Postcard from the Reef – Fellows Nudibranch

I have seen and photographed these fellows a few times. Endemic to the Central Pacific, the species is commonly seen in dives on the west coast of Hawai’i. The surprise this time was what I found nearby. A flash of bright white is quickly spotted in the beam of my light as I explore the cave. Two spots appeared on the cave roof. The first is the nudibranch, quickly recognized as a Fellows Nudibranch.

I take a couple photos, even though I have seen this species often enough before. I do not immediately notice that the second spot, somewhat hidden in a crevice, is not the same. Upon another look it turns out to be an egg mass, bright white like the slug that laid it. A neat spiral of white eggs against the algae covered rock.

Fellows Nudibranch
A Fellows Nudibranch (Hiatodoris fellowsi) on a cave roof at about 40ft, Malae Point, Kohala, and egg mass was about 6″ away
FFellows Nudibranch Egg Mass
An egg mass from a Fellows Nudibranch (Hiatodoris fellowsi) on a cave roof at about 40ft, Malae Point, Kohala, an adult was about 6″ away

Postcard from the Reef – Camouflage

Curled into the top of a coral head, dressed in nighttime camouflage colors, pretending to be part of the coral. Sitting still just makes it an easy target for the camera…

A Stripebelly Puffer
A Stripebelly Puffer (Arothron hispidus) in nighttime camouflage colors, 35′ depth, Mahukona

Postcard from the Reef – Cushion Star

I have occasionally seen these starfish tucked into the coral by day. When you see just a small part of the animal it is not immediately recognizable as a starfish, just a lump of something that does not match. They emerge at night to feed on the coral itself. Once in the open the five-fold symmetry begins to suggest that you might be looking at a starfish…

Cushion Star
A cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae) on the sand at 40′ depth, Mahukona

Yet Another Whitemouth Moray

Yet another photo of a Whitemouth Moray on a Kohala reef. Well? they are the most common moray to be found at scuba depths. At this point I have an extensive collection of Whitemouth Moray photos. They are common, photogenic, and quite cooperative, they sit still while you take the photo.

I only found three of them in the afternoon and evening of diving…

Whitemouth Moray
A Whitemouth Moray (Gymnothorax meleagris) in the reef at Mahukona

Postcard from the Reef – Coral Blenny

Deb spotted this one. I come over the coral head to find her gesticulating at a very large antler coral (Pocillopora eydouxi). These coral are always worth checking out, so many things live amongst the branches. These denizens are fascinating, and frustratingly hard to photograph deep in the branches.

This particular coral had a number of residents… A couple guard crabs and several fish, including this fellow…

Coral Blenny
Spotted Coral Blenny (Exallias brevis) at 15′ depth, Honokohau

Postcard from the Reef – Guard Crab

Most divers do nothing during their safety stop, I have some trouble doing that. Hanging in the water fifteen feet below the surface for five minutes is sometimes pleasant, sometimes boring.

Also hanging fifteen feet down is the mooring ball, a buoy holding a steel cable near the surface so the dive boats can avoid dropping anchor on the reef. I have made a habit of checking out the growth on the mooring ball and line during my safety stop. I have found hydroids, wire coral gobies, even corals growing here, no real estate goes unclaimed around the reef.

A set of cauliflower corals were growing on this cable, complete with the usual community of critters that find shelter in the branches. Even more convenient, I could rotate the coral colony simply by twisting the cable to which it was attached, giving me a chance for a better photo of a guard crab…

Common Guard Crab
Common guard crab (Trapezia intermedia) in a small cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) growing on a mooring buoy cable.

Postcard from the Reef – Dragon Moray

One of the rarer, but very impressive, moray eels of the Hawaiian Islands is the Dragon Moray. This is my first decent sighting of one. Decent meaning I did not see the last bit disappearing into the coral, and actually saw the head for more than a glimpse.

He was staying well out of harm’s way with noisy divers about, deep in an antler coral head. The location also made the eel fairly difficult to photograph. I used my usual in-coral-head technique… zoom in, pray for focus, and nuke the coral head with light.

Dragon Moray
A Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis) in a coral head at 40ft depth, Suck ‘Em Up Cavern, Kona