ABOUT

Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last ten 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.

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Archive for the ‘Bony Fish’

Oct 14, 14     Comments Off
BAR-

Good afternoon readers, better late than never right?? You want to talk about HOT, Curacao is baking today!! There are no clouds to be seen, very light wind and like always…. melting humidity, oh what fun! Because of the sweltering heat I did what everyone else is doing and took off to the water and got in a nice cool relaxing dive on our Substation reef armed with my trusty 105 macro lens, you can’t go wrong with that! I immediately swam down to around 50 feet and just took in the view and tried to figure out which way to go? As I quietly hovered I heard the all to familiar sound of “crunch”, crunch”, “crunch” and knew without even looking there had to be a large parrotfish near by scarping his teeth on the rocks looking for lunch. Sure enough within seconds a giant Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride pops his head up from his algae dinner plate and looks me straight in the face, “SNAP”, that was the photo! I have found through trial and error if you want any kind of fish face shot you have to not only be prepared to spend the whole dive with a single fish but you have to catch them off guard as I did here. Parrotfish have some of the most comical faces and there are so many different species of parrotfish meaning there are countless fun face shots waiting for you down there. I also saw my school of Bonnetmouths out there today (that have been there for years) and was shocked at how many there are now?? I estimated the school at around 350-400 and if the water would have been more clear I would have gone back out for some wide angle shots, talk about a beautiful little fish!

I will have to force myself to get on the bike today in this heat, this is the downside to Curacao in October!

Not much else going on, it’s very quiet at the moment, next month and December will be crazy around here!

Have a great day!!

Barry

Sep 26, 14     Comments Off

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Good afternoon all, it’s Friday and we are still busy here at Substation Curacao working with the Smithsonian. We did have another group of Smithsonian scientists leave this morning with smiles on their faces from all the new goodies they found. So now we just have our World famous Carole Baldwin left who’s down in the submersible now and her assistant Cristina looking for two more specific fish and bringing up temperature loggers from 800 feet. I’m currently sitting here in my dive gear waiting to go under to photograph the sub bringing up the temperature loggers and do a final photo shoot with the ladies in the front. So while I wait I can quickly fill you in on all the recent finds and happenings.

Your photos of the day are a POSSIBLE new species of snake eel the Smithsonian Institution found this week while searching the sandy abyss near the 900 foot mark. This beautiful eel is only around 10 inches in length. Is it a full grown adult or a juvenile of another species, who knows but they can hardly wait to find out! We see quite a few different eels down there the problem is eels live in caves and holes and are very hard to collect or observe so this quite the opportunity.

Yesterday I was so busy running around photographing the scientists doing their thing either in the labs or in the sub. When the sub returned yesterday they brought back more beer bottles they found down deep and one had a baby octopus inside. The scientists are now thinking that all the deep water shells we are finding in the bottles do not crawl in to the bottles but are carried into the bottles by these octopus, makes sence to me. We had a bunch of shell experts here this week and they went home very happy with their beautiful slit-shells, deep-water murex’s, cone shells and on and on. We had one lady here with the Smithsonian who has one of the new cone shells named after her, I will do a story on her next week.

I just heard on the radio the submersible is coming up, I need to get ready to go.

Have a great weekend all…..

Barry

Sep 17, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, it’s barely 8:00 here and the Smithsonian is already underwater looking for new fish but this time on scuba and not with the submersible. Not only are they looking for new species down to 1000 feet with the sub, they are also searching for new fish in the shallows and believe it or not there is still a lot of new stuff to be found in just a few feet of water. There are so many beautiful little fish in the shallows that no diver will ever see as they are either so small or so reclusive and many live in very hard to get to places. Once the scientists come up from their scuba dive they will then climb into the submersible and disappear down into the darkness for the rest of day in search of new deep sea creatures and fish.

Your fish of the day is one such creature that was recently found at around 600 feet with the new “Curasub”. This is a beautiful three and a half inch Sphoeroides dorsalalis, or Marbled Puffer to the rest of the World. This is one of those fish that lives in the darkness and that no diver will ever get to see unless your tuning into this blog everyday. We have a fish here in Curacao that is called a Bandtail Puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri and it can be found in depths of 5-to 35 feet and is a close relative to the Marbled Puffer.

The Bandtail puffer is usually found on seagrass beds and coral reefs, and mostly close to the bottom, where it finds adequate cover and is less likely to be spotted by predators. The preferred food items are mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms. The marbled puffer on the other hand lives in a very different environment. Not only is it dark it’s very rocky and sandy but most likely eats the same foods as his shallow swimming cousin.

I have to get back to the labs to photograph some deep-sea urchins, anemones and crabs, so stay tuned for more fun finds.

Have a wonderful day……………

Barry

Sep 16, 14     Comments Off

Scorpionfish

BAR-

Good afternoon all, I’ve been inside the deep-water labs all morning photographing some beautiful little fish that came up from around 540-600 feet. This is a little three inch scorpionfish posing nicely inside a giant thorny oyster shell and the bottom photo is a close-up of just his cool, very colorful eye. Many have asked me if these are babies or juveniles but they are full grown adults, they just don’t get that big. It took us about a week to bring this fish and others up safely from the deep, it’s a slow process but it works. We normally drop the fish off at about 250 feet and then slowly bring them up 50 feet each day feeding them along the way.

Scorpaenidae, the scorpionfish, are a family of mostly marine fish that includes many of the world’s most venomous species. As the name suggests, scorpionfish have a type of “sting” in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. The family is a large one, with hundreds of members. They are widespread in tropical and temperate seas, but mostly found in the Indo-Pacific. They should not be confused with the cabezones, of the genus Scorpaenichthys, which belong to a separate, though related family, Cottidae.

Some types, such as the lionfish, are attractive as well as dangerous, and highly desired for aquaria. In addition to the name scorpionfish, informal names for family members include firefish, turkeyfish, dragonfish, and stingfish, usually with adjectives added.

General characteristics of family members include a compressed body, ridges and/or spines on the head, one or two spines on the operculum, and three to five spines on the preopercle. The dorsal fin has 11 to 17 spines, often long and separated from each other, and the pectoral fins are well-developed, with 11 to 25 rays. The spines of the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins all have venom glands at their bases.

Most species 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. When not ambushing, lionfish may herd the fish, shrimp, or crab into a corner before swallowing. 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.

Scorpaenid systematics are complicated and unsettled. Fishes of the World recognizes 10 subfamilies with a total of 388 species, while (as of 2006) FishBase follows Eschmeyer and has three subfamilies, 25 genera, and 201 species, some of the species being removed to family Sebastidae which other authorities do not follow.

I have to get back to my camera, have a wonderful day all!!

Barry

Sep 12, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Hey friends, we had another busy day at Substation Curacao so finally I have time to do a little chillin! We had two submersible runs again today with paid guests and I of course was waiting for them at 50 feet to take some photos as they pass by. While waiting for the sub to arrive I hung out with my buddy you see above that has been living in this cave under a mound of star coral for longer than I can remember. This is a GIANT Spotted Moray Eel, Gymnothorax moringa and he must be close to four feet in length!! During any given day you can find him right there poking his head out and just enjoying the view, at night time he is gone and out hunting for food. I of course have the greatest respect for this creature and know that he could take my hand off if he wanted to, that’s why I always keep a safe distance when taking his photo. While I laid on the sand watching him or her today I observed two Sharknose Gobies cleaning him, one can be seen clinging to the coral above his head to the right. These little cleaner fish are so brave, you can watch as they swim all over his body and even in and out of his mouth, it’s a win-win for both parties.

On the second dive I did today I found a mega tiny, just born trunkfish (see photos from 2 days ago) in a foot of water being tossed around by the big waves. I immediately opened my pocket on my BC vest and pulled out a little critter container with a lid that had holes drilled all around it and placed it near him and he swam inside. This little thing was smaller than the three I posted 2 days ago, it was super tiny and so dang cute. I normally don’t mess with sea creatures but this little baby was in the wrong spot, he was getting pounded by the waves and surge. So as I went to meet the submersible I took him with me down to 50 feet and placed him in a tiny coral cave near the others we found a few days ago. Once out of the container he immediately started eating and exploring his new calm world, I will check on him again tomorrow to make sure all is good. These little baby trunkfish normally stay very near one area for months until they are old enough to head out into the big blue, such brave little things!

We are awaiting the arrival of the first batch of Smithsonian scientists that should arrive within the hour, it will be two crazy weeks coming up so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful weekend all…..

Cheers, Barry

Sep 11, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning from Curacao! We are gearing up for a busy day of underwater exploration here at Substation Curacao with two dives planned starting at 11:00. I am sorry to say that our live underwater video camera is still down and not working but I will make sure and let you know once we go live again.

Here is one of the top 10 most beautiful fish in the Caribbean, the Queen Angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris. As babies these fish are absolutely spectacular but super hard to find and very shy! This one here is a full grown adult and was around 16-18 inches in length. Unlike the French angelfish these Queens are one of the hardest animals to photograph because they are so shy, they seem to be afraid of everything! I usually end up just having to swim alongside them at top speed as I did here because they will not stop long enough for a photo. 

The adult Queen angelfish overall body color can be described as blue to blue-green with yellow rims on its scales. Their pectoral and ventral fins are also yellow but their lips and the edges of their dorsal fins and anal fins are dark blue. Queen angelfish are also known to have blue markings around each gill cover. Juveniles have dark blue bodies with yellow lips, gills, and tail and vertical bars ranging in color from light blue to white. The Queen angelfish may live up to 15 years in the wild and reach up to 45 centimeters (17 inches) in length. Queen angelfish are about three and a half pounds.

Like other angelfish, much of its locomotion is produced by the pectoral fins. The outer 40% of each fin can be used to produce up to 80% of the fish’s total thrust.

The Queen angelfish feeds primarily on sponges, but also feeds on tunicates, jellyfish, and corals as well as plankton and algae. Juveniles serve as “cleaners” and feed on the parasites of larger fish at cleaning stations. 

The adults are found in pairs year round, perhaps suggesting a long-term monogamous bond. The pairs reproduce by rising up in the water, bringing their bellies close together, and release clouds of sperm and eggs. The female can release anywhere from 25 to 75 thousand eggs each evening and as many as ten million eggs during each spawning cycle. The eggs are transparent, buoyant, and pelagic, floating in the water column. They hatch after 15 to 20 hours into larvae that lack effective eyes, fins, or even a gut. The large yolk sac is absorbed after 48 hours, during which time the larvae develop normal characteristics of free swimming fish. Larvae are found in the water column and feed on plankton. The larvae grow rapidly and about 3–4 weeks after hatching the 15–20 millimetres (0.6–0.8 in) long juvenile settles on the bottom.

I am off to the sea, have a great day out there!!

Barry

Sep 10, 14     Comments Off

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Good evening friends, what a day!! Sorry about the late blog  but yours truly has been very busy!! Yesterday after posting the blog Aimee called and begged me to come over to Dolphin Academy with my dive gear and help the trainers do underwater repairs to the dolphin lagoons. Because of this crazy wind we are getting monster waves which are causing damage to our underwater dolphin living areas. What we did in a nutshell was to lift giant rocks back into place and tie many of them down with ropes. The waves were rolling in so hard at times we couldn’t see the hand in front of your face with all the bubbling whitewater, it was actually kind of funny and I found myself laughing to myself more than once! During this event the dolphins are racing back and forth and many times they will swim over to you and just hang out right over your shoulder and watch and make their classic buzzing sound (echo locating) right in your ear. While moving the stones I noticed that all the brittle stars were out in broad daylight climbing all over each other and spawning!!! Yeah and no camera! Whats up with that you ask?? We just had a full moon which is the official start of coral spawning for September. This means from now until the 17th  just about everything in the sea will be spawning, it’s my favorite time of the year because you never know what you will find! I have never seen this happen during the day and there it was happening right before my eyes! I watched as brittle star after brittle star released thousands upon thousands of beautiful pinkish purple eggs, it was one of the coolest things I ever saw underwater to date and again no camera!

Later in the evening I took off on a crazy 20 mile mountain bike “wind ride” which was about as much fun as being sick, the things we do to stay in shape!

Today Aimee was off and met me at Substation at 10:00 for a dive in hopes of seeing the brittle stars spawning again. Well no such luck with the spawning but we did find three baby Smooth Trunkfish, the hands down cutest fish in the sea!! We found the top baby at around 60 feet and he was the largest of the three at a mere one inch in length! If you look closely you can see his tail wrapped around to the right, the others are so small they don’t have much of a tail yet. For years we have been calling these things “little marbles” because of their size, they kind of just bounce around and look so vulnerable but nothing will eat them because of the protective slime they have around their bodies. The second and third baby trunkfish (pictured above) were both less than a half an inch long and both made me work for a decent photo. Look at their cute little lips, man I love these things and could watch them for hours! We are guessing that a few times a year these cuties are born in great numbers, we never see these tiny babies and today we found three! For those of you wanting to see what these guys look like as adults type in “Smooth Trunkfish” in my search box on the front page, it’s quite the transformation!

That’s about it, we have a busy day on tap tomorrow with two submersible dives and then I have a two hour bike ride starting at 5:00 with my buddy Dorian.

Off to bed.

Barry 

Aug 29, 14     Comments Off

Good morning friends, I have a lionfish video for your viewing pleasure today that was taken moments before the giant crab that I posted yesterday. These two here were at around 50 feet alongside a giant sunken propellor just hanging out in the darkness looking for dinner. As you can see they could have cared less! One of the coolest things about lionfish is all their different colors. They can be found in black, white, orange, red and brown and as babies they are almost clear or see-through. I have never seen a creature that has the ability to adapt to so many different conditions and that can multiply so fast! Lionfish are good eating and folks are hunting them and selling them to restaurants, maybe that’s what I need to start doing as well to help keep the numbers down.

As much as I hate these lionfish for invading the Caribbean and gobbling up all our baby fish they are still one of the most beautiful fish I have ever seen and I honestly can’t resist the temptation of photographing them on a daily basis. I think one of the top reasons I find them so intriguing is because unlike so many other fish that don’t want you anywhere near them, these fish will pose all day long for you and seem to have no fear of anything! 

Lionfish or Pterois volitans, which makes up approximately 93% of the invasive lionfish population, is also commonly called “red lionfish” and Pterois miles is often called the “common lionfish” or “devil firefish.” However, their common names do not match the origins of their scientific names. The genus name, Pterois, pronounced (tare-oh-eese) is defined in modern dictionaries as simply “lionfish”, however the word Pterois comes from the Greek word “pteroeis” meaning “feathered” or “winged” and the Ancient Greek word, “πτερόν” (pteron), meaning “feather” or “wing”. The species name, volitans, pronounced (vole-ee-tahnz), is Latin for “flying” or “hovering” and the present participle of the Latin word “volitō,” which means “to fly” or “to hover. ”The species name, miles, pronounced (mee-layz), is Latin for “soldiering” and the present participle of the Latin word “mīlitō”, which means “to soldier.

No one is quite sure where the name “lionfish” really came from but it would be a logical guess that when both pectoral fins are completely extended and fanned out a head-on view of the lionfish might resemble a male lion’s mane. Others have also suggested that it might be a tip of the hat to the lionfish as a ferocious predator.

We have a dive with the submersible at 11:00, lots to do before that happens.

Have a wonderful weekend all!!

Barry

Aug 26, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Hi friends, I had a request asking if moray eels have a nose or nostrils and do they have bones, YES to both!

The elongate body is laterally compressed or “flattened” and this fish possesses a muscular appearance. The spotted moray lacks pelvic and pectoral fins, the former true of all eels, the latter true of all morays. The dorsal and anal fins are long and are continuous with the short caudal fin. The incurrent nostrils are conspicuous tube-like structures, while the excurrent pair take the form of simple openings. The tubular nostrils spotted on moray eels are believed to help them detect prey. Having poor eyesight and hearing, they rely mostly on their sense of smell to alert them of prey and other marine animals. The coloration of their skin and the shapes of their fins and nostrils help them camouflage with their environment. For example, the blue ribbon eel’s nostrils are shaped like aquatic plant leaves to help it blend in.

There are nearly 200 different types of moray eels around the world, but they all share several things in common. Most morays are about 1.5 meters long however some have been known to grow as long as 4 meters in length. Morays come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. All moray eels posses a long spine which gives them their snakelike body and allows these aquatic vertebrates to maneuver forwards and backwards through the water with a serpentine motion. Unlike most fish who use suction to capture their prey, moray eels have a unique, second jaw which allows them to drag their prey into their mouth. The pharyngeal jaw (pharyngeal meaning near the pharynx), located deep within the throat, snaps forward and clamps down on the prey once the first jaw has a firm grip. The eel will then relax its first jaw and pull the prey into its throat using its pharyngeal jaw. Eels have sharp, curved canine teeth which enables them to latch onto their prey with a firm grip. Some eels, like the Atlantic Green Moray Eel, even come equipped with a third row of teeth on the roof of their mouth. Bacteria forms on the insides of their mouths and this can easily cause an infection from a bite wound. A tall dorsal fin runs the length of a moray eels back and is joined with a smaller caudal fin (or tail fin) which runs from the bottom of the tail and ends halfway along the underside of the body. They lack pectoral fins and thus lack vertical stability. It is not uncommon for them to drift lazily on their side. Two small, circular gills located behind the mouth allow the moray eel to breath. Morays continually open and close their mouths in order to pump water through their gills. Eels also have a layer of mucus which coats their thick, scale-less skin in order to protect them from germs and parasites; in some species this mucus is toxic. This mucus also assists them in maneuvering quickly and painlessly through the rough edges of coral reefs.

I am off for next few days so the blog will most likely be getting done in the evenings. Aimee did not get to Michigan on time! I heard from Emily she had to spend the night in the airport in Chicago and today found a flight to Green Bay and was getting picked up by friends and hand delivered the rest of the way??

Time for dinner, see you soon.

Barry

Aug 20, 14     Comments Off

Good morning from Curacao. I had a friend asking if fish really do sleep, the answer is YES! I found this video I shot a few weeks ago late at night of a giant Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride tucked away, sheltered from the current sleeping under a swaying gorgonian. This guy was close to two feet in length and never really reacted to me or the lights, he was pretty much in his happy place. I find that few parrotfish on the reef secrete mucus cocoons but many do in the shallows and I always find the leftover cocoons on the sand in the mornings. Almost all the fish you see during the day you won’t see at night, they are either sleeping out in the open like this parrotfish or tucked away down in the safety of the rocks or corals. As divers we try to not wake the fish with our bright lights but many times it can’t be avoided. If a sleeping fish is startled it will quickly swim off into the darkness and find another home but it can do serious damage to itself in the process. I have seen parrotfish wake up scared from lights and swim right into rocks and corals which could knock them out if they are not careful.

Parrotfishes are a group of about 90 species traditionally regarded as a family (Scaridae), but now often considered a subfamily (Scarinae) of the wrasses. They are found in relatively shallow tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, displaying their largest species richness in the Indo-Pacific. They are found in coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds, and play a significant role in bioerosion. A number of parrotfish species, including the queen parrotfish (Scarus vetula), secrete a mucus cocoon, particularly at night.

Prior to going to sleep, some species extrude mucus from their mouths, forming a protective cocoon that envelops the fish, presumably hiding its scent from potential predators. This mucus envelope may also act as an early warning system, allowing the parrotfish to flee when it detects predators such as moray eels disturbing the membrane. The skin itself is covered in another mucous substance which may have antioxidant properties helpful in repairing bodily damage, or repelling parasites, in addition to providing protection from UV light. Although they are considered to be herbivores, parrotfish eat a wide variety of reef organisms, and they are not necessarily vegetarian.

Species such as the green humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) include coral (polyps) in their diets.  Their feeding activity is important for the production and distribution of coral sands in the reef biome, and can prevent algae from choking coral. The teeth grow continuously, replacing material worn away by feeding. Their pharyngeal teeth grind up the coral and coralline algae the fish ingest during feeding. After they digest the edible portions from the rock, they excrete it as sand, helping to create small islands and the sandy beaches of the Caribbean. One parrotfish can produce 90 kg (200 lb) of sand each year. Or, very averagely (as there are so many variables i.e. size/species/location/depth etc), about 275 g per parrotfish per day. While feeding, parrotfish must be cognizant of predation by one of their main predators, the lemon shark.

Have a great day.

Barry

Aug 12, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Hi friends,

Here’s a colorful photo of a big school of Blue Tangs cruising through the reef with a single goatfish (yellow fish) trying hard to blend in. I really had quite a laugh underwater watching this single goatfish, it’s like he always wanted to be a blue tang and figured they wouldn’t even notice if he hung out with them. We see these large groups called “aggregations” on the reef here every single day and I still never seem to get tired of it, they are just so beautiful. Adult blue tangs have three social modes: territorial, wandering, and schooling. Territorial adults defend their home rage from other members of the species. Schooling adults are not aggressive. Wanderer adults are not aggressive nor do they interact with other individuals like schooling fish do. Wanderers are mostly chased by other fish including Ocean surgeonfish and damselfishes. Occasionally, Blue Tangs form large multi-species aggregations with other surgeonfishes as seen above.

Blue tangs may benefit from forming schools for two reasons. First, individuals may experience lower rates of predation when feeding in large groups. Second, by feeding in groups, fish might be able to work together to overcome the territorial defenses of other fishes. For example, a single blue tang is easily chased away by an aggressive damselfish defending its territory. However, when a large school of blue tangs and their schoolmates try to feed on algae in a damselfish’s territory, there is little that the damselfish can do.  When this occurs, the damselfish frantically, but ultimately fruitlessly, attempts to chase away their more numerous attackers while the school consumes all of the algae in their territories.

Blue tangs are active during the day, hiding in crevices on the reef at night to avoid predators.

Juvenile blue tangs are solitary and occupy home ranges that increase with body size. Juveniles aggressively defend their home ranges from juvenile ocean surgeonfish. Juveniles also avoid damselfishes that overlap in range with them.

It’s blazing HOT in Curacao today, if your headed this way bring your sunblock!

See you soon, Barry

Jul 9, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Hi everyone, no I did not fall off the face of the Earth, I am just having one of those weeks!! Yesterday, tuesday I did 4 dives and went straight home to bed, no bike riding! On one of my dives monday I discovered that one of my big finger coral colonies had fallen over due to an infestation of damselfish and lack of support. So yesterday I brought in loads of giant stones from the desert weighing 50-100lbs and took them one by one out to the reef to act as a new barrier so the rest of the corals will stay put. Moving giant stones underwater is a kind of art. Once the stones are underwater, you have to first put a sling around each one and then attach the sling to a rope that is connected to a big white bucket. Then I fill the bucket with air from my tank and “presto” the air in the bucket lifts the stone and off we go! So this is what I did for an hour and a half yesterday, back and forth to 50 feet and back taking stone after stone out to it’s new home. Not only do these rocks aid in holding up my corals they will now be homes to hundreds of little creatures and fish. In fact yesterday no sooner had I put a stone in place and a little yellow damselfish moved right in and staked his claim, talk about brave!

Today I took the day off to spend with Aimee and celebrate my birthday. I left the house at 6:30m and rode my bike over to the north coast (takes about an hour) where I met Aimee and the dogs. We then did a fun ride towards Playa Kanoa stopping at our favorite little beach to let the dogs swim and for us to do some beach collecting. After returning the girls back to the car I rode back home which took another hour, so I got in a good 3 hour ride. I believe we are going out diving later this afternoon to work on our brain coral project and to check on my finger corals, so much to do, so little time!

I have a fairly rare fish that we don’t see too often here in Curacao. This a baby/juvenile Highhat Drum, Pareques acuminatus and let me tell you these little fish are a joy to watch.

The name “Drum” was given to these, and several other similar species, because drum fish can make a low resonance noise similar to the beating of a drum. Highhat drums are found on coral reefs in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Bahamas. They can be found at all recreational depths. They swim alone, usually under cover of a ledge, coral, or the opening of small caves. For this reason, you will need to get low to find them.

Highhat drum are nocturnal, so it’s possible to find them out feeding during a night dive.

Well gang, lots to do, have a great day!!

Barry

Jul 7, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning friends, I know I’m off to a late start but better late than never right?? So how was your weekend??? I know many of you are so glad to be done with that long cold winter and you can finally get outside into your gardens and feel a little warmth of the sun! For us Caribbean folk, we don’t know the word “winter”, it’s always warm 365 days a year, granted it humid but I will take this over snow and freezing cold.

My weekend went by fast as always with bike rides, trail work and diving and like always come monday I am wiped out! I did do a dive with my macro lens this morning but didn’t find anything new that you hadn’t already seen, I’m running out of new animals to post! Yesterday, Sunday I did a dive down by Pier Baai and was on a mission to photograph brain coral but ended up spending the whole dive removing fishing line and lures from the reef, what a mess! I’m one of those divers that will drop everything to remove a section of fishing line from the reef, if a turtle were to pass by that stuff he is going to get tangled and drown! I carry a whole bunch of different tools to cut line and have big pockets to put it all in after it is removed and once home it goes straight to the trash with a big smile on my face!

I have another tranquil reef scene for your viewing pleasure today showing a beautiful gorgonian that looks like a tree with a big Schoolmaster, Lutjanus apodus hanging out under it.

The schoolmaster snapper, Lutjanus apodus, is a colorful, subtropical fish found over coral reef areas along the coasts of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, though it can range northward along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Adults are 12-14 in (30-35 cm) long and weigh 1.0-2.0 lb (0.4-0.8 kg), though rare individuals can weigh 8 lb at 24 in long. It has a robust, slightly compressed body, with a pointed head. Its color varies from silvery to bronze. Fins and tails are yellow and the snout contains blue stripes. As the common name suggests, schoolmaster snapper live in groups of dozens of subjects. They keep a short distance from the sea floor at depths between 10 and 90 ft, prefer the cover provided by coral reefs during the day, and expand their range to seagrass beds at night. The schoolmaster is sometimes called the barred snapper or the caji. Like other snapper species, it is a popular food fish.

It lives in shallow, clear, warm, coastal waters over coral reefs, sand with plants, and mud in mangrove areas or other reef-associated bottom types. Juveniles stay over sand bottoms with or without seagrasses, and over muddy bottoms of lagoons or mangrove areas. The young tend to be in littoral (shore) areas, grass plains and from time to time enter briny waters. They may be seen resting in accumulations during the day. The groups of juveniles in shallow coastal waters, as they grow, move into deeper and deeper water. Large schools are often noticed by divers over shallow wrecks and certain coral patches, and this behavior inspired the common name.

Adults usually stay near shore at depths ranging from 0 to 200 ft (2-60 m) and shelter around elkhorn and gorgonian coral. Large adults are sometimes found on the continental shelf. Typical depths are up to 12 ft (4 m). At night, schoolmasters may increase their range to twice the daytime range, mostly by visiting seagrass beds.

I am off to play with the submersible, have a great day all!

Barry

 

Jun 25, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning friends, sorry about the NO blog yesterday but it’s been crazy around here! First off Carole Baldwin (Worlds top fish expert) arrived again from the Smithsonian Institution and was kind enough to bring us down stuff we needed from the States like our favorite coffee from “Dark Canyon Coffee Company” in Rapid City, SD. I have a link to this magical place on the left side of our home page so you to can see what all the fuss is about. We LOVE the blend called “Highlander Groog”. If you ever want to get us something we will love, that is it! Our friend Lori that owns  the company has been keeping Aimee and I in coffee wonderfulness for years now and like I told her the other day, every cup is a memory link back to our times in Rapid, a city filled with great memories! So thanks again Lori for sending that to Carole.

Also as many of know my new carbon 27.5 SCOTT (mountain bike) arrived from Florida Sunday evening and yesterday I finally got it back from the bike shop all set-up and ready to go. I haven’t even ridden it yet except in Tucson where I fell instantly in love with it! The bike weighs around 24 pounds and costs about $6000, I will be finally taking it out this afternoon on a ride with Dorian and can hardly wait!

So back to Carole Baldwin and why we had no blog yesterday. Carole jumped into the “Curasub” submersible with our owner Dutch tuesday and went down in search of new fish species for around 5 hours. The sub can stay down at a depth of 1000 feet for up to 8 hours on a single charge. I wasn’t around when they returned but did end up seeing a bunch of their live finds yesterday morning in the deep-water aquariums we have set up in a special area closed to visitors. I ended up spending most of my day in the cold lab photographing deep-sea fish and some beautiful invertebrates like the rare slit-shells that every collector in the world would love to own. Carole is currently concentrating her efforts on deep-sea fish species like the sea robins, golden bass and a few gobies, she says there will be many new species announced in the near future. Above is one of these many new species that has already been announced and has been named after the owners daughter Nikki. This is a tiny one inch, super beautiful fish called a Saber Goby, Antilligobius nikkiae. These are found in the 300-400 foot range and are usually seen congregating in schools unlike other fish that like to be on their own like the golden bass for instance. This one here along with a few others was collected by the sub alive about a week ago and brought up slowly by divers which took about six days. I love this little fish, not only are they colorful but they have a super tall dorsal fin that seems to get even taller with age, this one here pictured is a younger juvenile. I spent hours in the lab trying to get this photo yesterday, you have no idea how difficult it is to get a fish to park where you want them to, it could be close to the most frustrating thing I have ever done! I also photographed two baby slit-shells yesterday as well and will send that to you tomorrow, talk about beautiful!

Our island continues to be bone dry, no rain at all and we think this could be the worst conditions we have seen since living here. Stijn gave me hundreds of fallen mango’s from his tree last night and those we are taking out this morning to the trail to feed to the animals like the starving iguana’s. Aimee brought home a wounded parakeet that got hit by a car yesterday with a broken wing. She took it to an animal hospital and I think if they can fix it we will take the bird back to watch it here at the house during it’s recovery, I will keep you posted.

Well, I am off to work and to hopefully spend some time with Carole, I love picking her brain about fish. If any of you have any questions for Carole get them into me today at barry@coralreefphotos.com and I will ask her directly for you, she is a walking fish encyclopedia!

Have a wonderful day!

Barry

Jun 16, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning friends, how was your weekend??? As you know mine was short this week as we all had to work on Saturday. And YES, I know most of you wouldn’t even call what I do work, i.e. diving on a beautiful reef taking underwater photos of people riding in a two million dollar submersible, once again someone has to do it! I did start working on the mountain bike/hiking trails again Saturday evening and Sunday morning as we just had a big race out there and now they are a mess and you already know that nobody else will do right? The local terrain here is very loose rock, sand and powdery dirt and needs constant cleaning or the trails become very difficult and dangerous to ride.

We did a tiny bit of rain this morning for the first time in months so whoever has been doing the rain-dance please keep it up!!

I had a few people asking about our lionfish problem and if it’s gotten better or worse?? That’s a good question and I wish I had a something super positive to tell you but from what I am seeing on my dives is, they are always there! Many folks here in Curacao are still hunting them and selling them to the restaurants for food and many of the local dive shops are spearing them to help keep the numbers down but really are we doing any good at all?? The Smithsonian Institution has been collecting these fish at depth, (with our submersible) at 250-500 feet and bringing them up immediately to check their stomach contents. So far we have not seen their bellies full like the rumors are stating but they could just have a fast digestive system or be only eating at night, so maybe we need to catch them earlier in the evenings? A few days ago when I was down photographing the submersible I saw quite a few and some were pretty big, I guess I need to get by buddy Stijn to come back over for another lionfish dive. When we are out hunting them we usually feed them to the spotted morays who absolutely love them and will eat them non stop, the same can not be said for the giant green morays who don’t seem to like them unless you cut them up into pieces for them. I think it’s important to just keep their numbers down which is easily done by each dive shop keeping their own house reefs clean, I mean we all know it’s an impossible task on our North coast where the numbers are much higher and the fish are impossible to get to.

Off to the sea for me, have a wonderful day!

Barry

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