I have been idly filing away some stunning close-up reef denizen images by Melinda Riger. A Monday morning is the perfect time to showcase some pouts, poses and glad eyes from the ‘catfish walk’, starting with my absolute favourite…
A COWFISH** PERFECTS THE POUT
A GREEN MORAY EEL SMILES STRAIGHT TO CAMERA
A GROUPER DOES THE ‘OPEN-MOUTH’ GAPE
THIS SCHOOLMASTER SNAPPER MAY NOT HAVE GOT QUITE WHAT IT TAKES
NICE EYES, BUT THE PETITE SAND-DIVER NEEDS TO BE A LITTLE MORE OUTGOING
AS DOES THE SOUTHERN STINGRAY
HOWEVER THE PEACOCK FLOUNDER IS ROCKING THE MAKE-UP BOX
THE OCTOPUS IS MOODY & WON’T GET OUT OF BED FOR LESS THAN 20 MOLLUSCS
AND REGRETTABLY THE POOR CONCH HAS A BAD STAGE FRIGHT
For more octopus information and a discussion of the correct plural (choice of 3)CLICKHERE
For a post about underwater species camouflageCLICKHERE
**Since I posted this earlier today, I have been asked (re photo 1) what the… the… heck a Cowfish looks like, when it’s not puckering up while facing you. The answer is: stunningly glamorous…
Thanks as ever to Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba for use permission for her fab photos; tip of the dorsal fin to Wiki for the shark eye header pic
SCRAPES, CHICKS & BROKEN WINGS: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (3)
The male plover above is keeping watch from a rocky vantage point over an area at the north end of the beach at Delphi. And with good reason. It’s the summer breeding season, and on the sand are some nests. One of them is his.
This is a ‘scrape’ – not the carefully constructed nest that most birds make, but a shore bird’s collection of sticks and twigs – sometimes stones or shells – clumped together on the sand to provide a comfortable place for the mother to sit until the eggs have hatched.
Though tiny at first, the chicks soon become independent enough to explore their surroundings
Usually, there will be a pair of chicks, maybe more. The two in the photo below have scuttled to the back of the beach for safety because the adults thought I was getting a bit close, and sent them to hide in the pine needles
When a nest is threatened by a predator, Wilson’s plovers have a defensive technique that is remarkable to watch. Other shore birds, for example Killdeer, resort to this method as well. A parent will flutter about pathetically on the sand, apparently with one or both wings broken, attracting the predator by its faked vulnerability. The plover will gradually draw the threat away from the nest area, protecting the eggs or allowing chicks to make themselves scarce. Here are some examples of the ‘broken wing display’, all photographed on the beach at Delphi. The first 2 images show a female; the third, a male.
Athough the little chicks are vulnerable, they grow quickly
Before very long, they are able to get onto the same rocky vantage point as their parents to practise surveying the scene. Next summer, they will be keeping watch over nests and chicks of their own.
The previous posts in the series are WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) showing the adults; and WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) that shows how plovers nesting on the shore at Nettie’s Point were protected from human activity in the boat-launching area.
“I’m off now. See you next year”Credits: scrape & broken wing display, Clare Latimer; last (and best) chick image, Tom Sheley; the rest, RH
PHOTOGENIC ENDEMICS: BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO
I’ve been keeping this little bird up my capacious avian-friendly sleeve for a while. In June we took a truck and headed for deep backcountry to the edge of the pine forests and beyond to see what we could find in the way of birdlife. Good choice – the answer was ‘plenty’.
The illustrative photos are of poor quality, but rather than blame my camera (as I am only too ready to do), I plead ‘overexcitement’ in mitigation. Of the 4 endemic species on Abaco, this was the only one I’d never seen. There was a tweeting noise on the edge of an abandoned sugar cane field (above), followed by some rustling… and out fluttered this bird, crossing the track right by us and landing quite close to inspect us.
This striking bird, with its Zorro mask and bright yellow body, is an endearing mix of shy and inquisitive. Only the males have the mask – the females are less colourful, though naturally equally interesting…
Yellowthroats are responsive to pishing, and once lured from cover they may happily remain on low-to-medium height branches or on a shrub, watching you watching them.
Their song is quite easily imitated, and that may also bring them into the open – a source of immense satisfaction to the amateur (me) if it works. Here’s an example, courtesy of myiPH@NE METHOD for bird recording. It’s the call at the start and the end.
The one we watched had plenty to sing about – it’s just a shame that my images are so poor, because in some you can see its tiny tongue. A bit too blurry, though, even by my own moderate standards for inclusion.
At a formative stage of this blog, I did a short post about the endemic Bahama Yellowthroat and its comparisons with the similar and better-known Common Yellowthroat, which is also found in the Bahamas. You can read itHERE. There’s a female shown, a video, and an unacknowledged debt to Wiki or similar source, I can’t help but notice…
**ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWKS AND THE ‘BOOMING DISPLAY’
“On summer evenings, keep an eye and an ear out for the male Nighthawk’s dramatic “booming” display flight. Flying at a height slightly above the treetops, he abruptly dives for the ground. As he peels out of his dive (sometimes just a few meters from the ground) he flexes his wings downward, and the air rushing across his wingtips makes a deep booming or whooshing sound, as if a racecar has just passed by. The dives may be directed at females, territorial intruders, and even people.” We found ourselves right in the middle of one of these astounding displays, with maybe 100 birds behaving exactly as described, often whooshing within inches of our heads. I’ll post some more about it in due course. Credits: Philip Simmons; All About Birds (Cornell Lab)
BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO, BAHAMAS (2) GULF FRITILLARIES
The GULF FRITILLARY Agraulis vanillae is a so-called ‘longwing’ butterfly species found from South America to central North America, named for its migration route over the Gulf of Mexico.
The black and orange patterns of this butterfly are a reminder to predators of the toxicidity of its stripy caterpillar and birds tend to leave them alone. Just in case. The markings are also similar to other butterflies that are poisonous – for example the Monarch. Tip of the hat to Wiki for the information that “this species belongs to the ‘orange’Batesian mimicrycomplex”. Me neither! It is where an innocuous species resembles a noxious one in order to discourage predators without going to the bother of actually developing its own ‘on-board’ toxins.
The gulf fritillary is common on Abaco, as elsewhere in the Bahamas. I particularly fond of the photo below, in which the whole feeding apparatus can be seen. I haven’t done my homework, I’m afraid. If anyone wants to provide the technical terms (mouth? proboscis? tongue-thing?), that would be welcome. Please use the comment box to spread enlightenment.
Credits: all amazing photos by Charlie Skinner, except header image Wiki – to which credit also for the graphic and some info in particular ‘Batesian Mimicry complex’, which is definitely one to drop lightly into conversation…
BAHAMAS REEF FISH (14): HAMLETS (NOT GLOOMY DANES)
“Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and…” Ah! Sorry. I’m soliloquising again. Must be Thursday. And the merest mention of Hamlet is enough to set anyone off. But I speak not of noble yet gloomy Danes of Elsinore and of discernibly introspective aspect. These ones are pretty reef fish of the Caribbean seas, mainly in the Bahamas and along the Florida coast. There are a number of different types of hamlet, of which the 4 featured below in Melinda’s amazing underwater images were were encountered in one dive.
SHY (OR GOLDEN) HAMLET
Hamlets have outstandingly interesting reproductive skills, being ‘synchronous hermaphrodites’. They have the unusual benefit of having both male and female sexual organs as adults, permitting imaginative combinations of pairings (though not including self-fertilization). When they find a mate, “the pair takes turns between which one acts as the male and which acts as the female through multiple matings, usually over the course of several nights”.I don’t dare check whether there are websites that cater for this sort of energetic coupling. The wonder is that Hamlets preferentially mate with individuals of their same colour pattern, and that they are not more wanton with their attentions and sexual flexibility.
OPTIONAL CULTURAL, HISTORICAL & MUSICAL DIVERSION INSPIRED BY HAMLET
The other notable Hamlet is, of course, the mild cigar equated in the famed commercials with happiness, accompanied by an excerpt from a jazzy version of Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’. Here is one of the best – and possibly the only advert to my knowledge to feature not one, but two excellent Sir Walter Raleigh jokes.
Bach’s well-known descending chord sequence of was of course shamelessly ripped off by ingeniously adapted by Procol Harum for ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, their first single in 1967. Relive the Summer of Love right here and now. Is this the music that might even put those versatile hamlets in the mood…
Any fret-tweakers might like to see the sheet music of the Air for guitar – you could even play it on air guitar – which is relatively easy, being in C major.Credits: All fish pics Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, except wiki-header; open-source online material; my mp3, dammit – I can’t get the wretched tune out of my mind…
LAND CRABS: THE ILLUSTRATED ‘WHAT, WHERE, HOW, & WHY’
The Loxahatchee River District organisation produces excellent informative posters on wildlife and environmental themes. With their approval, I have a dedicated page for these: CLICKLOXAHATCHEE. You will find posters about Bonefish, Tarpon, Lionfish, Nassau Grouper, Spiny Lobster, Coral Reefs, Elkhorn Coral, and Seagrasses. I’d be surprised if each one didn’t contain at least one interesting factual nugget that you didn’t know before. The range of subjects is gradually being expanded and one of the latest concerns the Land Crab. Click the poster twice to enlarge it and make it legible.
My factoid nugget from this poster is that juvenile bonefish predate on larval crabs. I suppose it’s obvious, but I hadn’t thought about it. From the fisherman’s angle a very good reason to protect, and ensure the proliferation of, adult land crabs!
For photos of these crabs and a short video demo of how they use their claws, here are links to two previous posts about them
BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO, BAHAMAS (1) ZEBRA HELICONIANS
The Zebra Heliconian butterfly Heliconius charithonia is also know as the Zebra Longwing. These striking butterflies roost nightly in large colonies, a species behaviour that is believed to be a protective measure against predation, providing safety in numbers (or at least reducing the probabilities that you will be the one to be eaten). In 1996 the Zebra Longwing was appointed the State Butterfly of Florida.
Credits: all images by Charles Skinner, taken in the vicinity of the Delphi Club, Abaco