Lobster at Fort Stark in New Castle, NH

For the September 8thΒ  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.Β  Perhaps the lobster had eaten some of the crab and was hiding the rest for a later meal.

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. πŸ™‚ 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.

Hike to Mt. Cube on the Cross Rivendell Trail

On July 3rd I joined a Meetup.com group for a hike to the two peaks of Mt. Cube in Orford, NH. Last September I hiked to Mt. Cube on the Appalachian Trail, which is 3.3 miles from the trail head to the south summit. This time we would take different trail to the top. The Cross Rivendell Trail is only 2 miles from the trail head to the South Summit. I liked the idea of a shorter hike and I heard the views are better along the way.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-1

Everything I head about the views on the way up are true. There are several scenic views along the trail.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-4

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-5

One of the first scenic views faces Orford, NH and Fairlee, VT. I can see the cliffs of Fairlee peaking out behind Sunday Mt. in Orford.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-8

The view from the next scenic look out is even better.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-9

We can see Killington to the southwest.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-14

I can barely make out the ski trails through the haze.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-15

I can see most of Indian Pond behind that damn tree top. I also recognize the cliff face of Peaked Mt. up in Piermont, NH.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-16

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-18

We were all hungry by the time we made it to the top. We wasted no time digging lunch out of our packs and settling down to enjoy the view and eat.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-17

I recognized the distinctive shape of Mt. Cardigan in the distance. The hike to Holts Ledge helped me to recognize the mountain.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-20Way off in the distance we could see the windmills at the Groton Wind Farm in Groton, NH.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-23

A visit to Mt. Cube is not complete without a trip to the North Peak for some awesome views to the east and north. It’s only about another half mile hike.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-21

Mount Moosilauke dominates the view from the North Peak.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-22

I like the view towards Lake Tarleton and Armington on the right. I’m pretty sure that’s Black Mt. in the distance on the left.

Mt. Cube Hike July 3 2015-25

We easily spent anther half hour to forty five minutes taking photos and enjoying the view.

I have no doubt I will take the Cross Rivendell Trail rather than the Appalachian Trail on my next trip to Mt. Cube.

Connecticut River Kayak trip Wilson’s Landing North

Another trip on the Connecticut River and you guessed it… more Black Ducks. πŸ™‚

Sunday, September 1st had the best weather of the Labor Day weekend so I made it a point to get out on the water. I started at Wilson’s Landing and headed north. I hugged the New Hampshire shore and the “grass islands” where I had seen some ducks and a Heron during the last trip in this part of the river. Sure enough a bunch (probably not the right word) were hanging out on a log.

Black Ducks
Black Ducks

I found a small flock hanging out in a mini-cove on the New Hampshire shoreline.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-5CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-6

This Black Duck also has green coloring on his head feathers that reminds me of a Mallard.

Looking up I could not believe my luck. One of the area Bald Eagles was flying low (for an eagle) over the river. I suspect that this is one of the birds that lives below the Wilder Dam.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-7

At the tip of the largest “grass island” I found the whole flock of ducks all lined up on a log.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-9CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-10While going around the big island (not sure what the name is) I noticed some people on the river bank having fun on a rope swing.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-15CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-18

I headed north once more. The water was like glass.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-20I found a couple other small back-ins up river. One on the Vermont side had a couple more small flocks of Black Ducks.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-21

On the way south I was almost back at Wilson’s Landing when a water skier zipped by.

CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-23CT River Kayak Sep 1 2013-22

It looks like fun. I will have to try that someday.

According to the Google Maps route (at the top) I went just under 10 miles on this trip and was on the water about three and a half to four hours.