Tuesday, February 13, 2024

An Unusual Outing on the Ironman Side

    The day after the Superbowl, while Taylor Swift was (presumably) experiencing the best part of a tight end, the Kona Coast was blessed with a break in the relentless winter swell.  Making the most of this opportunity, I had Sandra drop me off at the pier while she went shopping for dungarees.  While there were a gazillion people on their collective way out of  Lost Wages, the tourists here in the land of swaying coco palms weren't going anywhere, except to the beach, of course. 

Female Pearl Wrasse sans Coral, Kailua Pier, February 2024
    And so I joined the swimming set at the cubbies, hard by the foot of the pier.  While I was donning my swimming attire, a few of the recreational swimmers, having recently emerged from Kailua Bay, were remarking on how warm the water was, compared with a day or two in the immediate past.  Having frozen my you know what off the last few times I went swimming, this conversation was of more than passing interest.  As I finished defogging my mask a comely maiden, having just completed her swim, engaged me on the way to her shower. I asked her if the water was really warm.  she smiled and said, "Not at all!"  As I walked away she called out, "Good luck keeping warm."

    In fact, the water wasn't freezing and it was as clear as any I have experienced at the pier this winter.  Sadly, this gave me the opportunity to get a really good look at the coral, or the lack there of.  The bay was not swarming with fish, but at the second swim buoy I enjoyed a nice female Pearl Wrasse.  You see her picture here, swimming in an area that should have been carpeted with coral.  Instead we see long dead coral covered with a fine dusting of sand, courtesy of the relentless swell which has lasted almost non-stop for six weeks.

Red Phorbas Sponge, Kailua Kona, 2024

    As I swam out, I saw lots of dead coral and more than a few clumps of red encrusting sponge, probably red phorbas (sponge experts warn us against identifying sponges unless we take them home, denude them with chemicals and examine the skeleton).  Regardless, these sponges are apparently not susceptible to the ravages of climate change. In fact, they are thriving in the new conditions.  

    As I passed the penultimate swim buoy I saw a large undulated moray swim into a clump of Evermann's Coral.  I had the camera in hand, but he was too fast for me.  I waited for a minute or two, hoping that this fine specimen would emerge and resume hunting, all to no avail.  I briefly considered diving down for a closer look but discretion reminded me that of all the eels, this is the one that bites.   And so he was left to his own devices.

Oval Butterfly, Kailua Bay, 2024
     I swam as far as the palace, above which the sun was rising in a blinding display.  There were a few fish out there, but not too many and nothing remarkable.  

    On the way in I enjoyed a pair of Oval Butterflyfish.  John Hoover tells us that we should find them amid lush coral growth, feeding on polyps of living coral.  Sadly, this makes me wonder how much longer we will see this species in Kailua Kona.  This pair looked healthy and I watched as one attempted a nibble at a remaining coral.  

   This is one of the species that has a doppelganger in the Western Pacific.  In Bali we see this fish with a remarkable red anal fin, hence it is known as the Redfin Butterfly.  I suppose that this species , like its Hawaiian cousin, eats coral polyps and is similarly endangered.

    As we approached the pier, I encountered a meleagris Spotted Puffer.  He was only a few feet away and finning pleasantly, So I took a little movie for your enjoyment.  


    I dove under the floating line and examined the reef near the pier, with the Body Glove twenty yards away, apparently preparing for its late morning excursion.  As I returned to the swimming area, things took a turn towards the surreal.  Right below me was a five dollar bill.  I dove down four feet and nabbed it.  Interestingly, the US Treasury creates bills that seem to take little harm from immersion in seawater.  I had only retrieved one bill before, many years ago near the entrance to Paul Allen's Lagoon, back when Paul was still alive.    In those days he made the journey from the Octopus by helicopter, so the money must have come form one of his guests.  Perhaps he was preparing to tip the boat handler.  Who knows.

Outrunnng the law with Baby Face Nelson

    Anyway, clutching the bill I started heading for shore.  And then I saw another.  And it was a twenty!  As I circled the area, which was only fifteen yards from the sandy entry, I was reminded of Delmar telling Baby Face Nelson that his folding money and come unstowed.  Happily,  this discovery was repeated a few more times and I stowed the proceeds in my swimsuit pocket, safely secured by the velcro fastener.  Heaven only knows, I didn't want to repeat Babyface's mistake.    

   I may have collected all the folding money when I saw a round shape in a sandy spot next to a rock.  Figuring it was a coin, and despite my new wealth I was not going to turn up my nose at legal tender regardless of the vintage.   I reached down and grabbed the coin.  In that instant, the rock moved, revealing itself to be a Devil Scorpionfish about three inches form my unprotected paw. 

Who knows what you might find in Kailua Bay.

    I surfaced and circled, hoping for a shot of the scorpionfish, but he was long gone.  Perhaps he thought that in my greed I would nab him and, following the fate of the proverbial jumpbuck,  stow him in my tucker bag. 

    This was the end of the Kailua Bay Caper.  Sandra and I are going to follow the lead  of Ned Nederlander and use our new found riches to set up a foundation.  And then we're going to buy a big shiny car and drive all over Kona, showing  Flugelman a thing or two.

    In the meantime, you keep smiling and watch out for any unstowed cash.

jeff

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Lobsters at Kahalu'u

    This week we caught a pause in the winter swell and took a quick dip at Kahalu'u.  In the pavilion, Sandra and I encountered the redoubtable Kathleen Clark, who verified that we weren't crazy (or lazy) and, if fact, the surf had been too high to afford acceptable snorkeling conditions for several weeks.  After a pleasant chat, I hit the cool, clear waters of the bay.  Even at this early hour, 0830, there were a few other brave souls snorkeling.

What nature of beast is living (or not) at K Bay

    I made my way into a moderate current and then found something unusual.  Protruding from a chunk of Evermann's Coral which was way past its prime, were two animals.  Were they molluscs?  No.  They were the  disembodied legs of a Tufted Spiny Lobster.  Around the corner I found one more leg, this one laying on the sand, so I was able to position it for photography.

    This may not seem like much of a find.  But in these days of global warming, coral bleaching and a commensurate drop in marine life, one has to treasure what one finds and put it in context.  First, the number of live, intact spiny lobsters I have seen in Hawaii fits comfortably on one hand, no wore than three encounters in 40 years.  This has a lot to do with the lobsters being nocturnal.  Only once have I seen lobsters on one of my rare night snorkels. 

A tufted Spiny Lobster leg, morte.
     So the bottom line is that that those of us who do not go swimming at night have to rely on evidence well south of an entire living animal.  With all these self effacing caveats in play, I still have had only a few encounters with lobster parts: carapaces, legs, etc.  And,to the best of my feeble, aging recollection, I have never before seen one at Kahalu'u.  (Over many years, Sandra and I have been night snorkeling here two or three times and never seen a lobster.)  

    So its good to be able to add this large crustacean to the list for the bay and ponder what nature of nocturnal beast might have defeated such a formidable animal in a battle to the death.  I'd like to think it was a large moray, like one of those yellow margins that leer  at you, nasty sharp teeth gleaming, from a crevice in the coral.  Those brutes remind me of a drug dealer's pit bull and i give them plenty of room.

    Lo and behold, a quick search on you tube uncovered this video of just such an encounter:

  


     While this takes place in the Caribbean, I believe it gives substantial credence to my hypothesis.  Perhaps the next time you go to Costco you can score some lobster tails.  Later, in the sanctity of your home, you can dress up like a moray eel and devour them.  The ultimate in environmental cosplay!

jeff

 

    For those of you who were hoping to end  this blog on a peaceful note, here is a video of a pair of Saddleback Butterflies I captured near the end of this swim.  Sweet dreams!



Thursday, January 25, 2024

Seasonality in the Monarchs of the Kona Library

"It is our most modestly priced receptacle."
  The snorkeling in Kona had been uninspiring  after the holidays.  And then the surf came up.  Beaches were closed from La Jolla to Leo Carillo.  Well, those beaches were gleaned from Donny's eulogy near the end of the Big Lebowski. Part of the fun was the mental image of Steve Buscemi surfing.  And, of course, when Jeffrey Lebowski gets  a coating of Donny's ashes you just about fall out of your chair.  Especially if you've had too many White Russians.

   But seriously, just yesterday every beach under state control, from Mahukona to Ho'okena was closed. Luckily, Maude (aka the Redoubtlable SKG) and I had a fall back position.  In lieu of snorkeling we went to get our safety check.  This is our yearly chance to say hello to Bob at Dixon's 76 in the heart of beautiful downtown Kailua.  Bob is a heck of a gentleman and spending a few minutes with him is probably worth the 26 clams Hawaii charges for the safety check.  

   At any rate, Dixon's 76 backs onto the library, home to several crown milkweeds, which  for the last six or seven years have provided us hours of entertainment looking for Monarch caterpillars.  A month or so ago, we captured a caterpillar from those crown milkweeds, along with a few milkweed leaves, brought it back to Casa Ono, and watched him go chrysalis.  He emerged a couple weeks later, and weren't we proud parents!  After capturing a few photos of Manny the Monarch clinging to his now empty chrysalis, we opened the door and off he went.  Out to make his way in the world.  

    It is critical to this story to note that two or three weeks prior to this, there had been no caterpillars in this three plant stand of milkweeds.  Like the mamaki, the host plant to the Kamehameha Butterfly, which unlike North American nettles, grows as a sturdy shrub fifteen feet tall, crown milkweed bears little outward resemblance to the plant they call milkweed back in Minnesota.  This is a seriously big plant.  Some might call it a small tree.  It has thick trunks, a myriad of sturdy branches and countless leaves bigger than my hand.  So when we say there were no caterpillars, we are not talking about three tiny weeds, we are talking about thousands of large leaves and no caterpillars. 

   Back in November, about the time there were no caterpillars, Sandra had received a butterfly house for her birthday.  It would have been early December when we adopted Manny, the first occupant of Chateau Gris. At that time he was the only caterpillar on this stand of highly edible foliage.  Virtually every day of the year one sees monarchs flying around this group of crown milkweeds, but in November and December there were hardly any caterpillars.

Sandra is shocked by the devoured crown milkweed.
   Before we move on, I'd like you to appreciate our monarch in all his glory  And look, if you will, at the tiny chrysalis.  Try to imagine such a large butterfly emerging from such a tiny compartment.  I mean, you'd be lucky to get 100 mg. of Benadryl inside that tiny chrysalis.  Clearly this packaging, is another of God's miracles. Over an hour or so, the butterfly emerges from that miniscule compartment, stretches his wings and pumps fluid into them.  The wings stretch to their full adult dimension, dry and...voila.  You have a fully formed adult monarch.  He will not grow another millimeter for the duration of his life.

    Now let us return to Tuesday morning, January 23rd, 75 days from the place in time when there were no caterpillars.    Sandra and I strolled around the corner and into the parking area behind the library and suddenly we stopped dead in our tracks.  Not as dead as Theodore Donald Kerabastos, but we were in shock. The three milkweed plants (trees) had been thrashed.  From a distance it looked like someone had grabbed each leaf and pulled, leaving only the central vein. A thousand leaves had been devoured in no less than ten days. (Yes, we are sufficiently bored that we go back and check on that stand of milkweed shrubs on a regular basis.)

Monarch Caterpillar 5th Instar, Kona January 2024
    Approaching the milkweed we immediately identified a many caterpillars.  We examined the trees for about ten minutes, identified 4th and 5th instars, but nothing smaller and no chrysalises.  At that point it was necessary to return to Dixson's 76, retrieve the moderately faithful Sportage, and head back to Casa Ono and take a nap.  Amateur entomology is exhausting.  That's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it.

     Thursday was Coffee with a Cop day at the Kailua Kona Public Library.  We are friends with the recently retired DA for this side of the island and she wanted to put in an appearance with her fellow law enforcement associates and view my handiwork at the same time.  So Dale and a couple friends met us for a look at the butterfly exhibit in the library and then we all strolled back to the milkweeds for a look at the real thing.  No surprise, there were plenty of butterflies and, like the day before, plenty of 4th and 5th instars of the monarch caterpillar.  

    This time I was more assiduous in examining the remaining leaves.  To my immense gratification, on the ventral surface of a couple of these leaves I spotted a few tiny caterpillars.  It is a testimony to my cell phone camera that I was able to nab a serviceable picture of a 2nd instar, a mere three millimeters in length.  

2nd instar of the Monarch caterpillar, Kona January 2024

   I sort of forced Dale and Brenda to look at the tiny caterpillars and ooh and ahrr (that's how they say it in Boston, the Hub of true academia), at my photograph on the cell phone.  Having made a couple attempts to produce these instars in clay and acrylic, it was pretty cool to see the real thing.  

    Not only that, but after a bit I found a dark chrysalis, ripe with a  soon to be emerging  monarch within.  Ahh, the miracle of life.

    Additionally,  we found a wasp eating a 4th instar caterpillar, that presumably it had killed.  I commented to my friends that this was just like Wild Kingdom, observing a leopard devouring a sometimes antelope in a tree out on the Serengeti.  I took a movie, which is very good,  but I'm not clever enough to get it into the blog.  You will have to make do with the still photograph, which is pretty exciting in its own right.  Where's Marlin Perkins when you need him?  

 A 3rd instar Monarch caterpillar and possibly an egg, Kona January 2024

    However, its not quite as simple as the leopard and the antelope.  The leopard can eat many different kinds of animals and a variety of carnivores can eat the antelope.  Not so with Monarchs.  That deceased caterpillar had been consuming milkweed 24/7 for two weeks, not only to grow larger in size but to increase his toxicity to birds...and everything else.  While Andrew Zimmer may eat caterpillars in Vietnam, I doubt seriously that he eats Monarch caterpillars!  

   I submit, that this particular wasp has been evolving with the Monarch for, say 20 million years, keeping pace with the toxicity of the milkweed.  And if you were able to go to Indonesia, that cradle of development where crown milkweed may very well have originated, you may well find this same species of wasp that traveled with the Monarch over the seas as an egg or caterpillar, to continue God's work here in Hawaii.  Good luck getting an entomologist to help you with this project. There are so many species of parasitic wasps, that when these learned folk speak of them, they adopt language best suited for Jeffrey Lebowski.  Like, "If you think I'm going to identify that particular f***ing wasp you can go f*** yourself."  I'm not kidding.  And this from somebody who gets paid good money, your money, to sit on his ass at a university and identify insects. 

A Monarch chrysalis ripe for emergence.  Kona 2024

   At this point my friend Dale, who would never use the F word,  said something like,"This was really interesting.  Your enthusiasm is remarkable."  and headed back to the library to enjoy the aforementioned java with the constabulary.

    So why is this important?  There is little in the literature about the seasonality of Monarchs in Hawaii.  They don't migrate and real butterfly guys think that they pretty much go about their reproductive business year round, like showing up for work at the Post Office.  Repetitive and boring.  There is but a single paper that I found a few months ago, written by students at UH Manoa, in which they describe a similar experience to what Sandra and I have documented here.  Suffice it to say, Sandra and I are now convinced that seasonality does exist in the Monarchs of Hawaii Island.

    I recently inquired of Daniel Rubinoff regarding a butterfly that I have not seen, Blackburn's Blue Butterfly.  This butterfly lives in a restricted habitat at altitude, the slopes of Mauna Loa on this island.  He stated that this would be a good time to look for it as the host plants are getting going and, he thought, the butterflies might be more prevalent.   This may or may not be related to our experience with the Monarchs two blocks from the ocean., but it is tantalizing. 

A wasp devours a 4th instar Monarch caterpillar.

    This is not the flowering season for many of our introduced trees, like jacaranda, whose purple blooms spring forth in late April and May, early spring on the temperate mainland.  That will come in two or three months.  And if I had to pick a season, I would have guessed that would be the time at which Monarch reproduction would peak.  

   But the plant that really matters is the crown milkweed.  I must admit that the leaves upon which those tiny caterpillars were dining looked mighty succulent and tasty.  But exercising all my will power, I did not take a few of them home to augment my dinner salad!

jeff

    




Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Butterflies of the Big Island as written for the Insect Museum, UH Manaoa

                        Foreword

    This is not a usual blog.  This essay was inspired by work I did producing the program I put on at the Keiki Museum.  As you will see, the information was better directed to adults rather than keikis.  Seven years ago Sandra and I were butterfly novices, inspired ot make paper mache buttrflies.  In the process, we became more interested in the animals themselves.  With help from some patient teachers, and I would single out Daniel Rubinoff, Jeffrey Pippen and Caitlin LaBar, we have received an education in lepidoptery.  Here we attempt to pass on what we have learned at the knee of these masters.

                                              The Butterflies of Hawaii Island

   Hawaii is one of the most isolated places on earth. By the time the Polynesians set foot in Hawaii (roughly 1500 ears ago), Homo Sapiens had been traipsing around North America for over 30,000 years  and Europeans didn't "discover"  Hawaii until roughly 250 years ago.  

    The geographical isolation had a significant impact on the plants and animals that the Polynesians encountered.  Science believes that plants came to Hawaii 80 million years ago.  Insects like butterflies began inhabiting the island chain 12 million years ago.  Compared to our brief stay on these islands, that is a staggering amount of time. 

    Some animals and plants leave a better fossil record that others.  The fossil record tells us that in the mass extinction that followed the arrival of Homo sapiens in Hawaii, around 50 species of birds became extinct.  Its not clear how many butterflies and plants might have been lost as they leave a less definite footprint.  Much of the extinction of birds was due to a large number of flightless species, ducks and the like, that had little defense against the rats that accompanied the Polynesians.  Wherever human beings have gone, they bring rats.  Its just what we do. 

    The bottom line: we now have two endemic butterflies and we have no way of knowing how many species might have existed when Kamehameha's forebears arrived in Hawaii.

      A brief look at butterfly taxonomy and anatomy.

   Butterflies are arthropods, insects, centipedes, spiders and crustaceans comprise the phylum Arthropoda.  They all have a stiff outer exoskeleton and jointed limbs.  

   Crustaceans have gills, presumably because its more difficult to extract oxygen from water than air.  The terrestrial arthropods have neither heart nor lungs.  So while your thorax houses those vital organs, the insect thorax is little more than a platform for legs and wings 

   Butterflies have little in the way of a vascular system.  A vessel in the abdomen collects haemolymph, which has been flowing free inside the body cavity and muscles surrounding this vessel, sort of like a heart, massage it cranially.  As an interesting aside, when a lepidopterist (read butterfly killer) like my dear friend and teacher, Caitlin LaBar, nets a butterfly, she squeezes the abdomen just so, stopping what passes for a heart.

   Oxygenation takes place through tiny vents in the exoskeleton called trachea.  Amazingly, in the lymph there are no red blood cells or proteins like hemoglobin that bind and then release oxygen.  The oxygen insects use is simply dissolved in the blood.  In mammals, about 2% of the oxygen is dissolved in the blood, the other 98% carried in the hemoglobin.  Insects are getting by on what us mammals might consider an after thought! And its astonishing, given that over the 60 million years that insects have been prevalent,  they haven't evolved a protein that carries the good old green gas, oxygen.  One has to assume that for them its irrelevant. 

    If you don't think that insects are prevelant, consider that there are more species of insects than there are for all other groups of animals combined.  Prevalent.

    Many butterflies have six legs, but about half bear only four, the anterior pair having evolved into manipulators.  this large group is called brushfoots.  Good name for a family of hobbits, right?

   And, of course, butterflies have two pairs of beautiful wings.  If it weren't for the beautiful wings, most of us wouldn't give a fig for butterflies.  Each wing has a dorsal and ventral surface.  In some butterflies, the two are virtually identical.  Monarchs are like that.  In many, there is a dramatic difference in the two surfaces, the ventral often being drab or bearing spots. 

    What gives these butterflies their beautiful color and pattern.  Its scales, millions of them.  In the finest Persian carpet, woven with silk, there are 500 knots to the square inch.  In a butterfly wing thee are 200 to 450 scales per square millimeter.  a few months ago I thought i would take a used butterfly wing to a lecture and have have the attendees look at the scales through a magnifying glass.  Upon learning this, I decided that I would need to bring along my electron microscope in addition to the butterfly wing.

    Aside from flight, butterflies have a couple other uses for their wings.  In the morning they will spread their wings and orient towards the sun; the wings serve as solar collectors, warming the butterfly.   When resting, butterflies bring their wings to an upright position above the body.  They can rotate the back wings, often more cryptically colored, to cover the front wings, rendering the butterfly some camouflage. 

   Butterfly heads are full of amazements.  First the eyes.  Insects have compound eyes comprised of hundreds of individual optical cells.    These connect with nervous ganglia.  butterflies don't have brains, but they can see.  Heaven only knows just what they see, but they do.  

   Butterflies do not have mouths.  If you think about it, this is sort of unusual in the animal kingdom.

Look carefully to see the long, curved proboscis

  Its hard to imagine what sort of evolutionary pressure caused them to substitute a thin tube, called a proboscis, for a mouth.  The proboscis is about as thick as a piece of fishing line, making one wonder how they are able to suck nectar (and other stuff, some quite viscous) through such an incredibly narrow tube.  There are tiny muscles in the cheeks that assist in sucking.

   And what about those antennae.  I'm reminded of Jon Belushi and his SNL Bees and that sitcom  Martian from long ago.  Being actually human, they had all the sensory organs we know and love, so in their case just what the antennae did is up for grabs.  In fact, butterfly antennae are sensitive chemo receptors.  They are extremely sensitive and specific to the needs of a butterfly.  They detect pheromones, especially for males locating females over long distances. They detect nectar and other things that the butterfly wants to ingest, some  rather disgusting.  And, especially in females, host plants.  We will discuss the relationship between butterflies and host plant below. 

                The Butterfly Life Cycle

    The butterfly lifecycle in some respects is similar to other animals, mostly it is wildly different.  So what came first, the chicken or the egg.  The fertilized egg, a combination of male and female products of conception along with a nutritious yolk is found throughout the animal kingdom.  If you think of the diverse animals that have adopted the egg as part of their lifecycle, independently through evolution, its overwhelming.

   In the case of Hawaii, we can say that a fertilized butterfly probably landed here and deposited her eggs.  At least twice.   .Eggs for each species are very small, about one mm., and they are all a bit different.  

   Female butterflies lay several hundred eggs individually, usually on the underside of the leaf of their host plant.  The host plant is one that the female knows her caterpillars will be able to eat.  When that first butterfly landed in Hawaii, it had to find a host plant.  Over millions of generations our endemic butterflies have developed host plant relationships with very specific plants now found mostly in highland forests.  The egg hatches in about six days.  

   As an aside, for each species of butterfly there is a parasitic wasp that lays eggs inside the butterfly egg. And there are other wasps that lay eggs inside caterpillars.  The insect world doesn't miss a trick.

    Emerging from the tiny egg is a tiny caterpillar, a first only a mm or two long.  The caterpillar eats voraciously for about three weeks. As it grows it molts,usually four or five times, depending on the species. The different caterpillar forms between molts are called instars.  Frequently the progressive instars look significantly different from one another.  

   The penultimate instar goes through a final molt and becomes the chrysalis.  In Hawaii, two different strategies are employed.  The Monarch, Kamehameha and Gulf Frit lay down a single patch of silk and hook into this with their cremaster, a small hook at the tail end, hang upside down and go chrysalis.  The Asian Swallowtail and Large Orange Sulfur lay down two patches of silk on each side of a branch and a third below,  They then attach the sides of the chrysalis with silk threads to the upper two patches.  The tail end of the caterpillar is attached, via the cremaster, to the third, dependent silk patch.

   The silk is produced in the mouth in a modified salivary gland and a spinerette.  It is both extremely strong and sticky.

     While the caterpillar was eating and growing, he was also producing imaginal discs.  These structures contain the information necessary to reconstruct the butterfly.  Because, once the caterpillar goes chrysalis, it releases chemicals that liquefy the organism within. So early on the chrysalis is full of caterpillar soup with the appropriate number of imaginal discs.  The imaginal discs get going and the various parts of the butterfly come into being  It takes about two weeks for the liquefied caterpillar to be reconstructed into a fully developed butterfly.

    If you don't believe in God (and I guess I respect that)  you might consider this metamorphosis and ask yourself, "Is there any ther reasonable explanation outside a divine presence?" 

   The butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.  Like one of those chairs you purchase at Costco, with the shock cords that connect the various legs and so forth, the butterfly ends up much larger than the tiny package it came in.  A monarch chrysalis is basically a tube about one inch in length and 4mm in diameter.  Once the emerged monarch has pumped his wings, moving fluid around the body, he is almost two inches long and has a wing span of three inches or more.  Go figure.  

    Although butterflies give us pleasure, they were born, if you will, to reproduce.  And they only have three weeks or so to get this done.  They are a bug on a mission.  Males will nectar, but they will also go to muddy places or find other sources of vitamins and minerals, which they suck up iwth their proboscis.  One trick in finding butterflies is to go to riverbanks and look for males with their beaks in the sand sucking up nutrients.  butterfly watchers call this a puddle party. If you are lucky, you may see several different species at one such get together. 

   Having done their best to accumulate what the female needs, they find a female, who is helping them along by emitting pheremones and the engage in S E X.  In addition to sperm, the male passes along these nutrients, which lepidopoterists call conjugal gifts.

   The female lays her 200 eggs and the process repeats.

    Garden Butterflies

    The introduced butterflies on Hawaii Island, from the stand point of life cycle, might all be called Garden Butterflies.  They go about their business with little regard for seasonality.  In one sense, this is surprising because there is clear indication of seasonality in our introduced flowering trees, our introduced birds and our reef fish.  Nevertheless, you can find monarch caterpillars in every month of the year.  

   This is hardly the case in butterflies that occupy temperate North America.  Here are three strategies those butterflies employ.  Monarchs migrate.  Those to the east of the Rockies migrate to pine forests in Central Mexico.  Those to the west migrate to coastal California.  There is a gentleman in San Francisco who is exciting the ire of the Monarch community by turning his property into a garden butterfly monarch community, where the species looses its seasonal approach, much as it does here in Hawaii.  It is likely that the migrating monarchs remain in sexual diapause through the winter, breeding again in March before migrating north.

   Mourning Cloak Butterflies, at the end of the fall season, crawl into a protected spot, like a rotting stump, and overwinter.  this same adult emerges in late spring to start breeding.

   Many butterflies overwinter as pupa, in chrysalis form.

    One might think that when spring arrives, butterflies just jump tight in and start cycling as they do in Hawaii.  This is far from the case.  somehow each species synchronizes within itself.  Between mid-May and September a species might go through 2 or 3 cycles, leaving many weeks when the adults are not seen.  Astute lepidopterists can alert us to the presence of adult butterflies, which one might otherwise easily miss.

   Dr Rubinoff tells us that the two native butterflies on Hawaii island, while present throughout the year, do exhibit some seasonality.  In fact, the Koa butterfly may be exhibiting an uptick in breeding in January, associated with the growing season of its host plants.  

    So head mauka, look under leaves and with luck you will find a Kamehameha or Koa Butterfly caterpillar!

jeff 

A brief history of Biologists in Hawaii with an emphasis on butterflies

The first biologic record by Europeans came on Cook's third voyage.  Realizing the importance of a natural historian, Cook recruited two.  When he arrived on Hawaii Island, the senior botanist was ill and unable to go ashore.  The junior botanist was David Nelson.   Nelson had been discovered as a gardener at Kew,Gardens and received some formal training before the voyage, possibly from Joseph Banks.  Nelson attempted to climb Mauna Loa, and collected 136 species of plants and a number of birds. which are now in the British Museum.   He went on to be the botanist on the HMS Bounty, responsible for the breadfruit in the main cabin.  Loyal to Captain Bligh, he made the 3800 mile voyage in the open boat, only to die of a fever on Tmor.  There is no record of Nelson finding butterflies in Hawaii.  One should view this as the first testimony as to how difficult it was (and is) to find the Kamehameha Butterfly  Even at the time of first European contact, preceding the deforestation caused by the sandalwood trade, a talented naturalist did not record one butterfly

    Johann Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, in contrast to David Nelson, was an aristocrat.  Residing in a university town in what is now Estonia, he studied medicine, zoology and botany.  He became the ship surgeon and one of two science officers for the voyage of the Rurik, a voyage of exploration sponsored by Nikolai Rumyantsev, First Secretary to Alexander I.  

   Like Cook, Otto von Kotzebue who commanded the sailing brig  Rurik, was charged with finding the Northwest Passage.  While Cook was exploring the Pacific, George III was fighting the American Revolution.  While von Kotzebue was exploring the Pacific, Alexander I was fighting Napoleon.  Curiously, Tolstoy did not write a monumental novel about Pacific exploration. 

     The Rurik circumnavigated, stopping in Hawaii twice.  Eschscholtz is credited with discovering and naming the Kamehameha Butterfly, his description being accepted in 1821.  Von Kotzebue and Eschscholtz teamed up for a second voyage In 1823 Von Kotzebue was given command of two ships of war, charged with resupplying kamchatka and protecting Russian interests in Alaska.  On this voyage they once again stopped in Hawaii.  .

  No lightweight,  as a result his two voyages of exploration, he Eschscholtz is credited with discovering an naming a slew of plants and animals from beetles, nudibrnchs and jellyfish to a flying fox and a couple monkeys. 

    Its sad, but despite a determined search, I can find no information on the person credited with discovering Blackbun's Blue Butterfly.  We are left with Tuely 1878.  We'll keep on it and provide an update when we can.

      It is a well established fact that Hollywood rewrites history.  For example, my impressions of world War II are greatly influenced by George C Scott in Patton and  Tom Hanks, et al. in Saving Private Ryan.   With that in mind, I would like to recommend two movies.   The first is Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe as Lucky Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin.  The story takes place at exactly the same time that von Kotzebue and Eschscholtz were sailing on the Rurik.  And the similarities between Stephen Maturin, physician and naturalist, and Eschscholtz are remarkable.  Its hard to believe that Patrick O'Brien was unaware of this.  At any rate, watch master and commander and get a feel for what it was like sailing at the time the our pulelehua was discovered.

     the second film i would recommend is Mutiny on the Bounty.  Actually you have your choice of 5 films.  Whether you like Marlon Brando or Anthony Hopkins, you will still see david Nelson caring for his breadfruit and being put into the open boat iwth Captain Bligh.

   


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Pulelehua, the Week of the Butterfly

     Ever since we arrived back in October, we had been pointing our academic lepidopteran efforts towards the few days surrounding the New Year.  Three days before the New year I was to give my first butterfly lecture, and two days after the fireworks, on New year's eve,  we would assemble our colleagues to install the Butterfly Exhibit of the Century.  

The children attack the props.

     Every week or so I would glean another fact or educated opinion from Daniel Rubinoff, the head butterfly guy at UH Manoa.  For example, there is little seasonality to butterfly life cycling in Hawaii.  Like well behaved garden butterflies, all the butterflies go about their reproductive business in an uninterrupted progression: 6 days for egg gestation, 20 days for caterpillar maturation (including 5 molts), 14 days in the chrysalis and/ three weeks as an adult butterfly.  This pattern is surprisingly constant across the range of our butterflies.

    Plants came to the Hawaiian Islands 80 million years ago and butterflies 12 million years ago.  The mass extinction followed the arrival of the Polynesians with the rats that they inadvertently brought along, resulting in the loss of at least 50 species of birds, many of them flightless, countless plants, and possibly butterflies.  

A Monarch flies in the Kailua Kona Library

    All of which is to say, I was getting an advanced education in island biology with which to regale my audience.  

    Not only that, but my beneficiary at the Keiki Museum of Hawaii, Anne Van Brunt,  had provided me with a new medium, fast drying clay.  At first I produced a fistful of nudibranchs, which of course have little to do with butterflies.  But then, warming to the task at hand, I whipped up  a veritable platoon of caterpillars and a bounty of chrysalises. 

    Well, the day finally arrived, and I arrived at the museum at 9 AM to give my lecture. I had my notes, of course, and a variety of props: butterfly models representing all the butterflies found on the Big Island, three clay chrysalises and my legion of caterpillars.  Many of these were fastened in groups, representing the progression of molting instars for a given species.  What turned out to be an unfortunate event, a few were sent into battle singly.  Woe be it to the unaffiliated caterpillar with no card stock upon which to take refuge.  

The Gulf Frit Group.  Instars, butterflies and a Chrysalis

    The reason these clay caterpillars were at such personal risk was that my audience was comprised of eight year olds: six boys and three girls.  As I lurched into my topic, it became apparent that my lecture would not hold their attention for forty minutes.  We shouted "Pulelehua!"  We stood and did wing exercises, flapping, soaring and resting with our back wings folded forward for camouflage. We even took a group run around the museum, flying our butterflies.

     At the eighteen minute mark the first recalcitrant had snuck up to the tree containing the chrysalises.  In a few minutes I had the entire audience  playing kilter with the butterflies, attempting to balance them among the branches that bore the tiny, helpless chrysalises.  One outlier had totally out flanked, and in my distraction, had absconded with the free range caterpillars. Separated from their fellows, those unfortunates were now charging one another in a battle royale.   I had yet to wax poetic about eggs, with which Mother Nature has blessed Phyla on both sides of the Vertebrate/ Invertebrate divide. 

   Yes!  The lecture had a ways to go, but we weren't going to get there. I enclose a picture captured by my loving wife.  You see the children attempting to place butterflies in the bush.  At the same time I'm struggling to keep the talk going.  Meanwhile to the right, Jyness, who was responsible for the program, seems to be wondering, "Is this the time to jump in and re-direct?"

The Asian Swallowtail Group.


    Regrouping, two high school interns, my lovely wife and I  hauled the children from the table and had them practice catching a feather in a butterfly net.  Lecture over.

    This was not the happiest day of my life.  Which is not to say that I haven't had worse. Some Elmer's Glue and judiciously applied paint would rehabilitate the props.

   New Years Eve came and went, with the obligatory aerial fireworks, and soon it was January 3rd, the day we would install our exhibit at the library.  

   Sandra and were met at the library by the Children's Librarian, our good friend Jennifer.. Kau'i, as she now prefers to be addressed, in this age of native Hawaiian awakening, would have done an infinitely better job than I when it came to herding cats at the Keiki Museum.  This day she was our supervisor and IT specialist. 

    The 10 butterflies of the Big Island were installed, along with their caterpillars, chrysalises and an educational description.  Three species, the Monarch,  Kamehameha and the Gulf Frit were blessed with an additional suspended model, soaring, as it were, through the exhibit.  

Black Witch and Butterflies at the Library
    Our swallowtail exhibit features four instars that appear comical with eyes that mimic a vertebrate like a lizard.  Although you and I are unlikely to see these in real life, this is apparently what these caterpillars look like.  

    You might note how the chrysalis of both the swallowtail and the Large Orange Sulfur are attached to the branch, not by a single cremaster (the hook that protrudes from the tail of the penultimate instar), but rather a three point suspension made from silk pads and treads.  Butterflies and moths produce silk in a modified salivary gland in the mouth, along with a spinerette. 

   Two weeks ago our pal, Anne Van Brunt, went caterpillar crazy.  She collected 7 chrysalises from the  milkweeds at a bordering Macy's parking lot.  In doing so, she was able to retain the silk and re-use it to suspend the chrysalises from a string, demonstrating what strong and durable material this silk is.   And she hatched five out of seven.  What a girl!

    The Black witch moth exhibit is so lifelike, with a model resting against the wall, it even had Kau'i doing a double take.  

Kamehameha and monarchs in all their forms.
    By the next day Kau'i had a banner installed.  Unlike my infamous lecture, this turned out pretty well.  I realize most of you won't have a chance to visit the exhibit, but I'm including some pictures so you get the idea.  Perhaps next Christmas you will find a clay caterpillar in your stocking!

jeff

Editors note:  Due to the interest of our colleagues at UH Manoa, we are adding a few more pictures demonstrating the butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalises  found in this collection.  This blog will soon and for perpetuity be found as a link on the site associated with the Insect Museum at UH Manoa!






Large Orange Sulfur Butterfly Sleepy Orange Butterfly      

            Phoebis agarithe                     Eurema nicippe

The Sulfur Butterfly Group.  We have two yellow butterflies on the Big Island.  Both were introduced in the last century and have a variety of host plants.  In the exhibit we also show the caterpillars of the Large Orange Sulfur and their chrysalis.  Note that like the Asian Swallowtail, this caterpillar forms its chrysalis by anchoring in a pad of silk at its tail and suspending from two silk strands from the thorax, both anchored to silk pads on the branch.  











The Monarch Butterfly, its caterpillar and its five instars.
The Monarch is perhaps Kona's most iconic butterfly.  Virtually everyone recognizes this large bronzy butterfly with its distinctive wings, bearing a precise black vein pattern   As much as any butterfly, especially those with a complex wing pattern, the monarch is the same on ventral and dorsal wing surfaces.  Associated with native milkweeds in North America, it has long had a Pacific population.  It was introduced to Hawaii in the the early 1800s when "civilized people" imported crown milkweed for a garden shrub.  Monarch migration in North America is famous, but this population has never been migratory.  It is equally famous as a butterfly one can rear from a kit including milkweed starts.

   Here see five instars of the Monarch.  Of course in life the first instar is only a couple milometers in length.  Note how different the instars are from one another!  The final instar gets quite large, over an inch.  It crawls to a branch, lays down a patch of silk, and attaches by its ventral cremaster and suspends head down to molt into it's chrysalis.  

    Find the chrysalises in the tree early in the blog.  The initial chrysalis is lime green.  At maturity it turns black and then clear, just before the butterfly emerges.  The chrysalis is only an inch in length, yet as the Monarch emerges, it expands to a butterfly with a three inch wing span.  Amazing! 

The initial Monarch Chrysalis, a mature chrysalis and a caterpillar in the first stage of pupating.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       The Kamehameha butterfly is our state insect, the true pulelehua.  (Although in spoken Hawaiian today, pulelehua may

A male kamehameha soars through the exhibit

refer to any butterfly.  Vanessa tameamea has evolved from a wayward vanessa butterfly that landed on Hawaii 12 million years ago,
presumably bearing fertile eggs.  Simple arithmetic tells us that is 72 million generations in which to evolve into this distinct species, linked inextricably to māmaki, the native Hawaiian nettle, which grows like a shrub.  Māmaki cultivation may be providing a new home for our butterfly,  and hence, the Kamehameha Butterfly is found sometimes in residential areas.  

 We also show the third and 5th instars of the tameamea caterpillar.


 

Red Admiral and Painted Lady the other Vanessas
Behind the Kamehamehas, you see the Red Admiral and the Painted Lady. Vanessa atatalanta and Vanessa cardui.  Both are known from Europe and North America and were introduced to Hawaii in the late 1800s .  If one had to  pick the butterfly that was the original migrant, 12 milllion years ago, he could do worse than the Painted Lady.  It is a famous wanderer, migrating each year from Northern Europe to Africa for the winter. It stops a couple times n the way to throw in a new generation.  


 

      

 

The 3rd and 5th instars of the Kamehameha Butterfly
 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


Dorsal view of Blackburn's Blue pair below, a Lesser Grass Blue


    On Hawaii Island we have two little blue butterflies.  As a group they are tiny, the size of a dime.   Little blue butterflies are not particularly rare.  We have at least six species within a two hour drive of Portland, Oregon, which is a poor place to watch butterflies.  Males tend to be blue on top, while females are brown.  The fine pattern of spots on the ventral surfaces, identical in both sexes,  is the key to identifying the species. On Hawaii Island, the introduced Lesser Grass Blue Butterfly has such spots.  Our endemic, Blackburn's Blue or the Koa Butterfly is iridescent green below. If you see a little blue butterfly in Kona, it is the introduced grass butterfly.  Our endemic lives at altitude in Koa forests.


 Above we see the dorsal view of both species.  In fact, they look fairly similar and would be difficult to differentiate in the wild with this view alone.  This is frequently the case with little blue butterflies which is why you either have to catch them or photograph them!  

    Below we see the ventral surfaces, a bright green on the ventral surface of the Koa and a buffy field with a panoply of black and brown spots on the the Lesser Grass butterfly.

 

 


 

 

   The Black Witch Moth is one of our favorites.  and the only moth in the exhibit.  It is a common sight around Kona, resting on the side of the house or perhaps your window screen.  There is significant sexual dimorphism.  Males lack the bright cross wing bars borne by the female.

Tutu on the wall, Tio flying by and Bubba below.

   I was unable to find a picture of the cocoon, but Dr. Rubinoff tells us "I have reared them and the larvae form, as I recall, a loose webbing in the soil surface in which they pupate. Like in mulch or loose leaves if I recall correctly. Only butterflies make a Chrysalis. I don't have images, it's fairly unremarkable I'd say, and surprisingly small given the size of the moth."  

     Here we  present you with a caterpillar that makes that unremarkable pupa.  

   This moth is native to Texas and Latin America.  There, when they see a Black Witch they think they are in the presence of an evil spirit.  In Hawaii we think it is a friendly visit from a departed relative.  Armed with this knowledge, you will now know whether it is your mother or father who has come for a visit.

  I hope these pictures have been delightful and educational.  Thanks again to Daniel Rubinoff, Caitlin LaBar and everyone else who has nurtured my interest in butterflies.


jeff





    

Friday, January 5, 2024

Kahalu'u in the New Year

     After Christmas the surf came up, making snorkeling difficult.  Finally today we had relatively calm seas and the tide was right for Kahalu'u.  The weather was cold and clear.  Cold in Kona is under 70

A pictus moray for the new year

degrees.  I dressed warmly for the water, which was a good thing because the winter swell had washed out the relatively warm water and the bay was about the same temperature as the air.  And 75 degree water is chilly for Hawaii.

    Luckily, the water was fairly clear in spots and we saw a few good fish and one nice critter.  

   Early on I saw a pictus moray, which is larger than many eels at Kahalu'u.  Big enough to give one pause , but not notorious for biting, I still chose to give him some respect.





In a nice patch of clear water there were a pair of lined butterflies and some handsome threadfins.  Threadfins remain common, but this is the only Lined Butterfliyfish that I have seen this season.

Lined Butterfly, Kahalu'u January 2024







    On my way across, I ran into this Gosline's Fanged Blenny.  Tiny wiggly and often approachable,  they are the small and more common cousin of the Ewa Fanged Blenny, which I have only seen twice.  These little guys make a living cleaning other fish.  In fact, in almost the same spot i saw a juvenile cleaner warasse.  black with an electric blue line, they do the same job. Both, on occasion, will take a nibble of the fish as opposed to a parasite.  This is more likely iwth the fanged blenny than the cleaner wrasse.  Lucky for me, one of these little devis has not attempted to nip my skinny you know what.

Gosline's Fanged Blenny  January 2024









    In almost the very center of the bay I encountered this fine Humpback Cowry.  although he was sitting in the sand, he was so nice and clean that I can reasonably hope there was a snail inside.  I t was early, still before 9 AM, so hopefully he was on his way to a good hiding spot as opposed to a drawer in someone's cabinet collection..  There are three similar cowries, dark chocolate brown, but this one has the the roundest profile.

Humpback Cowry, January 2024 Kahalu'u







      I saw some more fish, usual suspects as it were, and I was lucky enough to complete my swim with a female Pearl Wrasse fairly close to the entry.  She swam with me long enough for this nice New Year's photo.  We made it through 2023 and look forward to some fine adventures in 2024.  I hope you all have some fine adventures, as well. 

Have a pearl of a new year!



jeff

Monday, December 25, 2023

A Christmas Wrasse on Christmas Eve 2023

I'm dreaming of a white urchin.
    Two days ago Sandra and I went snorkeling together at Kahalu'u.  We picked a time based on tide, halfway between full and empty it was going to be one foot at one o'clock, and the wave conditions, which were mild.  We also noted the weather, which was just about the opposite of what Bing Crosby crooned in Mele Kalikimaka.   His Hawaiian Christmas was clear and bright while what Kona was experiencing was stormy with a chance of meatballs.  Did I get that right?

     Hence, at the height of Christmas vacation the bay was almost deserted.  But the water was still somewhere on the warm side of frigid as the two of us pushed off towards the corner, going for the Christmas Wrasse first.  Just as we reached the boulders near Alii Drive, we heard a gentle pattering, like someone making popcorn in the next room.  Yes, Virginia, big fat raindrops were falling on my head.  And Sandra's, too, for that matter.  When you're already submerged, the latent heat of evaporation doesn't come into play, so the effect was actually pleasant.  Perhaps this is the closest you can get to a White Christmas in Kona.

Stout Moray with lockigen haar.  Kahalu'u December 2023

     And the tutu sings, "I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas, on any cold Hawaiian day. Where the puddles glisten, and keikis listen, to hear raindrops in the bay."

    Undeterred, we swam on.  Almost out to the Rescue Shelter, we were met by a nice, fat Christmas Wrasse speeding in the other direction.  Hoping for a picture, I struggled to free the camera, but before I could shoot he was long gone. Aloha nui loa.

     By this time, the rain had stopped and we made our way into the middle of the bay.  There we saw a bunch of long spined urchins and one that was almost white.  Well, maybe it only seemed that way.  But it was different enough that I held out hope for something special, even though it fell into the standards of the Banded Urchin.   I even sent this picture to John Hoover, who must be bored, because he wrote back immediately, confirming what it said in his book.  "Sometimes those urchins are almost all white. Check out p.313 of the creature book."  Which I already had.  Why do I waste his time?

A Plump Puffer and His Christmas Cleaner

     A bit further along, we saw this nice eel, golden of hue and with an unusual rectilinear pattern behind his head.  He was  just brave enough to maintain his position while I dove to take his picture, which he promised to put on a Christmas card and send to all his slithery relations as soon as he can get to the post office.  As long as I was boring John Hoover with urchins, I ran this one by him and he conformed, despite the interesting  geometric patch, stout moray. 

   Finally, we saw this fine chubby puffer with an attentive cleaner wrasse, always a treat.

     Sadly, the following morning, it was revealed that the snorkeling experience had left the lovely Miss Sandra hors de combat.  Or at least, hors de plongées libres., as Jaques Cousteau might have intoned.

    Accepting what life gives us, in the late morning, following our yuletide run to the yard debris, I was dropped off at the pier for a swim on Paul Allen's Reef.  As an aside, it almost doesn't seem like Christmas in Kona without Paul's helicopter hovering over the Kailua Pier.   

Yellowtail Scad in the Inner Harbour,  Christmas Eve 2023

    Christmas Eve was overcast, but not raining.  Starting out in the Inner Harbour, the water was cold, but tolerable, and only a bit cloudy.  This was lucky, because out by Kamehameha's heiau I ran into a school of Yellowtail Scad.  This was only my second experience with this species.  Unlike its far more common cousin, the Big-eye Scad, yellowtails tends to live in deeper water, as opposed to inshore bays.  So while far from rare, it is not seen commonly by snorkelers.  And is not found on any page in Hoover's fish book.

Saint Freckleface perched upon his Christmas Coral

    Shortly thereafter, I saw a juvenile Surge Wrasse.  Very similar to Thalasoma yuletideii.   In the pas,t and under duress, I have been tempted to claim this fish for the completion of the Christmas Wrasse on Christmas Day quest.  The juveniles are very similar, but there are a couple good clues to separate them and to the best of my recollection I have not succumbed to that Grinchy temptation.  

   The water was much warmer in the small bay that faces both the luau grounds of the Kamehameha Hotel and the entrance to Paul Allen's lagoon.  And in patches it was fairly clear.  On one clump of meandrina coral I spotted a small Freckle Faced hawkfish that held still.  And there were other fish, but not a profusion. 

   I checked a couple other cauliflower corals for Spotted Scorpionfish and Coral Croucher, but to no avail.  And then I turned towards the point that separates this small inlet from Kailua Bay proper.  And this is when all hell broke loose.  What had been a peaceful pond was now a very bumpy ride with lots of current and slosh.  I hate C and S, don't you?  I had hoped for a Christmas Wrasse in this area, but I was distracted by the need to stay clear of the rocks.  Without seeing too much, I made it around the point where there were a few of the usual suspects and then turned back.  

Whitespotted Surgeon at the entrance to Paul Allen's Lagoon

   It had been relatively calm on the ocean side, but back in the inlet it was actually rougher.  As I approached the entrance to Paul Allen's lagoon , I was greeted by three Whitespotted Surgeons.  A fish usually seen where the waves are breaking violently against the rocks, their presence here was indicative of the turbulent conditions.  

   The Whitespotted Surgeons were joined in the moving water by a pair of Sailfin Tangs and a school of yellow Tangs.  I got a couple pictures of this group, which was cavorting right in the lagoon entrance.   As it turns out, the lagoon entrance is formed by steep walls of lava reaching down ten feet or so, deep enough to provide a safe channel for boats at low tide.  Now these rocks, ordinarily ignored by the casual snorkeler, were being buffeted by waves, creating a playground for these kings of the surf.  

We Three Kings of Paul Allen' Lagoon.  /  We're determined to make Jeff look a buffoon.

The Christmas Wrasse on Christmas Eve 2023

    Well, I made it across the lagoon entrance, a mere forty feet, to the opposing ridge of steep lava, and there I struck pay dirt.   In the swirling water was a large, beautiful Christmas Wrasse.  He was swimming hither and yon, the light conditions were terrible  and the water was turbulent and full of debris, but a picture, the type that verifies what you saw regardless of pleasing aeshetic quality, was mandatory.  I took a bunch of pictures and you see the best. 

     As I was working on getting a picture, while placing a priority on keeping myself afloat, a smaller Christmas Wrasse swam by.  Much smaller, but with full adult coloration.  I tried to get his picture, as well, but only succeeded in getting a tail on perspective.

    While what you see here is not fit for a Christmas card, it at least it documents our success on Christmas Eve in Kona.   

    The swim wasn't over.  I made it across the bay uneventfully, but ended up  a good distance to the left of the entrance into the Inner Harbour.  As I made my turn, a juvenile five stripe wrasse swam by.  I followed him for a bit and attempted some pictures.  The deplorable conditions persisted and he wasn't really a very pretty fish.  As I was failing at this endeavor, an even smaller, less colorful five stripe appeared. 

   In lieu of showing you another poor picture, I'm including a picture of the same fish, initial phase Five Stripe Wrasse, taken in exactly the same spot on Christmas Day 2018.  Merry Christmas from the editorial staff at the blog.

   Admitting the futility of this enterprise I started for the harbor entrance.  Perhaps I wasn't paying attention, which isn't the best thing to do when you are swimming by yourself in the ocean, but I made a wrong turn onto rip rap that terminated on the wave tossed shore.  Luckily I was able to turn around with only a few bumps, and no cuts, and found the correct rip rap to swim over.   Soon enough I was back inside, where young families from places like Fresno and Omaha were enjoying the calm, frigid water. 

The Warrior of Kalikimaka.

   On shore, I was  standing in front of the Kona Boys shack, putting on my hat and dark glasses when a gentleman stepped into the shallows a few yards away.  Bare to the waist, he struck a pose like a Hawaiian petroglyph and then at the top of his lungs he exclaimed, " I have been a warrior!  I killed ten years ago! This is my testimony!..." It went on for an uncomfortable while.  The people from Omaha were aghast, but the ones from Fresno were like,  "Just get on with it."

     And that's how it is when you go snorkeling at the Kona Pier on Christmas.   

Mele Kalikimaka. 

 jeff