“REEF ENCOUNTER”: TEN CHEERFUL BAHAMAS REEF FISH


Queen Triggerfish  ©Melinda Riger G B Scuba

QUEEN TRIGGERFISH

“REEF ENCOUNTER”: TEN CHEERFUL BAHAMAS REEF FISH

LAURA JESSON “Do you know, I believe we should all behave quite differently if we lived in a warm, sunny climate all the time. We shouldn’t be so withdrawn and shy and difficult…” (Brief Encounter 1945) 

The quote is there both because it is particularly apposite for any withdrawn etc Brit with a toehold in Abaco, and because it explains or excuses the somewhat clumsy title pun… March has been dominated by (a) a trip to Abaco and (b) publication of “The Birds of Abaco”. Time for some cheerful finny  fotos to end the month with, courtesy of diving belle Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba and her top-class camera work.

Cherub Fish © Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

CHERUB FISH

Rock Beauty ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

ROCK BEAUTY

Fairy Basslet © Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

FAIRY BASSLET

Blackbar Soldierfish ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

BLACKBAR SOLDIERFISH

Hamlet (Shy) ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy

SHY HAMLET

Three-spot Damselfish  ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba  copy

THREE-SPOT DAMSELFISH

Blue Tang with Blue Chromis © Melinda Riger @GB Scuba copy

BLUE TANG with BLUE CHROMIS

Banded Butterflyfish ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

BANDED BUTTERFLYFISH

A CUBAN PEWEE AT THE ABACO NEEM FARM


P1010060 - Version 2

A CUBAN PEWEE AT THE ABACO NEEM FARM

This post may be infected with a passing dose of Badworkmanblamingtoolitis. I took a new camera to Abaco, an upgrade on my previous one (which thankfully I kept while testing the new one). I only use a ‘Bridge’ camera, mostly set on auto because it takes me too long to fidget with controls while the bird in front of me chooses the optimum moment to fly off, i.e. fractionally before I have pressed the button…

 

We went to the Abaco Neem Farm, a large acreage of Neem and other trees, with pinewood, coppice and open land. Perfect for birding. The owner Nick kindly gave us a metaphorical ‘Access All Areas’, so we took him at his word. I will post about this trip in due course – as expected, we found much of interest there.

P1010061 - Version 2

Meanwhile, back to the camera. This little Cuban Pewee Contopus caribaeus was quite close, watching me and seeming very relaxed. I hoped that the much-vaunted zoom (“and many other features”) would bring pin-sharp images. This was the first time I realised that this might not be the case. As it has turned out the bird results are a bit disappointing, with images being ‘soft’. A great camera, probably, for general use: not so good for bird close-ups…P1010062 - Version 2

The last photo was a lucky shot, as the bird took hold of a large passing insect (cricket? hopper?). It’s not a sharp shot, but I’m glad I got it!P1010063 - Version 2

ADMIRABLE ADMIRAL BOUGAINVILLE & HIS EPONYMOUS FLOWERS ON ABACO


Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 5

ADMIRABLE ADMIRAL BOUGAINVILLE & HIS EPONYMOUS FLOWERS ON ABACO

By the second half of the c18th, no respectable nautical expedition was complete without at least one naturalist or geologist on board. Within a few decades, that intentionally sweeping generalisation would include Charles Darwin himself. Louis Antoine, Comte de Bougainville (1729 – 1811) was a French admiral and explorer, and a contemporary of Captain James Cook. However the well-known ornamental vine  to which Bougainville lent his name might more properly be called Commerconia… or indeed an even more obscure name. Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 1

When Bougainville set off on a voyage of circumnavigation in the 1760s, he took with him a botanist, Philibert Commerçon. He was the first European to examine and ‘write up’ these plants, his findings being published in France in 1789. One attractive theory is that the first European actually to observe these plants was a woman called Jeanne Baré who was Commerçon’s assistant, and indeed his lover. He is said to have sneaked her on board, despite regulations, disguised as a man. If this is right, this would make Jeanne Baré the first woman (let alone cross-dressing woman) to circumnavigate the globe. And perhaps make her entitled to be immortalised by having the plant ‘Bareia’ named after her. But I guess Admirals had more clout in plant-naming circles than female stowaways – or indeed botanists on board their ships.Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 3 Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 4

As first printed in 1789, the plant was spelled ‘Buginvillæa’, an unexplained variation from the Admiral’s true name. The ‘correct’ spelling for this plant did not finally settle down until the 1930s, when a botanical consensus was reached. Nonetheless, many variations still persist (most usually with the addition of an e after the n). I myself spell it any-old-how and let the spell-checker take care of it…Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 2 Bougainvillea, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas 7

STOP PRESS Further research suggests that the name of the plant was ‘gifted’ by Commerçon to the Admiral, a self-effacing tribute or possibly a rampant piece of sycophancy – or (my own theory) to avoid being keelhauled when his ‘valet’s’ gender was apparently unmasked by the ship’s surgeon. In what precise circumstances, one longs to know…

Bougainevillea 2, Abaco Bougainevillea 1, Abaco

Credits: Delphi plants courtesy of Willie the Gardener; photos RH; text-assists by ‘Magpie-Pickings’ 

RAYS OF SUNSHINE ON THE ABACO MARLS


Stingrays Abaco Marls 1

RAYS OF SUNSHINE ON THE ABACO MARLS

The Marls of Abaco are prime bonefishing grounds, a vast area of labyrinthine mangrove swamps, sandy islets, channels and shallow flats on the west side of the main island. The fish are wily and powerful, the fly hooks are barbless, and each one caught, retained, boated and swiftly released is a prize. There’s plenty of other wildlife to be seen. Heron and egrets, ospreys, belted kingfishers, wading birds and many other bird species make the Marls their home. In the water, there are snappers, jacks, barracuda, and sharks of various kinds and sizes. These latter range from small black tip, lemon and hammerhead sharks to more substantial contenders, with the occasional massive bull shark to add a frisson for those on a suddenly fragile-seeming skiff… 

There are also rays. I have posted before about the SOUTHERN STINGRAY and the YELLOW STINGRAY Out on the Marls I have mainly seen Southerns as they move serenely and unhurriedly through the warm shallow water. A couple of weeks ago, we were out with the rods when we had a completely new Ray experience. I’m not overly given to anthropomorphism and getting too emotional about encounters, but we all found this one quite moving – even our very experienced guide.

Gliding to our right side, a pair of stingrays slowed as they neared the skiffStingrays Abaco Marls 2

The adult paused very close to us, allowing the little ray to catch upStingrays Abaco Marls 3

Lifting a wing slightly the adult let the juvenile creep under, while keeping a beady eye on usStingrays Abaco Marls 4

The large ray was missing the tip of its tail, presumably from some adverse encounterStingrays Abaco Marls 5

The creatures examined us carefully for 2 or 3 minutes, before separatingStingrays Abaco Marls 6

Then they slowly drifted away across the sand…Stingrays Abaco Marls 7

According to our guide, this gently protective behaviour is not uncommon. They may well have been completely unrelated, the large ray tolerating the smaller one accompanying it through the waters and offering a kindly wing in the presence of danger or suspicious objects like us.

Photo Credits: Mrs RH (I was too entranced at the sharp end, with a bird’s eye view, to get a camera out)

BLACK-NECKED STILTS ON ABACO: A PREVIEW


BLACK-NECKED STILTS ON ABACO: A PREVIEWBlack-necked Stilt, Gilpin Point, Abaco 1

T’ings on Abaco are pleasantly busy right now. The weather is gorgeous; the bonefishing is outstanding at the moment, so that even an incompetent like myself can boat a few fish in the day (6 to 4 lbs today, thank you so much for asking… What’s that? Speak up… yes, OK, I lost or mislaid a further eight along the way by deploying my compassionate principles of EARLY CATCH & RELEASE). There’s “The Birds of Abaco” to promote, with signings & co. Food to be got through. Drink to be taken. Frankly I’m exhausted (not really). And on top of it all, some nice birds to photograph. Here are a couple of taster shots for a future bird post on these delicate but surprisingly aggressive Stilts after we get back to Blighty (all too soon…) Black-necked Stilt, Gilpin Point, Abaco 2

CAN A PELICAN? THE HELICAN!


A taster for a future post about Brown Pelicans when I have a more reliable internet connection than Abaco’s rather intermittent service… These two birds were taken a few days ago on the jetty at Sandy Point, Abaco. In due course there’ll be more about these astonishing birds, which were plunge-diving off the jetty for fish.Pelican Sandy Point AbacoPelican Sandy Point Abaco 3Pelican Sandy Point Abaco 2

A GREAT BLUE HERON AT SANDY POINT, ABACO


When I get a better internet connection I have some great bird posts planned. Until then it has to be single images on my iph@ne. Here’s one from a couple of days back … NEW! Originally mis-ID – there was some general confusion about that. Thanks, Brigitte on Tilloo for ringing the alarm bell. My bad! Internet has temporarily improved, here’s the full-size rather than iph@ne image, with more to follow soon…Great Blue Heron Close-up, Sandy Point Abaco