On a morning swim with my wife a couple of days ago, we were lucky enough to see a spotted eagle ray cruising around looking for breakfast. It stopped often, to probe the sand and rocks for food, and was successful at least once, since it emerged from its efforts chewing and swallowing. This eagle ray looked a bit battered, with damage to its tail fins and a chunk missing from its right wing, but it didn’t seem to be affected by this at all.
As we continued swimming, I saw the ray heading the same way. For a while it followed us, got ahead, then we followed it. On the way we saw a couple of flowery flounders, a couple of day octopuses, a crowned jellyfish as roughed up as the ray, and an oriental flying gurnard. It’s not a great photo of that, but it’s the first one I’ve seen here.
Near the spot where we planned to turn around and head back, I passed over a hole in the rocks and, glancing down, saw the distinctive shape and colors of a green turtle. I think it must have chosen this spot to take a rest, but my appearance startled it and it clambered out of the hole and swam away.
Shortly after that, the turtle encountered the eagle ray. The two of them crossed paths a couple of times before going their separate ways.
I encountered this Gosline’s fang blenny recently while snorkeling. It seemed to be curious about me, swimming in my direction and then turning away. Perhaps it was thinking about taking a bite out of me, because that’s what these fish do. They bear a resemblance to juvenile Hawaiian cleaner wrasses, which clean larger fish. These blennies use this similarity to sneak in and take a bite out of the bigger fish.
And what about the name? These blennies have fangs on their lower jaws that they use to bite the inside of the mouth of any predator that grabs them. It’s usually enough to cause the predator to spit them out.
I’ve mentioned before that great barracudas give me the willies more than sharks do. But the truth is, that while they look menacing, I’ve yet to see one being aggressive. The black fish in this photo wasn’t far from the barracuda, but was ignored by it as it swam by.
Even though they unnerve me, there are times when I just have to laugh. A couple of weeks ago I was snorkeling, puttering along as I looked around for things of interest, and I happened to look behind me. One of the very large barracudas was following me, about a body length behind. The instant I looked back, the barracuda turned away. It could have been a great photo, but I wasn’t ready for it and then the fish was gone. It was also a good illustration of the fact anything that might attack me in the water is highly likely to take me completely by surprise.
Barracudas will follow spear fishers in the water, hoping to snatch their catch, and I think because of this, they’ll follow anyone in the water in the hope that they might be in the fish acquisition business, too.
I saw this rather splendid stareye parrotfish sitting motionless on a patch of sand with its dorsal fin raised. It’s the first time I’d seen a parrotfish do this and I don’t know the reason. At night they will find a crack in the reef to sleep, but during the day they typically cruise around and are very skittish around people.
This photo shows the ‘beak’ of the parrotfish, which is made up of individual teeth that are fused together and are incredibly strong. It uses this ‘beak’ to scrape algae off rocks and also to dig into the coral. After grinding this up and extracting the organic matter, the residue is expelled. This parrotfish poop forms most of Hawaii’s fabulous white sand beaches!
Yesterday, my wife and I went snorkeling at our usual spot. The visibility was pretty good so, on our way back, we decided to cross the bay and see how it was on the other side. The visibility got worse, not awful, but with more particles in the water.
Suddenly, I saw something large off to my left. I pointed to it and turned to my wife to see her pointing in the same direction. We’d seen this coastal manta ray at the same time. The ray was crossing in front of us and I snapped a couple of photos knowing they wouldn’t be good, but to at least have a record of the encounter.
The ray looked set to disappear into the murk, but then it turned and came back towards us. It passed in front of us again, turned again. Back and forth the ray went. On different occasions, it went by so close in front of each of us that we could have reached out and touched it. It was clearly as curious about us as we were entranced by it. Finally, it made one last pass and seemed to wave at us as it receded into the distance.
This was a smaller ray with maybe a 6- to 8-foot wing span and most of this time it was swimming near the surface, so we got great views of it. Manta rays are plankton feeders and have no poisonous spines so they’re amongst the least dangerous creatures in the ocean. I hadn’t seen one since last August so this made the occasion even more special for me.
After it left, we headed back in. It would have been hard to top that encounter.
On a walk at Kiholo, I noticed a bit of a ripe smell in the air. When I got to the top end of the lagoon I found the reason for it. The shoreline was littered with clumps of these dead fish. There must have been several hundred of them all told. I don’t know the reason for the stranding, but the scene reminded me of images of fish markets or still life paintings.