Whitemouth moray eel in a tight spot

Whitemouth moray eels can squeeze into the tightest spots on the reef and are often seen with just the head sticking out. They’re easy to identify with their bright white mouths, which they’re constantly opening and closing. While this activity looks somewhat menacing, they’re actually forcing water over their gills in order to breathe. That’s not to say that, if you waggle your finger in the face of an eel, it won’t bite it off so, as with most creatures in the water, it’s best to keep at a reasonable distance and be respectful of them.

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Two geckos

These two gold dust day geckos share the same expression as they gaze up at the interloper looking down at them. It’s not unusual for plants to harbor several geckos. Sometimes this results in turf wars, but mostly they seem to tolerate each other, once the pecking order has been established.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Creatures and Critters.’ See more responses here.

Honolulu day trip

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Day Trip.’ (See more responses here.)

Any trip on the Big Island could qualify as a day trip, as everything can be reached and returned from in a day. But a common day trip in Hawaii is a visit to one of the other islands. This might be for work, for medical reasons, for some other kind of appointment, or simply for pleasure.

These photos are from my last trip to Honolulu. An early flight from Kona Airport and a late afternoon return gave me plenty of time to conduct my business and have a wander around downtown.

The top photo shows the entrance to the Hawaii State Capitol building. To the right is Kawaiaha’o Church, constructed between 1836 and 1842, and considered the main Protestant church in Hawaii. Below is one of Honolulu’s large office buildings, somewhat screened by a generous amount of palms and other trees.

Sunrise over Kohala

The view, to the northeast, from the scenic overlook above Kiholo Bay, as the sun rises over Kohala Volcano.

Ixora

Ixora flowers at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. This evergreen shrub will flower year-round in the tropics and comes in a variety of colored blooms. It’s also known as jungle flame and flame of the woods.

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

When cattle egrets have no cattle

Today we tackle the thorny question of what cattle egrets do when there are no cattle (or horses, or sheep, or goats, or lawn mowers) around. They accompany these various animals and machines to feast on insects and small animals disturbed by the grazing.

When they don’t have others to stir up these things, they do it themselves. This group of cattle egrets methodically combed a scrubby field, eating as they went. As they moved across the field, birds from the back would fly forward and take up their position at the front. By the time a line of birds ended up at the back of the bunch, they’d probably scoured their section of field of easy pickings, so they leapfrogged to the front again.

When they reached the fence at the end of the field, they moved higher on the hill and began the whole process again. Finally, they reached the top of the hill and, after a while took off, first in ones and twos, and then in greater numbers until they had all gone.

A senior spotted eagle ray

This spotted eagle ray is a regular visitor to one of the spots where I go snorkeling. It’s not the largest one I’ve seen but it is certainly bulky and has the biggest head I’ve ever seen on an eagle ray. It looks like an older ray which has been in the wars, with a number of scars and bits missing here and there.

The top photo shows the eagle ray headed my way. It curled up over the rocks and coral and then veered around and headed back out to deeper water. The photo to the left gives a good view of the head as the ray prepares to use its large, duck-billed nose to dig into the sand in search of molluscs and other organisms that they feed on. The photo below shows the ray cruising a little way above the sea floor.

Shrapnel

These days, the military conducts exercises at its Pōhakuloa Training Area in the saddle between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Hualālai. At 133,000 acres, it’s the largest such installation in Hawaii or anywhere else in the Pacific.

But during World War II, the military leased 91,000 acres from Parker Ranch, around Waimea and down towards Kawaihae. A temporary base, called Camp Tarawa, was built on this land, and much of the rest of it was called the Waikoloa Maneuver Area. This area was used to train troops for campaigns in the Pacific.

After the war, the land was returned to Parker Ranch. While it was cleared of most munitions, a lot of shrapnel can still be found there today. The top photo shows part of the haul from a half-hour walk through the area. The coin is a U.S. quarter, a little under an inch in diameter. Many of the pieces have lines, grooves, and other marks that might help identify what munitions they were once part of.

The photo to the right shows a piece of shrapnel lying in the dirt in the scrubby ground that makes up most of this area. Kawaihae Harbor can be seen at the top right. I thought it would be hard to spot shrapnel in this terrain, but it’s surprisingly easy. Shrapnel has a slight, but distinctly different look to the dirt and lava rocks. Pick it up and it’s noticeably heavier than any of the rocks.

Hunting for shrapnel isn’t without risks. Apart from the dangers of wandering around on rough, unstable ground, there’s always a chance of finding something live. Best tread lightly.