April 2013, Halmahera, Indonesia ~ More soft coral mimics! Back in November, I posted a video of a nudibranch, Phyllodesmium rudmani, that mimics the soft coral, Xenia, upon which it feeds (click here to see the previous post). Ned wasn’t with me on that dive so last month, during our cruise through Halmahera aboard the Dewi Nusantara, our guide Yann made sure Ned saw this different species of nudibranch, which I think is Phyllodesmium jakobsenae, another predator of soft coral. Yann found two of them within a few meters of each other. The first, at the base of the soft coral, might be obvious to someone with the search image for the nudibranch. How he spotted the other, nestled into the soft coral polyps, is simply amazing! Watch a short video on our BlennyWatcher YouTube channel or below:
Fresh from the bay – probably nothing to excite a real collector, but fun anyway.
Above are bottles from my first bottle collecting trip ever (October 2012). I know I picked up a thousand Amstel and Heineken bottles for every “keeper” so while this collection wouldn’t excite more seasoned experts, I was stoked. Since then, I’ve spent many hours in old bookstores and on the net where one place, the Antique Bottles Forum, has been especially helpful. Two months later, equipped with a more discerning eye plus the help of local experts, I fared a little better:
Having learned to stop picking up Amstel and Heineken bottles, I fared a little better the second trip.
Three ages of Benedictine?
This is what one area looked like underwater – mostly new beer bottles
October 2012 ~ Here are a few more observations from our most recent trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Batanta, one of four main islands, is located just a few cruising hours from the port of Sorong and is usually the first and last stops on our itineraries. That has never been enough for me so for this most recent trip aboard the Dewi Nusantara, we planned an all-Batanta itinerary. The heavily forested island has been my favorite for beachcombing, birdwatching and some of the best diving in the area. On the first day, I found a tiny Rumengani Pipehorse, a fish described a few years ago from North Sulawesi. Two years ago, our guide Yann found one in Halmahera and now we logged it in Batanta.
Bats, a.k.a., Flying Foxes roost in trees on Wai Island, Indonesia
We made a stop at Wai Island, known for its nearby manta and WWII airplane dives and…bats! Back in 2005, we went ashore for an evening cookout on Wai just as thousands of flying foxes (bats) were leaving their tree roosts to fly to nearby Batanta to feed for the night. Ned and I skipped a dive the next morning to return to the island. We found the bats hanging too high up in the Casuarina trees to get good close-up photos but the sound was just amazing. When we returned in 2006, I convinced my friend Darcy to accompany me to shore. Armed with my new camera we pressed through the center of the island and spent hours watching the bats. It was a muddy, guano-laced experience but totally worth all the mess because we even found a nursery tree where we could see baby bats clinging to their mothers. Now, six years later, I talked the bats up so much that there were 20 of us making the trek. The island was different – the patriarch of the small, resident family had died and there was a new dock and a few more buildings, but the bats were still there. I’ve loaded a short bat video at the end of this post.
I added a blenny to my life list: Meiacanthus crinitus, the Schooling Harptail Blenny, a.k.a. Hairytail Fangblenny. This was an exciting find for me – I noticed them because they were moving across the slope in a group of eleven. They were beautiful fish with lovely trailing filaments on their tails. I stayed with them as long as I could, hoping Ned would come along to take a photograph but he never did so the above image is a frame capture from my video. This little group, just off tiny Yum Island, was the only one I saw the two weeks.
Coconut crab on Batanta, Indonesia
We went ashore one afternoon to look at coconut crabs, terrestrial hermit crabs that are the largest land-living arthropods in the world. Juveniles use gastropod shells for protection but adults develop tough exoskeletons eliminating the need to carry shells. These are really big crabs!
Sea Beans from Dokor Island, Indonesia
My favorite beachcombing spot was Dokor Island, a place we visited several years ago. One end of the small island has a beach that comes to a point, apparently shaped by the water moving in and out of the channel between Birie and Wruwarez islands. The last time we were here, I remember finding many sea beans (the catchall name for assorted tropical drift seeds) and we weren’t disappointed this time.
Here’s my bat video. In one scene, you can see a mother bat folding her wing over her baby:
Happy Friday! Blennywatcher is on the road, so I’m sharing some amusing marine life encounters from the archives. We don’t seek interactions with fish and critters – sometimes they just happen. The Goliath Grouper, hanging out in an area where some dive operators fed fish, stalked us, hoping for a hand-out. The head shaking behavior, shown in my video at the end of this post is interesting because a friend showed me similar footage of a grouper in Bonaire, where we are pretty certain fish were not being fed.
Just outside of La Paz in the Gulf of California, there is a famous stop for dive boats, Los Islotes. Everyone goes there to see the sea lions, but I was puttering along in the shallows looking for a barnacle blenny or two when I ran into a diver and a couple of sea lion pups that were checking out his gear:
We spent a couple of days working in the Coral Restoration Foundation’s coral nursery in Key Largo. Divers cleaning algae off the bases attracted a lot of wrasses and other opportunistic feeders but the triggers were way more interested in my camera port. Ken Nedimyer said they were actually biting some of his volunteers.
Uh-Oh ... Looks like trouble.
Yes, definitely trouble.
Back in 1995, we spent weeks in the same grass bed in Bimini, documenting the behavior of a colony of pikeblennies. A remora, a.k.a., sharksucker greeted us every day as we descended. We call them “sneaker heads” because the suction disk on top of their heads look like the soles of our shoes. This one was quite annoying, sometimes boldly chowing down on my ponytail (one of the reasons I started wearing a hood).
Ned and remora friend
This video opens with footage from 1995, shot in Bimini. A Sharksucker with a Nurse Shark learns that timing is everything: