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about swimming with dolphins. Within a few months of moving to the Big Island I got to swim with dolphins. A large pod moved into the bay near where I was living and stayed for several hours. Swimming with them was great, but at that time, I didn’t have an underwater camera.

Since then, I’ve mostly seen dolphins from the shore, or just zipping by far enough away that I get a glimpse, but not much more. Several times dolphins have been around just before I get in the water, or just after I got out, or they’ve hung around in the bay on a day I didn’t swim at all.

Last week, several dolphins showed up just after I’d got out, but since they seemed like they might hang around, I got back in and swam out. By the time I got to the place they’d been, I saw them heading south. Four days ago, a small group of dolphins swam by, not far from where I was, without stopping. I got one not-very-good photo.

Three days ago, my wife and I were just preparing to get in when she saw dolphins. They were heading south, but not at speed. Then they seemed to pause. A couple twirled out of the water – spinner dolphins. Perhaps they were going to hang around. We got in the water and headed out.

From the water, it’s harder to spot dolphins unless they’re jumping. When I stopped to look, I couldn’t find them again. When I did, they appeared to be receding. I swam some more, looked up again, and saw dorsal fins. They were heading our way. I ducked my head underwater and got my camera ready. Moments later a group of 10 or more spinners emerged from the hazy water, got rapidly larger, and then passed by on either side of me. They kept going deeper into the bay and I turned to follow. I heard my wife shout and turned in time to see another group go by.

There’s no point chasing dolphins, and it’s not something anyone should do anyway. I’m not a fan of ‘swim with the dolphins’ tours, where they chase them and then dump a bunch of people into the water to get up close and personal. But when they hang around an area, I hang around too in the hope that they’ll come over to check me out. These dolphins did. The next few minutes were a whirlwind of dolphins passing, circling, diving, and occasionally jumping. In close proximity, their size and power was clear, as well as their intelligence and curiosity.

But then, as quickly as they’d arrived, they headed out to sea. The whole encounter was probably no more than 10 minutes, but it’s one I won’t forget, and when I got home I was thrilled that I’d captured several good images.

A spinner dolphin and snorkeler. There were four dolphins making circles around my wife for a short while.
A small group of spinner dolphins swims over sand and coral.

Swimming with dolphins

This is the final day of Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.

I was planning on posting images relating to the final days of people who were human sacrifices on the island, a long time ago in case you’re wondering. But I changed my mind after an encounter with a pod of spinner dolphins a couple of days ago. I’ll post more photos tomorrow, but here are a couple to start with.

The top photo shows one of the dolphins coming over to check me out. In the bottom one, a group of dolphins cruises by below me. From my perspective, there are few finer things in life than such an encounter.

What color is this octopus?

The answer to the headline is that it depends on the moment and the background. I surprised this day octopus when I came around a corner and it instantly changed color. Then it moved and changed color again. I edged away and it moved and changed color again. It changed about five times over the course of a few minutes and each change was like hitting a light switch – one moment this, next moment that.

Their default color is a gray-brown, but I didn’t see that on this occasion. The red of the center photo is a reaction to being surprised and the two mottled patterns are camouflage attempts.

Posted in response to Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.