Sunday, July 14, 2019

Kahalu'u ala Familia

    A few days ago, Shawn returned from the outing to Mahukona unsatisfied.  He had forgotten his equipment back here in Kona and, even though it was after 2 PM, he was eager to go for a second swim, and he knew where he wanted to go: Kahalu'u.

Yellowtail Coris, juvenile and intermediate, Kahalu'u August 2012
    After our excursion that morning, Sandra and I had returned to the ranch, had a small lunch and a long nap.  Thus rested, we were happy to agree to accompany Shawn, while Marissa and Andrew had
showers and naps.  We threw Shawn's gear, still nicely packaged in a jaunty cranberry colored Snorkel Bob's bag, into the trunk of his rented Camaro.  I scrounged through the pile of drying snorkel equipment, extricated my mask and fins and my wet shirt.  For trunks I grabbed a dry set from the emergency bag that we keep in the back of the Honda.

   Down at Kahalu'u things looked pretty good: it wasn't raining, the tourists were leaving and the tide was sufficiently high.  I dumped out my equipment and started to get ready, only to find that I had allocated to myself the mask we were loaning Shawn's mother.  Suffice it to say, the mask that fits a woman with a small round forehead doesn't quite make it on a pumpkin head like yours truly; there was a gap of two or three millimeters over my brow.
Pearl Wrasse female, Kahalu'u  July 2019

    Those of you who know me are aware that, once put into motion, I am not easily sidetracked.  So I cinched the strap down tight and, although it was pinching my temples to a remarkable degree, the mask didn't leak.

    Over the subsequent half hour Shawn and I had a nice swim, seeing a large mustard colored yellow margin moray, a fine whitemouth and an intermediate phase yellowtail coris.  This latter was the only blog worthy individual, but he proved elusive as far as photography was concerned.  Suffice it to say, the tiny mask did not improve my photographic abilities.   This fish had a white nose, a residual white stripe on his forward body and a yellow tail.  Summer is the time to see these adolescents and I had been looking forward to this encounter.
Dragon wrasse from behind.  Kahalu'u July 2019

     I'm including a picture from another time for your enjoyment.  You will recall the red juvenile with the white stripes that novices insist is a "Nemo" type anemonefish.  And the somewhat less common intermediate, who retains some of those vertical white stripes, but now with blue flanks and a yellow tail.

    Yesterday, having experienced the joys of K Bay, Shawn was Jonesing for a return visit.  Although the surf was coming up, we got all the snorkel equipment, towels and family members into the car and made it down to the bay.  It was 10 AM on a Saturday (and the usual crowd filtered in) and the parking lot was full.  Shawn nabbed a spot just as it was vacated and Sandra and I parked in one of the vacant alternate spots.

   We fought our way around the inevitable Saturday party and the five of us reconnoitered outside the entry.  As we started into the bay we were faced with a current so strong that it was almost as if we
Andrew's amazing octopus hugs a rock  Kahalu'u July 2019
were in an infinity pool.  Fifteen minutes of hard swimming got us halfway to the breakwater and to our first reward: two large pearl wrasse females who swam with us for several minutes.  They were colorful fish.  I was really taken by their royal blue, red and white pectoral fins.

   We were all getting tired so we started working our way backwards while swimming slowly into the current.  After a few minutes of this I found a brown and white dragon wrasse.  I'm including here my best effort at a picture of this fish.  Please keep in mind that all these pictures were taken while battling a substantial current.  Immobility on the part of the photographer was simply impossible.   What you see is the best I could do on this day.

The pesky rockmover wouldn't leave the octopus alone.
   As I was working for the best shot, I saw Andrew waving his hand while keeping tabs on his find.  And what a find it was!  Andy had located a small day octopus in about four feet of moving water.  The octopus was either hunting with, or being harassed by a small rockmover.  Unlike most day
octopi, this fellow had plenty of butterscotch in hsi pattern and he  threw up bullleyes of gray, white and caramel.  We followed him for a while, enjoying his different texters and colors.  At one point he hunkered down in the cleft of a  dead coral, but contineud to watch with a periscope...his eyes were extended on a virtual stock so he could keep tabs on that pesky rockmover.

    By the time we were finished with the octopus it was time to go in.  Watch out for pesky rockmovers and strong currents.



Thursday, July 11, 2019

Snorkeling with Shawn's Mom

  Our company arrived at the beginning of the week.  My nephew Andrew has been swimming with us here in Hawaii since he was in knee pants.  Well, I guess everyone in Hawaii wears knee pants, but you know what I mean.  Shawn, his husband, visited us with Andy a year or so ago.  Shawn's mother, Marissa, was new to us.  She grew up on an island off Naples and then in San Pedro, Ca., so she has had lots of
Orangespine Unicorn Tang juvenile.  Look ma!  No orange spines.
experience with the ocean.

   Never the less, I was pleased when we took our shake down snorkel, to find that she handled herself with confidence.  We went snorkeling in front of the King Kam Hotel.  She actually beat me out of the Inner Harbour and when she was bashed around by the waves out in the bay, allowed as how it made it more fun.

    It was mostly usual suspects, but in the turbulent water just inside the jetty, I spotted a small juvenile orangespine unicorn tang.  One is always interested in what the camera might reveal, things that are missed by the naked eye.  In this instance we see that while he was swimming in the cloudy water, he looked to be the spitting image of an adult, the juvenile lack the orange caudal spines that give the species its common name.  Pretty cool find, in my humble opinion.  

Opelu and cleaner wrasse.  This is what opelu really look like.  Ironmanside 2013
   With the group brimming with confidence, we went north yesterday to Mahukona.   Its always a problem for Sandra and I, when we have snorkeling guests, to make sure that we don't forget something.  In this case, Shawn left all his gear back at Casa Ono.

    With a plan to trade off,  we got down the ladder and headed out with Andrew and Marissa to the spot just this side of the small lighthouse where the school of pyramid butterflyfish reside.  On the way, we spotted a bridled triggerfish swimming in the depths, as is their won't.  The big fellow gave everyone a good look, albeit at a distance.

   At the same time, we saw that group of milletseeds that is usually, but not always, at the corner. of Mahukona Bay.

   Perhaps commensurate with a big incoming tide, there was a bit of a current to contend with, pushing against us from the south.  Never the less, 
Goldrim Surgeon  Mahukona July 2019
our group made it to the pyramids and enjoyed a good look.

    As we started our swim back, Andrew spotted a couple opelu.  Soon we saw several schools of these fast blue jacks.  The English common name for these fish is mackerel scad, but like palini and ulua, the native name is the one we all use.  I am including a picture that I took a few years ago when a school of opelu stopped at a cleaning station.  Although those of you who follow the blog have seen this picture before, it bears repeating, as the picture in the field guides poorly represents these beutiful fish.

  At this point there was a bit of a current pushing against us, courtesy of a wind that had sprung up after we entered the water.   They don't call it Waika-blowah for nothing.  Anyway, all us chickens made it safely back to the ladder on the pier.  There we were greeted by Shawn who told us that someone had generously loaned him their snorkel and fins.  While we were on our quest for the
Are you a hermit crab super sleuth?  claw and leg of the elegant hermit.
pyramid butterfly fish, Shawn had been tooling around inside the bay.  His treat had been a flowery flounder who led him on a magic carpet ride.

    With everyone happily ashore, I decided to stay in the water for another fifteen minutes.  Our friend Peter had told me of rock damsels living in the boulders on the seaside of the pier, so I went into that area.  I didn't see the rock damsels, but I did see Achilles' Tang (which I have declared a rare fish, presumably due to unregulated spear fishing) a Gold rim tang, a small school of spotted surgeons.   In addition, there was a large shell on top of the coral that had to be the home of a hermit crab.  I got down close with the camera and was able to get a pretty good photo which showed handsome orange tips to the walking legs and a finely spotted pair of claws.  No matter what I tried I couldn't coax him to come out and say hello.  But look at the picture...there is no doubt that this is an elegant hermit crab, however recalcitrant.

Redbar Hawkfish, Mahukona, July 2019 Often seen, rarely photographed.
    My friends and family were waving to me from the pier, so I decided it was time to get out.  At the very foot of the ladder I spotted a shell and then suddenly the waving legs of a cone shell hermit,
affectionately, in our family, known as stripey.  I was a bit slow on the draw and did not get a very good picture.  But I was able to retrieve the shell and pass it up to Sandra.  She and the boys put it in a puddle and while we watched as this magnificent creature made an appearance.  so everyone got to see the magnificently striped legs, thus providing the sauce for the next days adventure.   


A magnificent Cone Shell Hermit Crab.  "Stripey."  December 2014

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Early Bird Catches the Octopus

    This week I went snorkeling at Kahalu'u two days in a row.  While the first outing was definitely more productive, blog-worthy if you will, combined they gave us a good view of what K Bay has to offer in July of 2019.
A Star Eye Parrot Flashes a Toothy Grin.

    For the first snorkel, I arrived early, hitting the warm water at 8:30.  The first thing I saw was a Christmas wrasse who went screaming by while I was still in the entry.  I had just gotten organized when I spotted a small octopus.  She was mostly tucked in under a rock about four feet down. I sang to her and took a couple pictures, knowing all the while that the only person that can make the day octopus visible in a photograph is Gail DeLuke.  So I don't have a picture, just a fond memory of her brown and white head and, later on, a last glimpse at a tentacle as she tucked herself safely away.

   Shortly after that encounter I started following a star eye parrot.  I took a few pictures and I'm including one that makes Mr. Stareye look like  a deranged Jack-O' Lantern.  One has to find his amusement where he can.

    What with spotting the octopus, it had already been a good swim, but on top of an Evermann's
When you see and empty triton, give it a bit of a twist.
coral I spotted a fairly large triton shell.  That shell didn't get there by itself.  I turned the shell slightly, maybe just twenty degrees, and sure enough a wonderful, large blood crab made her appearance. This was a big, hairy crab and I enjoyed her immensely.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

The Bloody Hermit Crab.  Dardanus sanguinocarpus,  Kahalu'u  July 2019

  My two day experience empowers me to say that the bay is full of juvenile Pacific Gregories.  Way back in the day, before John Hoover produced his encyclopedic tome, illustrating all the fish a snorkeler is likely to see, be they adults or juveniles, I had a bit of a correspondence with the Dean of salt water ichtyology: Jack Randall.  I had seen this juvenile gregory with her shiny blue dorsal line and yellow caudal peduncle and I wanted to know what it was.  I sent Jack a letter and included a hand drawn illustration, enhanced with colored pencils.  It is possible that felt tip markers hadn't been invented yet.

Pacific Gregory Juvenile, Kahalu'u  July 2019
    Perhaps my art work wasn't up to snuff, but by return post Jack informed me that 1. There wasn't any such fish.  2. Lay off the LSD.  and 3.While your at it, buy my new book.

   Now, through the miracle of point and shoot underwater photography, you can see what I was apparently unable to convey to Dr. Randall, back when plesiosaurs could be seen regularly in the surf at White Sands Beach.

   This damsel was in a little pond, most of the way out towards Surfer's Rock.  There was a nice handhold on a chunk of dead coral, so I was able to get a little stability.  And she was cooperative enough, in her flitting, coquettish sort of way, to give me dozen chances or more.  Here is my best effort.  If you go to K Bay tomorrow, I can guarantee this fish.

Ornate Wrasse Juvenile, Kahalu'u.  Shiny is as shiny does.
    Another fish I can guarantee is that chartreuse capped juvenile of the freckled hawkfish.  I saw no
fewer than five on the second day.

    The third day was more of the same, minus the blood crab and the octopus.  There was one nice addition, a fine juvenile ornate wrasse.  This fish was in the same enclosure as the Pacific gregory had been the day before.  She wasn't nearly so patient with me, though.  I only got  three tries and this is the best.

   As it happened, that second day was a Saturday.  So, no surprise, there was a function going on in the shelter, relegating me to an outdoor table.  On my way to change after swimming, I passed a small group of very large men cooking in two enormous gas powered woks.  What they had in wok number two looked a lot like that mainstay of my childhood, Dinty Moore's beef stew.  It smelled a bit like kalua pork, but even more toothsome.   The cookers seemed friendly enough, so I bucked up my courage and asked what it was. The head chef replied that it was porky peas.
Like this.  Only with a few peas.

   No matter my looks of longing and excessive salivation, I was not offered a sample.  So when I got home, I looked up the recipe.  All I can say is that what they had in that wok  bore no resemblance to what the internet had to offer.  Porky peas, according to the Mr Google, is like Philippine pea soup with the ham bone thrown in.  This was something brown, rich, fragrant and full of promise.  Like BeyoncĂ©.  Gotta get me some of that.  If only I can find it.


So what would you rather look at, Beyoncé or a bloody hermit crab?

On the other hand, little Miss Gregory can certainly shake her tail.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Netherlands 2 - Italy 0 or A Sunny Morning at Kahalu'u

    Its funny how things work out.  Yesterday I was going to waste the better part of the day watching young women play soccer halfway around the world in France.  Strange man that I am, I was looking forward to this.

     I had become a fan of the team from the Netherlands while our car was being repaired.  Two hours
of forced leisure had been imposed upon me, so I made may way a few blocks to Daylight Mind Coffee, which happily provides a decent cuppa  joe and a killer view of Kailua Kona.  Eschewing the view, I had plugged both my phone and tablet into a surger and proceeded to waste those two hours texting my friends and watching the Netherlands beat Japan in a squeaker.  The Dutch pulled ahead in the 89th minute on a penalty kick.  Netherlands 2 - Japan 1.  I really got behind the Dutch girls so, with a little help from my friend Paul Simon, I wrote them a bit of a fight song:

   She's a Dutch girl, she doesn't try to hide it
   She's got Orange on the soles of her shoes,
   She's a Dutch girl, She used to play for Leiden,
   Now she's in the World Cup with nothin' to lose.
   Tanana. Tanana.  She's got orange on the soles of her shoes.

   As I was settling in beside the television, Sandra was preparing her escape; she was off to the church for a class in making leis.  But hold the presses!  FS 1 did not have the soccer game.  I pulled
Longnose Butterfly and Yellow Tang.  Amarillo By Morning.
out my phone and asked Google about Netherlands - Italy.  In Mountainview, Ca. at Google Headquarters there is a lady who, much like the Great Oz, sits on a stool behind a curtain and, among her many other duties, she keeps track of the starting time of sporting events and translates them into Hawaii Time.  If one has messed up and the event has already occurred, she provides the final score.  In this instance she stated, Netherlands 2 - Italy 1.

    Suddenly, I had the morning free.  It took me only a few minutes to change into my swimsuit and throw my snorkel and camera into the mesh bag, Then we were off to Kahalu'u, with a quick stop at the Kona Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity la dee doo dah.

   It was actually a glorious morning, the sky washed to a clear blue, and I should have been ashamed to think that I was going to waste it in front of the TV.  Luckily I have no pride.

   The water was warm and I set off with a fine sense of optimism.  Sandra and I had gone to the City of Refuge with our friends Peter and Marla just two days earlier and had seen nothing of merit.  I was
Gosline's Sharpnose Blenny  Deos the TG 5 rock or what?
sure that the welcoming waters of K Bay would be more productive.  At the start, there were not a lot of fish, but the ones that were present were cooperative, sort of languid as they cruised leisurely along on this Saturday morning.

   At this juncture you will be treated to a bit of a slide show.  I didn't see anything world shaking or have any scientific epiphanies, but I did get a few shots that may amuse you.  The lovely palenose parrotfish speaks for herself and the longnose butterfly and yellow tang make a cute pair.  Especially if you are partial to the color yellow. Sadly, in spite of the pretty fish, these pictures do a fair job of highlighting the state of the coral in this once magnificent bay.

   The camera and I did pull off one coup.  In a small pond I found a Gosline's fanged blenny.  These little wiggle worms make their living by imitating cleaner wrasses and nipping scales off unsuspecting customers. They are about the size of those stubby pencils they give you to keep score when you play miniature golf.  Maybe not quite that big around.  You know...tiny.  In such an instance, all you can do is point the camera in the right direction and hope that it discerns what it is that you want it to focus upon.  As you can see, the TG 5 picked off the blenny magnificently.  Do you like those luxurious fins?  In real life with only your eyes, you will never see the fins.
The adolescent Freckle faced hawk gives yours truly the fish eye.

    Shortly after my blenny encounter I ran into one of my favorite fish, the juvenile of the freckle faced hawkfish.  So different is this keiki from his parents, that I have in the past given him a different name, Forster's Hawkfish, after the species name, P. forsteri.  This fellow,who was attempting to hide under a ledge, was larger than any other I had seen before.  As you can see, his chartreuse cap is fading and his freckles are becoming larger and darker.  Does he need to see my dermatologist?  I took the picture using a fill in flash, not appreciating that there was a bit of sediment between me and my subject.  I hope you are able to ignore the illuminated specks and enjoy this adolescent hawk.

   I was watching a pretty pink tailed triggerfish when a large peppered moray broke cover.  When one thinks about moray eels that are active during the day, one tends to think of the whitemouth moray.  This large eel may not be quite so common as the whitemouth, but especially at the Kailua pier, he has quite a diurnal presence.  This individual was six feet long and, when he flexed, as big around as my thigh.  He swam and
Big, bad peppered moray cruises the coral in K Bay.
swam, working through and around what was left of the coral.  I followed him for almost two minutes.

    Over by the Rescue Shelter I found a pair of Canthigaster jacator, our cute little Hawaiian puffer.  They made a cute couple but I couldn't get them to pose together in the open.

    The swim was winding down, but before I got out I was treated to a show by a group of yellow tail coris.  There were two large males and a number of females.  Here I am including a picture of the latter. She is twisted in such away as to call attention to the deep orange base of her pectoral fin.  This is seldom displayed in this way and gives a pretty accent to her flank.

    After I showered and changed, I sat in the shelter and enjoyed the cool morning breeze.  While I was checking out the pictures on the camera, I struck up a conversation with a young couple who were preparing to go snorkeling. They were about thirty and on a single week trip to Hawaii from New Zealand.  The guy was handsome as a movie star and his wife was equally attractive.  She
Yellowtail Coris female, The orange pectorals accent her flank.
reminded me a bit of Carli Lloyd, one of the stars of the U.S. women's team.  For being so attractive, Carli is a real beast.  A big, strong girl that scores a lot of goals for the stars and stripes, she is married to professional golfer.  Now I ask you, what do you get when you mate an aggressive striker with a golfer?  A hockey player?  I just hope that Carli and her husband are happy.

   The kids from Kiwi-land seemed to be happy.  They took turns spraying each other with sun screen then headed into K bay.  I'm sure they saw some good fish.  Or barring that, at least had some fun in the warm water.

    By the way, our mechanic could not pinpoint the noise in the Honda.  He told me to come back when it got worse.  Sandra made a beautiful lei from plumeria and pua keni keni. I'm hoping she wears it to church. And the Dutch girls play Sweden on Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern Time in Lyon.  That should make it 8 PM in France and 9 AM in Hawaii.  If you want to know when you should tune in, just ask the lady behind the curtain.


Carli Lloyd.  The U.S. plays England on Tuesday in Lyon.  See you there.


Friday, June 28, 2019

The Dude Abides or What is the life span of a coral croucher?

    We have been rather busy lately, what with restocking the larder, a never ending bout of presto. 
automotive repairs and cleaning.  Ordinarily cleaning is just one of those things you do every day and doesn't involve so much time that it makes the list.  But we are expecting guests toot suite, in the persons of my nephew Andrew, his husband Shawn and Shawn's beloved mother, Marissa.  As Shawn refers to his mama as a little Italian lady,  I suppose the correct word relating to their imminent arrival would be presto.

   Anyway, Sandra is doing all she can to prepare for Marissa's arrival.  This involves lots of cleaning.  And not a little bit of worrying.  Apparently it has been Marissa's lifelong dream to come to these very Sandwich Islands. As many of you know, it has rained most of this week and we wonder if tempo brutto is what Shawn's mother has in mind.  Most people, when they think of coming to Hawaii envision Christmastime in Waikiki, not hurricane season in Kona.  Mama mia!

A blue eye damsel swims around an antler coral.  Kailua Bay June 2019
  Anyway, we headed to the pier on Wednesday, cruise ship day, and the sea going rats were creating such havoc that my taxi driver, the redoubtable SKG, was so overwhelmed that she found a new alternative for off loading, the parking lot at the Fish Hopper Ristorante.  As I made my way down
Alii Drive to the pier, I thought to myself,  "How much difference is there between a fish hopper and a coral croucher?"  Not bloody much, right?   With that in mind, I made my way through the maddening crowd and over to the beach in front of the King Kam Hotel.  It's summer, so the water in in the Inner Harbour is only a little cold.  Some might even call it cool.  Regardless, it was almost warm as I approached the little jetty that protects Kamehameha's heaiu.  It was calm and warm as I entered the welcoming waters of Kailua Bay.

    Out in the bay, I was pleased to see that during my hiatus, now perhaps nine weeks, the coral on the Paul Allen side has flourished.  There were several good examples of Pocillopora eydouxi thriving in the bay.  This is the bigger, leafier variety of cauliflower coral, actually called antler coral.   Virtually all the antler coral bit the dust a few years ago and these guys look more like romaine .   We have two other species of meandrina, it is actually known as cauliflower coral and is home to such specialties as the speckled scorpionfish.  The smallest is damicornis.  The common name for this species is lace coral, although it looks more like a cauliflower than the other
The Wrong Lindsey
lettuce on steroids.  If we pray hard enough, perhaps we can ward off the hot sea water and in a a couple years our antler coral will be fit for a moose.  Right now I'm grateful for the specimens that we have
which I loosely call cauliflower coral.  The medium sized two.  In my opinion.  

    As I admired the lovely cauliflower corals, I could not help thinking of the warning that appeared in my email on Tuesday.  This admonition came from Lindsey Kramer.  Lindsey is the NOAA  appointed organizer for Eyes of the Reef.  Her email yesterday heralded an oncoming bout of hot water and implored us to report signs of coral bleaching.  As I looked upon the handsome thriving antler coral, I couldn't help posing the question, "What is the difference between Lindsey Kramer and Lindsey Graham?"  The answer: Lindsey Kramer is a charming  young marine biologist and Lindsey Graham is Donald Trump's bitch.  Thank goodness we have the right Lindsey here in Kona.

    With that happy thought percolating in my bright blue brain, I reconnoitered the late Paul Allen's canal and the coral that has been home to the eponymous croucher for nigh on a year.  It took several dives, but I finally spotted the croucher.  On the next dive, I was able to get a solid grip and get the TG 5 close enough to the coral to meter and focus on this peculiar fish which is so adept at hiding in the recesses, between the leaves of the meandrina. 

    What you see here is by far the best picture of a coral croucher that I have produced.   You see virtually the entire fish, his stubby pectoral fin and his little eye, gazing up at you with a sense of foreboding.   I want to give
The Coral Croucher deep between the leaves.  Kailua Bay June 2019
credit to our friend Hai, who has taught me by example to get closer and be patient.  Hai is the master of nudibranch photography and he may well have a better photo of the coral croucher.

    Now that we have established that this peculiar little fish is a permanent resident in this one isolated coral, a question comes to mind.  Did the coral croucher in its youth swim to this coral head or did it arrive as an embryo, find itself in a suitable habitat and simply stay put.  As you will recall, such is the way of waifs in the tropical oceans.  As usual, the internet in this instance is mostly full of aquarists pondering the danger of a sting from their newly acquired pet.  There are some reports of coral crouchers never leaving their home, so this chicken and the egg question is not without merit.

    I'm now confident, that like the Dude, our coral croucher will continue to abide in his home here by Paul Allen's canal.  The croucher abides.



Friday, June 21, 2019

The Pearl Wrasse Returns to the Kailua Pier

If you don't want to end up like Snorkel Bob, stay out of the cloudy water.
   Just after we arrived home from vacationing in the PNW the swell came in.  Kailua Bay, with its north cusp extending well into the ocean, is usually protected from the ravages of a large swell as the predominant direction of swell is from the north, washing down around Maui.  This swell was from the south, however, and the sand was thoroughly stirred up.  I went snorkeling once and the sediment was really dense.  A few recreational swimmers were still going out, but for us snorkelers there was little point.  Not only was there
nothing to see, but one is constantly reminded that shark attacks are more likely in turbid water.  A fellow snorkeler reaffirmed this idea by telling me that the cloudy water was giving him the creeps.

   It wasn't until three days ago that I gave the pier another go.  The swell had subsided two days earlier and the water, while far from crystal clear, allowed ten to twenty feet of visibility.   Never the less, there wasn't too much in the way of interesting fishes.  Out past the one third mile buoy I saw a stationary swimmer.  Hoping that this meant there was something to look at, I made my way another twenty yards out only to find a rather pretty young lady playing with the test of a sea urchin.  She must have been a good swimmer,
All this one is lacking is a sea urchin test.  Then she'd be perfect.
because all she was wearing was a bikini and a flippers.  And the water there was fifteen to twenty feet, so she apparently had accomplished that free dive without the aid of fins.

    I asked her if she was looking at something special or simply dicking around with the sea urchin.  She smiled and said there was nothing to see.  If you look at our included photo, albeit of someone else, you will agree with me that this was, like, just her opinion, dude.  I thought about asking her if I could take her picture for the voyeurs that read the blog, but the #Me Too movement has taught even the most dense, among whom I take my place with pride, that you just don't do that sort of thing no mo'.

    And so I turned the army around and swam back towards the pier.  I didn't see anything of note until I was quite close in, at which point I saw a small pearl wrasse co-habiting with some juvenile belted wrasses and parrotfish.  This must have been during a period of unwarranted  optimism, because I had the TG 5 in hand and was able to rip off a five quick shots.  What you see here was the only shot that was remotely usable.  Remember, water clarity is the photographers friend and that was in short supply on this morning.
Juvenile pearl wrasse with keiki parrot and belted wrasse.  Kailua Pier June 2019

    This fish was about 6 inches long, about the size of one of those planted rainbow trout you might have caught as a young boy scout.  So by size, we can say this was a juvenile.  While some wrasses have three distinct patterns, juvenile, adult female and (thus spake Zarathustra) super male, the pearl wrasse has only two... juvenile/ female and super male.   As you can see, the juvenile is just as pearly as the adult female, if only half as large.  The adult female used to be an expected visitor to the
Female Pearl Wrasse april 2017 on the PAR
Ironman side of the pier, but I'm going to bet it has been two years since I saw one in this location...maybe more.   If you are a student of the blog, you might remember that I saw a pearl wrasse at Mahukona about two months ago, just before we went on vacation.

    My photographic record reveals that I have seen the super male pearl wrasse (which doesn't look pearly at all) at Kahalu'u and on the PAR.   The picture we are showing here was taken several years in the past at good ol' K Bay.  There were two males who emerged from behind a coral.  Heaven only knows what they had been up to because they were acting totally stoned.  Hence the amazing shot.  

    There is just a bit of a swell today, not big enough to attract many surfers, so this might be a good opportunity to take a dip at the pier.  Maybe the little pearl wrasse is still there.  Or maybe someone is hiding behind the restrooms getting stoned.  Or both.


Super male pearl wrasse  Kahalu'u September 2012  Anybody got some good seaweed?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Kawaihae with the DeLukes

    Supposing that one needs to get off the rock once or twice a year, but yet is a great lover of the ocean and its inhabitants, what could be better than to be picked up at KOA by some like minded friends, taken to the beach for some superb snorkeling and then have lunch alfresco in the shade by
Gail DeLuke with her trusty TG 5.  Nudibranchs ahoy!
the sea?  That is the sweet deal that Sandra and I fell into two days ago.

   Our friends and house exchangers, Gail and Martin DeLuke, nabbed us and our not insubstantial baggage a bit before 9:30 and we were at Kawaihae around 11.  We had been in contact with the Godfather of Kawaihae, the redoubtable Hai On, and he had assured us that the critters were still in the harbor, so we were primed for an exciting snorkel.

    There was one unfortunate note in this otherwise well timed symphony: for the second year in a row Martin had developed ear problems and was not fit to go snorkeling.  Perhaps this proves that well traveled adage that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him put alcohol in his ears.  In any event, Gail assured us, she enjoyed snorkeling more than Martin and that he was just as happy camped out on the shore.  It was a glorious Hawaiian morning, so maybe that was the case.
Wire Coral Goby   Kawaihae Harbour 2019   Photo Gail DeLuke

    For our first snorkel, Sandra felt more comfortable swimming around the pylons, as opposed to climbing down a cliff, swimming across the harbor and snorkeling under the wharf.  And so, the three of us launched from the landing craft ramp and headed out to the first pylon.  The first thing that we noticed was that the water was a lot warmer than when we left.  The internet said it should be 80 degrees, I would put it a couple degrees higher.  And the water was clearer than we had ever seen it.
Brushy Bryozoan.  The marine equivalent of a tumbling tumbleweed.

    Ominously, perhaps, the marine soup was completely devoid of plankton.  We noticed a few months ago when the plankton was gone, so were many of the unusual organisms that make Kawaihae so special.  had we hauled or friends up here in vain?

   No matter how mnay times the three of us circled it, the first pylon yielded very little.  And so we swam out to number two.  Almost immediately, Sandra found a gloomy nudibranch, resplendent in his sable and blue livery.  We all enjoyed a look, Gail took her first nudibranch picture, and the pressure was off.  A bit after that Gail found the yellow and white trembling nudibranch hanging on to some suspended foulings.  We would see several more gloomies (not to be confused with Goonies) but this was the only trembling.  Given its acrobatic position on a trapeze made of gunk, it was not the best example of this species from a photographer's standpoint.  But Gail found it herself and I think she was justifiably proud. 

    Those are the only two species of nudibranchs that Sandra and I have found on our own on the
A juvenile trumpetfish serves as a foil for an encrusted rope.
platforms.  While we continued to look for the delightful sea slugs, our attention now shifted to what else might be around.  On the makai side of platform two, I showed Gail a pair of wire coral gobies.  Under the platform we all enjoyed a clump of a branching animal that looked as much like a tumbleweed as anything else.  You can see my best photographic effort here.  In John Hoovers critter book, the closest thing seems to be the alliteratively named brushy bryozoan, which he notes is common in harbors in these very Sandwich Islands.

    Beside a column supporting the second platform, I spotted a juvenile trumpetfish doing his best to imitate a rope.  Trumpetfish are among the most successful of fish that capture smaller fish for their dinner.  To accomplish this predatory feat, they are great imitators.  One of Sandra's favorite marine associations involves a large yellow trumptetfish sequestered in a school of hebivorous yellow tang.  To our eye, the trumpetfish
The Kieki of the Milletseed Butterflyfish    Kawaihae Harbour June 2019
stands looks nothing like the tangs.  The color match, however, is uncanny and the strategy must work.  Some of those tang loving trumpets are monsters.

    Last year we spotted a small juvenile scribbled filefish imitating a rope on the same platform.  Filefish eat a variety of sessile prey, sponges, algae, etc, so the hunting benefit probably did not apply.  It was interesting, though, that these two unrelated juvenile fish were applying their cryptic skills to algae covered rope on the second platform.

    The third pylon yielded a couple feather duster worms, thus completing the wish list that we had presented to Gail.  On the rip rap beside the jetty, I found a gloomy relatively out in the open.  On this day the gloomies were out in force, but this was the first nudibranch at Kawaihae that we had seen not associated with a pylon.
The kieki milletseed butterfly with his playmate, a toddling kole.

    We then headed across the makai side of the harbor to look for cup coral.  On the way, I happened upon a juvenile milletseed butterfly.  Milletseeds are fairly regular at Kawaihae, but this was the first baby millletseed of my long and storied career.  It was a life species for our guest and at first she thought it was something else...she had no search image out for milletseed butterfly.   Gail has a fair amount of experience snorkeling in Kona, so it just goes to show how rare milletseeds have become.  Even when they were common at snorkeling depth, the kiekis must have been rare (because the Redoubtable SKG and your hmble correspondent never saw one!)  As is the case with many juvenile butterflies, this guy was a bit more square in profile than the adult.  In addition, the black spot on the caudal peduncle, so prominent in adults, was barely noticeable.
Ebony and Ivory.  The pair of feather dusters at the base of the Kawaihae ramp.

   Like most juvenile butterflies, this little guy played a game of hide and seek around the coral rubble, making photography a pleasant challenge.  For me, this was a treat comparable to playing with a new puppy.

    At this point Sandra headed back to the ramp and Gail and I headed across the harbor to see the dwindling colony of cup coral.  Luckily there were a few of these orange beauties for her to admire.

  As we approached the ramp, we saw that Sandra and Martin had a friend, the Godfather himself.  We greeted Hai from the water and he instructed us to look at the base of the ramp where there were two feather duster worms living side by side. One was dark brown, burnt Sienna if you will, and the other was snow white.  They make a pretty pair.  Unless I am mistaken, these represent a different species from the feather dusters we see out on the pylons.  The feathers are much more delicate, tapered at the tips.
The Justice for the Fishes League.  Hai, Sandra and Martin.

    Once ashore, as advertised, we had our picnic in the shade and enjoyed the good company and the view of our beautiful island.  I wish you could have been there.