Lobster at Fort Stark in New Castle, NH

For the September 8th  Atlantic Aquasport shore dive we ended up at Fort Stark in New Castle, New Hampshire.

We saw several American Lobster during the dive. One of them even tried to grab my camera with its claw.

We swam east into the Piscataqua River to get a little distance from the shore and depth and then turned south. The bottom was thick with hooked week, sea lettuce and green hair weed, giving the Lobsters lots of places to hide.

Lobster in Sea Lettuce at Fort Stark

Lobster 2 at Fort Stark

Towards the end of the dive I came upon an interesting scene. A Lobster was doing something with a crab or crab shell (I did not see any claws so it could have been just a shell) that was tucked up under a clump of seaweed.

The University of Maine Website tells us, “Lobsters like to eat crabs, clams, mussels, starfish, smaller fish, and sometimes even other lobsters.” So the the crab could have been killed by the lobster. If so, that must have been quite a battle.  Perhaps the lobster had eaten some of the crab and was hiding the rest for a later meal.

Resources

Sea Turtle encounter on Molasses Reef

I had a difficult time getting good video footage of sea turtles during the July 2018 trip until my last day of diving on Saturday, July 14th. We were on Molasses Reef towards the end of the afternoon dive when we watched a small sea turtle swim to the surface for a breath. I knew enough to be patient, let the turtle get some air and come back down to the bottom before getting some video footage.

Have no doubt, turtles are one of my favorite wildlife encounters! This poor turtle also looks like it has some damage on the back of its shell. I suppose it could have got hit by a boat or attacked by something. 😦

Resources

Lobed Star Coral at Horseshoe Reef

On July 11th, 2018 I was on a dive to Horseshoe Reef, which is up the coast from Key Largo. We got to see some interesting sea life plus some examples of healthier coral than other places in the marine sanctuary. During the dive it occurred to me that I should slow down a bit and get some video footage of the Lobed Star Coral I was swimming by.

 

One thing to notice is how lots of other species of coral, algae, tunicate, sponges and fish make their home on the coral mound. The Bi-colored Damselfish got a little angry with me when I crossed into its territory. It attacked my camera until I had moved on past. 🙂 Learn more about Lobed Star Coral by visiting the links below.

Resources

NOAA Fisheries Lobed Star Coral

Reefguide.org Lobed Star Coral

 

 

 

Reef squid and Permit on the wreck of the City of Washington and Hanna M. Bell

On Monday, July 9th the afternoon dive was at Elbow Reef on a couple ship wreck named the City of Washington. and the Hanna M. Bell. The two best sighting of the dives include an encounter with some Caribbean Reef Squid and a close encounter with some small Permit.

City of Washington

The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary website tells us ,

the remains of the City of Washington lie on Elbow Reef. On July 10, 1917, while being towed by a tug, the City of Washington ran aground on and was a total loss within minutes.

The article goes on to say,

The Steam Ship City of Washington (SS City Washington), launched August 31, 1877, was an iron hulled steamer for use in passenger transport and the cargo trade between New York, Cuba, and Mexico.

Caribbean Reef Squid

Squid are always a treat to see and I love the way they change color. The Encyclopedia of Life website and Wikipedia explains,

Caribbean reef squid have been shown to communicate using a variety of color, shape, and texture changes. Squid are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores.[2] In addition to camouflage and appearing larger in the face of a threat, squids use color, patterns, and flashing to communicate with one another in various courtship rituals.

Hanna M. Bell

The second tank dive was on the wreck of the Hanna M. Bell. For years the wreck was known as Mike’s Wreck. An article from the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary site explains how the true name of the wreck was discovered,

Information gathered by sanctuary staff and volunteers from the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) during a September 2012 field survey enabled maritime archaeologists to confirm the wreck’s origins.

Permits

The encounter with the “Permit” was a treat! I spotted them early in the dive but they were too far away for good video footage.I figured I lost my chance to get some video. I was happy to seem them again later on and to be able to get close video footage.

I must admit, I’m not 100% sure these fish are Permits. The dorsal fins are sloped like the Permit in the illustration below but the tail has what seems like a wide fork like the Pompano in the illustration below. The shape of the forehead looks more like a Permit than a Pompano. If the fish were larger (Pompano don’t grow as large as permits) then identification would be easy. At this size, they could be small Permit or large Pompano. I think the key is to line check the alignment between the dorsal fin and the anal fin. I have look at the video numerous times and am not sure. What do you think?

pompano-permit

Image from https://fishbites.com/identifying-permit-vs-pompano/

Shark sightings at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary

In July of 2018 I was visiting Key Largo, Florida to dive at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and surrounding dive sites. Shark sightings are usually one of the highlights during a dive on the coral reef. I encountered many Nurse Sharks and a few Caribbean Reef Sharks. I put together a compilation video of the better video clips I was able to take during the trip.

I was sad to see that one of the Nurse Sharks had a large fishing lure in its mouth and another had a fish hook and leader hanging out of its mouth. 😦

Resource Links

Squadron of Spotted Eagle Rays

I had many fantastic wildlife encounters during my July 2018 trip to Key Largo, Florida. One of the best was the squadron of Spotted Eagle Rays that our diving group encountered near Permit Ledge on Molasses Reef.

Previous to this I had seen groups of 3 or 4 together but this was by far the largest squadron I have ever seen.

The Florida Museum of Natural History tells us,

The spotted eagle ray is commonly observed in bays and over coral reefs as well as the occasional foray into estuarine habitats. Although it occurs in inshore waters to depths of approximately 200 feet (60 m), the spotted eagle ray spends most of its time swimming in schools in open water. In open waters, spotted eagle rays often form large schools and swim close to the surface.

The Florida Museum of Natural History website article (quoted above) about the Spotted Eagle Ray is one of the better sources of information that I have found.

I made another edit of the video where I focused and zoomed in on the last two rays in the squadron since they were a little closer to me. Notice that the last Eagle Ray is missing its tail.

Connecticut River and Mink Brook Kayak Trip

On Saturday, August 3rd I returned to the Connecticut River for more kayaking since I had such a good trip earlier. This time I put in at the Wilder Dam boat launch and headed north to Hanover and Mink Brook.

This is the same trip route as a New Hampshire Audubon trip that is planned on the morning of the annual meeting in September.

When I arrived there were Canada Geese feeding right off of the boat landing. I was able to get the first few photos from shore.

Canada Geese
Canada Geese

Once I was heading up river I started to see lots of Black Ducks.

Ct River and Mink Brook-2

Ct River and Mink Brook-3Many of the ducks were in family groups with the young at a variety of ages.

Ct River and Mink Brook-5

I’m embarrassed that I was caught by surprise by a Heron. It was standing absolutely still on the shore and I drifted right by and did not see it until I was too close and almost past it. I was scrambling for my camera but was far too late for really good photograph.

Ct River and Mink Brook-17I hoped I would have another chance on the way back.

Ct River and Mink Brook-18I noticed a whole bunch of people canoeing and having a picnic on Gilman Island. I did not know there was a picnic table on the island until now.

Ct River and Mink Brook-21Near the island I noticed a duck diving for food. I did not think much of it until I looked at what it had in its mouth. I was surprised to see it had a snail. I could not believe the duck was really going to eat a snail that large.

Ct River and Mink Brook-19I spotted Ledyard Bridge crossing from Hanover, NH to Norwich, VT. Mink brook is just off to the right.

Ct River and Mink Brook-6I made it into Mink Brook and started to see more Black Ducks. I think this one was sleeping as I slowly drifted around the corner and came up behind him. Although it work up and moved away I as able to get a few close photos before it got too far away.

Ct River and Mink Brook-20

I made it all the way to the bridge that crossed Route 10 just outside of Hanover. I decided to turn back.

Ct River and Mink Brook-9
On the way out I was lucky enough to come upon four ducks all lined up on a log. I was able to drift pretty close before they decided to move along.

Ct River and Mink Brook-10Ct River and Mink Brook-11This time I was on the look our for the Heron that I missed photographing earlier.

Ct River and Mink Brook-12Ct River and Mink Brook-13It was still skittish and did not let me get too close. I did manage to get a couple shots of the heron in flight.

Ct River and Mink Brook-14I got one last Black Duck photograph before I hit the Wilder boat landing.

That is a great stretch of river that I will be sure to return to again.