Tag Archive: fish

holy mola!

DSC_0400-1i know, the photo is not that spectacular… but we were treated to a Mola mola (ocean sunfish) sighting this morning under rather difficult conditions to capture well.  all was grey and the fish (two of them actually, surrounding by ogling albatrosses) were about 50 m from the boat.  they were small by mola standards, maybe a metre from fin tip to fin tip, meandering around in their strange sideways fashion, occasionally poking an eye out of the water to stare back at us, flapping their fins awkwardly and just generally looking like a pretty unlikely animal.  in addition to the black-footed albatross, some ?shearwaters (positive ID to follow) and northern fulmars were dabbling nearby.

tomorrow, photos of undersea creatures!

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and now, little fish

i have a lot of time-sink hobbies.  reading, knitting, music, scrabble, fish-keeping, napping, gardening, photography, facebook, blogging (ok, let’s just go with ‘the internet’), spider-watching…  all are very effective at using up non-working hours and eating into sleep time.  travel planning (and dreaming) is another good one; more on that shortly.  but never before have i had a time-sink in my life of this caliber:

yep, that’s my kid.  she’s been out in the world now for about four months and i’m just introducing her here now, which is a pretty good indication of her time requirements.  there have been longish pauses here in the past, but nothing quite like this.  what can i say — nothing prepares you for parenthood.  you think you’re ready-ish (as ready as anyone ever is; here’s one of  my favorite pre-parental checklists); you think you have a vague idea of what to expect and you know you’re not going to get a lot of sleep.  but oh man, ‘not getting a lot of sleep’ on paper (or electrons) is nothing like really, actually, NOT. GETTING. ENOUGH. SLEEP. EVER.  i guess we are sort of used to it now, but it does take some steam out of blogging motivation — especially when you are living a groundhog-day-like new parental existence.

but i don’t intend to become a mommyblogger; there are enough talented, witty women (and some such dads) doing that already, and i enjoy their work and will leave the niche to them.  i imagine ‘little fish’ (or LF, as we will continue to call her for blogging purposes) will make occasional appeareances here, and posts may be more infrequent for a while, but the (new) inkspot’s mainstays — travel, nature, spiders, science — will stick around.  in fact, i have high hopes that our upcoming trip in october-november will tick all of these boxes; we are going to the US for two weeks and then on to south america for a squid conference and to visit some fine people.  just imagine the travel mishap potential with a six-month-old!  each day could hold countless stories.  and i make a solemn vow that none of them will be about poop.

look, we’re even training her for camping already:

… and no, we’re not actually going camping on this trip; we’re not completely insane.  we’re getting her used to sleeping in here so that she has portable, familiar surroundings doubling as mosquito netting, a brilliant idea we got from some scandinavian friends.

so there you go; we’re parents, juggling one more huge thing on top of all the other things (work, cats, house, hobbies).  why not take the whole show on the road — after all, she’s going to have to learn to travel if we’re all going to get along.  :)

we are actually new parents in another respect, too — our fresh-water aquarium, which has been ticking along quietly for six years as of this month, also has some new arrivals.  in the past we’ve had platies, danios, and even a baby glass cat (see here and here), although i just learned that they’re probably actually ghost cats (Kryptopterus minor).  in recent months i’ve been worried about the water quality as something has suddenly and completely wiped out our once-luxuriant sword plants (but no other plants and we’ve had no fish casualties), but i haven’t had the time to do much about it other make some concerned noises and do a few water changes.  now it turns out that someone, at least, finds the in-tank conditions most agreeable: our bristlenose catfish (Ancistrus sp.).  we have a big female (affectionately named ‘mrs sucky thing’ by a good friend of ours; less affectionately named ‘that horrible ugly fish’ by my mother) and a small golden male with beautiful snout-bristles, who has evidently matured into enough of a stud now to catch her eye.  behold, a few days ago we found these:

they’re about 3/4″ inch long and i’ve counted about 18 of them so far.  so, congrats to everyone, i guess — the pebbles and i aren’t the only ones with a growing family!  although from what i can tell, the bristlenoses have far-less-time-demanding offpsring, even though they outnumber their parents nearly ten to one.

maybe i’ll crawl into the fishtank and have a nap.

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new england aquarium

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escape to summer, part 7

after we got back from voyageurs, everyone had a few more days together at the lake.  these were filled with swimming, games, and good food, as well as blissful naps and, of course, chipmunk-spoiling.  the weather was warm enough to swim not only ourselves, but also the dogs; it was also warm enough to take dad’s underwater-capable camera in for a few snorkeling trips.  and while the lake wildlife might not be as spectacular as what you’d see diving in the ocean, it’s still pretty nifty.

sealog #3: the flying food chain

although the days tend to run together a bit out here, each is usually marked by at least one unique event.  the day before yesterday, it was the flying fish.  they leapt out of the water singly, in small groups or by the hundreds, to spread their huge pectoral and anal fins and glide away from the ship’s bow, just centimeters above the water but for dozens of meters at a stretch.  when they caught the sun, they flashed silver, blue and copper, and they were quite lovely.  i had seen them before but never so many and never at such leisure.  they have excellent directional control (best demonstrated by the one that launched itself toward the looming bow, experienced a small mid-air freak-out and then deftly executed a tight u-turn to splash down a safe distance away).  watching whole airborne schools is nothing short of marvelous.  but i did find myself wondering whether, in their ingenious avoidance of marine predators, they ever put themselves into other harm’s way.
yesterday afternoon on whale watch we were joined by a young gannet.  its aerial grace was breathtaking (although it did unfortunately remind us that our friendly neighborhood owl was rather far from home and its usual comfort zone).  it wheeled and soared, scratched itself in mid-flight with its bright orange feet, zoomed past the ship and then dropped back to make another swooping pass.  and soon, it began to dive – not into the water, but skimming just above its surface, in hot pursuit of (you guessed it) the flying fish.
the chases were intense.  the gannet would make a few high passes, then drop and put on a burst of speed and rocket over the low waves; the gliding fish shortened their flights noticeably in response, and usually escaped back into aqua firma just centimeters from the pursuing beak.  of the ten or so attempts i witnessed, i believe the gannet took three unlucky fliers, diving briefly into the water following each catch and floating smugly for a few moments before rising to start again.
watching the whole sequence elicited the usual mixed feelings – the excitement of the chase, the admiration for the sleek and speedy gannet, and the simultaneous inner cheer whenever the splash of safety came just in time.  and as usual, these emotions had absolutely no bearing out the outcome – probably for the best, since i caught myself half-hoping that a higher trophic power (say, a whale) might suddenly rear its head and snatch the careening gannet in a blaze of karma.  (of course no such preposterous event transpired.   but my camera and i were ready just in case.)

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flying fish

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we just got back from a stunning weekend in dunedin, but before i launch into those pics, i should probably finish up with the poor knights. our little camera obviously isn't going to be used in any high-tech underwater filming any time soon, but it does convey some of the marine magic a little better than the still shots do.

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poor knights – the fush

poor knights again

over the weekend, we went back to the poor knights islands for some stellar diving.  i was last there about ten months ago (pics here and here) and was eager to return with the pebbles, hoping to take him through the amazing northern arch.  as it turned out, conditions were wrong for that site but pretty much perfect for the two sites we did dive.  the water was about 21 degrees C (i almost never finish a dive feeling anything but freezing; didn’t even notice the temp on these two), the visibility about 20 meters.

our first dive was in the channel between the two largest islands, and we started on a wall that was essentially vertical down to the sandy bottom (around 20 meters).  here i saw my first Tambja nudibranchs.

from the wall, we followed a horseshoe-shaped reef around to ‘boom-boom cave,’ which was an incredible experience.  we had been warned about it in advance, luckily – a blow-hole-type cave but with no outlet for the air/surf, so that when the waves came pounding in, the trapped air under the ceiling (and within our bodies) was rapidly and forcefully compressed, with an accompanying boom.  we felt the pressure change (about every ten seconds) through every bone in our bodies, reverberating inside our skulls and ribcages and making the small airspaces inside our ears vibrate (which eventually drove us out).  the cave floor was about 10m deep, the walls maybe 7m apart and the depth of the cave was about 20m in total.  it got dark fairly quickly but we made it about halfway in, and discovered some large blue moki, before our ears entreated us to return to a less violent spot.

our second dive was in a site we’d done on our very first trip to the poor knights, blue maomao arch.  we anchored across labrid channel from the arch and snorkelled over to drop down at the arch mouth.  entrance to the arch is gained (optionally) by swimming under a massive slanted boulder; you emerge into the deep sapphire twilight of a passage about 20m wide and 15m deep, with a few shafts of sunlight piercing the arch walls.

the walls of the arch are spattered with rainbow-colored epifauna.

and the feature for which the arch was named is a resident school of perhaps 50,000 blue maomao, who hang along the inland wall about halfway through.

over the next few days i’ll post more pics!

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