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

 

 

 

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.

Dive trip to Key Largo, Florida

I enjoyed another great dive vacation trip to Key Largo, Florida earlier in the month. The trip was special since it was Eileen’s first time in Key Largo and her first time diving in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Once again Rainbow Reef provided us with a fantastic dive experience.

The first dive on Sunday was the wreck of the Benwood. The Benwood is a nice relaxing dive and a great place for underwater photography. You can see many species of fish and some large schools of fish swimming around the wreck.

Trumpetfish on the wreck of the Benwood

Upon reaching the wreck I noticed a nice sized Trumpetfish. Trumpetfish are known to “float head down, paralleling stalks of sea rods” (Humann & Deloach, 1995) They can change color to match their surroundings so to ambush pre

The dive at Molasses Reef on Monday was exceptional due to sightings of a sea turtle and Black Tip Reef Shark. We first spotted the Black Tip Reef shark at the north end of Molasses Reef near the Wellwood Restoration site.


We later saw the same shark on our second dive at the south end of Molasses Reef near Fire Coral Cave where I was able to get some fantastic video footage.

While at Fire Coral Cave on Molasses Reef we had the good luck to see a sea turtle and swim with it for a while.


On July 10th Eileen took a refresher course then joined me on the boat for the afternoon dive. We headed north to the Elbow Reef and the City of Washington shipwreck. This was Eileen’s first dive in the warm clear water of the Florida Keys.

Eileen diving on the City of Washington shipwreck

Most days you can expect to see some Goliath Grouper and Nurse Sharks hanging out under the mooring balls near the wreck.

I get the feeling they are waiting for divers to visit. I was able to get some great video footage of the Goliath Grouper.

Black Grouper at the City of Washington shipwreck

Eileen spotted the large Black Grouper in the photo above. It did not seem to mind me drifting close for a photograph.

Wednesday July 11th was one of he best diving days due to some fantastic sightings on Molasses Reef. The first one was a sea turtle while diving at Permit Ledge.

Next we spotted a small Black Tip Reef shark. It appeared to be about 4 or 5 feet long.

Eileen then noticed a Spotted Eagle Ray and got my attention in time for a short video clip.

At the next dive site someone yelled, “There is a big stingray right underneath the boat.” This was good news since I had promised Eileen we would get to see a stingray while diving in the Keys. Towards the end of the dive Eileen and I had the good luck to swim alongside the stingray for a while.

On Thursday Eileen dove on the Benwood for the first time. The sun had come out and visibility had improved so I was able to get both photographs and video.

Yellow Tail Snapper school on the Benwood

The video of the Benwood dive turned out pretty good as well.

On Friday we went to Snapper Ledge for one of the best dives of the trip. The place got it’s name because of the large schools of snappers and grunts that live there.

School of Smallmouth Grunts at Snapper Ledge off of Key Largo, FL
School of Smallmouth Grunts at Snapper Ledge

The schools of fish at Snapper Ledge are amazing! It’s pretty cool to swim through a school! (Not bad huh?) A photograph just can’t do justice to the experience. Because of that I shot lots of video during the dive.

Overall it was a wonderful dive trip. We also had a fantastic time relaxing in Key Largo between dives. Read about that in next Blog article.