Monthly Archives: August 2019

Eagle Ray and entourage

Earlier this week at Mahukona we ran into a large Spotted Eagle Ray being followed by several Threadfin and Raccoon Butterflyfish. Not sure why the butterflies were following—either to clean parasites from the ray (we saw no evidence of this) or to pick up any tidbits the larger fish might scare or stir up? The ray swam at a slow, meandering pace, suggesting that it was not at all bothered by the butterflies’ attention. We watched for quite a while until the ray swam off.

A Threadfin Butterflyfish trailing the big ray. Water here was about 15 feet deep.

The ray made a number of slow, sweeping turns that seemed to momentarily disorient the butterflyfish entourage.

A Raccoon Butterflyfish has joined the Threadfins. Check out the ray’s duckbill-like upper lip.

We saw this large group of young Moorish Idols on the way back into the dock. A common but always enjoyable sight in the summer.



Kawaihae’s hung over gobies

Marla, Hai, and I spent a relaxed Sunday morning snorkeling around the landing craft platforms in Kawaihae Harbor. We were hoping to see the black frogfish that Hai had been seeing on one of the pilings, or maybe the lionfish that he’d seen there a time or two, but we pretty much just saw the usual suspects: a handful of nudibranch species, Gorgonian Gobies, featherduster worms, Hawaiian Dascyllus, etc.

A thick wire hanging into the water from the second landing craft platform is home to several Gorgonian Gobies. It’s amusing to watch as they periodically dart out from their stations on the wire to to snatch  passing particles of plankton, but these fish are so small—just over an inch long— that it’s hard for my and Marla’s old eyes to make out much detail. (Hai sees everything with his seeming supervision.) Examining photos after we got home we noticed that the gobies have bloodshot-looking eyes—a lot like mine would look after a long night of drinking back in the day. Like this:

One of several Gorgonian Gobies under the second platform. Look at that bloodshot eye! Gorgonian Gobies, also known as Sea Whip Gobies, are easily confused with the similar Wire Coral Goby. The latter are a bit smaller, have a less pointed snout, and are less reddish in color. Wire Coral Gobies are found pretty much exclusively on wire coral, while Gorgonian Gobies will live on anything shaped more or less like a wire or thin stick.

More of the usual suspects—a handsome family of Hawaiian Dascyllus.

Hawaiian Whitespotted Tobies among the Halameda on the rubble at the base of the breakwater. These cute little endemic puffers are very common throughout the Islands. So is Halameda, a pantropical genus of green macroalgae.

A nice sized Painted Nudibranch on the march on one of the pilings. These, Trembling, and Gloomy Nudibranchs can almost always be found at this site lately.

Goatfish season

Young goatfish are abundant on Hawaiian reefs in the summer. They’ve been especially numerous at Mahukona this month. The under-appreciated goatfish family, overshadowed by the showier butterflies and surgeonfish, has several really attractive members. Sidespot Goatfish are one of my favorites.

A youngish Sidespot Goatfish in about ten feet of water at Mahukona. Goatfish are capable of quickly changing the tone and contrast of their coloration. This one has adopted a ruddy, high-contrast look in an attempt to attract the attention of a nearby cleaner wrasse.