Abstracts: There’s something fishy about this painting

Abstracts-Painterly fish

Something fishy indeed. Little fish milling around in one of the Golden Pools of Keawaiki, and looking for all the world as though they’re in a painting..



Another shark

Whitetip reef shark

A couple of weeks ago I ran a post about my first shark encounter for about two years. Then, like buses, another one came along within three weeks.

The latest was another whitetip reef shark, which are the sharks most commonly seen around here. I was swimming in shallow water, when the shark popped into view over the edge of a drop off to deeper water. It was quite close and moving fairly quickly, so I snapped this photo as it zipped by, before disappearing on the other side of me.

The photo isn’t the greatest, but I post it for two reasons. The first is that it shows the black spots on the side of the shark. These are a way of identifying individuals because the spot patterns are unique to each whitetip reef shark.

The second reason is that I usually have my camera zoomed in (it’s not a high-powered zoom) so that I’m more likely to get a quick shot of a small fish before it disappears. This photo is zoomed in, but when I first saw the shark, my immediate thought was, ‘I’m going to have to zoom out for this.’ In the photo, the shark is probably around 10 feet away. Compared to the shark in my previous post, the details of this one, such as the gills, are much more pronounced though this shark was smaller, probably about 3-feet long.

Whitetip reef sharks are not considered much of a threat to humans, though they are curious and, as this one did, will come close to take a look. When people do get bitten by whitetips, it’s usually spear fishers towing their haul, or someone provoking the shark, possibly entrants in the worldwide ‘My Dumb Selfie’ competition that so many people seem so keen to enter.

Monarch butterfly on a tasselflower

Monarch butterfly on tasselflower

I like getting out and about and, when I do, I’m constantly on the lookout for everything from insects to whales. When I go for a walk, I usually say something along the lines of, ‘I’ll be back in an hour, unless I see a bug or a butterfly.’

This was one of those days. Turtles in the bay, a giant African land snail oozing across a dirt road, and this monarch butterfly doing the rounds of the tasselflowers. A good walk indeed.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Place in the world.’


Keawaiki beach

Keawaiki Beach

I’m not a person who goes and spends a day at the beach, but I have been drawn to water and the ocean all my life. Possibly that’s why I’ve ended up in Hawaii, where the place is surrounded by it. And who wouldn’t be drawn to the water here?

This is Keawaiki Beach on the South Kohala coast. It’s a steep, black beach where sometimes the surf can roll in. But on a day like this one, it would be a fine place to swim. And on this particular day, not a soul was there, just me and my camera.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Place in the world.’


Arpophyllum spicatum

Arpophyllum spicatum

Arpophyllum spicatum is not a typical-looking orchid, but it is a member of the orchid family, originally from Central America. It’s sometimes called the candlestick orchid because of its tendency to form a dense column of flowers. This one, at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, is a little looser.

For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to htbg.com.

Cauliflower coral not spawning

Cauliflower coral and arc-eye hawkfish

Cauliflower coral

Cauliflower coral was once a mainstay of reefs along the west coast of the Big Island, but has been in decline for a while. Then, in late 2015, high water temperatures caused a huge coral bleaching event, which resulted in a die-off of more than 90% of the area’s cauliflower coral. In some places, nothing was left. Because of this, the reproduction of surviving corals has become of increased importance.

Different corals have different methods of reproduction. Cauliflower coral reproduces in a synchronized spawning event. During this event, the corals release gametes (eggs and sperm) into the water, creating a milky cloud. For many corals, the spawning event takes place at night, but research indicates that cauliflower corals spawn shortly after sunrise, two or three days after the May full moon. At least, that’s what I was told.

Consequently, twice last week, I got up at an early hour in order to be in the water before 7 a.m. in the hope of witnessing a cauliflower coral spawning. Yes, that’s the kind of life-on-the-edge that I lead.

The first priority was to find some live cauliflower coral, easier said than done. There were a few patches in deeper water, but since visibility was not great, it would be almost impossible to tell if and when they spawned. After some finning around, I found a shallow spot with three small clumps and decided to pin my hopes on them. The live coral was part of a larger mass, part of which had died, as can be seen in the photos. Also to be seen in the photos are an arc-eye hawkfish (above), and two four-spot butterflyfish (right) among others. Corals are very important to fish stocks because many small fish, and the young of bigger fish, use the coral for protection, a place to hide when threatened.

What’s not to be seen in the photos is any evidence of spawning, because I didn’t see any. It was unlikely that I would. Conditions might not have been right for the coral or my timing could have been off. The May full moon is actually on the 29th so it might be that the spawning will be at the end of the month, not the beginning. I’ll try again then.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Unlikely.’


Three-legged anole

Three-legged green anole

Three-legged anoleI love nature, but I’m reminded from time to time that it isn’t always warm and fuzzy. One such occasion was when I noticed that one of the resident green anoles was getting around on fewer than the standard issue number of limbs. Something nasty had happened to him, possibly in the form of a larger anole.

I’d always assumed that such a disadvantage would make it unlikely the creature would survive in its Darwinian environment, but it didn’t seem to bother this anole unduly. He defended his territory with vigor and while he had a slightly lopsided gait, it didn’t appear to affect his ability to get around or to hunt. I saw him more than once, leaping from one leaf to another and snagging some unfortunate bug that wasn’t paying attention.

So perhaps this was a different kind of positive aspect of nature — unless you’re a bug that is.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Unlikely.’

Hawaii ‘elepaio

Hawaii Elepaio

Hawaii Elepaio on a branchOn the first decent day after a long spell of grey, wet weather, I headed up to the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, just off Saddle Road on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea. I figured that even if the weather let me down, it’s a drive that I enjoy, so it would be OK regardless.

However, the closer I got to my destination, the less promising it looked. When I got to the junction, where a 4-mile dirt road leads to the trailhead, I almost turned around since it seemed unlikely there would be anything to see. The mountain looked shrouded in cloud, but since it’s only a 15-minute drive and the road didn’t look too muddy or washed out, I thought I’d give it a go.

When I pulled into the deserted parking area, the sky was grey, the air was damp, but it wasn’t actively raining and the visibility was OK, so I set out on the mile-long loop trail. As usual, I could hear a fair number of birds. It’s just spotting them that’s the trick there. But there are a couple of places on the trail that seem to get a lot of action and this day was no exception, including my first photos of a Hawaii ‘elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sandwichensis).

Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii Island each have their own species of the endemic ‘elepaio, which is a member of the flycatcher family. The Big Island version is more boldly marked than the other two and this one obligingly set down in a mamane tree not too far away, affording me a decent view and the opportunity to take photos.

One tidbit that I found interesting about the bird is that when ‘elepaio were seen to frequent a given koa tree, this was a sign to canoe makers that the tree was likely insect infested and unsuitable for making a canoe.

For more information about Palila Forest Discovery Trail, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/restoremaunakea/palila-forest-discovery-trail/.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Unlikely.’