Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.
Archive for April, 2016
Apr 29, 16 Comments Off on Camouflaged Fish/Filefish, Monacanthus ciliatus
Hi all, I have a super camouflaged, very hidden, Fringed Filefish for you all today that we found hiding on the side of a giant pillar that was holding up a monster sized pier. Many have asked, “how did you even spot that” I tell them I was looking for something different and then something moved and with a closer look there it was! These little two inch fish are masters of camouflage and have the ability to change colors in a split second mimicking almost any underwater background color, it’s one of those things I just can’t explain you have to see it to believe it.
Appearing very much like their close relatives the triggerfish, filefish are rhomboid-shaped fish that have beautifully elaborate cryptic patterns. Deeply keeled bodies give a false impression of size when these fish are viewed facing the flanks. Filefish have soft, simple fins with comparatively small pectoral fins and truncated, fan-shaped tail fins; a slender, retractable spine crowns the head. Although there are usually two of these spines, the second spine is greatly reduced, being used only to lock the first spine in the erect position; this explains the family name Monacanthidae, from the Greek monos meaning “one” and akantha meaning “thorn”. Some species also have recurved spines on the base of the tail (caudal peduncle). The small terminal mouths of filefish have specialized incisor teeth on the upper and lower jaw; in the upper jaw there are four teeth in the inner series and six in the outer series; in the lower jaw, there are 4-6 in an outer series only. The snout is tapered and projecting; eyes are located high on the head. Although scaled, some filefish have such small scales as to appear scaleless. Like the triggerfish, filefish have small gill openings and greatly elongated pelvic bones creating a “dewlap” of skin running between the bone’s sharply keeled termination and the belly. The pelvis is articulated with other bones of the “pelvic girdle” and is capable of moving upwards and downwards in many species to form a large dewlap (this is used to make the fish appear much deeper in the body than is actually the case). Some filefish erect the dorsal spine and pelvis simultaneously to make it more difficult for a predator to remove the fish from a cave.
I have a bunch of sub-dives today, I will be in and out of the water all day…
Apr 28, 16 Comments Off on Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
Good morning friends, yesterday was a major holiday called “King’s Day” and most of the island was off and everything was closed.
For months now we have had this strange white dove living at our house and seems to have no fear of humans at all. When I toss seed on the ground for the other birds he or she is the first to arrive and most times landing at my feet, we originally thought it was someone’s pet bird because it was tame. Well I finally did some research this morning and found out it yet another invasive species that should not be here??? So to date we have found lionfish, frogs, corals, snails and now birds that are considered invasive species right here in Curacao, I have to ask what’s next???
The Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), most often simply called the collared dove, also sometimes hyphenated as Eurasian collared-dove, is a species of dove native to warm temperate and subtropical Asia, and introduced in North America in 1980s.
The collared dove was introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s and spread from there to Florida by 1982. It has become invasive; the stronghold in North America is still the Gulf Coast, but it is now found as far south as Puerto Escondido and Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, as far west as California, and as far north as Alaska, Alberta, the Great Lakes, and Nova Scotia. Their relatively early presence in the Cancún area may suggest they arrived there overwater. Some of the more distantly dispersed records may refer to local escapes from captivity. Its impact on other species there is as yet unknown; it appears to occupy an ecological niche between that of the mourning dove and the rock pigeon (also an invasive species in North America). In Arkansas (United States), the species was recorded first in 1989 and since then has grown in numbers and is now present in 42 of 75 counties in the state. It spread from the southeast corner of the state in 1997 to the northwest corner in 5 years, covering a distance of about 500 km (310 mi) at a rate of 100 km (62 mi) per year. This is more than double the rate of 45 km (28 mi) per year observed in Europe.
The collared dove is not wary and often feeds very close to human habitation, including visiting bird tables; the largest populations are typically found around farms where spilt grain is frequent around grain stores or where livestock are fed. It is a gregarious species and sizeable winter flocks will form where there are food supplies such as grain (its main food) as well as seeds, shoots and insects. Flocks most commonly number between ten and fifty, but flocks of up to ten thousand have been recorded.
The song is a coo-COO-coo, repeated many times. It is phonetically similar to the Greek decaocto (“eighteen”), to which the bird owes its zoological name. It also makes a harsh loud screeching call lasting about two seconds, particularly in flight just before landing. A rough way to describe the screeching sound is a hah-hah.
I started building a new trail this weekend because it is so dry. The new section will be an add-on to the very popular calabash trail, stay tuned.
I have to be underwater in 5 minutes, I have to go!!
See you again soon…
Apr 26, 16 Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Octopus Living in Discarded Trash
Good morning friends, I have a very small Caribbean Reef Octopus peering out of the end of a metal pipe for you today that I found during the day out in the middle of the sand. As many of you already know octopus have this amazing ability to squeeze themselves into the smallest of spaces, that’s why I tell all my divers to check every piece of trash they find. Many times in the sub we have seen octopus hiding inside discarded bottles using them as their home, talk about a tight fit?? I found this one above in the mouth of an old metal plumbing pipe just hanging out watching reef creatures swim by without a care in the world. The opening of the pipe is about 3-inches giving you a pretty good idea of his or her size. These Caribbean Reef octopus unlike their cousins the Common octopus will stay hidden for most of the day and will only venture out during the night, the Common you can find out hunting at all hours of the day.
Since we live on a Dutch island many visitors from Holland have never seen a real cactus, lizard, tropical fish or the sun and I always get a kick out of seeing arriving visitors posing in front of our giant cactus we have here on the property. And as you can imagine most want to touch it and all get a little treat in return, a band-aid!
Lots to do, I have a big ride going on tonight….
Apr 25, 16 Comments Off on Terminal Phase Sleeping Stoplight Parrotfish
Good morning all, sorry about the lack of attention to the site lately but I am super busy with a new series of deep-sea stamps that will be again issued by the Curacao Post sometime later this year. Many of you remember my last 10 deep-sea fish stamps from 2014 well this time instead of fish it will be all kinds of cool creatures most found by our friends at the Smithsonian Institution. When I get the OK I will send them to you but I am guessing that we will have to wait until they are officially released, stay tuned.
I have a sleeping Stoplight Parrotfish for you all today that we found late at night underneath a swaying gorgonian. If you look carefully you will notice a bunch of brown blotchy spots all over the body, those are not there during the day, only at night. Why you ask, well it’s a way to help them blend in, making themselves darker or a kind of camouflage if you will and it apparently works really well. Aimee and I love to seek out as many sleeping parrotfish as we can when night diving. Our goal is try to find those that are either the most hidden or those that lay out in plain sight, they really are amazing fish and super fun to watch.
Still no rain to be seen, our island is at an all time dried up low and the poor iguana’s are dropping like flies due to the lack of food and water. For a week and half it has been overcast and it looked like rain but not one drop has fallen, it’s so sad!
I spent the weekend riding with friends, watering baby agaves and doing lots of walks with the dogs, I even got to hang out with our buddy Stijn for awhile Sunday morning.
Hope all is well out there…
Apr 21, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue-Light Photos, UV Photos
Good morning friends, we had another super fun blue-light diving adventure under the pier at Caracasbaai last night and didn’t end up getting back till around 10:30, that’s late for me! Our evening started out with our clutch quickly going out on the car and after the dive we just barely made it back home, thankfully Stijn followed us the whole way. Aimee and I left the house at around 7:30 with all the dive gear and met Stijn at the tugboat dive-site at around 7:45. The whole area was completely deserted last night (pitch black) and we had major doubts about leaving our cars there unattended in the dark. As we were unloading our stuff we found out that there is a security guy and his dog that stay in the little house there at the pier and he will watch your stuff for a few guilders, that could not have worked out better. I think we got in the water around 8:15 and managed to hang out under the pier for close to an hour and although the water was cold there was a ton of cool stuff to look at. One of the first things we found was a juvenile inch and a half long Goatfish laying in the sand waiting out the long night, talk about brave little things. If anyone out there wants to photograph fireworms under blue-light this is the place, we saw them everywhere we looked in every shape and color you can imagine, they are so beautiful! The second photo is a close-up of some tiny star corals with open polyps, they look just like a field of glowing flowers. The bottom photo shows an ultra tiny quarter inch long blenny or goby with glowing orange eyes that we found hiding from the night in the grooves of a brain coral, talk about cool! I tried and tried to shoot some new orange cup corals but not one of them came out sharp, I may have to start using a tripod or find some way to keep the camera more still, it’s for sure a tough form of photography. A big thanks to Stijn again for helping me get the monster camera in and out of the water and following us home, I’ll take friends like him all day long!
Hope you all doing well, have a great day!!
Apr 20, 16 Comments Off on School of Blackbar Soldierfish Under Sunken Ship
Good morning readers, how is your week going???? It’s pretty quiet on the island right now but that will soon change with “Kings Day” arriving next week wednesday, it’s one of the biggest holidays of the year here. I’m doing a lot of riding lately trying to stay in shape for one of the hardest races of the year coming up June 1st which will be held on my trails and is 3 loops around the salt pond, I think it’s close to 25 miles. Last night we did two of those loops in just over an hour so if I can stay like I am now I should do well.
I have a massive school of Blackbar Soldierfish for you all today that we found residing under the famous sunken tugboat at Caracasbaai. The area of the ship your actually looking at is right where the propellor would have been attached and is now home to thousands of fish, sponges, corals and every kind of little sea creature you can imagine. This ship is only in around 15 feet of water making it the #1 snorkeling spot on the island. It is accessible by the beach or by way of boat and this is where we love to go night diving and especially blue-light diving.
Have a wonderful day….
Apr 19, 16 Comments Off on Free Swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus
Good morning from overcast Curacao. It’s been trying to rain for days but so far not one drop has fallen. We think one major reason is because they are removing the nature here at an alarming rate making room for more houses and farming and the clouds just can’t absorb any moisture to make rain, it’s all dirt and dry desert? On one ride I did this weekend I saw a new area out behind Montana that they burned all the trees down as far as the eye can see and then plowed the area to make room for more farming, and here’s the kicker, they are doing this during a drought! History even proves that farming here does not work because of the lack of rain, almost nothing will grow here except alo vera plants. This little island better wake up soon, they are for sure “killing Curacao”.
I have a beautiful free swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus for you all today that we found out on a night dive in front of the Sea Aquarium in around 40 feet of water. This guy like so many we find was super curious and seemed like he or she was just showing off for us, it was a total blast to watch. Many times they climb to the top of a coral head and then launch themselves off into midwater and then landing in another area, I could honestly follow them all night.
Lots to do, have a great day!!!
Apr 18, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Dolphin Photo, Bottlenose Dolphin
Good morning all. Mondays are for sure the hardest day off the week! I’m sitting here trying to remember what I did this weekend and wondering where it went, I think a three day weekend would be way better! After my long dog walk saturday morning I went into work to photograph three swimsuit models for a bikini company who contacted me asking if I could do the underwater shots with dolphins, how could I say no?? So I ended up being in the dolphin pools or under them for quite awhile trying my best to get the photos they wanted, not as easy as you would think. While underwater I was visited countless times by our resident dolphins who always find me and the camera very entertaining, I usually just find a spot to sit so they can come to me and I’m not chasing them around. Most of the dolphins are pretty used to my camera and the flashes but some of the babies say no way and take off at high speed but will always return to see if I am still there.
Yesterday I got in a nice relaxed three hour mountain bike ride on my new carbon Epic that I have been working on for a year trying to get parts for it.
Have a great day all….
Apr 15, 16 Comments Off on Diver Silhouette, Wreck Diving, Pier Diving
Good afternoon all, I’m always talking about diving under the piers at Caracasbaai and because I’m always using a macro lens or my trusty 28-70 you only get to see what is growing or living there, never the pier itself. So today I have a little window into a very crazy, very spooky world that few divers get to experience mainly because it’s overlooked or one needs to be an advanced diver to play here. Diving under these massive piers is nothing less than a pure adrenaline rush! You have to constantly watch your depth and all the dangers that surround you like fishing string, jagged metal objects poking out everywhere, snags of every shape and size, loose objects ready to fall and a million things to hit you head on. The upside is all the cool stuff that is either attached to the pilings or living under them, it’s kind of like a giant man-made cave of sorts. Because of all the human junk like tires and iron objects of every shape and size there are millions of little places for things to hide in. So, if you get over the fear that something is watching you and just relax you will find amazing stuff.
Hope your day is going well, we are having crazy heat but at least the ocean is calm and the water is crystal clear!
Enjoy your weekend!
Apr 14, 16 Comments Off on Orange Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi
Good morning readers, how is your week treating you?? We have a beautiful day on tap here, no wind, clear skies and calm waters, all we need is rain!
I have another beautiful little seahorse for you all today which is for sure the #1 creature on the “find list” for just about any diver in these waters. This pale-orange wonder was around three inches in length and was wrapped around a gorgonian eating little mysis one at at a time. Mysis are tiny little swimming shrimps that seem to be the food of choice for hundreds of baby fish and creatures and can be found everywhere on the reef in big schools but they are so small and see-thru one can hardly find them. If you were to sit and watch this seahorse it would move around quite a bit from one gorgonian arm to another in search of the perfect feeding spot and in the course of an hour could cover a wide area. Many times we have seen a seahorse like this, taken the photo and then swim past the same area later and he or she is gone. They are most likely right under you but most times they blend in so well no human or creature will ever find them, what an amazing thing!
Have a wonderful day!
Apr 13, 16 Comments Off on Juvenile Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter
Good morning from way down south!! I have our hands down favorite fish for you today that puts the letter “C” in CUTE! This is a young trunkfish, it’s not a baby and it’s not an adult so lets just say he or she is a teenager. I think this gentle little treasure was only around an inch and a half in length and I believe we photographed him at night out in front of the Sea Aquarium. When Aimee and I find these (which is fairly uncommon) we pretty much drop whatever we are doing and quietly watch as they work their way around a small part of the reef looking for food. They seem to love algae encrusted areas when they are young and from a distance it looks like they are swimming around kissing the reef but what they are really doing is sucking little pieces of food with that cool mouth. When they get older they use their mouths to blow craters in the sand in search of worms and crabs or other soft invertebrates like Christmas Tree worms which they love but don’t always have good luck catching them.
Have a wonderful day all!!
Apr 12, 16 Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Squid, Sepioteuthis sepiodea
Good morning, not much at all going on today, the winds are down and it continues to be hot and dry with no rain in sight. Driving around the island yesterday I see they are removing topsoil here at an alarming rate (can you say Caribbean Dust Bowl) in order to build more houses, I have to take a photo and send it to you because you have to see it to believe it! Folks here wonder why it’s so dry? Well, one reason is they are removing all the old beautiful trees as fast as they can and removing all the natural environment, I really feel sorry for the next generation that will have to deal with all these major irreversible mistakes.
I have a solitary Caribbean Reef Squid for you all today that I photographed during the day in around 40 feet of water. I tend to not have good luck getting close to squids during the day as there are so many predators out trying to eat them but at night our odds are much higher.
Sorry so short, have a great day!
Apr 11, 16 Comments Off on Solitary Balloonfish, Diodon holocanthus, Puffers
Good morning friends, I placed 2nd in Masters and 8th overall yesterday in the annual 45k Montana/Ennia mountain bike race. The race started in Montana (sounds like mon-ton-ya not like the state of Montana) at 3:00 in the afternoon and went to Playa Kanoa and back! For me it wasn’t the distance it was the heat and wind, who starts a race at three on the island of Curacao??? I am sure it was close to 100 degrees when we started and wasn’t much cooler at 4:30 when I finished! I had packed some food to eat at the half-way point like banana’s but apparently they fell out of my pack early on?? Luckily I still had a jell-pack stuck away and liquid food in one of my bottles otherwise I would still be out there walking!
I have a very gentle, uninflated balloonfish/pufferfish for you all today that I found in a super beautiful section of the reef.
There are more than 120 species of pufferfish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment.
They range in size from the 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length. They are scaleless fish and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.
The diet of the pufferfish includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Large specimens will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.
Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most populations are considered stable.
Have a great day all!!
Apr 8, 16 Comments Off on Scorpionfish at Night, Scorpaena plumieri
Hello friends, I have a scorpionfish for you all today with his classic grumpy face, big mouth and ornate decorations that we found late at night out on the reef. I’ve been searching high and low looking for scorpionfish with our blue-lights at night but am not finding any, it’s a case of when you don’t want them they are everywhere and when you need one you can’t find one to save your life!
Most species of scorpionfish are bottom-dwellers that feed on crustaceans and smaller fish. Many inhabit shallow waters, but a few live as deep as 2,200 m (7,200 ft). Most scorpionfish, such as the stonefish, wait in disguise for prey to pass them by before swallowing, while lionfish often ambush their prey. Like many perciform fishes, scorpionfish are suction feeders that capture prey by rapidly projecting a suction field generated by expansion of the fish’s buccal cavity.
For those of you who said you sent rain down here I’m sad to say it never arrived, so please re-send as soon as possible please!
Have a great day and weekend!
Apr 7, 16 Comments Off on Blue-Light Photos, Blue Light Sponge and Fireworm
Good morning friends, we had a wonderful night dive last night under the second pier at Caracasbaai, it is truly one of the best blue-light diving destinations in Curacao! We ended up having five people on our dive last night, it was me, Stijn, Cristina, Bruce and his daughter Avi. Bruce and Avi took off in search of lionfish but ended up niot finding any while the rest of us made a beeline straight under the pier and started shining our blue-lights everywhere! From start to finish last night we had a blast, there is so much stuff that is glowing on the giant posts that hold the pier up that it would take 100 dives to see it all. One of my favoite things I found, high up on one of the posts was this beautiful glowing sponge (above) which was surrounded by all kinds of little pieces of algae and corals that were glowing as well. This is the first sponge I have ever seen that fluoresces and it was standing out like crazy when you shined the blue-light on it. We found thousands of glowing Orange Cup corals but I didn’t really get a shot I liked, we are going back friday again to try with the macro lens. The bottom photo is a giant Bearded Fireworm showing off his crazy electric colors against a cool orange and red concrete wall, I just can’t resist photographing them. Stijn pointed out all kinds of cool stuff like giant anemones and monster sized lizardfish buried in the sand and he even found a cool arrow crab that needs to be shot with a marco lens, what a great spot! We ended up having to exit because I was frozen, I couldn’t even feel my fingers and I was now shaking from the cold, hard to concentrate when your shivering. We got home around 10:30 last night and went straight to bed, boy did I sleep great!
Have a wonderful day all!