BAHAMAS REEF FISH (36): REEF BUTTERFLYFISH


Reef Butterflyfish, Bahamas - Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba

 BAHAMAS REEF FISH (36): REEF BUTTERFLYFISH

Butterflyfishes come in several varieties in Bahamian waters; and there are more than 120 species worldwide. Not so long ago I wrote about the LONGSNOUT variety, also known as the “Butterbun”. Now it’s time to take a look at the Reef Butterfyfish.

Reef Butterflyfish, Bahamas - Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba

In some ways butterflyfishes resemble small angelfishes – adult Reefs are just a few inches long. As the name suggests, these are creatures of the reefs, and of shallow waters. As one might expect, these colourful fish are popular for aquariums (or, strictly I suppose, aquaria). 

Reef Butterflyfish, Bahamas - Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba

Butterflyfishes have interesting spawning patterns. They release large numbers of buoyant eggs into the water. These become mixed in with plankton and suchlike, and float where the tides take them until they hatch. Then, most unusually, they go through a larval stage when they are covered by bony material, which they lose as they mature. This is known as an ‘armoured’ stage, which I can only assume is to provide protection to the tiny fry – perhaps by making them crunchy and unappetising. I’ve been trying to find a usable illustrative drawing, without success so far.

Reef Butterflyfish, Bahamas - Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba

OPTIONAL MUSICAL DIGRESSION

In some parts of the world the butterflyfish is called a BORBOLETTA, which is Portugese for ‘butterfly’. It is also the title of Santana’s criminally underrated sixth album (1974). For sure it’s no 1st, Abraxas, 3rd or Caravanserai… but if you can tolerate the man’s move to ‘jazz-funk-fusion’ – maybe John McLaughlin had a hand in that – there is much to enjoy. There’s less searing guitar and there’s some strange ‘soundscape’ stuff that’s maybe not to everyone’s taste. But still – it stand up pretty well in comparison with some of the later Carlos creations where a certain tiresomeness began to creep in and some tracks are (IMVHO) not really listenable-to. Anyway, the recently released (2016) Santana IV is a welcome return to the good old days, and the good old team.

Here’s ‘Promise of a Fisherman’ – 8 minutes of  Santana, from which you can judge the direction he’s taken by Album 6…

Reef Butterflyfish, Bahamas - Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba

All photos by Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba – mainstay, with Adam Rees, of the underwater photos I use, what with me being a feeble swimmer and all. Tip o’ the Hat to Carlos, who I have even managed to see Live a couple of times.

REDSPOTTED HAWKFISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (35)


Redspotted Hawkfish, Bahamas (Melinda Riger)

REDSPOTTED HAWKFISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (35)

The redspotted hawkfish (Amblycirrhitus pinos) is one of a number of species of hawkfishes found worldwide. This one is found on the sub-tropical and tropical reefs of the Western Atlantic, and is therefore a fish you might see when out snorkelling or (more likely) scuba-ing in the Bahamas. These are small creatures – adults are unlikely to exceed 4 inches in length.

Redspotted Hawkfish, Bahamas (Melinda Riger)

There’s not a whole lot else to report about them. They have no medicinal superpowers, for example, nor wickedly toxic spines. A quick scroll through the highways and byways of the interweb reveals that redspotted hawkfish are considered (rightly, I think) to be attractive, tend to be shy, enjoy perching on coral ledges, and are generally benign, except to smaller fishes to which they may show aggression or – worse – an appetite. 

Redspotted Hawkfish, Bahamas (Melinda Riger)

As you might predict, these pretty little fish are popular in the aquarium trade, where on any view they should be kept safe from predators. But maybe captivity is a little limited in opportunities for travel and exploration. They can be bought for (I just checked) $29.99. Or else left alone on a reef to take their chances.

Photo Credits: Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba, with thanks as per…

MAPPING ABACO, BAHAMAS & FLORIDA IN THE c17


MAPPING ABACO, BAHAMAS & FLORIDA IN THE c17

I once wrote a post tracking the history of Abaco in general, and Hole-in-the-Wall in particular, in historic maps spanning 4 centuries. You can read it HERE.

The post includes a map of the Bahama Islands (‘Isles Lucayes’) by the early French mapmaker Alain Manesson Mallet, published in Paris in 1683. The header shows a later hand-coloured version. The splendid original looks like this. Now that is a map (as Crocodile Dundee once said of a knife)

The recognisable shape of Abaco – I. Lucaioneque – lies weirdly on its side beneath the billowing sails of the vignette, with Grand Bahama (Bahama) between it and Floride. The confusingly named and sized I. Abacoa is Andros; I. Ciguateo is Eleuthera; and I. Curateo is Exuma. I. Guanahani was the landfall for Columbus, and was renamed by him San Salvador. New Providence may or may not be made from the two similar shapes shown west of Andros (at the time, the Lucayan name was Nema). And so on. There’s more to be said on the historic Lucayan names in the Bahamas – maybe one day I’ll get round to saying it…

For now, I want to move on to another map by Mallet that I have just come across. Published in c.1684 (sources vary), this map is of Florida (and beyond), titled rather strangely in German but otherwise in French. Here, the Isles Lucayes are very much a side-feature, reduced to the West End of Grand Bahama, and 4 unspecified small cays like the 4-dot on dice. There’s no embellishment besides the simple ‘draped’ title, the trees and mountains – no fleet of ships in full sail in the Gulf of Mexico. To be honest, though dated within a year or 2 of each, other the maps are so entirely different in style and even script that they could easily have been made by different people. In fact I had to double-check the authorship with various online sources.

Florida is named Tegesta, for the Native American tribe that lived in the region. The name still exists in the form Tequesta, in Palm Beach County Fl. You can read more about this fascinating tribe, their lives and cultural practices HERE. Just two settlements in Tegesta – St. Augustine and St. Mathieu – are shown. I’ve gone rather off-piste from my usual Bahamian territory, but this early map provides an enjoyably interesting cartographic overview of the known topography / geography of the day.

Approximate territory of the Tequesta in the 16th centuryFLMap-Tequesta-tribe2.PNG

If the earth had an uniform surface like a ping pong ball there would be nothing for a geographer to study. But it is not thusly uniform – the actual earth has numerous variations of every sort studied by geographers. Topography maps the physical surface, and geology explores the underground features. But the geography of the earth includes many other [factors] like economics, weather, climate, social distribution, trade, etc.  At the core of geography is cartography – which is the mapping of all these things. Rudolf G. Barton, BA in geography UCB (Commercial Pilot ret.)
Credits: the maps are open source – frequently passed around on the internet and impossible to locate the originator; Wiki for the diagram; Geography lesson, as shown above…

LIZARDS OF ABACO: ANOLES (AND DEWLAPS)


Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)

LIZARDS OF ABACO: ANOLES (AND DEWLAPS)

Everyone knows about CURLY TAIL LIZARDS. Everyone loves them and their little ways. The other lizards that may be found on Abaco – the anoles, green and brown – are easier to take for granted. Unless, maybe, you see one displaying its DEWLAP. These are essentially folds of neck skin that are seen in many creatures – even large ones like the moose – and which in some species are inflatable / retractable. 

Abaconian Rhonda Pearce has taken some excellent photos of anoles recently. By oversight I have never given anoles a day in the sun in this blog before, and it’s high time I did (see above re overlooking anoles in favour of curly tails…). First, here are some impressive dewlaps to admire.

Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)

And here are a few green and brown anoles hanging out on trees and leaves in an anole-type way. In a couple of these images, you can see the dewlap in its non-display mode. They are all just… lizards. Non-scary, non-venomous, non-poisonous little guys that are probably a peripheral part of everyone’s experience, but which really deserve a closer look. 

Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce) Anoles of Abaco, Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)

You can read more about anoles, including their sex lives, on the excellent Abaco Scientist’s site HERE

OPTIONAL MUSICAL DIGRESSION

The first time I heard the word ‘dewlap’ (misheard by the young me as ‘dewlat’) was in the mid-60s, in Georgie Fame’s excellent Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde. This song – and doubtless the film – was number 1 in the UK and maybe also the States. Famous too for such fine songs as ‘Yeh Yeh!’ and ‘Sitting in the Park’, Fame’s ‘Ballad’ is probably his best-loved song.

I assumed then that a ‘dewlat’ was some sort of valuable gold coin  – like a gold sovereign – that bank robbers put into a specially designed ‘dewlat bag’ to carry them away… Ah! The naivety of youth.

Bonnie and Clyde advanced their reputation

And made the graduation into the banking business

“Reach for the sky,” sweet-talking Clyde would holler

As Bonnie loaded dollars in the dewlap bag

Credits: all photos, Rhonda Pearce with thanks as ever; icecreammakesuhappy, youtube

BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRDS ON ABACO: GOOD IMPRESSIONS


Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Tom Sheley

BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRDS ON ABACO: GOOD IMPRESSIONS

The Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gundlachii is similar to its slightly smaller cousin, the widespread Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottis. The range of Bahama Mockingbirds is not restricted to the Bahamas themselves, and includes areas of  Cuba, Jamaica and TCI, so despite the name they are not an endemic species to the Bahamas.  They are also occasional vagrants to the United States, especially – for reasons of proximity – southeastern Florida.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Peter Mantle

The Bahama Mockingbird is browner than the greyish Northern Mockingbird, and has distinctive streaking and spotting to its breast and undercarriage. This may extend to what you might describe as the bird’s ‘trouser legs’, though I’m sure there’s a more technically correct term.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Charlie Skinner

Both mockingbird species are found on Abaco. The NMs are ubiquitous in towns, settlements, gardens, coppice and pine forest, whereas BMs are shyer and tend to be found in the pine forest and well away from humans and their operations. When we were putting together The Birds of Abaco, I went on a birding trip with Abaco birding legend Woody Bracey and Ohio bird photographer Tom Sheley. We took a truck into the pine forest down a logging track south of Delphi, and they were quick to locate a bird, not least because one was sitting prettily on a branch singing lustily and unmistakably. It was well within range of Tom’s massive lens; more of a struggle for my modest camera (below). Caught the cobwebs, though…

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Keith Salvesen

I was astounded by the beauty and variety of the song. It consisted of very varied notes and phrases, each repeated 3 or 4 times before moving on to the next sounds in the repertoire. Here is a short 18 second example I recorded, using my unpatented iPhone method, for which see HERE.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Alex Hughes

For those with interest in birdsong, here is a longer 1:13 minute song from the same bird, with largely different sounds from the first recording made minutes earlier. There’s even a decent stab at imitation of a 1960s Trimphone™. Had we not had to move on to Sandy Point for an appointment with some cattle egrets and American kestrels, I could have stayed listening for far longer.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Tom Sheley

THE ‘SUBSPECIES’ THAT WASN’T…

More recently, on a trip in backcountry to find Kirtland’s warblers – we saw 4 – the slow-moving truck jolted to halt in the middle of nowhere. This was because a Bahama Mockingbird was right by the track. I fired off some quick shots out of the window into a rather difficult light, to find that we appeared to have found a new subspecies, the scarlet-faced mockingbird.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Keith Salvesen

The reason was clear, however. The bird had been pigging out on some red berries, and had managed to collect plenty of the juice round the base of its beak. Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Keith Salvesen

SO WHAT DOES A NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD LOOK LIKE, THEN?

I photographed the Northern Mockingbird below in a garden at Casuarina. The species is far tamer than its cousin, and seen side-by-side they are clearly very different. The range maps show the stark contrast between the very limited range of the Bahama Mockingbird and the vast distribution of the Northern Mockingbird.

220px-Northern_Mockingbird-rangemap

Northern Mockingbird, Abaco 1

Photos Credits: Tom Sheley (1, 6); Peter Mantle (2); Charlie Skinner (3); Keith Salvesen (4, 7, 8, 9); Alex Hughes (5); Susan Daughtrey (10). Range maps eBird & wiki.

Bahama Mockingbird, Abaco - Susan Daughtry

OCTOPUSES: WORTH LEARNING TO SCUBA FOR?


Octopus - Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba

OCTOPUSES: WORTH LEARNING TO SCUBA FOR?

If I had to give a single reason for learning to scuba, watching an octopus would be very near the top of a long list. It’s never going to happen for me, of course – I have about 17 excuses lined up just in case anyone should ask me to try it. But still. One can dream…

Octopus - Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba

Meanwhile, I can luckily rely on an experienced professional to get the shots. Here are a few great octopus photos taken by Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba – perfect examples of an excellent reason for chucking aside the snorkel and doing something a bit more adventurous. Maybe…

Octopus - Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba

RELATED OCTOPUS POST

THE CORRECT PLURAL Learn 12 essential octopus facts plus the definitively correct plural of the word ‘octopus’ (out of 3 rival options). Please note that the possibilities do not include ‘octopodices’, which would be latin for ‘eight rumps’ (or ‘asses’, as you might say), if such weird creatures existed.

Octopus - Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba

 

REMEOctopus - Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama ScubaMBER – KEEP AN EYE OUT…

 

STARR-STUDDED MUSICAL DIGRESSION

Does Ringo still have it? Did he ever have it?

BLUE TANG AS REEF FILM STAR


Blue Tang, Bahamas (Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba)

BLUE TANG AS REEF FILM STAR

Last summer, the big motion picture sensation for the bird world was, of course, Pixar’s ineffably adorable creation, Piper – the ultimate ‘Chick Flick’. This little ball of cartoon fluff was not, as some thought, based on a piping plover but on a sanderling – a type of sandpiper (clue in name). This 6 minute ‘short’ preceded the main event, the hugely popular Finding Dory. You can read all about the film Piper and the birding aspects of the film HERE

Blue Tang, Bahamas (Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba)

Finding Dory is not about a fish of the dory species, of course. Voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory is in fact a species of surgeonfish Paracanthurus, the familiar blue tang found on the reefs of the Bahamas. To see these fish in Abaco waters, Fowl Cays National Park is always a good bet.

Blue Tang, Bahamas (Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba)

Dory can be identified as a maturing juvenile: blue, with a yellow tail. In due course – in time for the sequel film – she will become blue all over, with perhaps the odd flash of yellow (see photos above).

In real life, a baby blue tang is in fact entirely yellow, except for blue rings around the eyes. In Pixarland, however, Dory is just an adorbs miniature version of her youthful self.

Blue Tang juvenile, Bahamas (Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba)

Blue Tang are lovely to watch as they cruise round the reefs, sometimes in large groups. Their colouring ranges from pale to dark blue. However, these are fish that are best looked at and not touched – their caudal spines are very sharp. When the fish feels in threatened, the spine is raised and can cause deep cuts, with a risk of infection.  

Still from a crummy video taken at Fowl Cays some years back to illustrate a group of blue tangBlue Tangs, Fowl Cays Nature Park, Abaco Bahamas (KS)

Blue tangs are inedible, they apparently smell unpleasant, and they can cause ciguatera. However they are popular in the aquarium trade. This is a distinct downside of highly successful films such as Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. In defiance of the well-meant and broadly ecological message of both films, the trade in clown fish and to a lesser extent blue tang was boosted by their on-screen portrayal as adorbs creatures desirable for the entertainment of mankind… ‘Nuff said.

Blue Tang, Bahamas (Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba)

Credits: All excellent photos by Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba; one pathetically bad still from a low res video, me; cartoons purloined from an online aquarium somewhere or other