Category Archives: September 2016

A memorial on the Kohala coast.

Memorial on the coast

A memorial on the Kohala coast.
As is the case in many places, the Big Island is home to a variety of memorials, put in place and maintained by loved ones. Many can be seen by the side of highways, marking the spot where a life ended.

I don’t know the story behind this one, but it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot with its view across the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel to Maui.

A spotted eagle ray swimming off the Big Island.

Spotted eagle ray

A spotted eagle ray swimming off the Big Island.A spotted eagle ray swimming off the Big Island.

During the summer months, the west coast of the Big Island sees more southwest or westerly swells. These tend to roil the waters and reduce visibility. So it was a pleasant surprise recently, to dip into the water and find good visibility for the first time in a while.

The good visibility wasn’t matched by the appearance of rarely seen, exotic fish. Only the ‘usual suspects’ were to be found, which is no bad thing. I enjoy watching even the most common of fish. However, I confess I was feeling a tad disappointed at having my camera and good conditions, but not seeing anything that especially fired my enthusiasm.

As if on cue, I looked up to see three spotted eagle rays coming toward me. One quickly slipped away and a second came and went. The third (photo at right) cruised back and forth nearby, keeping an eye on me as I kept an eye on it. It had clearly lost its tail at some point. I’m not sure if a new one will grow back. In the bottom photo, the venomous spines at the base of the tail can be seen, though the venom is not nearly as toxic as that of some ocean dwellers.

After a while, the two remaining rays headed out toward deeper water and disappeared taking with them any disappointment I’d been feeling.

For more information about eagle rays, go to
A spotted eagle ray swimming off the Big Island.

A Degarmoara Winter Wonderland 'White Fairy' orchid grows in the branches of a mandarin orange tree.

Degarmoara Winter Wonderland ‘White Fairy’

A Degarmoara Winter Wonderland 'White Fairy' orchid grows in the branches of a mandarin orange tree.
Apparently, there are around 8 billion different kinds of orchid. That, of course, doesn’t include hybrids. In my efforts to identify this flower, I tried all kinds of descriptions in my online search engine – ‘white orchid, purple spots,’ ‘epiphyte orchid, white with purple,’ ‘white and purple epiphyte.”

No matter what I tried I didn’t see anything that matched. I rifled through books at the library without success. Finally, I found a book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids edited by Alec Pridgeon, that also failed to solve my problem. But the photos in the book did seem to indicate that this flower might be an oncidium orchid.

So I searched for ‘oncidium orchid, white with purple spots’ and voila, there it was. Of course, this being orchids, some photos were identified as ‘White Wonderland.’ Others referred to it as ‘Aliceara Winter Wonderland “White Fairy.”’ I plumped for ‘Degarmoara Winter Wonderland “White Fairy”’ because that appeared to be the more numerous choice. In the world of orchids, there seem to be varying opinions as to which plant fits in which species.

Now the only question is, how did this orchid come to be growing deep in the branches of a mandarin orange tree?

A Secusio extensa moth on a yarrow plant.

Secusio extensa – fireweed biocontrol moth

A Secusio extensa moth on a yarrow plant.A Secusio extensa moth on a yarrow plant.
While out on a walk, I came across a patch of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and thought the patterns made by the flowers would make a good photo. So I chose an individual plant to focus on and by good fortune found this moth hanging off the side.

The moth is Secusio extensa (I’ve also seen it referred to as Galtara extensa) and it hails from Madagascar. While this begins to smack of another invasive species, in fact this moth was deliberately introduced to the Hawaii in 2012. The reason for that is that the moth’s larvae feed on fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis) and fireweed is a truly bad invasive species here. Besides spreading in a prolific manner, it’s poisonous to livestock.

What I particularly liked about this individual was that it appeared to be enraptured by the yarrow plant, bobbing its head up and down continuously. I also loved its comb-like antennae, which are more properly known as pectinate antennae.