Tag Archives: Hawkfish

Cauliflower coral

Fourspot butterflyfish and a head of cauliflower coral
Fourspot butterflyfish and a head of cauliflower coral

A pair of Fourspot Butterflyfishes disturbed a pair of Arc-eye Hawkfishes perched in a head of Cauliflower Coral, as they often do. The coral head is doing OK, but areas of it have died off, probably during one of the coral bleaching events that have happened in the past few years, where the water gets too warm.

I can get chilly fairly easily when I go swimming, but for me, it’s more distressing when the water feels oddly warm because I know this is bad news for the corals.

Arc-eye Hawkfish

An Arc-eye Hawkfish waits in coral in the waters off Hawaii
An Arc-eye Hawkfish waits in dead coral in the waters off Hawaii

Arc-eye Hawkfishes come in two color variations. The top photo shows one that is reddish tan with a white stripe on the side. The bottom photo shows a fish that is a darker brown with no white stripe.

According to my fish book, John P. Hoover’s The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals, the white stripe coloring is most common in deeper water where the coral is spaced farther apart. In shallower water, where the coral colonies are closer together, the darker coloring predominates. However, both these photos were taken in shallow water so it’s not an either/or situation.

The morning dip

A whitetip reef shark passes below looking, I think, for a quiet place to get some rest.
A fourspot butterflyfish swims by a patch of cauliflower coral, some living, some dead. There are two spots on each side, but this fish was very small so the second spot was still filling in as space allowed.
A blue goatfish cruises by.
A green linckia sea star and lobster molt. Most green linckia have five arms but can have four or six. They’re able to reproduce by detaching an arm which will eventually develop into a new star.

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Morning Rituals.’ See more responses here.

Most mornings, I try to get in the water, as conditions and schedules allow. Morning is the best time for snorkeling as the water is usually calmer before the wind picks up as the day wears on. Visibility can vary from day to day and it can help to check surf reports to see if there are any swells moving in. But calm water doesn’t guarantee good visibility just as swells don’t always mean bad visibility. There’s only one way to be sure and that’s to jump in.

My favorite thing about snorkeling is that every day is different and I never know what I’ll see. Going to the same spot means I become familiar with some of the regulars, but there are always transient creatures passing through including rays and dolphins. And while those big creatures are great to encounter, it’s equally interesting to watch the activities of smaller fish and marine invertebrates.

It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t emerge prattling on about something I saw while I was in the water. And on those rare days, well, I’ve still had a good swim to set me up for the day ahead.

It wasn’t until I processed this photo of a goldring surgeonfish that I noticed the stocky hawkfish resting motionless below it.

Arc-eye hawkfish and bleached coral

This is a typical pose for an arc-eye hawkfish, keeping very still as it nestles in a head of cauliflower coral. But the coral is not well. This patch is mostly bleached. The causes of coral bleaching include warmer than normal water temperatures, pollution, and sunscreens containing coral-killing ingredients.

Because of this third factor, Hawaii has passed a bill which will ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. This law goes into effect January 1, 2021. While this will help, it won’t do anything to keep harmful chemicals out of water runoff, and it won’t do anything to prevent the warming of the Pacific Ocean.

Last fall, we had a coral bleaching event here because of warmer ocean temperatures. It wasn’t as bad as feared, but still did damage to corals that were just recovering from previous bleaching events. There are one or two snorkeling sites here that I don’t visit anymore because the state of the coral is just too depressing. I’d like to think that this degradation can be reversed but, honestly, I’m not optimistic about that.

Redbarred hawkfish

redbarred hawkfish

Redbarred hawkfish, like other hawkfish, spend most of their time perched motionless on a rock or coral head, waiting to dart out at passing prey, usually little fish or small crustaceans. On some fish, the bars are more of a brick red, similar to the color of the red pencil urchin on the left of the photo.