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.