Monthly Archives

February 2005

Kelp Fronds and Pneumatocysts

California, Underwater Life

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is the fastest growing plant in the world. It clings to the ocean floor and grows upward toward the surface, buoyed up by gas-filled pneumatocysts. Growth occurs at the tips of the plant — the fronds — which resemble leaves of a terrestrial plant.

Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts (air bladders), Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts (air bladders).
Image ID: 03406
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

San Clemente Island is the finest place in the world to swim in a kelp forest. (Kelp is found at many other places in similar temperate waters, but San Clemente’s clean blue water and relatively warm temperatures make it ideal among such places.) Similar to the towering redwood stands of the Pacific Northwest, forests of giant kelp soar above the ocean floor, swaying to and fro with passing ocean waves. These forests are home to fishes, rays, sharks and myriad invertebrates that grow on the kelp itself or the neighboring rocky reefs. When a kelp plant is tall enough to reach the ocean surface, it continues growing and spreads out in a huge flat mat, blocking the sun.

San Clemente Island, California.

Keywords: kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, giant kelp, kelp forest, underwater photo, pneumatocyst, frond.

Photos of Atlantic Puffins at Machias Seal Island

Birds

Machias Seal Island is one of the best places in the world to observe Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica), and is certainly a fun place to get to. Machias Seal Island, near the US border with Canada in the Gulf of Maine, is accessed by a short boat from the easternmost tip of the United States, using services at either of the Maine coastal towns of Jonesport or Cutler. This is a beautiful section of the Maine coastline, worth a visit in its own right to see what “downeast” Maine looks and feels like away from the more touristy and crowded areas, but for wildlife enthusiasts the likely chief attraction will be a visit to Machias Seal Island to see sea birds. There are approximately 3000 breeding pairs of Atlantic puffins at the summer breeding colony on Machias Seal Island, and good times to visit are late May through September, with the peak numbers of birds somewhere in the middle of that period.

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration, Fratercula arctica, Machias Seal Island

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration.
Image ID: 03135
Species: Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine, USA

Once on the island, visitors take turns walking through the breeding colony to permanent blinds (actually small huts with tiny windows). Once you are inside your blind — and presumably invisible to the puffins — the small birds resume their normal activities and you can observe them from very close range. This is a special opportunity, since Atlantic puffins are now gone from many of their former island breeding colonies, due to historic hunting and continued predation by several species of gulls.

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration, Fratercula arctica, Machias Seal Island

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration.
Image ID: 03118
Species: Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine, USA

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration, Fratercula arctica, Machias Seal Island

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration.
Image ID: 03139
Species: Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine, USA

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration, Fratercula arctica, Machias Seal Island

Atlantic puffin, mating coloration.
Image ID: 03145
Species: Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine, USA

I have taken the 90 minute trip to the island with Barna Norton of Jonesport. His small boat was crowded with passengers, but the trip was short (by my standards) and pleasant enough with enthusiastic talk and anticipation amongst the experienced birdwatchers (of which I am not) being the pursuit on the way to the island, and quiet reflection (i.e., napping) the name of the game on the way back.

Bold Coast Charter Co. in Cutler, Maine offers a similar boat trip to the island, with nearly identical cost. The drive to Cutler is longer than the drive to Jonesport, but the reward is a shorter boat trip from Cutler to the island than from Jonesport.

BirdingAmerica.com and Mainebirding.net both offer great summaries of what a visit to Machias Seal Island is like, from a birdwatcher’s point of view.

Keywords: Machias Seal Island, Atlantic puffins, puffin photos, Fratercula arctica, Maine, Jonesport, seabird, sea birds, Arctic tern, photo, photograph.

Humane Society Sues to Protect Seals

California, Harbor Seal, La Jolla

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

U.S. Humane Society sues S.D., demands rope barrier for seals

By Ray Huard
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
February 26, 2005

The Humane Society of the United States filed suit yesterday against the city of San Diego, demanding that officials restore a rope barrier at La Jolla Children’s Pool beach part of the year to protect newborn seal pups. “Our marine scientists are telling us that the presence of the barrier during pupping season is crucial to make sure harbor seal pups are not killed,” said Jon Lovvorn, Humane Society vice president for animal protection litigation. (continued…)

Read The Full Story

Read Our Opinion Regarding Protection of the La Jolla Seals

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a rock.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a rock. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 03011
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a sandy beach.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a sandy beach. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 01925
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A mother Pacific harbor seal and her newborn pup swim in the protected waters of Childrens Pool in La Jolla, California.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi

A mother Pacific harbor seal and her newborn pup swim in the protected waters of Childrens Pool in La Jolla, California. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 02134
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Photos of Glacial Erratic Boulders in Yosemite National Park

California, Landscape, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Above the granite walls surrounding Yosemite Valley are found many examples of glacial erratic boulders. These glacial erratics are so named because they are erratic (i.e., differ materially from the naturally occuring stone nearby) and they were deposited by slow-moving glaciers, sometimes after having been moved a considerable distance (e.g., tens of miles) from their origin.

Glacial erratics atop Olmsted Point. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form, Yosemite National Park, California

Glacial erratics atop Olmsted Point. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form.
Image ID: 09966
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Glacial erratics atop Olmsted Point, with Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form, Yosemite National Park, California

Glacial erratics atop Olmsted Point, with Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form.
Image ID: 09968
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

A glacial erratic hangs precariously at the precipice to Tenaya Canyon, with Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form, Yosemite National Park, California

A glacial erratic hangs precariously at the precipice to Tenaya Canyon, with Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form.
Image ID: 09969
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

The edges of Tenaya Canyon, especially granite expanses at Olmsted Point, are good places to find glacial erratics, as well as the Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley trails.

Keywords: glacial erratics, glacial erratic boulders, glacier, granite, Yosemite National Park, photo, image, photograph, picture.

Panoramic Photo of Half Dome and Washington Column from Stoneman Meadow, Yosemite Valley

California, Landscape, Panoramas, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Yosemite Valley offers panoramic views that, in many cases, cannot be effectively captured with a single photograph (a frame of film or a single digital image capture). Stitching photographs together digitally offers a way to produce panoramic images using non-panoramic cameras. Below is an example of this technique, considering Half Dome and Washington Column viewed from Stoneman Meadow in Spring. A series of eight digital photographs were taken, with considerable overlap between each, and then stitched together using software to produce a panorama that spans 270 degrees along the horizontal plane:

Half Dome (center) and Washington Column (left), late afternoon in spring, viewed from Ahwahnee Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome (center) and Washington Column (left), late afternoon in spring, viewed from Ahwahnee Meadow.
Image ID: 07152
Location: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Keywords: Yosemite Valley photo, Half Dome, Washington Column, picture, panorama, photograph, image, panoramic photo, stitching, QTVR, Quick Time Virtual Realit

Photo of Blue Shark and Yellowtail

California, San Diego, Sharks, Underwater Life

Some years ago I was freediving around an open ocean kelp paddy with Mike Johnson. We were photographing a few blue sharks that we had attracted to the paddy with a small bucket of chum. Two small yellowtail jacks were flanking one of the blue sharks, swimming closely beside it and repeatedly brushing along he shark.

North Pacific Yellowtail brushing against blue shark, Seriola lalandi, Prionace glauca, San Diego, California

North Pacific Yellowtail brushing against blue shark.
Image ID: 01000
Species: North Pacific Yellowtail, Seriola lalandi, Prionace glauca
Location: San Diego, California, USA

I believe the yellowtail were bumping the shark in order to remove parasites against the rough skin of the shark. The shark seemed bothered by this but there was nothing the shark could do — the yellowtail are so much quicker and more agile that the blue shark had little hope of actually biting them or chasing them off. This behaviour persisted for about 10 minutes, at which point the blue shark probably became exasperated at the yellowtail that were pestering him and left. Open ocean about 10 miles offshore of San Diego.

Keywords: blue shark photo, yellowtail, kelp paddy, underwater photo, Prionace glauca.

Smiling Great White Shark

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks

One great white shark photo on our website that is viewed more than almost all others is this one:

A great white shark underwater.  A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Carcharodon carcharias

A great white shark underwater. A large great white shark cruises the clear oceanic waters of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe).
Image ID: 10119
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

It appears that the great white shark in this photo is smiling at the cameraman, or is perhaps preparing to chomp the guy. In fact, this great white shark had just taken a mouthful of bait and was opening and closing its mouth in order to free bits of the bait from its teeth or gill slits. The exposure was made just as the shark happened to have both an open mouth and a gaze directed at the divers in the cage. Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

Keywords: great white shark photo, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island.

Photo of California Sheephead Wrasse

California, Fish, Marine Life, Underwater Life

The California sheephead wrasse, Semicossyphus pulcher, is an interesting fish. It begins its life as a female and remains so until adulthood. When the region’s dominant adult male dies or leaves then switcheroo! one of the remaining adult females will switch genders to assume the role of dominant male of the reef. Note the distinctly different colorations of the juvenile, female and dominant male sheephead wrasses below:

Juvenile sheephead, Farnsworth Banks, Semicossyphus pulcher, Catalina Island

Juvenile sheephead, Farnsworth Banks.
Image ID: 05184
Species: California sheephead wrasse, Semicossyphus pulcher
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Juvenile sheephead wrasse, Semicossyphus pulcher

Juvenile sheephead wrasse.
Image ID: 08647
Species: California sheephead wrasse, Semicossyphus pulcher

Sheephead wrasse, adult male coloration (a juvenile or female is partially seen to the right), Semicossyphus pulcher, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Sheephead wrasse, adult male coloration (a juvenile or female is partially seen to the right).
Image ID: 09624
Species: California sheephead wrasse, Semicossyphus pulcher
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Keywords: California sheephead wrasse photo, Semicossyphus pulcher, gender change, underwater photo, Guadalupe Island.

Nature Cover

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

This photo of schooling jack mackerel, shot at Guadalupe Island, Mexico in 2004, graced the cover of Nature, one of the premiere scientific journals in the world, on February 3, 2005 to accompany Effective leadership and decision-making in animal groups on the move (Couzin, Krause, Franks and Levin):

Jack mackerel schooling.  Summer, Trachurus symmetricus, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Jack mackerel schooling. Summer.
Image ID: 09634
Species: Pacific jack mackerel, Trachurus symmetricus
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Photos of Humpback Whale Pectoral Fin Displays

Hawaii, Humpback Whale

Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, are known for displaying a wide range of surface behaviors (i.e., behaviors seen from above water), such as breaching, head lunging, tail lobbing and spyhopping. Among these behaviors, pectoral fin displays are some of the most interesting. Humpback whales have the longest pectoral fins of all cetaceans — indeed the latin Megaptera translates to “giant wing” — and they will often lift their long fins well out of the water. This behavior can be seen when the whales are gathered in social groups as well as with solitary animals.

Humpback whale swimming inverted with both pectoral fin raised clear of the water, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Humpback whale swimming inverted with both pectoral fin raised clear of the water.
Image ID: 04116
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under NMFS scientific permits 633, 882, 587 as well as various State of Hawaii permits. Their use is subject to certain restrictions.

Keywords: humpback whale photo, megaptera novaengliae, pectoral fin.

These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under provisions of NOAA / NMFS and State of Hawaii scientific research permits.