This scene drew my attention because of the smooth, round rock nestled into a matching recess in the shore (bottom left in the top photo). It was when I zoomed in (bottom photo) that I noticed the large number of helmet urchins stuck to the shoreline. These cheerful-looking purple blobs live in the harsh tidal zone, and area of crashing waves and surging water. They feed on algae that grows there.
In the middle photo, an a’ama crab skirts a colony of urchins. When the tide comes in, the crab will move to higher ground, but the urchins will stay put, tenaciously defying everything the ocean throws at them.
A little snapshot of things tucked into the rocks along the Big Island. There’s a red pencil urchin and blue-black urchin, a patch of cauliflower coral, and a cowry, probably a reticulated cowry. And if you look closely, there’s a bright-eyed damselfish swimming between the coral and red pencil urchin.
Achilles tangs are surgeonfish, with a scalpel near the base of the tail, in the aft end of the large orange-red spot. They’re quite common in shallow waters near the surge zone. This one is passing over a patch of coral, dotted with red pencil urchins.
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.
I was watching some fish in fairly shallow water when, below them, I noticed this eel tucked away in a groove in the rock. It looked different to anything I’d seen before, but often the young of a species can look very different to the adults. However, a browse through my fish book showed it’s a dwarf moray eel, which doesn’t grow to more than 12 inches long. The clinching feature, which can be seen in this photo, is the dark bar through its eye.
Dwarf morays are fairly common in Hawaii, but because of their size and their reclusive nature they’re not often seen. This was as far as this eel emerged from of its hiding place so I was happy to get this shot.
I think the pinkish pincushion next to it is a rock-boring urchin, which gets its name from the fact that it can bore into solid rock by scraping with its spines and teeth. A second of these urchins can be seen in the little recess below the main one.
I found this triumvirate in some shallow water. I saw the white-spotted sea cucumber and blue-black sea urchin first, then noticed the stocky hawkfish. As they do, the hawkfish held its ground for a while, before deciding that was enough of being observed.