Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sihek Saga


The Collared Kingfisher, known locally as the Sihek, is an indigenous bird here. 

Quite an attractive bird but very noisy and sometime vicious to other birds and sometime to its own species. I've frequently seen it fly through a group of smaller birds shrieking and scaring them off. Once I saw it attack a Sparrow which lay on the ground stunned for sometime.
Today at the Fiesta Grounds bandstand at  we had a 'Sihek Saga' that I was able to get some photograph of.

The young Sihek shown above came to perch on the railing of the dance floor portion of the bandstand. It was almost like a planned photo shoot with it giving me different poses.

"How's this?"



Or "this?"


                                 How's my side view?
It apparently caught sight of some ‘food’ over under one of the roofs as it went over there for a bit and seemed to have caught its breakfast.

 While it was gone a Sparrow took the vacant spot on the railing and was posing nicely for me.
Then the Sihek came back and the sparrow Flew off.
As I was snapping another shot of the young Sihek, another one came shrieking in across the bandstand and attacked it. An adult came along even louder and more vicious and chased the attacker away - very far away.
Kingfishers only watch over and protect their young fledglings for a few days before mating again and ignoring them. So this young one must have fledged very recently.
At first I thought the little one may actually have been seriously injured.  The next picture was unclear as the bird was fluttering a lot but seemed to have blood or an injury on its beak.
But it soon composed itself,

And cocked its head at me, as if to say, "Let's have another go at those pictures."
So I snapped some more.

Then it flew off to an overhead wire on the other side of the bandstand,  
where an adult watched it from a distance on the same wire, until they both flew off out of sight.

Such a morning for a novice flyer.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Orangeband Surgeonfish or unicornfish - Acanthurus olivaceus

It took me some time and effort with books and the internet to find a name for my most recent favorite snorkel buddy.
I'd followed a triggerfish several yards/meters off to the side from where I'd been snorkeling recently. There I saw a fish I hadn't seen before darting around on the sandy bottom and around the coral. I later learned that what I saw is its typical behavior which I've seen several times now.
I loved its bright colors and seeming smiley face, a feature seen on several of the surgeonfishes.

Actually the descriptions I've seen say the Orangeband has a white front and the back goes gradually from gray at mid-body to a black tail. That is the description of the ones in Hawaii and obviously the local one is different. Its front is more of a tannish yellow and the back section goes from black to a gray tail. But in both cases they have the bright orange band in the front section for which they are named.

The Northern Mariana Islands are listed as one of its native habitats. It is seen alone, in pairs or in small groups feeding on the sandy bottom or coral which is where I’ve seen it here in shallow water at Kammer Beach.  It also may be seen near other fish.
From what I've read it seems juveniles are all yellow so I 'think' the following are juvenile Acanthurus olivaceus or Orangebands.

At any rate I always love seeing my smiley finned friend when I snorkel. Now that I know where it hangs out I expect to see Orangeband often.
BTW - the Surgeonfishes get their name from two sharp spines they have at the base of their tail. When feeling threatened it can pop them out to use. Those scalpel sharp weapons gives them their name. So I won't be attempting to pat my buddy or 'shake hands'! A smile will suffice. :>)

Birds and stuff

This morning the sky was gray, gray, gray but I ventured out anyway. Since yesterday the sea has been shouting. I tried to convince myself yesterday that I could hear it so much just because the wind had shifted. Well the wind did shift but the sea IS shouting too. That means too much turbulence for me to consider snorkeling. The normally very calm area at Kammer Beach where I snorkel most lately was more white than aqua today. I'd have been bobbing around like a cork in a bathtub with an energetic kid. But the moderate to strong breezes feel great and the rain is more off than on today. In fact the sun kept trying to push through.
Of course it can be worse when there is more 'serious' weather out to sea or nearby, as it was earlier this month when the same area looked more like this.

When the sea is rough it is fun to watch the waves break and spray at Taga Beach. 

But I'm usually bird watching in the morning anyway.
Today here was a Chunge’ (White tern) fledgling in the tree near the bandstand gripping on like it plans to never let go - with one then both parents supervising from anotherbranch – below and behind the little one.
Probably that’s the fledgling's landing perch from its first flight. These birds do not make nests and the young instinctively grasp onto a branch upon hatching and never let go until they fledge. How terrifying it must be to be goaded into letting go for the first time and launching oneself into open air. I imagine it is also instinctive to flap those wings and then a new perch must feel very reassuring.
An adult came squawking almost in my face – I guess it thought I was too close to its wee one.
The White-Throated Ground Doves (who are rarely seen on the ground) have a nest in another tree at the Fiesta Grounds. It has been tended by the Apaka(m) most of the time I've been there recently but today the Fachi(f) was there as well and it was being tended by both parents. And both were pretty busy, changing positions and poking down into the nest frequently. I suspect there is a hatchling or two there and they are getting restless. I’m just guessing but usually the sitting parent is almost like a statue.

One picture, though not clear enough to be sure, seems to show a tiny head in front of the Apaka's white chest. Of course it could just be one or a clump of those little ironwood 'pine' cones but it is more fun to think it 'might' be a hatchling.  

On the way back home, going along the beach I was surprised to see we might have a Kammer ‘Ness’ monster.
But on closer examination it seemed to be a much less exciting branch bobbing around in the water. Ah well, what’s an imagination for anyway!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Snorkeling with Tinian turtles June 2014

My recent snorkeling adventures have included swimming with some turtles. Most just swim away and give few opportunities for photos. But one came toward me then circled around me seeming just as curious about me as I was of the turtle. Once right after that I saw two together but one swam off to the south too fast for me to snap any pictures the other took a leisurely northern route eyeing me enough that I think it may have been the same one as a couple of days before.

The day the turtle circled me I snapped a selfie to show what turtle was so interested in! Surely enough to bewilder any sea creature!
Before the recent snorkel sightings I'd only seen turtles from shore.

Frequently the pop their head up for air and back down usually too quickly to get a picture.
But sometimes they seem to be examining us and remain on the surface for several seconds in water shallow enough that we can even see some of the shell.

On occasion we even see more than one at a time.
BUT, in my opinion the most fun is swimming with them.
To my knowledge Tinian's Green Sea Turtles are benign and safe to swim with. I've never heard of a turtle attack or bite.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Underwater - butterfly fishes

Very recently I received a new underwater camera and am still fumbling around trying to learn its features and get some fish pictures.

Besides a heap of total duds I managed these mediocre ones on the first day.

I’m not very conversant on the fishes and they tend not to converse with me. So I turned to the internet where I discovered the Butterflyfish category that seems to cover today’s post. Wikipedia says:

The butterflyfishes are a group of conspicuous tropical marine fish of the family Chaetodontidae; the bannerfishes and coralfishes are also included in this group. The approximately 120 species in 10 genera[1] are found mostly on the reefs of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. A number of species pairs occur in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, members of the huge genus Chaetodon.

Butterflyfishes look like smaller versions of angelfish (Pomacanthidae), but unlike these, lack preopercle spines at the gill covers.”

That’s verging into more than I understand yet. I welcome any efforts in comments to expand my meager knowledge - ie: PLEASE, if you can, help me identify and learn about the fish I post. And if you are as ignorant about tropical fish as I am but like seeing the pics anyway – well we can struggle along together.

Oh, you can click on the pics to see a larger version.