Universal Truth of Blenny Watching #1: The desirability of the blenny is inversely proportional to the conditions in which one must dive to see/photograph it. Longhorn Blenny? High on our list and took two 90-minute dives in surge to get the shots (see last year’s post here). A blenny with eggs? Seaweed blennies are pretty common in Florida, but the Seaweed Blenny with eggs was in 72-degree water with 3-foot visibility (see that post here). So why would I even hope to have an easy time with the Molly Miller that Judy Townsend was showing me at the Blue Heron Bridge?
Judy, one of our group of friends who dive the bridge regularly (a.k.a., the Mucksters), was helping me with the logistics for our trips to the Bridge last month and happened to mention seeing Molly Millers, including one with eggs. She also sent her photos to help fuel the fire. The last time I saw a Molly Miller blenny, Scartella cristata, was in the 90s, before I was keeping a life list, so yes, Molly Millers were high on my wish list.
The Molly Miller has an interesting distribution that includes both sides of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. They are found in shallow, surgy areas like the site Judy’s blenny had selected – on a bridge piling located where the tidal current is the strongest and just deep enough that I couldn’t stand in the sand to steady myself even if I wanted to. The female lays demersal eggs that are guarded by the male, who darkens in nuptial colors of green and who sports a splendid Mohawk of red cirri. (Demersal eggs sit or are attached to the bottom, as opposed to those cast into the water column by broadcast spawners). Our first dive was a night dive, and I saw just the male in the hole but the next morning, I found two – they were spawning! Ned spent a few minutes bouncing around in the current and surge and got over the whole thing pretty fast – staying just long enough to get a few shots so I would quit bugging him, then he was off to calmer water. I checked in on the little fish every dive we made over two trips last month. He was always there, either guarding eggs in various stages of development or in the morning, spawning. My video is very bouncy, so I kept it short – it is posted on our Blennywatcher YouTube channel ~ Anna DeLoach