I was photographing this school of Convict Tangs when I saw this initial phase Surge Wrasse swimming in the opposite direction. This is not a fish I see too often and it’s one which my fish book describes as ‘one of the most difficult Hawaiian fish to photograph.’ I think this is because of its scarcity and it’s tendency to spend a lot of its time close to shore in shallow, surging water.
It’s been quite a while since I last saw a Manta Ray while snorkeling, so I was thrilled a few days ago when I saw a familiar shape heading towards me. It was low down in the water and when it saw me it veered away a bit, carrying on at a good clip despite swimming into the current running that day.
The manta was big, with a 10 to 12 foot wingspan, and a lot of pale markings on top. It seemed in good shape though its left wingtip appeared to be permanently curled up. I hoped it might slow down or turn, but that was not to be and it soon disappeared to the south.
Yellowfin Goatfishes often hang out in large schools close to shore, providing a splash of color against the rocks. I like seeing how the schools just seem to move as one. If I came back as a fish, I’d be bumping into other fish left, right, and center.
While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.
Schools of Whitebar Surgeonfishes are fairly common where I snorkel most. They cruise around rocky areas, feeding on algae. Often they can be seen with other reef fish such as Convict Tangs or Whitespotted Surgeonfish, seen in the background of the lower photo.
Most of the fish in this photo, with five vertical black bars, are Indo-Pacific Sergeants. But there are a few fish where the bars fade away and these are endemic Hawaiian Sergeants. The two species sometimes interbreed, so some of these fish might be hybrid sergeants. Regardless, they’re a familiar sight in the water, usually swimming in large groups and feeding high in the water.
The top photo looks like a single eel, but a closer look shows some color variation. It’s really two Whitemouth Moray Eels. I noticed the first one, with its head on the right of the photo, and took a few photos. Then a second, smaller Whitemouth swam into the picture. It was nearer to me, but then retreated into the crack angling at 45 degrees to the first eel.
It popped out of the other end of the crack, and the two eels looked at each other for a moment. The smaller eel then headed toward the other one, only to be greeted by a nip on the head. Chastened, it retreated back into its crack and that’s the way I left them.
The aptly named Convict Tangs are distinguished by six vertical black bars against a yellow-green background. One of these bars crosses the eyes, a feature common in many fish, which is thought to help confuse possible predators.
Convict Tangs are usually seen in large schools, again a tactic to deter predators.