West Papua Indonesia & Backyard

July 5, 2020:

Namatote Strait Finale:

For your viewing pleasure, here is a final set of images from my second whale shark dive in the Namatote Strait, on the morning of March 10, 2020.

This was the last dive of an excellent cruise aboard Damai II. After everyone was back on board, we headed northwest out of the Namatote Strait, to the port town of Kaimana.

Over the next couple of days, while at Kaimana, the crew worked tirelessly to prepare Damai II for the return trip to Sorong. I rested and relaxed, and got ready for another great diving experience on the world-class reefs of West Papua’s Bird’s Head Seascape!

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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July 3, 2020:

Continuing at the Namatote Strait:

For your viewing pleasure, here are ten additional Whale Shark images from the end of my first dive, and the beginning of my second dive, in the Namatote Strait on the morning of March 10, 2020.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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July 2, 2020:

Namatote Strait, West Papua, Indonesia:

Early in the morning on March 10, 2020, Damai II cruised a short distance to the northwest, into the Namatote Strait. We were looking for whale sharks, and were not disappointed!

Similar to Cenderawasih Bay, located near the northwest corner of the Island of New Guinea, there are floating fishing platforms called “bagans” anchored in the Namatote Strait. I believe that they generally come from Sulawesi. The fisherman work at night, utilizing strong underwater lights to attract small bait fish to the bagans. Once caught, the fish are held in nets suspended in the water just below the bagan, until they are sold.

The presence of the caught fish attracts whale sharks, which feed on small fish which have escaped from the nets, and also attempt to siphon fish out of the nets.

Once we arrived at the Namatote Strait, before the fish were sold, Cruise Director, Carlo Caldero, sought out a bagan which had attracted whale sharks. He was successful, and paid the fishermen to allow us to spend the morning diving with the whale sharks, beneath their bagan.

The conditions were ideal! It was sunny, the underwater visibility was excellent, and there was virtually no current. Most importantly, there were four whale sharks cruising around the bagan! Two were relatively large, about 30′ in length, and two were smaller, each about 20′ long. All four remained around the bagan for the entire morning!

It was “open pool” for us, and I made two dives, totalling 3 1/2 hours, with the whale sharks. I skipped breakfast, and was a little hungry by the end of the morning, but had a blast!

For your viewing pleasure, here are ten of my favorite images from the first of my two whale shark dives. Over the next few days, I plan to make several more posts of photographs from these two dives.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 30, 2020:

Triton Bay Finale:

On the afternoon of March 9, 2020, Tangga (“Stairs or Ladder”) was the dive site for my final Triton Bay dive of this cruise. The name of this southern Aiduma Island site derives from its topography, which comprises a wall and sloping reef, with multiple step-offs.

Tangga is a somewhat “mucky” dive site, so I dove it as a “Macro” dive. We experienced minimal current, and fairly good visibility of more than 50′ during our dive.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from my dive at Tangga:

Mushroom Coral Pipefish; Giant Moray Eel; a pair of Banded Gobies; a pair of Bluestreak Gobies; another Mushroom Coral Pipefish; Bicolor Goatfish; Sunset Wrasse & Goldsaddle Goatfish; and Damselfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 29, 2020:

More From Triton Bay:

At midday on March 9, 2020, we dove Batu Jeruk (“Orange Rock”). This small islet is located at the south end of the Iris Strait, adjacent to the southeast tip of Aiduma Island.

Unfortunately, during our dive, there was very little current. Consequently, many of the soft corals adorning the sloping reef of the dive site were not open. It was easy to imagine how amazing Batu Jeruk would look in a stronger current.

The lack of current, however, permitted easy circumnavigation of the rock during this mellow and enjoyable dive.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from our dive at Batu Jeruk:

Two photographs of a mixed school of Bigeye & Bluestripe Snapper and Yellowfin Goatfish; a pair of Golden Spadefish; mixed school of Fusiliers & Yellowfin Goatfish; Cleaning Station; five different Reefscapes; a pair of Panda Butterflyfish; mixed school of Bigeye Snapper & Yellowfin Goatfish; Blue Ring Angelfish; Semicircle Angelfish & Grouper; a pair of Six-Banded Angelfish; and a pair of Threadfin Butterflyfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 28, 2020:

Sticking with Triton Bay:

Early in the morning on March 9, 2020, Damai II cruised to the southern end of the Iris Strait, enabling us to dive Christmas Rock, (a.k.a. Tim Rock). The dive site’s first name derives from the fact that early on, Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock dove it on two different Christmas mornings. The site’s second name honors Tim Rock, the well-known Guam-based underwater photographer and author.

Christmas Rock is a small islet, situated at the southwest corner of the Iris Strait. It is surrounded by a gently sloping reef, largely covered with black coral, (actually white in color!), on its north side, and dotted with colorful coral bommies elsewhere. When the current is running, the site can be quite fishy, especially with schooling Snapper of several species. The current ranged from mild to moderate, and the visibility was a good 75′, during our dive.

For your viewing pleasure, here are ten of my favorite images from our dive at Christmas Rock:

Great Barracuda; two photographs of a pair of Blue Ring Angelfish; schooling Bigeye & Bluestripe Snapper; four Reefscapes; Tasseled Scorpionfish; and a final Reefscape.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 27, 2020:

Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia:

In the late afternoon of March 8, 2020, we dove Froggies, a “muck” dive site located in a narrow channel in the northeast corner of the Iris Strait.

The site consists of a gently sloping, generally featureless, sandy bottom, with an adjacent colorful, sponge-encrusted wall. There was minimal current, and good visibility during our dive.

As is customary for “muck” diving, I dove Froggies as a “Macro” dive. It was a mellow finale for a nice diving day.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from our dive at Froggies:

Shrimpgoby & Alpheid Shrimp; Pleurobranch & Tunicate; Red-Margin Shrimpgoby; Red-Margin Shrimpgoby & Alpheid Shrimp; a pair of Red-Margin Shrimpgobies; Nudibranch (Armina sp.); Feather Duster Worm; Giant Moray Eel; and Spotfin Lionfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 26, 2020:

Continuing at Triton Bay:

At midday on March 8, 2020, we dove Little Komodo. This dive site is located at the northeast corner of Aiduma Island, near where the Iris Strait merges with Triton Bay. The site’s name derives from its resemblance to dive sites in the southern part of Komodo National Park.

Topographically, Little Komodo is a sloping reef and wall, with adjacent small bommies covered with colorful soft corals and many crinoids. The wall comes to a point, which juts out a little into the Iris Strait. When the current is running here, as it was during our dive, this point can become quite fishy!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from our dive at Little Komodo:

Two Reefscapes; schooling Bigeye Snapper; schooling Yellowtail Fusiliers; three more Reefscapes; a pair of Blue Ring Angelfish; an additional Reefscape; Porcupinefish; schooling Fusiliers; and another Blue Ring Angelfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 25, 2020:

Back to West Papua:

Early in the morning of March 8, 2020, Damai II arrived at Triton Bay. Located near the southwest corner of the Island of New Guinea, this nutrient-rich body of water is a pristine marine wonderland!

In February 2008, while on my first trip to Triton Bay, I crossed paths with well-known Guam-based underwater photographer Tim Rock, who had just visited Triton Bay. He described it as “Raja Ampat on steroids!” Boy was Tim right!

Likely, at least in part due to the nutrient-rich water, the marine life in Triton Bay is abundant, and individual creatures are generally significantly larger than individuals of the same species encountered elsewhere. Furthermore, the reefscapes are often quite beautiful, featuring healthy soft corals, every color of the rainbow.

On the downside, underwater visibility sometimes suffers in Triton Bay, due to the fine particulate material suspended in the water. However, we were lucky on this cruise, generally encountering quite good visibility.

We chose Bo’s Rainbow for our first Triton Bay dive. This dive site is a small island, located at the north end of the Iris Strait, near where it joins the southeast corner of Triton Bay. The island is traversed by a swim through near the surface, and is surrounded by lush coral bommies.

The site also features a miniwall on its west side. In addition to a healthy mix of colorful reef fish, there is usually a school or two of curious and amusing Spadefish cruising around the dive site.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from our dive at Bo’s Rainbow on the morning of March, 8, 2020:

Swim Through; three Triton Bay Reefscapes; schooling Longfin Spadefish; Triton Bay Reefscape; schooling Longfin Spadefish; Blue Ring Angelfish; Longfin Spadefish being cleaned; and a final Triton Bay Reefscape.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 24, 2020:

Backyard Bonus:


We also had a very pleasant surprise last evening! Our two Barred Owlets, which we hadn’t seen for several weeks, returned for a nice visit!


They appear to be doing quite well, and are both sporting near-adult plumage. As usual, they were not camera shy, and provided me with a nice photographic opportunity.


For your viewing pleasure, here are several of my favorite images of our Barred Owlets from last evening.


Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 24,2020:

Once more in the backyard:

Last evening, we had a little excitement in our backyard!

Jesse Holland, (www.hollandhives.com), and Todd Mitchell, both members of the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association, (www.meckbees.org), kindly came out to our home, to extract the honeybee swarm, which had recently taken up residence in our Barred Owl house.

The house is located about 30′ up in a tree in our woods, making this an interesting task! But Jesse and Todd proved themselves to be quite knowledgeable and skilled, and successfully transferred the honeybee swarm into a small wire mesh enclosure, in which they were transported to a safe new home.

Jesse estimated that approximately 15,000 honeybees were obtained, alive and well. My wife, Margaret, who is a Master Gardener, and I, were very pleased by this outcome, and are very appreciative of Jesse and Todd’s willingness to solve our dilemma. Now we can look forward to the possibility of our Barred Owls returning to the owl house to once again nest next Spring.

For your viewing pleasure, here are several images, that document last evening’s adventure.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 23, 2020:

Backyard bonus:


For your viewing pleasure, here is another batch of images of our Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks from June 19 & 21, 2020.


Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 23, 2020:

Meanwhile, in the backyard:

With our Barred Owls away for the time being, our two Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks continue to be the stars of Mother Nature’s show in our backyard.

For your viewing pleasure, here are several of my favorite images of the hawks from June 18, 2020.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 22, 2020:

Today we return to West Papua:

It continued to rain into the afternoon of March 7, 2020, when we went for our final dive in the Momon Area. We decided to explore an unamed dive site. It turned out to have topography similar to that of Little Momon, a sloping reef, with coral alternating with sand chutes.

Once again, I dove a “Macro” dive, utilizing my 60 mm Micro Nikkor lens.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few of my favorite images from this “exploratory” dive:

Randall’s Shrimpgoby; Sarasvati Anemone Shrimp; Signal Goby; a pair of Sarasvati Anemone Shrimp; a pair of Signal Gobies; Signal Goby; Eight-Banded Butterflyfish; Squat Shrimp; a trio of Graceful Anemone Shrimp; and two photographs of three False Clown Anemonefish residing in a Magnificent Anemone.

At the conclusion of this dive, Damai II again weighed anchor, and continued on in a southeasterly direction to Triton Bay.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 21, 2020:

Another backyard interlude:

We remain hunkered down at home, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating here in North Carolina. I continue to spend some time each day out in our backyard with my camera, in order to see what Mother Nature is up to.

A week ago, on June 14, 2020, I was surprised to discover that a swarm of honeybees has taken over our Barred Owl house! In another location in our woods, this would be great news. However, we would like to see our Barred Owls occupy the house once again next Spring. Therefore, I am working with a couple of very helpful local bee keepers, in order to come up with a plan to safely relocate the honeybees. Stay tuned!

Other than a brief appearance five days ago by Papa Barred Owl on his usual perch, we have not seen our Barred Owls for two weeks. 

The new stars of the backyard show are a couple of juvenile hawks, and at least one adult hawk, who have also been nesting and hunting in our woods this Spring. I think that they are most likely Red-Shouldered Hawks. They are not quite as cooperative or as amusing as our Barred Owls, but they are also fun to photograph.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few of my favorite backyard images from this past week:

Two photographs of the Honeybee Swarm in our Barred Owl house; Papa Barred Owl napping; six images of an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk; an adult and a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk together; and two photographs of a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 20, 2020:

Back to West Papua:

In the Momon Area, it was still raining and socked in during the late morning of March 7, 2020, when we dove Little Momon. This dive site is a steeply sloping reef with a flat top. Sand chutes alternate with coral on the reef slope.

I dove Little Momon as a “Macro” dive, and concentrated mainly on fish portraits.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite images from this dive:

Nudibranch (Chromodoris lochi); Juvenile Wrasse; Signal Goby; Juvenile Scythe Triggerfish; Multi-Barred Angelfish; Longnose Butterflyfish; Blackspotted Puffer; Juvenile Damselfish; Juvenile Wrasse; Damselfish; Black-Saddled Toby; and Juvenile Yellow Boxfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 19, 2020:

For your viewing pleasure, here are another bunch of images of our juvenile hawks from June 11-13, 2020.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 19, 2020:

Meanwhile, in the backyard:

On the morning of June 10, 2020, I had the opportunity to observe and photograph one of two juvenile hawks living in our woods. I am not certain, but I believe that they are most likely Red-Shouldered Hawks.

For your viewing pleasure, here are seven of my favorite hawk images from that morning.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 19, 2020:

Back to West Papua:

The Momon Area was our final stop before reaching Triton Bay. March 7, 2020 was a squally day, which precluded our diving The Momon Sea Mount, our preferred dive site, which is exposed.

Therefore, we first explored Batu Cantik (“Beautiful Rock”). This site is a sloping patch reef, which I dove as a “Macro” dive, accompanied Franghi, one of our Manado-trained dive guides.

For your viewing pleasure, here are ten of my favorite images from our dive at Batu Cantik:

Blue Girdled Angelfish & Panda Butterflyfish; Clown Triggerfish; Painted Spiny Lobster; a pair of Fire Dartfish; Bluestreak Goby; Hairy Squat Lobster; Polyclad Flatworm; Goldsaddle Goatfish; Trumpetfish (Golden Variation); and Pyramid Butterflyfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 18, 2020:

Meanwhile, in the backyard:

On June 9, 2020, I was entertained by one of our Barred Owlets, and by one of our juvenile hawks, presumably a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

During the afternoon, while I was swimming, the Barred Owlet sprawled out on its breast on the pool deck, with its wings extended, sunning itself! Amazing! Unfortunately, I just have mental images of this behavior.

In any case, for your viewing pleasure, here are ten of my favorite photographs of the owlet and the hawk from that day.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 17, 2020:

Back to the Pisang Islands:

For a late morning dive on March 6, 2020, Damai II cruised to the Southern Group of Pisang Islands, where we dove a dive site called T-Bone Reef. The site is a T-shaped underwater ridge, extending from the northwest corner of an adjacent small island, hence the name T-Bone Reef.

The ridge is studded with Elephant Ear sponges, predominantly of lavender and light green pastel hues, somewhat unsual in my experience. Because of this feature, I have previously dove T-Bone Reef as a “Wide Angle” site. For a different perspective, I chose to dive the site as a “Macro” dive this time, and I enjoyed the experience.

Here are several of my favorite images from our dive at T-Bone Reef:

Clark’s Anemonefish; Squarespot Anthias; Blackstriped Angelfish; Graceful Anemone Shrimp; Nudibranch; Hairy Shrimp; and Christmas Tree Worm.

Following the dive, Damai II weighed anchor, and headed out of the Pisang Islands in a southeasterly direction, on a 100 mile cruise to the Momon Area, where our story will continue.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 16, 2020:

From the backyard:

I have not seen or heard any of our four Barred Owls for about a week now. Presumably, the two owlets are establishing themselves in new home territories, probably close by. Hopefully, Mama & Papa Barred Owl will return to our backyard in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, our Barred Owl house has been occupied by a swarm of honeybees. We are working with very friendly and helpful local bee keepers to come up with a plan to safely transfer the honeybees out of the owl house, so that it can be reoccupied by our Barred Owls next year. Stay tuned!

Today, for your viewing pleasure, here are several of my favorite images of our two Barred Owlets from June 8, 2020.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 15, 2020:

The Pisang Islands, located approximately 50 miles southeast of Raja Ampat’s Southeast Misool Region, are well-situated for a one day stopover, when cruising between Raja Ampat and Triton Bay. Pisang means “banana” in the Bahasa Indonesian language. I have been told, however, that there are no bananas to be found on these islands, so I am not sure how they acquired their name.

Although the Pisang Islands are largely unexplored from a diving perspective, in my experience, the diving here is quite good. For our early morning dive on March 6, 2020, we chose Lighthouse, a dive site located near the lighthouse on the southeast tip of Pisang Besar (“Big Banana”) Island. This site comprises a scrabbly sloping wall, with scattered adjacent lush small coral bommies.

I dove Lighthouse as a “Macro” dive, teaming up with Franghi, one of Damai II’s excellent dive guides from Manado. It was Carlo Calderaro, one of our two Cruise Directors, however, who provided the highlight of this dive. He spotted a Sargassum Fish in a patch of Sargassum Weed floating on the surface, and was kind enough to share his discovery with us at the end of our dive.

I had never previously seen or photographed a Sargassum Fish, so for me, this was “The Find” of the trip. In addition, it is often the case that when photographing a subject near a calm water surface, interesting mirror images are magically created. For this reason, I was delighted when I reviewed my Sargassum Fish photos.

For your viewing pleasure, here are several of my favorite images from our dive at Lighthouse:


Spindle Cowrie; Feather Duster Worm; Nudibranch (Nembrotha kubaryana); Emperor Angelfish (Juvenile); Ringed Pipefish & Yellowmargin Moray Eel; Banded Coral Shrimp; Pixy Hawkfish; and
five images of the Sargassum Fish.

Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 13, 2020:

From the backyard:

For the past few weeks, when I have been out in our backyard, I have noticed hawk calls coming from a fairly consistent location in our woods. On June 7, 2020, I investigated the source of these calls.

Much to my delight, I discovered two juvenile hawks, in what likely used to be a squirrel’s nest, located in the back corner of our woods, about 50 yards away from our owl house. Wow!

Although I am not sure, they are most likely Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks. This species is known to amicably share overlapping home territories with Barred Owls.

The nest, high up in the canopy of the woods, is rather obscured. Consequently, when they are in the nest, the hawks are difficult to photograph. However, I soon realized that they have already fledged, so there will be opportunities to image them away from the nest.

Meanwhile, our Barred Owlets also provided excellent entertainment on the same day. They remain quite amusing, and don’t seem to mind being photographed. In fact, occasionally they appear to be posing for me.

From June 7, 2020, here are two initial images of one of the Juvenile Hawks in the nest, as well as numerous photographs of the Barred Owlets:

Two images of a Juvenile Hawk, presumably a Red-Shouldered Hawk; Barred Owlet yawning; Barred Owlet perched on our “Big Toy”; Barred Owlet napping; Barred Owlet flying from the “Big Toy”; Barred Owlet branching; Barred Owlet preening; Barred Owlet stretching; Barred Owlet napping & stretching; Barred Owlet scratching; Barred Owlet napping & stretching; Barred Owlet stretching; Barred Owlet rubbing its face on a branch; and Barred Owlet flying away.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 12, 2020:

At dusk on March 5, 2020, we dove Fiabacet 1, the westernmost island in the Fiabacet Island Group, situated just west of Whale Rock.

This dive site comprises a wall, topped by a reef. Due to the low light conditions, I dove Fiabacet 1 as a “Macro” dive.

Here are several of my favorite images from this dive:

Giant Tridacna Clam; Nudibranch (Nembrotha cristata); Orangutan Crab; Threadfin Anthias; Orange-Banded Coralfish; Scythe Triggerfish; Coral Grouper; a pair of Spinecheek Anemonefish; Nudibranch (Chromodoris sp.); Giant Moray Eel; and Hawksbill Turtle.

At the conclusion of the dive, Damai II weighed anchor, and headed out of Raja Ampat in a southeasterly direction, on an overnight cruise to our next stop, the Pisang Islands.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 12, 2020:

Another backyard interlude:

Our Barred Owls have been very much in evidence over the past week. They still allow me to approach very close, and to observe and photograph them. Their antics continue to entertain me!

For some reason, however, I have not heard or seen any of them for the past two days. Hopefully, they are AWOL only for a brief time, and will return. We’ll see!

In any case, here are several of my favorite images of our Barred Owls from June 6, 2020:

Two images of Mama Barred Owl Preening; two images of the Barred Owlets grooming eachother; Barred Owlet hunting; Barred Owlet with a twig in its beak; two images of a Barred Owlet in a squirrel’s nest; three images of the Barred Owlets, one flying and the other perched; Barred Owlet branching; and the Barred Owlets staking out a squirrel’s nest.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 11, 2020:

Today we return to Raja Ampat:

Following our dive at Boo Window, we moved to Whale Rock, for an early afternoon dive on March 5, 2020.

Whale Rock is the largest of the Fiabacet Islands, of the Southeast Misool Region of Raja Ampat. It is named for the obvious resemblance of the rock’s shape to a whale.

This lush dive site is covered with beautiful soft corals, sea fans, and sponges, the hues of which span the rainbow. In addition to the sloping reef extending underwater directly from Whale Rock, there are two submerged pinnacles near its southeast corner, and an additional submerged pinnacle a short underwater swim to the west.

I spent most of my dive on this third pinnacle. During my safety stop, I explored a lovely soft coral garden in the shallows beneath an overhang on Whale Rock’s north side.

Here are seven of my favorite reefscapes from this dive.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 10, 2020:

June 4, 2020 continued to be a very productive day photographically with our two Barred Owlets.

For your viewing pleasure, here are numerous additional images of the owlets from that day.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 10, 2020:

Meanwhile, in our backyard:

Our Barred Owls continue to provide me with hours of entertainment! They have grown quite accustomed to having me around, and allow me to observe them and to photograph them for long periods of time.

Here are a few of my favorite Barred Owls images from June 1-4, 2020:

Eight Barred Owlet images; three images of Mama Barred Owl feeding an owlet; Mama Barred Owl hunting; Mama Barred Owl looks for her other owlet; and Mama Barred Owl with a rabbit.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 9, 2020:

After diving Magic Mountain, we headed to Boo Window, (a.k.a. Boo Rocks), at the eastern end of Southeast Misool’s Boo Island Group, for a mid-morning dive on March 5, 2020.

This is another of Raja Ampat’s iconic dives. It is named for a large swimthrough, or “window,” traversing the largest rock, from the surface down to a depth of about 15 feet.

Boo Window is covered with lovely soft corals of every color of the rainbow. Unfortunately, we dove the site in minimal current, so most of the soft corals remained closed. Fortunately, however, Boo Window is also loaded with ample and varied fishlife. So, with excellent visibility, I concentrated on this aspect of the dive site, and experienced a very fishy dive!

Here are a few of my favorite images from our dive at Boo Window:

Giant Moray Eel; a pack of Emperors and Trevally aggressively hunting; Bumphead Parrotfish; Napoleon Wrasse & Friends; Schooling Longfin Spadefish & Blue and Yellow Fusiliers; Boo Window; Schooling Longfin Spadefish; Schooling Golden Spadefish; Six-Banded Angelfish; and Emperor Angelfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 7, 2020:

It was dark and rainy early on the morning of March 5, 2020, when we dove Magic Mountain, one of my favorite dive sites in Raja Ampat. Located in the Southeast Misool Region, this remarkable site lies a short distance from the eastern tip of Warakaraket Island.


Magic Mountain comprises two Manta Ray cleaning stations, one shallow and one deep, connected by an underwater ridge. It is one of the few dive sites in the world frequented by both Reef and Oceanic Manta Rays.


In addition, Magic Mountain features beautiful soft coral reefscapes, large schools of fish such as Snappers and Fusiliers, cruising Whitetip and Grey Reef Sharks, resting Tasselled Wobbegong and Raja Ampat Walking Sharks, friendly Napolean Wrasse, etc. The list goes on and on, making this an incredible dive site, which never disappoints!


I decided to devote this dive to a possible Manta Ray encounter. After being briefly “navigationally challenged,” I headed down the ridge to the deep Manta cleaning station, located at a depth of about 80′, and I got lucky. There was a fairly large, female Oceanic Manta Ray, slowly gliding around and through the cleaning station, as he got spruced up! The Manta stayed for the remainder of my dive. Nice!


Here are ten of my favorite images of this Oceanic Manta Ray.


Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 6, 2020:

Tank Rock, (a.k.a. Batu Kecil, or “Little Rock”), was the site for our afternoon dive on March 4, 2020. The name of this small, easternmost rock in the Fiabacet Island group of the Southeast Misool Region of Raja Ampat, comes from the observation that, with a little imagination, the rock vaguely resembles a military tank, when viewed from certain angles.

Tank Rock is connected to Nudi Rock, which lies just to the west, by an underwater ridge. Three submerged pinnacles lie just to its east.

I did not wander far on this dive, and chose to restrict my dive to the sloping reef located in the immediate vicinity of the rock. Today, as I reviewed my images from the dive, I realized, once again, that Tank Rock is an exquisite dive site. It is topographically interesting, is loaded with soft corals of every color of the rainbow, and is populated with abundant and varied reef fishlife.

During my dive, I encountered two different locations where large numbers of Indo-Pacific Sergeants were valiantly trying to protect egg patches, which they had laid on the reef, from a feeding frenzy of numerous reef fish species. A marauding band of Emperors, with accompanying Trevally and Napoleon Wrasse, hunted furiosly elsewhere on the reef.

Here is a small collection of some of my favorite images from this dive at Tank Rock:

Five different reefscapes; Indo-Pacific Sergeants guarding their eggs; three additional reefscapes; a multispecies feeding frenzy on Indo-Pacific Sergeant eggs; and two final reefscapes, the second of which features an Emperor Angelfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 5, 2020:

Late in the morning of March 4, 2020, we dove Gorgonian Passage (a.k.a. Neptune’s Fan Sea). This is a drift dive in the narrow channel separating Wayil Batan and Walib Islands, hugging the Wayil Batan side. It’s name derives from the innumerable large sea fans of many vibrant colors, which live along the wall.


Depending on the direction of the current, which can be strong, this steeply sloping wall is dove off of one’s right or left shoulder. On this dive, the wall was “shoulder right,” the current was light, and the visibility was an excellent 100′ plus!


Here are several of my favorite images from the dive:


Three different reefscapes; two photographs of a white Giant Frogfish; an Emperor Angelfish swimming by the Giant Frogfish; a pair of Panda Butterflyfish; an additional reefscape; and a Barramundi Cod with a Midnight Snapper.


Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 4, 2020:

Four Kings is a stunning dive site, located a short distance to the west of Wayil Island, in the Southeast Misool Region of Raja Ampat. We dove this site early in the morning on March 4, 2020.


Four Kings comprises a submerged ridge, composed of four connected underwater pinnacles. The site is covered in soft corals, sea fans, crinoids, and sponges of every color of the rainbow, with an emphasis on orange hues. In my experience, including on this dive, Four Kings tends to be quite fishy, particularly when the current is running.


The dive site is exposed, and currents can be strong. On our dive, the current was light to moderate, enough to open up most soft corals, and to get the food chain going, but quite manageable navigation-wise. The visibility was excellent. All of the key ingredients were in place to provide for an outstanding dive!


Here are eight of my favorite reefscapes from our early morning dive at Four Kings.


Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 3, 2020:

Wedding Cake is the dive site associated with a rock located in the channel between Wayil and Wayil Batan Islands, in the Southeast Misool Region of Raja Ampat. The site’s name alludes to the multilayered reef structure, which resembles a multilayered cake.


I had dove Wedding Cake several times previously, but always in daylight. Our night dive on March 3, 2020 was at this site, and was quite enjoyable.


Here are some of my favorite images from this night dive:


Midnight Snapper; Decorator Crab; Soft Coral Crab; Polyclad Flatworm; a pair of Soft Coral Crabs; Threadfin Butterflyfish; Nudibranch (Nembrotha cristata); Gorgonian Decorator Crab; Periclimenes Shrimp on a Cushion Sea Star; a second Polyclad Flatworm; Nudibranch (Doriprismatica sibogae); and Hawksbill Turtle.

Enjoy!


Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 2, 2020:

On the afternoon of March 3, 2020, we dove Kalig Wall, one of the less well-known dive sites in the Southeast Misool Region of Raja Ampat. This site is a rather steeply-sloping wall, with an attractive coral garden on top.

I chose to dive Kalig Wall as a “Macro” site, and concentrated my photographic efforts mainly on fish portraits, which I enjoy creating. I noted, however, that some sections of the wall are sufficiently striking, that Kalig Wall could also be dove as a “Wide Angle” site.

Here is a representative sample of my images from this dive:

A pair of Doublebar Goatfish; Clark’s Anemonefish; Black-Saddled Toby; Regal Angelfish & Juvenile Emperor Angelfish; Electric Fileclam; Juvenile Emperor Angelfish; a pair of Regal Angelfish; Coral Grouper; Soft Coral Crab; Clown Triggerfish; Titan Triggerfish & Friends; Twotone Dartfish; and Fire Dartfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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June 1, 2020:

Back to Raja Ampat:

Nudi Rock, the middle island in the tiny Fiabacet Island Group of the Southeast Misool Region, is one of Raja Ampat’s signature dive sites. Its name derives from the resemblance of the island to a nudibranch, with “rhinopores” and “gills” formed by trees growing on its “front” and “rear” ends.

We dove Nudi Rock in light current, and with 100’+ visibility, late in the morning of March 3, 2020.

This stunning dive site comprises a sloping reef and connected submerged ridge, smothered in lush gorgonia of every color of the rainbow. Healthy gardens of diverse hard corals also abound, particularly in the shallows. Ample populations of varied reef fish, including Clark’s Anemonefish inhabiting fluorescent orange bulb anemones, and Spinecheek Anemonefish denizens of bulb and magnificent anemones, are “icing on the cake.”

Here are several of my favorite images from our dive at Nudi Rock:

Three different reefscapes; a pair of Clark’s Anemonefish in a fluorescent orange bulb anemone; three more reefscapes; and a Spinecheek Anemonefish nestled in bulb and magnificent anemones.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 31, 2020:

Once again we return to our backyard:

Over the past few days, in between rain showers, I have continued to observe and to photograph our Barred Owls. They frequently demonstrate their ingenuity, particularly in their hunting behaviors.

Here are several of my favorite Barred Owl images from the past three days:

Two photos of Mama Barred Owl sunbathing on the pergola after the rain; two images of Mama Barred Owl hunting from the pergola; Mama Barred Owl hunting in the front yard; two photos of Papa Barred Owl hunting from the bird feeder; Papa Barred Owl hunting from the Big Toy; a Barred Owlet hunting in the backyard; two images of Papa Barred Owl hunting from the basketball backboard; Papa Barred Owl stretching on the basketball backboard; Papa Barred Owl preening on the basketball backboard; and three photos of Papa Barred Owl hunting from our roof.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 30, 2020:

After we surfaced from our March 2, 2020 afternoon muck dive at Algae Patch 1, Damai II weighed anchor and cruised overnight in a southerly direction from Batanta Island to the southeast Misool Region of southern Raja Ampat.

The next day, we began our underwater exploration of this beautiful region with an early morning dive at Boo West, the westernmost dive site in the Boo Islands. This site comprises a vibrant and colorful reef sloping down from the small island, with an adjacent submerged pinnacle, accessed by a short underwater swim across a narrow channel.

The outstanding feature of Boo West is the attractive reefscapes, which afford healthy gorgonia of many hues, and are inhabited by ample populations of varied and colorful reef fish species.

Here are images of three of my favorite reefscapes from this dive.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 29, 2020:

Today we return to north Raja Ampat, specifically to the southwest coast of Batanta Island.

For our third, and final, muck dive on March 2, 2020, we moved a short distance to the west of Algae Patch 2, and dove Algae Patch 1. The gently sloping, generally featureless, topography of this dive site is similar to that of Algae Patch 2. The substrate of Algae Patch 1, however, tends to be finer, and more silty than that of Algae Patch 2, particularly at depth. Consequently, excellent buoyancy control is crucial here, to avoid stirring up the bottom, and trashing otherwise generally good visibility.

At Algae Patch 1, once again I dove with Yanto, who once more demonstrated his excellent spotting abilities. We had quite a productive dive, encountering numerous interesting critters.

Here are several of my favorite images from this dive, presented in the order that they were created:

Nudibranch (Goniobranchus sp.); two photographs of a Long-Arm Octopus; three photographs of two small Cuttlefish; Navel Egg Cowrie; Nudibranch (Thecacera sp. 8); Nudibranch (Janolus sp. 4); Common Seahorse; Sea Pen With a Brittle Sea Star & several small Crabs; Pink-Eared Mantis Shrimp; Nudibranch (Flabellina sp.); Robust Ghost Pipefish; Nudibranch (Goniobranchus sp.); Reticulated Puffer; Nudibranch (Flabellina sp.); and a shy Chestnut Jawfish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 27, 2020:

One more post from our backyard, before returning to West Papua, and the Bird’s Head Seascape.

We have been having tons of rain lately here in Charlotte, NC. Yesterday evening, however, we caught a little bit of a break. The rain stopped, and the sun peaked through for a while. This created very nice soft light, great for Nature photography.

Luckily, at this time, I found our two barred owlets perched together, high up in the canopy of our woods. They remained in the same basic location for two hours, and displayed all sorts of interesting behavior during this time. All of these factors combined led to a very productive photographic session!

Here are some of my favorite images from this magical evening.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 27, 2020:

Continuing in our backyard, for your viewing pleasure, here is a final set of images of our barred owlets, and one image of Mama Barred Owl, created on the evening of the same day, May 25, 2020.

Enjoy!

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May 27, 2020:

Here is another batch of images of one of our barred owlets, as well as one photo of Papa Barred Owl, all from two days ago.

Enjoy!

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May 27, 2020:

We return briefly to our backyard.

Over the past two days, I have had a lot of fun locating, observing, and photographing our barred owls, mainly the two owlets.

The owlets definitely have distinct personalities. They appear to enjoy hanging out together, and are both a little clumsy and goofy, though they already fly quite well, at least for short distances.

From a couple of days ago, here are a few of my favorite images of Mama Barred Owl and one of her owlets.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great day!

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May 25, 2020:

We returned to Algae Patch 2 for our second muck dive on the morning of March 2, 2020.

Once again, we had fairly good luck, and were able to find several interesting creatures during this dive.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the dive:

Yellow-Spotted Anemone Shrimp; Yellow-Spotted Anemone Shrimp & Saddleback Anemonefish; Several Anemone Squat Shrimp; Thorny Seahorse; Sea Hare; Two Images of Periclimenes Shrimp on Cushion Sea Stars; Nudibranch (Ceratosoma tenue); and a pair of Robust Ghost Pipefish.

Enjoy!

Stay safe, and have a great Memorial Day!

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