Category Archives: Fish

Feed the birds

A black-crowned night heron tries to eat a tilapia
A house finch eats tree heliotrope fruit

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Feed the Birds.’ See more responses here.

In the top photo, this ambitious juvenile black-crowned night heron snaffled a tilapia from a large backyard pond. However, that was the easy part. I watched it for quite a while, trying to swallow the fish. It flew from the pond into a tree, then on to another one, before returning to the ground beyond some rocks. The fish was still in its beak, but no closer to reaching its stomach.

In the middle photo, a house finch chows down on the fruit of a tree heliotrope (Tournefortia argentea).

In the bottom photo, a palila feeds on a mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) seed pod. Typically, a palila will grab a pod from one place and then take it to another branch to eat it. It pins the green, immature seed pod to the branch, as in this photo, and then bashes away at it with its powerful beak. The seeds are poisonous, but palilas have developed an immunity to the toxins. The brown pods in this photo won’t be eaten by palilas. They will remain on the tree for a long time before dropping and hopefully producing more trees, though mamane seeds have quite low propagation rates.

A palila eats a mamane seed pod

A walk around Kiholo Bay

Kiholo Bay sits midway between Kailua Kona and Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island. There are two main access points to the bay. One is via a gravel road south of the Kiholo Scenic Overlook on the main highway. This road takes you down to Kiholo State Park Reserve where there’s a campground and access to the beaches. I usually go that way, but on my last visit I wanted to try the hike from the main road.

There’s an unmarked parking area north of the scenic overlook. From there it’s about a mile to the coast, along a dirt and gravel road. This passes through scrubby trees where it’s likely goats will be encountered. They’re abundant in this area. The private property alongside the road is well marked, as is the public trail through to the beach. This trail comes out near a funky building decorated with things the tide washed in.

I headed to the right, along the beach towards Wainanali’i lagoon. There are a couple of houses along here, a palm-circled pool, and usually a canoe or two under the trees. Beyond the houses, a small bridge traverses a channel which connects the ocean to Wainanali’i fish pond. This is believed to have been built by King Kamehameha I, as part of an extensive fish collection and farming operation in the bay.

A bit farther along, a blue Kiholo Bay Fisheries Management Area sign marks where the trail forks. To the right, inland, it follows the old King’s Trail to Keawaiki. To the left, it hugs the shoreline heading north alongside Wainanali’i lagoon (top photo). The trail is loosely marked with white coral and/or cairns, but it’s not vital to follow them. I stick to the shoreline.

The lagoon is the remnant of a much larger fishpond, which was around 2 miles across and protected by a 20-foot wide lava rock wall. Much of it was destroyed by a lava flow from Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Today, the lagoon is a prime area for seeing green turtles. They haul out on a rocky island marking the mouth of the lagoon and on the spit that separates it from the ocean. This is where they rest so it’s important not to get too close and disturb them. I also usually see turtles in the water. They putter along the edge in blue-green water, which can give them a wavy appearance. Small fish are abundant here and are often seen.

Once at the head of the lagoon I watched humpback whales splashing and slapping offshore. It’s possible to walk down the spit (not disturbing the turtles), and if it’s calm you can wade or swim across the lagoon entrance back to the trail. Following the coast northwards will take you to Keawaiki, but I retraced my steps until I got back to where I first reached the coast. Then I carried on along the beach.

The waves were rolling in, good news for surfers. The beach here is sandy and vegetation borders it. If the tide’s in a bit of paddling is required. On the other side of this, some private houses border the beach including the Bali House and a sprawling, yellow structure.

Farther along, behind the beach, is Keanalele waterhole, also known as Queen’s Bath. This is a collapsed lava tube, filled with a mix of freshwater and saltwater, where it’s possible to take a dip in the manor of Hawaiian royalty of yesteryear. The parking area for Kiholo State Park Reserve, back in the trees, is followed by the Loretta Lynn house and the campground.

Here, along with several places along the walk, a fair number of birds can be seen including black-crowned night herons, wandering tattlers, Pacific golden plovers, yellow-billed cardinals, and northern mockingbirds.

The southern end of the park is marked by Waia’elepi anchialine pool. Anchialine pools form in volcanic rock and are connected underground to the ocean. The water is brackish, but the pools can be home to a wide variety of species. I saw goats drinking here as well as a variety of birds and insects flying about.

From there, I headed back to the car on the gravel road which parallels the coast and connects to the trail I came down on. My walk was about 5 or 6 miles, but I took more than 4 hours to cover that distance since I do tend to stop a lot!

For more walks worldwide, see Jo’s Monday Walks. Also posted in response to the current Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘On The Way.’ See more responses here.

Stoic reef lizardfish

When I go snorkeling, until I get in the water I never know what the visibility will be like, what I’ll see, and whether I’ll have any photo opportunities. I usually swim for about an hour or so and in that time I could take 40 photos or none at all.

On this day, I’d taken maybe two photos. I was in the process of taking my fins off and getting out of the water when I glanced down and saw this reef lizardfish just off to the side of the ladder. I had one fin on and one off as some moderate swell rolled in, so I hung on to the ladder with one hand as I ducked my head under and snapped some photos. Despite my ungainly thrashing around, the lizardfish remained planted on the bottom, possibly relieved when I finally got my act together and lugged myself out of the water.

Rosy red

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Color Challenge: Rosy Red.’ See more responses here.

The top photo is a very red gate at the entrance to a newly fenced field. The grey cylinders are protection for something planted inside, possibly macadamia nut trees.

The middle photo shows a group of soldierfishes, mostly pearly soldierfishes, though one or two might be the very similar bigscale soldierfishes.

Finally, the third photo shows the brilliant blossoms of a royal poinciana tree.

Blackfin chromis

These small damselfishes are often seen, but less often noticed, if that makes sense. They gather around coral heads but are quick to disappear when approached. At some point I realized that I’d seen these fish often but didn’t actually know what they were. Now I do!

Peacock grouper

I posted a version of this photo a long time ago, but thought I’d run it again because I like how the blue spots of this fish are highlighted and because it works for Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ (See more responses here.)

I most often see peacock groupers in 20 to 30 feet of water where they look somewhat dull in color. They also tend to be quite shy, hurrying for cover under ledges or whatever other shelter is at hand.

However, as with many kinds of fish, juveniles can often be found in shallower water. I happened on this young peacock grouper one day and it promptly headed for cover. Before it did though, I got a couple of good images that captured the sun bringing out the spectacular blue patterns that I rarely see when they run deeper.

Nuptial colors

A gargantuan blenny in nuptial colors

In November, I posted the photo below, showing a gargantuan blenny resting in a recess in some rocks. The top photo, taken at the end of December, shows a gargantuan blenny in the exact same spot. It’s probably the same fish and this is part of its territory.

But astute observers will note that the fish now looks completely different. That’s because it’s the start of blenny spawning season and this male has changed into its nuptial colors for the occasion. He looks rather dashing, I think.

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

A gargantuan blenny