Last week, I posted about an encounter with three spotted eagle rays (here). A few days after that I ran into one of the small eagle rays a little farther up the coast. The visibility wasn’t good – those pink spots are small organisms floating in the water – but the ray came so close that I was able to get a few photos. I’m pretty sure this was the same one that was so curious on the first encounter. This time it didn’t hang around but drifted by, disappearing into the murky water.
On a recent snorkeling outing, my wife and I hadn’t gone far when we saw these three spotted eagle rays cruising around. The one was bigger than the other two and I wondered if this was a family group.
The three went back and forth before disappearing in the direction we’d come from. Or rather two of them did. The third, the smallest of the three, looped around a few times and seemed keen to demonstrate just how quickly it could turn and swoop and soar. Eventually, it followed the others.
We swam a little farther, then turned and headed back. It wasn’t long before we ran into the two juvenile rays again. Both were zipping around, carving turns, dipping down and rocketing up. Again, the smallest one was the most demonstrative and I got the feeling it was just having a ripping good time, practicing its acrobatics.
But it was also clearly quite curious. A couple of times it came straight up to me and I could see it looking at me, probably wondering what this cumbersome creature was in the water. I like to think I helped confirm its own superior swimming skills as I splashed my way back to the shore.
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 hadn’t seen a spotted eagle ray in quite some time before I saw this one, hunting in deeper water. It looked in very good condition and had a fine array of spots.
This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Two Ways,’ the idea being to show a photo processed in different ways or to show two photos of the same thing taken at different times in different conditions. (See more responses here.)
I’ve gone with a photo taken yesterday morning showing it before and after processing. In the water, I use a basic point-and-shoot camera in a waterproof case. I don’t use lights or a flash so I shoot mainly on auto, because if my big fingers started pushing little buttons, my subject would be halfway to Japan before I got a photo. This approach can lead to some erratic results, including the image appearing somewhat murky, but usually this can be cleaned up during processing. On this day, the visibility in the water was cloudy, but not as bad as it looks in the before photo.
For photo processing, I use an older version of Photoshop Express (PE), which is a stripped-down version of Photoshop. Using the full version would be like me driving a Ferrari to the local store – way more power and features than I need. My version of PE has a ‘haze reduction’ feature, which is a sort of automatic one-stop processing step, but I prefer to do my own adjustments.
While the two versions look quite a bit different, the change is mainly down to simple adjustments in ‘shadows and highlights’ and tweaking the tones and colors in ‘levels.’ Besides that, I removed a few of the little red flares that often occur in these underwater images, and bumped up the sharpness a hair. That’s it.
Since I follow the same routine when processing all my photos, it goes very quickly. This one was all done in 5 minutes, and the result was worth it.
On a recent snorkeling expedition I was lucky to notice this eagle ray sliding by below in some hazy water. It’s the smallest eagle ray I’ve seen, with a wingspan of about a foot-and-a-half. Adults can have a wingspan of up to ten feet though the ones I see are mostly in the five to six feet range.
One nice thing to see was that this little ray was in perfect condition with nary a mark on it. Some of the bigger ones look like they have been in the wars.
I have a tendency, when out snorkeling, to revisit places where I’ve seen something interesting. So if I’ve seen a frogfish, a shark, or gargantuan blenny in a particular place, I go back there to see if it’s still there. Bear in mind that these are creatures that extremely mobile and move around a good deal.
And yet, there’s method in this madness. Many fish are territorial and so do occupy a very limited area which they defend with great vigor. Others might be more transient, but tend to feed in certain areas.
Spotted eagle rays fall into this latter category. They can cover large distances, but tend to feed on sandy bottoms, shoveling the sand with their bills to uncover the marine invertebrates that they feed on.
This eagle ray was dong just that, cruising low over the sand, pausing occasionally dig for potential prey. But after a long spell of this activity, it rose in the water, cruised around, and made a close pass, clearly checking me out. It did this a couple of times before heading back down and in toward the shore in search of food.
I don’t think there was any reason for this behavior other than a curiosity to see what this ungainly creature was that was following it. And it’s not alone in this behavior. Manta rays also do this along with dolphins, sharks, and a fair number of smaller fish. They’re curious about us; we’re curious about them. This is what makes getting in the water fun.
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 middle photo 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.