Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Heavenly Ho'okena

    Yesterday, being Tuesday, we took the chance that our favorite beach might not be overrun if we got there early.  And so it was that we arrived at Ho'okena around 9 AM.  It was an incredibly beautiful morning with bright blue sky and waves lapping gently against the shore.

The Christmas wrasse shoots up the wall of the old pier at Ho'okena
    As I arrived at the picnic table, in the shade, overlooking the bay, I said good morning to an Asian lady leaning against the adjacent rock wall.  Actually I said something like, "It doesn't look like the dolphins are in today,"  Which is a pretty close to the same thing down at Ho'okena. She turned and

actually smiled.  Then in English heavily accented with the tongue of the rising sun, she told me that the dolphins had been there yesterday and had stuck around until a lady went out and chased them.  They then they swam away.  We agreed that you don't need to chase the dolphins, just let them come to you. 

   About the time my new friend and I were finishing with dolphin philosophy Sandra made it to the picnic table.  Simultaneously,  Mariko-san walked over to join two Caucasian ladies of a certain age who had just arrived in a pick up, had lowered the tailgate and were sorting through their snorkel gear.

Bridled Triggerfish,  Ho'okena, 2011
   After some quick preparation Sandra and I were were making our way down the dark sand beach with the cool waves washing over our feet.  At the far end, the small surf gave my sweetie a little pause, but we entered together during a calm between sets and were soon snorkeling north along the shore. 

   The water was clear initially, but devoid of interesting animals.  When we made it to the foundation of the old pier, the water turned cloudy.  There we encountered a couple fast moving Christmas wrasses.  I did the best to get a picture, but fast fish are tough. 

   We then swam out together over the remaining coral heads until the water was forty feet deep and we were a couple hundred yards off shore.  Turning back and angling south, we were finally rewarded with a bridled triggerfish.  This is a fish we see regularly at Ho'okena and now

here else.  It comes in two flavors; the one we usually see is very dark with a light caudal peduncle.  The bridled trigger is a big fish, two to three times as big as the rectangular triggerfish, and it is always
Find four Potter's angelfish.  Only at Ho'okena.
deep. None of this explains why it is so shy.  I swam after him and dove for a picture, but  the fleeing fish didn't let me get within fifty feet.  The only other large triggerfish with which I have swum is the titan triggerfish.   Instead of being timid, that fish is downright menacing.  Perhaps some day a bridled triggerfish will turn and try to take a bite out of me.  Then I will get a good picture. 

   Nine years ago, I encountered a bridled triggerfish by the foundations of the old peir at Ho'okena.  It made a mistake and fled towards shore into clear water ten feet deep, enabling me to get the picture you see here.  This is a weird photo, but it is the best I have.  As I mention this fish every time I see it,  I thought perhaps you would like to see what one looks like. It's not a very pretty fish, but it is big. 

     Soon we arrived at the coral ridge where we see the angelfish.  It took only moments before we started seeing lots of Potter's angelfish.  I'm showing you a picture in which you will easily count four Potter's angelfish in a tight group. Unusual to say the least!
Flame Angelfish, Ho'okena August 2020

   More importantly, there was one flame angelfish that was exceptionally cooperative.  I was able to dive down about twelve feet and get within eight feet of this fish on several occasions.   Coupling my proximity with clear water and a bright sunny day,  I nabbed my best pictures ever of the flame angelfish.  I was not wearing weights, so my stability wasn't as good as it might have been.  Nevertheless, here are a couple pictures that I'm sure you will enjoy.

     After we exhausted the possibilities with the angelfish, Sandra and I headed over to the small remaining reef near the shore.  This little bit of coral occasionally produces something good.  And it is sufficiently shallow that whatever you see is within range of the camera.

   On this day we saw a large number of Gosline's fanged blennies.  Each year seems to provide a bump in the prevalence of something different.  Recently we went through a period where the beautiful teardrop butterflyfish was everywhere.  This year we are seeing a myriad of fanged blennies.  This little fish,
The flame angel turns showing off his his fancy blue trim.
 which makes its living by nipping scales off other fish, looks a bit like pencil, or perhaps a torpedo.  It is long and skinny and has relatively small fins.  Prior to this year, I would see one or two at a time.  For the last month I have been running into small schools of these fish.  More so than before, these fanged blennies are curious, coming right up to my mask to check me out.  Suffice it to say, I can see them when they come up and look me in the eye.  Not so much when they are checking out the rest of my aging corpus. I am expecting that sometime soon one of the little demons is going to want to see if one of my legs has scales, the better to provide his dinner.

    Often times, when you hear that we have made it ashore, you can predict that the story is coming to a close.  We had gained the beach and were walking in the warm dry sand, noting that at least two tents were set up in the campground that is putatively closed.  From the direction of the car park I saw a bird flying towards us.  It was big as a cattle egret but more compact. As opposed to snowy white, this
bird was a light buff.  A look at its face confirmed that this was a barn owl!  He barely stroked its wings as he sailed by.  For a very few seconds we had an excellent look at the owl, his flat face in profile, flying effortlessly in front of the green palm forest.  It was  heck of an image which I'm sure I will treasure for years to come. 

    We showered and changed and were just gathering our equipment together in preparation to depart when a large lady of a certain age lumbered by our table.  She had obviously been swimming, for at critical spots the wet of her swimsuit showed through the shirt she was using as a cover up.  On her
Barn owl soaring effortlessly   Museum of Natural History
wrist was suspended a red camera just like mine.  After saying hello, I asked her how she liked her Olympus camera.  She liked it just fine, she said.  She had two more at home that she was going to try to get repaired in hopes that her grandchildren could use them when they came to visit.  I wished her good luck with that, since I haven't found anyone that has much interest in repairing my TG 3 that stopped working a couple years ago.  The two that she was aiming to have repaired were both TG 5s, like the one I use currently.  The one on her wrist was a TG 6, which is the newest model and has not been out all that long.  La de dah. She went on to say that she had also had a TG 3.  But not only that, she had gone through three Fuji cameras, like you might purchase at Costco for $150. Those Fujis, she said, didn't last long at all.  (At this point if you listen carefully you can hear Falstaff muttering, "Cannon fodder, cannon fodder..)   And she had also owned a Panasonic and a Sony....  I stopped her before she could add one or more Canons to her list.  My dear old D10, still in the fight, couldn't bear it.   She explained that she goes swimming six days a week, so it was only natural that she would have destroyed at least ten expensive underwater cameras in eight years.  Oy vey!

   Unless I'm mistaken, this leviathan gets the gold medal for camera destruction.  I'm going to take good care of my TG 5 and hopefully we will have more photos for you soon.


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The White Trash River Bash

   Sunday morning we skipped church.  We did so because we have come to the conclusion that it isn't safe in these days of the Corona virus epidemic.  The service is held inside and we can't vouch for the efficacy of the filtration system associated with the AC. 
    Instead of church we decided to go swimming.  That morning there was a super low tide which precluded entering at Kahalu'u.  And so we headed north to Kawaihae with the intention of looking for
When it comes to pandemic response the Illini are not so different from the Hawaiians.
the psychedelic shrimp.  We got to the harbor about 9:15 and motored around to the small boat moorage where there are shiny new restrooms for changing.  We were impressed with the number of people who were using their boats; usually the moorage is a ghost town, but several families were in the area getting ready to set to sea. 

    Dressed for a swim, we drove back around to the harbor....where we were shocked.  Along the harbor front for perhaps 100 yards there was a continuous collection of large pick ups and portable cabanas.  Lawn chairs, barbecues smoking, people fishing and drinking their beverage of choice.  Out on the water there was a veritable armada of floating devices: kayaks and windsurfers, but mostly colorful inner tubes and mattresses bearing children old and young.  There was a mob on top of the second platform, which was surrounded by a flotilla of floating revelers.  One can assume that beneath the platform the nudibranchs were cowering in terror.

    Sandra quickly deduced that if we thought church posed an unacceptable risk, this collection of humanity was way out of the question. In any event, snorkeling alon
The juvenile Raccoon Butterflyfish.  Kahalu'u august 2020
g the congested shoreline and around the platforms would have been impossible.  

   On our way back south we nosed in to Beach 69 to find the parking lot full.  Clearly the citizenry north of Kona was out in force on Sunday morning.  I suppose this could have been because collectively they had decided that church was an unacceptable risk, but I doubt it.

   That night the evening news featured the White Trash River Bash which is an annual event on the Illinois River near Peoria.  Major Garrett encouraged us to be shocked that these 500 or so obese and inebriated Illini with their boats and inner tubes would congregate thusly, Trump banners floating in the breeze, during the height of the pandemic.  He had a point, of course, but given what we had witnessed at Kawaihae, it was mighty difficult to generate a full head of indignation.  Could it be that,regardless of our political persuasions, we are a nation united in our hedonism, unwilling to forego social gatherings regardless of the medical consequences? 

   Later that day I made it down to Kahalu'u where the tide was now high and there were just a few beach goers and even fewer swimmers.  I snorkeled for almost an hour in
Rocky and Spotty head off to school.
the cloudy water.  It was a good day for Christmas wrasses, which were too fast for me to capture with the camera, and juvenile fourspot butterflyfish.  Only at the end of my time in the water did I see something noteworthy.  A small, green dragon wrasse was swimming around a rock near the entrance.  He didn't stay out for long, hiding under a boulder before I could get his picture. 

   Right by the exit, but still outside in the bay, I spotted a small juvenile raccoon butterfly.  I may get over my enthusiasm for this fish fairly soon, but for now I am still a fan.  Finally I had a fish that would stay close and out of cover, so you are blessed with a pretty good picture of this amusing juvenile with his well demarcated occulus.  Additionally, I got a picture of Rocky swimming with a fourspot of about the same age.  Undoubtedly they were on the way to Mrs. Flounder's Little Red Fish House.


   For those of you who are acquainted with Casa Ono, last week witnessed a passing.  The Japanese fellow, who now owns Lonnie's house across the street, had the giant monkeypod tree removed.  Lonnie always kept the tree groomed.  We enjoyed that big fella immensely.  It took three noisy days for the
Peter's Family Tree.. Photo by Don Batkins
tree cutting company to cut it down, chip the branches and haul away large portions of the stump on flatbed trucks.  One of the arborists advised Sandra that they would have to store those trunks until the pandemic was under control.  In any event, my sweetie took several pictures of the giant as it was coming down.  She sent a couple of these photos to her creative cousin in New Hampshire.  Don sent back the fanciful creation you see here.  Sandra sent this along to Peter Krotje who, along with Marla, is in California for a month.  She asked Peter what sort of tree he thought it was.  His reply:  "My family tree!" 

                                                 Aye tear her tattered branches down
                                                 Long has they waved on high,
                                                And many an eye has danced to see
                                                Her leave up in the sky;

                                               Oliver Wendell Homes, loosely

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Juvenile Coral Blenny

   It's always easier to write a blog when there is a special fish or critter to feature.  Today we are lucky enough to have such a sighting to share.

   It was a lovely morning in Kona and I hitched a ride with Sandra down to Kahalu'u.  Immediately I knew something was amiss.  There was loud and repetitive guitar music emanating from the men's
The Hebrew Cone on the hunt.
changing room.  I could not help but poke my nose in, to find  there a fellow of forty some years, wearing a rough pair of cargo shorts and little else, His shaved head was the same bronze as his torso.  He wore a well trimmed mustache and a serious look as, seated upon the small wooden bench that had only recently been re-installed,  he hammered out the same blues progression over and over.  duh da duh da, duh da duh da. 

  My friend Vince, who holds down one of the chairs at the reef teachers desk, related that the gentleman in question had stated that his recording studio was closed due to the quarantine and the K Bay restroom was easily the next best thing.  Just the right bit of reverberation.

    Soon enough I left the music behind and hit the cool, clear water.  In the rocks not far from the entrance I found a Hebrew cone.  If you look carefully at this picture, I trust that you will see that tiny nub of a black tube protruding from the business end of the cone shell.  That is the siphon under which is poised the poison lance. This is the second cone that I have found hunting at Kahalu'u during the quarantine.  Prior to the quarantine I had never seen a hunting cone anywhere but at night in our Alii Villas aquarium,. So how cool is that?  And it begs the question, if a Hebrew cone is hunting, for whom does he search?  A Nazi nudibranch?

   After that bit of biology and political history, there was a lull in the action.  I made my way across the bay battling a modest current commensurate with the small amount of surf lapping against the Menhune breakwater.  Turning mauka, I floated with the current, all the while looking for something special.
The Juvenile Coral Blenny at first blush.

     I was just getting ready to make the turn north, into the middle of the bay when I floated over a small pinkish blenny with darker red spots. Although I had never seen this small fish before, I was fairly certain that I was looking at the juvenile of the coral blenny.

    We have seen coral blennies for as long as I have been swimming in Hawaii.  It was once called the short bodied blenny and it seemed, back in the day, that it was fairly uncommon.  For the last ten years at least, it has been quite common on the Ironman side of the pier. Not uncommon in lots of other spots, it is present  but not numerous at Kahalu'u.  As you have read the blog these many years, you may have noticed that baby fish do not always appear where the adults are the most common.

   The keikis of the reef are a curious group.  For those of you who live in the Pacific Northwest, as I once did, it is expectable that you will see calves and foals in the spring pasture.  And when you happen upon a fawn or a family of baby raccoons, it probably makes you sigh with pleasure.  At the same time, it does not strike you as ridiculously unexpected. With reef fish it is much more complicated.  There are some reef fish whose offspring are encountered regularly.  The keikis of  many of our common butterflyfish and parrotfish are seen regularly. But not all of them..  Every so often we see a baby fish that is so uncommon that we feel the sighting is a once in a lifetime experience.
The coral blenny peers out from his refuge.

  Many keikis are a smaller rendition of their parent, a perfect copy ten times smaller.  But a surprising number are quite different.  Some are so different, like the dragon wrasse and the red labrid, that were one ill prepared, he might think they were a different species.  As you see, the baby coral blenny is one of these fish.   

    And so it was with a sense of joy and wonder that I turned and readied the camera for my chance at this rare keiki.  As I prepared the camera, the current pushed me ten feet past the prize.  A few strokes got me a  bit closer to the blenny, who was perched on a patch of living coral.  I took one shot and moved closer still..  On my approach, he darted into a coral fenestration.  I swam up and took three pictures of him peering out at me. Hoping that this would be a brave and cooperative fish.  I let the current sweep me away, all the while looking for a good hand hold at a reasonable distance from the perch.  Luckily our new best friend was in an area with lots of living and not so lucky corals and I spotted a handhold about six feet from the perch.

Unicornfish and Cleaner Wrasse.  A lighter shade of pale.
    And you can see, the blenny returned to his exposed vantage and tolerated a cautious approach long enough for me to get a picture, at which point he lost confidence and darted back inside. This happened several times.  With each shot, I hoped for a picture in good focus. Finally I felt like I had enough and swam on.

    Out past Surfer's Rock I encountered a single cleaner wrasse working on an orange spine unicornfish..  It's a curious thing about getting cleaned.  It puts the fish in a different emotional state.  Undoubtedly there is a different mix of neurotransmitters exerting their effect and this is seen both in behavior, which is languid, and coloration.  Fishwatchers routinely refer to this as the fish "being stoned'. As you can see, this unicornfish was a lighter shade of pale.  Groovy.

   On that pleasing note, we tripped the light fandango and headed to the beach. 

   Back on shore, I met up with schmoopie, took a quick shower and headed in to get changed.  During my swim, the guitarist had not switched to Procol Harem, but was still hammering away on the same blues progression. 
Coral Blenny Juvenile, Kahalu'u July 2020

   The reef teachers were camped out inside the shelter.  I showed them my picture of the blenny and we corroborated it with the picture in the bible as interpreted by John Hoover. Juvenile coral blenny!  I then asked the multitude if any knew the movie Adventures in Babysitting. 

   No takers there, I located  my very own movie expert and advised, "Nobody leaves Kona unless they sing the blues." 

    And so it goes.  Stay one step ahead of the bad guys and maybe we'll meet in the Windy City you Thor's garage.


Quarantinewhile.  If you can't see the coral blenny maybe you can see Adventures in Babysitting!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Dodging Hurricane Douglas or A Big Fish at Kahalu'u

   Yesterday we got out in the yard early and cut some monstera.  It has been raining with such regularity that two of our spider lillies had rotted at the base and fallen over.  We got those
A Turtle swims by at Kahalu'u
to the yard debris in Waikoloa with little difficulty.  These are large plants, but once the tops were cut off, the base pulled right out of the rocky soil.  I'm eager to replant that area, but my co-conspirator will not let that happen until I clear out the monsteras behind the remaining spider lillies. 

   I did my job and then dodged inside as the rain increased.  If we were going to be hit by the first big hurricane of the year, this would be the day.  Three days earlier, the weather people at KHNL told us that there would be a direct hit on the Big Island.  But it's a big ocean and, despite our name, we are a relatively small target.  In the last 36 hours Hurricane Douglas had veered north, the eye passing 100 miles north of Hilo.  All we received from Douglas was the rain and that was hardly different from any other day.

   To reward her gardener, Sandra prepared a lovely breakfast, a cheese omelet, papaya, juice and toast.  By the time I had consumed that feast, the sun was shining through our front door.  Grabbing opportunity by the nose, I said, "Let's go swimming!"
Heh, heh.  Heh, heh.  He said, " Dog Do."

Soon enough we found ourselves down at Kahalu'u.  This has become the only show in town.  Here is the run down of the swimming opportunities from north to south:

    The Corps of Engineers has locked a gate that prevents car access to the Dog Beach at Honokohau.  This is unprecedented and we can't fathom why they have done this. We don't swim at the Dog Beach very often, but lots of people (and their dogs) do and they now have a longer trek to go along with the scramble over the lava ridge and boulders. 

The black durgon with its scale lines illuminated
The illuminated black durgon
    I actually went swimming at the Kailua Pier a few days ago, the water was cloudy and the algae bloom beside the pier was especially disgusting.  But worse yet, when I got out of the water and made a move towards the showers, I encountered a portable fence that surrounded the restrooms and the shower with a large Keep Out sign ... just in case one didn't understand the purpose of the fence.  This would explain the extreme paucity of fellow swimmers.  As I was standing there fuming, who should show up but a water inspector, who told the few of us assembled that, following the sewage spill a week earlier, the water in Kailua Bay was definitely mo' bettah.  This, of course, did not preclude a hot shower back at the ranch.

   Finally, down at Keahou Bay, the Sheraton has removed the ladder that they installed only recently to support the kayak concession.  One might assume that if Donald Trump forces Hawaii to re-open to the tourists,  the hotel will once again rent kayaks and re-install the ladder.  For now, we are left with climbing on the rocks, which was never much fun. 

   Back at Kahalu'u, the sun was out and the bay was welcoming.  Mobile Graphics had predicted that the tide at that moment would be +1 foot.  What we saw was more like +3; the Menehune breakwater was completely submerged.  As it was a peaceful day out on the ocean, this didn't matter very much.  As I was entering, three recreational swimmers exited,
The super male rockmover patrols the bay.
leaving me the entire bay all to myself.

   This high tide presumably represented storm surge from Hurricane Douglas and was the most significant thing we witnessed from the storm. 

   Early on I saw a barred jack, which while not very photogenic is a little unusual, and a turtle.  At about the same time I saw a group of black durgons.  One was illumunated as if he or she was in state of excitement.  At times in the past, I have seen several durgons even prettier than this one, but he or she is included for your enjoyment.

   After that it was pretty much usual suspects until I got to the area by the Rescue Shelter.  There I ran into a large super male rock mover.  I see a similar individual every now and then, but compared to the intiial phase and even the juvenile dragon wrasse, these big boys are much less common.  I suspect that they spend most of their time outside the bay, coming inside for whatever reason only occasionally. 

   As I watched the big male rockmover swim back and forth, appearing moderately pissed off that someone like yours truly would have the temerity to enter his domain.  As chance would have it, he led me right to an octopus peeping out from beneath one of the boulders.  This is the second octopus at Kahalu'u recently.  This particular beast was quite shy, so I don't have any remarkable pictures to show you.  Yesterday was Sunday and the octopus provided me with the opportunity to sing the doxology which, as you know, concludes with, "Praise octopus the Holy Ghost."  Amen.

   Back on shore, Sandra had noticed a new Aloha sign on the side of the shelter.  This is much more in the spirit of Hawaii.  When the politicians have cured the Corona virus, perhaps you will all come and visit and enjoy some of that signature Hawaiian spirit.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Morning at Kahalu'u

   Yesterday Sandra and I made plans to swim together at Kahalu'u.   To make the trip really worthwhile we planned to combine it with a stop at the KTA at Keahou.  As we made the turn from Kam III for the descent into the (almost deserted) shopping center we came upon a line of parked cars that snaked past the entrance to the Chevron station.  A moment's inspection revealed that these cars
A peacock flounder, Kahalu'u 2020.  Can you find the eyes?
had drivers who were in a super long line waiting for Covid testing.  For those of us who aren't sick, this was a sobering wake up call.

   Our mission at the KTA was to nab a brace of Swanson's bouillon, both beef and chicken, which were on sale for a whopping 77 cents per can.  After nabbing our broth, we took a look at the fish.  Low and behold, they had tambo, also known as bluefin tuna or albacore, on sale and we picked up a fine big chunk.  Luckily, Sandra had the forethought to bring a blue ice, which was inside the refrigerator bag given to us ever so long ago by Kim Hillis.  The Kimmy-bag would keep our tambo cool and collected while we swam.

   As per the new usual, there was hardly anyone at Kahalu'u at 11 AM on a Friday morning..  With the scarcity of patrons, we were able to secure one of a very few shaded parking spots.   Soon we were reclining in the warm water in that giant tidepool that constitutes our entry.  Out in the bay, we ran into a colorful peacock  flounder.   You can enjoy his fine blue rings and test your powers of observation by looking for his eye stalks and mouth.  This fish certainly has to be the envy of every
Our octopus imitating a chunk of coral rubble.
would be Jackson Pollock.

   A few strokes further into the bay and we found a strawberry drupe.  I tested his connection to the coral and found it firm; this was most likely the snail and not an opportunistic hermit crab and I did not pry it off for a glimpse of his golden operculum.

   Out by the Menehune Breakwater we were cruising along when a small octopus swam under me.  He quickly found refuge in a coral.  He wasted no time in coming out for a visit, first on one side of the coral and then, after I scared him a little, on the other.  Once situated on this second perch he changed colors and textures a few times, doing his best to imitate the coral to which he was attached.

    Obviously, when we see an octopus, it is rare for him to remain in a posture that one readily identifies, with eight legs visible and his big snout thrust forward.  I thought I would show you a just such a classic octopus picture purloined from the internet.  In searching for such a picture, I came upon an article on octopus farming.  The author noted that octopus farming is occurring in many countries, what with ocopi being a favored food dish in a variety of hungry cultures.  He went on to take the position that this was not a great idea.  First, octopus farming has the same negative ecological implications that fish farming presents, pollution from the food fed to the octopus and the subsequent waste they produce.  Nitrogen, phosphorous and all that crap.  Literally.
Day Octopus, Kahalu'u.  July 2020

   He then went on to complain about the inhumanity of keeping these intelligent creatures in captivity.  At the outset, I would like to say that I harbor a personal kinship with the octopus.  I recognize his intelligence and wonder about his life.  But its hard not to look at a different side of that coin.  I am not about to become a vegetarian and I have no misconception about the sad conditions in which the chickens and cattle are confined.  At the table, I say a little prayer, thanking the animal for his sacrifice.   I ought to be more reverent about my eggs and milk, as well. Clearly a cow or chicken can't open a jar, solve puzzles or play with a toy.  I'm not going to eat octopus, but I still hold the souls of those less clever animals in esteem.

    Meanwhile, back at the bay, we were heading for the exit.  Right there, in the shallows of the tidepool entry, I encountered a juvenile Racoon butterflyfish.   I still have not gotten over how many years it took before I started seeing this handsome juvenile, mostly in this single location.  I tracked him up the entryway, taking multiple pictures.  You can probably tell that the water in which I was working was quite shallow and turbulent.  Once we got the pictures into the
A handsome Raccoon Butterfly juvenile,    Kahalu'u   July 2020
computer, I found that I had perhaps my best ever shots of this remarkable juvenile.  However, there truly was a lot of debris stirred up by the turbulence.  Can you tell that I worked with the clone brush to make the picture a bit more appealing?

  In the evening we enjoyed our grilled tombo and we even saved some for tonight's picnic dinner.  Watching  the news as we ate our fish, we caught Meahlani Richardson on Hawaii News Now telling us that more quarantine breaking tourists have been caught and persecuted on the Big Island than any other, even Oahu.  With that level of enforcement, Sandra and I might actually be able to stay out of the Covid testing line.  And we hope you do as well.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Wendy and the Eye Spot Shrimp

   Last Friday we treated Peter and Marla to an Aloha Nui Loa brunch.  Sandra prepared poached salmon and a lovely pasta salad and Costco provided cheeses and croissants.  Now, for those of you who don't live in the land of the kanaka, aloha nui loa, means good bye, adios, see ya later and our friends are headed back to SLO, which I have learned is the accepted abbreviated handle for San Luis Obispo and environs.  They leave tomorrow, are going to stay five weeks and hope to purchase their
The Eyespot Shrimp, Kawaihae 2020  photo Hai On
next home.  In California.  Far away.  Bummer.

   Towards the end of our sumptuous meal, while Peter and I were working our way through my sweetie's pineapple upside down cake, he asked if we had seen his blog about the psychedelic shrimp.  Well, our days in the land of psychedelics are over, but we can still look at the shrimp, which in actuality is known as the eyespot shrimp.  So as it evolved, this was not a farewell banquet... the relationship would survive at least until Monday when we would reconvene at Kawaihae for a look at the psychedelic shrimp.

   So it was that yesterday, a few minutes before 9:00, Schmoopie and I arrived at the surf park at Kawaihae harbor.  As I was buttoning my shirt and heading off across the car park to greet Hai and Lottie, a lady pulled up behind our faithful Honda.  She was driving a shiny red Toyota and wore a
Peter guided us to a most prolic cauliflowerr coral
big smile.  She actually waved at me.  Not only that, but she followed me over and we greeted Hai and each other at the same time.  Her name was Wendy and my name was....well, you already know who I am.   Hai, whose excellent picture of the eyespot shrimp you see above, was already tending his garden.  He has planted zucchini, a succulent that is bursting with pretty red flowers, and
honeydew melons.  There were, nestling among all that greenery, seven or eight maturing melons, each perfectly smooth, pale green and full of promise.  They were just larger than a softball and  I commented to Hai that he would soon be the inadvertent purveyor of Midnight Melon.  If the citizenry can walk off with the pineapples growing in the planter at the Methodist Church, what hope lives for the melons in Hai's absence?  He said I could have a melon or two when they got ripe and I volunteered to bring him something in trade.  He suggested a lemon tree!  I countered with a red ginger, which I am much
  Haig's Hermit Crab stand forth for the Huskies. Kawaihae July 2020
better at propagating than lemon trees.

   About the time that this theoretical bartering reached its curious conclusion, Peter and Marla drove up.  Suddenly things started coming together. Wendy is their friend and swimming companion from Mahukona.  She had come down to Kawaihae just a couple times to swim with them and, in the natural way of things, met Hai and Lottie.  Now she had met us and we were all going shrimp watching together.   As had Marla departed for a brisk walk while the four of us, in full snorkeling regalia, headed down to the harbor.  As we walked, Peter allowed that the shrimp was far from a sure thing, which shrimp being furtive, didn't exactly surprise me, although it was disappointing.

    We swam east about one hundred yards to arrive at the single coral head where this unusual shrimp has been seen.  Peter dove down on the coral, about four feet below the surface, and looked between
A Red Spottted  Guard Crab defends his coral.  Kawaihae 2020
the leaves.  I followed his example and saw no shrimp, for a moment I was eye to eye stalk with a Haig's hermit crab.  With its purple legs, Haig's Hermit Crab stirs the  Husky Spirit that is always simmering just below the surface. and just this week we learned that the Huskies will play their PAC 12 schedule.  Curious  tidings in these unsettled days of Covid 19.  But I digress.

   Peter did not find any shrimp, which didn't seem to surprise him at all.  At this point Marla swam up and she, along with our two erstwile companions, departed.  Sandra and to remained to look some more for the shrimp and also for other crustaceans living in that large pocillipora coral.  In addition to Haig's, we found a convex crab and a red spotted guard crab living in the depths of that single coral.

When two Painted Nudibranchs bill and coo like this.. Kawaihae, Juny 2020 
   With all of crustaceans safely documented, Sandra and I headed across the harbor to the platforms.  On the way I found a large gloomy nudibranch cruising the surface of a rock about ten feet down. 
At the platforms, Schmoopie got to choose and she decided we would start our exploration on the
middle platform.  She made an excellent choice, as on the mauka side she found a pair of painted nudibranchs, presumably in the process of making the two headed mollusc.  These were good sized painteds, just under two centimeters in length.

    We had been swimming for about an hour and Sandra was thinking it was time for her to start heading in.  Everyone likes companionship when they are swimming so I talked her into joining me at the third platform.  Sandra chose the sunny mauka side and I started working from pillar to pillar on the shady ocean side.  About halfway along I peered around a pillar and was face to face with a juvenile scribbled filefish.  He was handsome guy about nine inches in length hanging vertically
The young scribbled filefish strikes and odd pose.  Kawaihae 2020
against the pillar just below the surface.  I called to Sandra and she swam around.  I didn't want to scare it away, so I waited until Sandra got there.  She took a look and then I looked.  The filefish had begun swimming across the space under the platform.  It was now about six feet away, still perfectly vertical, but now mostly a silhouette in the bright, cloudy water.   So minimal were his movements that it was impossible for me to tell what the source of the locomotion might be. Regardless, he achieved the opposite side and snuck behind one of the giant fenders that just reach the water at high tide.

   It didn't look like we were going to get a good picture, but we swam around the platform where  Sandra found the filefish hiding in a clump of debris.  He tried his best to stay out of sight, but I was
The Banded Coral Shrimp Kawaihae July 2020
able to squeeze in a few shots, most of which were not well focused.  The best of them is this odd picture of him lying flat in the water.  His ventral side is towards you and that's his eye you see protruding above the body.  An odd photo to be sure.  Soon he completely disappeared and Sandra and I headed towards the shore.

  As we completed a quick look around the first platform I heard a voice, "Oh.  Its Jeff and Sandra."
Wendy and Peter had arrived just as Sandra headed for the beach.

   We took another spin around the platform, and by diving down, Peter found a banded coral shrimp hiding on the back side of the pillar.  He did this by diving down about ten feet. At that level a larger portion of the column was placed on top of a post with a slightly smaller diameter.  This left a ridge upon which one could achieve a hand hold.  From this position underwater he was able to peer round the inside of the column and, voila, there was the shrimp.  He had to dive an extra time and point, but I finally saw the shrimp and took a couple pictures.

   Then it was Wendy's turn.  Peter probably did not use the word "beast" when describing the diving ability of this little Japanese lady with the nice smile, but he could have without a smidgen of inaccuracy.  She dove down with ease and got her photo.

   After we all had a chance with the shrimp, I led the way out to the third platform where the keiki
Peter found a  tiny decorated nudibranch on the second platform.
filefish waited.  As I arrived, I spotted the fish immediately.  He was about four feet down.  I called Wendy and she swam over and dove down for a picture.  Unfortunately, as she was getting her picture the filefish was heading for the bottom.  By the time it was my turn he was about ten feet down and sinking.  Suffice it to say my picture was not what I had hoped for.  The fish continued to the bottom and by the time Peter arrived he was not to be found.

   On the way back in we stopped at the second platform where Peter found a small gloomy and a tiny decorated nudibranch, about half a centimeter in length.   This guy was about four feet down, and it was difficult getting down to that depth in the tiny amount of space between  the encrusted pillars. 

   Before I hit the beach, I stopped at the first platform for one last try at the banded coral shrimp.  A bit of hydrobatics made for a good shot of a wonderful animal.

   For the second time in a row at the harbor I had seen three of the four common nudibranchs. 
Wendy moves in for a shot at a nudibranch.
Pairing this with four worthy crustaceans if made for a heck of a day.

   After showering off we bid Peter and Marla a bon voyage.  Between their trip and the obligatory two week quarantine on their return it will be the better part of two months until we snorkel with them again.  Hopefully in the meantime we can take another whack at that eyespot shrimp.  And with any luck at all, we might shoot for the first star to the right and head straight out to Mahukona for a dip with our new friend.   Wendy.


The second attempt at the Banded Coral Shrimp. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Old Lady Baby

   Yesterday was Saturday, one of three days in the week when we can drop off yard debris locally, at the Kealakehe Transfer Station.  We don't miss many of those precious opportunities and so we devised a plan to go to the transfer station, following which Sandra would drop me off at the pier, much like a trash can full of leaves and branches.  She would go to Target while I swam. 
Blacktail Wrasse, juvenile, Kahalu'u July 2020

   As we approached the pier, it was apparent that this plan was not going meet with fruition.  In front of the shuttered King Kamehameha Hotel a policeman had placed a strip of danger tape across Alii Drive.  From that vantage point we could see a police SUV with its blue flashers in the turn around at the pier. Clearly this avenue of pleasure was not available.  With that in mind, we bypassed the pier and reconnected with Alii Drive at Lunapule, winding our way down to Kahalu'u.  As I drove, Sandra looked up the tides on her phone and announced that we were going to hit the low high tide, 1.2 feet, on the nose.

   Despite the fact that it was Saturday, there were few people at Kahalu'u.  With the absence of tourists and gatherings such as baby luaus not currently permitted, our jewel of a bay is virtually unused, even on a weekend.

   The water was indeed high enough that access was a breeze.  For most of my swim I didn't see anything unusual.  I did have some close approaches to a large male ember parrotfish.  One rarely gets within four feet of this handsome fish.  There is a very good reason for this.  As this big uhu is seen with regularity on the menu, it behooves him to be wary.  Are there fewer spear fisherman at Kahalu'u these days?  For whatever reason, this big fellow swam quite close to me on several occasions.  What a
Old Lady Wrasse, Kahalu'u 2020

    Towards the end of my swim, over by the Rescue Shelter, I hit pay dirt.  Every time out, as I swim around the coral in the middle, I am looking for the tiny green wrasse that is the juvenile of the Old Lady wrasse.  The terminal male of this species is very rare at snorkeling depths.  I have seen the intermediate form, a handsome medium sized wrasse with a black tail on several occasions, but not in the last three years.  It is probably this most commonly seen stage of the species that gives it its other common name, the blacktail wrasse.  On this day I saw a somewhat larger version of the juvenile.  This guy was about four inches long, so not tiny.  He was swimming rapidly among the rocks on that mauka side of the bay.  Although he was quick, he was out most of the time, allowing me to take many pictures over the course of five or ten minutes.  This one definitely makes it onto the list of seldom seen species.

   Yesterday evening, as we were watching the Honolulu news, it was announced that a sewer pipe had broken in downtown Kailua Kona and a huge amount of sewage was washed into Kailua Bay.  And that, my friends, is why we take a shower after we go snorkeling! 


The big uhu with his friend.  Unmolested.