Spotted Moray Eel in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19th, 2021

Another fantastic encounter on July 19th was with a Spotted Moray Eel.

Make no mistake, this is a big Eel. We can’t see it’s full length but it’s pretty thick so I bet it’s between 4 and 6 feet long. It’s more common to see a Green Moray Eel but finding a Spotted Moray is less frequent. So I was really excited about this encounter.

I found a couple fantastic online information resources about Spotted Moray Eels. One is Oceana.com. Their page about Spotted moray Eels says, “Spotted morays, like most morays, have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell. For that reason, it can be quite easy for SCUBA divers to approach these fish, but caution should be taken, as the spotted moray’s bite can be strong.” They go on to say,

“In amazing recent research, scientists demonstrated how morays use a second set of jaws in their throats to manipulate food that they have captured. Morays are unable to create suction with their mouths, so their prey has to be manually pushed to the back of the throat, something that is difficult to do without limbs. On land, snakes have a similar problem, but they are able to unhinge their jaws, one at a time, to “walk” their mouths down the prey’s body. Morays do not have that ability, and instead use their second set of jaws to manipulate their food. Attached to the esophagus via strong muscles, these “pharyngeal” jaws reach forward into the mouth, grasp the prey item from the oral jaws, which release at that time, and pull it back to the muscles of the throat. Using slow motion cameras, scientists have been able to video the exchange of food between the two sets of jaws. X-ray images of morays clearly show the pharyngeal jaws and highlight their similarity to the oral jaws.”

I found good video on YouTube of a Spotted moray Eel that shows its “pharyngeal” jaws.

Queen Angelfish in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Cozumel Mexico seems to have a healthy population of Queen Angelfish. During the week I shot lots of footage of Queen Angelfish but the encounter on July 19th turned out to be the best.

The Florida Museum Website has an excellent page on Queen Angelfish. The site describes the fish as, “blue-green with blue and yellow highlights on its fins, and can be differentiated from the similar blue angelfish by the prominent dark ringed ‘crown’ spot on its forehead.” They go on to say, “Its brilliant blue and yellow color easily separates it from all other western Atlantic angelfish species except the blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis). These two species are very similar in coloration but the queen has a dark, ringed spot with blue dots on its forehead that resembles a crown. The queen is also more iridescent than the blue and has a completely yellow tail. These two species have been known to occasionally interbreed and create a hybrid.”

Although I saw many of theses fish while diving, most of them did not let me get that close and were always moving, which made then difficult to capture on video. However, this one swam right at me and gave me a good opportunity for a close look.

Hawksbill Turtle in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Back in July 2021 I took my first trip to Cozumel. Mexico. Although I was diving for five days, one of my favorite encounters happened on Monday the 19th. For the first two-tank morning dives we went to a site named Delilah. Early during the first dive our group encountered a Hawksbill Turtle.

The NOAA Fisheries Website tells us, “In many parts of the world, Hawksbills face the unique threat of being hunted for their beautiful shell, also known as “tortoise shell”, which is used by craftspeople to create many types of jewelry and trinkets. The historical hunting and killing of hawksbills for their shell nearly drove the species to extinction. Today, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) forbids the trade of any turtle products on the international market, including hawksbill tortoise shell, but illegal hunting continues to represent a threat to the species in many parts of the world.”

I did not realize how close they had come to extinction. I feel fortunate that I have been able to see and video so many of them during my time diving.

The site also mentions, “Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.”

As you can see from the video, there are lots of healthy coral and sponges on the reef for a turtle to feed on.

Winter hike to Artist Bluff in Franconia Notch

I had some staycation days to use at the end of February 2020 so I planned some skiing and hiking trips. My goal for Friday was to find a short hike with majestic views. So I went over to Artist Bluff in Franconia Notch near Cannon Mt. Ski Resort. It’s a short hike, but from the top you get a fantastic view of Franconia Notch and Eagle Lake,Cannon Mt and Mt. Layafette.

Winter hike up Mt. Cube in Orford, NH

I had some vacation time to use before the end of February so I planned a few “staycation” activities like skiing and winter hiking. On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 I planned a hike with my friend Sandra up Mt. Cube on the Rivendell Trail in Orford, NH. The weather forecast was for partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 30’s, which is warm for a winter day.

One of my favorite sections of the Rivendell trail is the stand of Red Pines. In addition to the tall pines there is an under story “layer” of pines that look beautiful when covered in snow.

A spot on the trail where we always seem to stop is called the Sunday Mountain Lookout since you get a wonderful view of Sunday Mountain (it’s more of a hill rather than a mountain) in Orford, NH and west into Vermont.

We finally hit the part of the trail where the trees pretty much turn to all pines. The trail is especially beautiful after it had been snowing.

Another lookout on the Rivendell trail has a fantastic view west into Vermont. Using my 300mm lens I can get a great view of Killington Ski Resort. According to Google Maps this is 60 miles away.

As we got above the treeline the small pines alongside the trail were half encased in ice.

We finally made it to the top of South Peak but did not stay long due to the wind chill.

I did take a series of photos looking towards Groton Wind Farm and Plymouth, NH. The distant view was nice but I really liked the snow covered pines around the summit.

We decided not to go to North Peak since the trail did not look packed down and we did not have snow shoes with us.

Reading List 2020

At the end of 2019 I read the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabalson and was hooked. I began the year 2020 by reading through the rest of the books in the series. Book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, was pretty good and wrapped up some of the story lines in book one. But Voyager, book three, was fantastic and still remains one of my favorite in the series.

During the late spring and early summer I got back into Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. The series combines colorful and zany characters, funny dialog and fascinating historical events. With a year like 2020 is was just the type of escape that I needed.

I read several book in 2020 by Douglas E. Richard, who is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. Veracity is a novel that explores the idea, “What if you developed a technology that made it impossible for anyone to lie? About anything. Would this save humanity from itself? Or would it tear society apart?” Through character dialog and character experiences the author is able to explore the pros and cons of living in a world where lies can be detected by anyone. Although you may think it’s a win-win scenario, there are some downsides to total truth.

Another Douglas E. Richard series that I got hooked on was the Alien Artifact series. The first book is named The Enigma Cube. The introduction to the book on the Amazon.com page says, “To secure a dazzling future they must travel to a perilous past.” Not only is it a time travel story, it’s a near future sci-fi story featuring technology like enhanced “super soldiers” and advanced drone technology.

The news that Amazon was making a mini-series from the Wheel of Time book series by Robert Jordan got me excited. I had hope that Amazon would spend the money and do a good job adapting the books. They signed on some good talent like Rosamund Pike to play Moiraine. The news inspired me to re-read the series again since it had been a few years. It was another good escape from the madness that was the year 2020. However, it’s a long series so by the end of book 6 I was ready for a change and wanted to read something else.

I’m a huge fan of the book series Dune by Frank Herbert. My favorite mini series adaption is the Sci-Fi Channel three-part mini-series that came out back in 2000. The news hit social media in 2020 that a new production of Dune was underway. Naturally I was curious and had hope they would do a good job. I read that the plan was to make a two part movie in order to tell the story better than was possible in a standard 2 hour movie. That was encouraging news. It seemed like the new movie production had an impressive cast of actors and actresses. Understandably, COVID 19 paused production and release of the first movie. However, I was still inspired to get the first three books in the series electronically on my Kindle. So far I have re-read the first two books.

For fans of Jodi Taylor like me, the big event for the end of 2020 was the release of book two of the Time Police series named Hard Time. I was not disappointed. This is a great story and series and I am an fan. The characters are wonderfully imperfect.

As I’m writing this article in 2021, I just received season six of the Outlander series on Blu-ray. This season is based on the book named, A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) by Diana Gabaldon.

  1. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2) – Diana Gabaldon
  2. Blood of Elves (Witcher Series) – Andrzej Sapkowski
  3. Voyager (Outlander 3) – Diana Gabaldon
  4. Drums of Autumn (Outlander 4) – Diana Gabaldon
  5. The Fiery Cross (Outlander 5) – Diana Gabaldon
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) – Diana Gabaldon
  7. An Echo in the Bone – (Outlander 7) – Diana Gabaldon
  8. Written in my Hearts Own Blood – (Outlander 8) – Diana Gabaldon
  9. Eagle in the Sky – Wilbur Smith
  10. Journey of the Pharaohs (NUMA Files) – Clive Cussler
  11. And the Rest Is History: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Eight – Jodi Taylor
  12. An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Nine – Jodi Taylor
  13. Hope for the Best: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  14. Cry Wolf – Wilbur Smith
  15. Veracity – Douglas E. Richards
  16. Hungry as the Sea – Wilbur Smith
  17. Plan for the Worst: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  18. The Enigma Cube – Douglas E. Richards
  19. War Cry – Wilbur Smith
  20. The Solomon Curse (Fargo 7) – Clive Cussler
  21. The Long and the Short of It: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Stories – Jodi Taylor
  22. Why is Nothing Ever Simple: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story – Jodi Taylor
  23. Pirate (Fargo 8) – Clive Cussler
  24. Origin – (Robert Langdon 5) – Dan Brown
  25. Oracle (Fargo 11) – Clive Cussler
  26. Timeslingers – Jay Sherer
  27. Contact – Carl Sagan
  28. The Last Dragon Slayer – Jasper Fforde
  29. Song of the Quarkbeast – Jasper Fforde
  30. Eye of Zoltar – Jasper Fforde
  31. Blue Gold (Re-read) – Clive Cussler
  32. Eye of the World (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  33. A Pivot in Time (Enigma Cube 2) – Douglas E. Richards
  34. The Great Hunt (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  35. The Dragon Reborn (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  36. The Shadow Rising (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  37. The Fires of Heaven (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  38. Lords of Chaos (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  39. Dune (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  40. Dune Messiah (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  41. Hard Time (Time Police Series #2) – Jodi Taylor
  42. Marauder (Oregon Series 15) – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison

Mount Katahdin Panorama Photos

Over the Thanksgiving 2020 holiday I took a trip to Millinocket, Maine. On Friday, November 27th the weather cleared up enough to explore the Baxter State Park area and get some photographs of Mount Katahdin. The first stop was New England Outdoor Center on Millinocket Lake. I was able to walk down to their boat landing and get a few photos of the mountain. It was a beautiful view, even though the peak was still covered with a cloud.

Millinocket Lake and Mount Katahdin in Millinocket, Maine.
Same view with the 300 mm zoom lens.

Further up Golden Road was another spot that I found on Goggle Maps. The place was Abol Bridge near Abol Bridge Campground and Store. The bridge crossed the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Using the Google Maps street view feature I could tell that the bridge offered a clear view of the mountain and river.

An article in Game and Fish online from 2010 says, “The West Branch Penobscot is one of the Northeast’s finest salmon fisheries.” The article goes on to say,

“Focus on the section between Ripogenus Dam and Pemadumcook Lake,” advised Tim Obrey, a regional fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s a unique section of river. I can’t think of any other place with a resident population of river salmon. This is not a population of fish that comes up from the lakes to spawn. These salmon winter in the lower areas of the river. As the water temperature starts to warm up they start migrating upstream.”

https://www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/fishing_salmon-steelhead-fishing_mo_0510_02/241559

The West Branch sounds like a great place to return to during fishing season. Catching both salmon and trout sounds great to me!

Summer Salmon and Trout Fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee 2020

Going on a fishing charter locally in New Hampshire was one of the few things we could do this summer with all the COVID 19 travel restrictions. So, I was really happy to get two charter trips with Salmon Patrol Charters this year again on Lake Winnipesaukee.

We got to enjoy some beautiful sunrises in addition to catching some nice fish.

My Rainbow Trout at sunrise.

We had a beautiful sunrise on the August 16th trip. I caught a nice Rainbow trout just as the sun was coming up.

Johnny’s Salmon
Jack’s Salmon

Both Johnny and Jack landed some nice Salmon!

My first Lake Trout!

I landed the last fish of the trip. This was the first Lake Trout that I have ever caught! I was surprised to catch a Lake Trout since they are known as a deep water fish and we had the lines down around 30 feet.

The sunrise on our August 23rd trip was spectacular. We left the dock in a dense fog. It slowly cleared off revealing a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise August 23, 2020
Sunrise August 23, 2020

I can’t wait until next season when we can go back and do it again!

Flock of Canada Geese

Kayaking the Connecticut River: Wilson Landing to Grant Brook

On Sunday, September 6th I went on the longest kayak trip I had been on in years. I paddled a little over five and a half miles up river and back for a total of a little over eleven miles. I started at Wilson Landing in Hanover, NH and want to the mouth of Grant Brook in Lyme, NH.

I left about mid-day, which is not the best time to see wildlife on the river, but I brought my camera anyway. As I approached the large island north of the Ompompanoosuc River I spotted a huge flock of Canada Geese. A large group of them swam over to the mouth of a small brook on the New Hampshire side.

I paddled over next to the shore and slowly approached the mouth of the brook so the geese would not see me so quickly.

Canada GeeseCanada GeeseEventually I slowly drifted out into the mouth of the brook so I could photograph more of the birds.

Flock of Canada GeeseCanada GeeseI continued up river to the mouth of Hewes Brook and was able to find the river landing from the river. The landing is an extreamly primitive kayak and canoe boat landing off of River Road in Lyme.

Beyond Hewes Brook is the Wilder Management Area, which is a tract of conservation land in Lyme, NH. The river part of the “land” is made up of river back-ins, coves and grass island. I did see three Mallard ducks while paddling around.

On the way back to Wilson Landing I went in and around the grass islands across from the Ompompanoosuc River. I was lucky enough to catch a bunch of Mallard ducks sunning on one of the logs in the river.

Mallard Ducks on the Connecticut RiverI was able to get a couple photos before a boat went by and scared them all off.

Connecticut River Duck Tour # 2: Wilson Landing to the Ompompanoosuc River

Another favorite Upper Valley kayak trip is from Wilson Landing in Hanover, NH to the Ompompanoosuc River on the Vermont side.

It’s up river of Hanover and is close to the mouth of the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford, VT, which is a great place for wildlife encounters.

Before going into the Ompompanoosuc it always good to paddle around the grass islands that are across from the mouth of the river on the New Hampshire side. It’s a great habitat for ducks and birds.

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As you can see, the ducks can easily hide their family in the grass “islands” if there is a threat yet still come out to swim, feed and hang out on one of several logs poking above the water near the islands.

After a couple circles around the islands to see what else was around, I headed over to the Ompompanoosuc River. As I got to the large part of the river mouth near the Interstate 91 bridge I could see an enormous flock of Canada Geese. It’s not unusual to see geese raising their families here, but this seemed like a larger flock than I usually see.

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I was amazed that they let me drift among them and take photos as they swam about and ate.

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I have a 300mm lens and make efforts to drift slowing and quietly while taking photos.

connecticut-river-and-ompompanoosuc-river-july-19-2020-9

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Some of the birds came really close to the kayak.

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This is one of my favorite Upper Valley kayaking trips!