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.

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Sea Raven and Flounder at Nubble Light

I finally got back into diving in New England after more years than I care to admit. Back in 2015 I got a new Waterproof W4 5mm Wetsuit but never got to use it in the ocean, until now. I must say, it’s the best wetsuit that I have ever owned. It’s easy to put on and take off plus it’s actually comfortable to walk around in. So far, the combination of dive skin and 5mm wetsuit has kept me warm enough.

I have been attending the Saturday Morning Shore Dives at Atlantic Aquasport in Rye, NH. As they often do, we went up to Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick in York, Maine.

On the August 25th dive I crossed the channel with my dive buddy and went north along the island at around 20 feet deep. Several of us Aquasport divers were lucky enough to see a beautiful Sea Raven. As the Maine Guides Online website says, “Sea ravens may vary in color from blood red to reddish purple to yellow brown.” This one was a beautiful shade of yellow and a pleasure to watch!

One of the more common fish to see while shore diving in New England is the Cunner. The Maine Guides Online website tells us, “their usual size is between 6 and 10 inches in length and less than 3 pounds weight.” I got the camera out for the one below since it was one of the larger Cunner I had seen so far and it came in pretty close.

On the September 1st shore dive I did the same dive plan of crossing the channel and swimming along the west side of the island about 2o feet down. I saw lots of Cunner and a few lobster in the way out. On the way back to the shore I spotted a small Winter Flounder (pronounced Flounda in Maine) near the turn point to cross the channel. The Maine Guide Online site says, “Their color, which varies with the substrate they occupy, can range from reddish brown to olive green to almost black.” It also tells us, “Their eyes are located on their right side, thus making them a right sided flounder.”

I hope to go back for at least one more dive during the 2018 northern New England wetsuit season.

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. 😦

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Midnight Parrotfish on French Reef July 10 , 2018

I always enjoy watching the scene when a school of Midnight Parrotfish swim by. The school swoops down on a section of the reef, attacks the hell out a spot for a bit, then suddenly swim away at great speed, like they have a schedule to keep.

There does not seem to be an overabundance of online information resources about the Midnight Parrotfish. The best printed source I have found is in the book Reef Fish Behavior by Ned Deloach and Paul Humann.

Deloach and Humann tell us that Midnight Parrotfish “feed on filamentous Algae scraped from the reef base”. Although there are many natural patches on the reef, algae is also cultivated by Damselfish. What happens is a school of Midnight Parrotfish, “overwhelm the defenses of the damselfishes who have no trouble protecting their personal algae gardens from solitary herbivors, but have little chance fending off a swarm of feeding fishes.”  The books goes on to tell us that the have seen “distinct white bite marks on several egg patches on Sergent Majors egg patches. I would conclude that they eat eggs in addition to algae. I suspect that they overwhelm the Sergent Majors defending their eggs just like they do to damselfish defending their “farm”. This might explain one reason (I’m sure there are several) that Midnight Parrotfish school up and feed as shown in the video above.

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Balloonfish on Molasses Reef

I always enjoy seeing a Balloonfish on the coral reef. 🙂

I’m back to quoting from the Florida Museum of Natural History website for species information. Their article about the balloon fish says,

This slow-moving fish has small fins for navigating the shallow reefs or sea grass beds it prefers. Its teeth are formed into a beak that can crush shells of the mollusks and crustaceans it hunts at night.

The article continues to say,

The body is covered in long, sharp spines that stick out when the fish inflates. The balloonfish inflates by taking water into its body when it is threatened. All members of the family Diodontidae are capable of inflation. Along with inflation, there may also be a color change due to the excitement.

I encourage visitors to go the website and read more.

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. 😦

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