We’ve had a very rainy few weeks here in North Kohala. Even normally sunny Mahukona has been overcast with frequent showers. On a dreary afternoon last week Marla and I spotted a group of spinner dolphins a couple of hundred yards out from the Mahukona dock. Usually when we see this the school is moving in a fixed direction either north or south, and soon are long gone from sight. This time though, the dolphins were milling around, staying within a roughly quarter mile area for several minutes. We decided to swim out to this general area and hang in the water, hoping they’d wander by us. They did, some passing within just a few feet of us, ignoring us as we watched motionless—and of course, transfixed.
The spinners swam by us slowly, apparently mostly asleep, as they often are during the day. It was late in the day and heavily overcast, so these are the best photos I could get with my little Olympus point-and-shoot.
Not sure what the pair in the middle were doing. Mating? Courting? A couple of individuals from this group of about twenty-five animals leapt and spun while we watched.
It’s looking more and more like spring on the North Kohala reefs. For a few days at the beginning of this month—around the full moon—the ubiquitous oval chromises put on their breeding show. These endemic damselfish are usually fairly shy and quite plain looking, but during courtship, spawning and egg-brooding the males become aggressive and much prettier. I came upon several groups of males guarding their nests at Mahukona. It was a real free-for-all, each fish frenetically chasing neighboring males as well as other species of fish that came near. A few days into the month all was back to normal: the eggs had apparently hatched and the chromises resumed their normal behavior and coloration. I’m going to check back around the upcoming full moon to see if this show is repeated.
Breeding male oval chromises show yellow pectoral fins and prominent banding across the body. They allowed me to get quite close for a photograph, but were still hard to shoot because they were continuously darting around protecting their nests both from other fish and from the grotesque ogre pointing a camera.
Like many reef fish, they can change the contrast of their markings at will. Generally, the more contrast, the greater the state of agitation. This one was apparently quite worked up.
A couple of oval chromises with their normal, dull attire. Much less approachable than the breeding males.