June 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Moths aren’t the only animals attracted to a light at night. Below are a variety of other insects, including beetles, true bugs, neuropterans and more. I also just learned that neuropterans, like the lacewing and antlion below, are closely related to beetles, which is surprising because they look so different. Thanks, Internet!

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June 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

If it’s too hot or rainy to hike up into the hills to photograph butterflies, just leave the porch light on after dark and you’re bound to get plenty of moths. Below are twenty or so different species that came to our veranda in the last month. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to identify a few so far. They range in size from one centimeter in wingspan to five or six centimeters. If you recognize any of them, please let me know!

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June 29th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Here are a few shots taken on an overcast day last week. You may note:

  • Sadly, you can see how much trash there is in the canal that almost connects the airport salt pond to the ocean. I’m not looking forward to the day a really big storm flushes this out to the sea.
  • The color variation in the iguanas is quite large. The largest adults typically have no green. I was curious about the really fat one that was still somewhat green and whether it might be a pregnant female.
  • When I approached the iguanas near the pond at the Grand Case cemetery, two jumped in the water. After watching for several minutes I never saw either of them surface. Either they had made their way underwater to the mangroves and surfaced where I couldn’t see them, or they can really hold their breath.
  • The moorhens nesting in the canal were quite cute. One stayed on the nest while the other swam around the nearby shore collecting dry grass stalks and giving them to the one in the nest.
  • The dead Anolis gingivinus hanging in a tree by one leg was one of the stranger things I’ve seen. It had dark bruising on one side and I’m guessing it narrowly escaped some predator and then died from injuries it had sustained while roosting on the branch to recuperate. Eventually, it got knocked off the branch, but one leg must have been caught too firmly on the branch.
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June 29th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

I’ve been having quite a bit of difficulty getting good photos of birds, so I headed out to the salt pond near the Grand Case airport to get some practice. I’ve been using Nikon’s cheap 70-300mm zoom, and no matter what I try for aperture and shutter speed, I am still not getting very sharp images, particularly at 300mm, particularly if I need to crop afterwards, even using my monopod. To a certain degree, I suppose this is to be expected, although it is quite frustrating, especially when I can generally get nice photos easily when shooting macro. Darn birds!

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June 28th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Now that I have a working computer again, I’m going to post some underwater videos!

Here are some cool things that Jacques Cousteau made:

This is amazing footage of deep sea squid from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, captured by deep sea remote operated vehicles (via):

And here’s some amazing underwater footage from Antarctica (via):

Antarctica – Below Zero from Alex.Be. on Vimeo.



June 28th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

In the sequel to a previous post about house guests, we have a variety of arthropods. Most had wandered into our living room or veranda. The hermit crab was an inadvertent capture in a shell I had found while snorkeling. Luckily, Madam J noticed him and I was able to repatriate him quickly.

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June 28th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

It must be baby iguana season in Grand Case, because near the airport I’ve started seeing the little critters. Last week, between rain showers, I photographed a couple of them, including one that was licking droplets off leaves of grass. He let me get very close, perhaps he was feeling sluggish in the overcast weather. As you can see from the large subtympanic scale, these are green, or common, iguanas Iguana iguana. These two were quite small, for iguanas, probably about four inches long excluding tail. They retain bright green coloration until they are several times larger than this.

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June 28th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Le Monde Sans Soleil documents an experiment with men living underwater as “oceanauts” in a pair of underwater capsules named Conshelf Two (from Contintental Shelf Station Two) in the Red Sea. This in and of itself supplies the foundation for an amazing documentary. Additionally, there is a diving saucer with an underwater garage.

The film is from 1964, and diving technology has improved since Le Monde du Silence in 1956. Now there are wetsuits (awesome silver ones) and weight belts. In the lower capsule, at about 26 meters, the men breathe tri-mix (Helium, Oxygen and Nitrogen). In the shallower capsule at about 10 meters, the men breathe air and smoke pipes.

While there is plenty of footage of marine life, the film concerns itself primarily with the oceanauts and their fancy equipment. A future is envisioned in which Conshelf Two is merely the first step in man’s undersea colonization, where we can “systematically exploit all the resources of the oceans.” While this phrase is jarring to the modern audience, overall the scientific research techniques are less violent and destructive in this film. No dynamite is used.

Without Louis Malle, this film is not quite as strong artistically as Le Monde du Silence, but the various undersea structures make for mesmerizing footage. The grand finale is a descent in the diving saucer to 1,000 feet below sea level, passing thousands of years of ancient corals into a world where light barely reaches.

It’s another must-watch film that is just a cut below Le Monde du Silence. While the US and USSR were in the heat of the space race, Cousteau was undertaking his own verison in the ocean. While saturating diving and undersea habitations are used now in commercial diving, undersea colonization never really took off. Still, it is fascinating to see the oceanauts lay the foundation for this colonization in a time when it seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.



June 18th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Yesterday I had a rather crabby night dive. I was swimming along near Creole Rock and found a small piece broken off a sponge. I picked it up, and to my surprise there was a dime-sized hole on the other side with a little crab wedged into it. Throughout the rest of the dive I saw many crabs, including little teardrop decorator crabs and clinging crabs hiding beneath the spines of sea urchins. On the dive there were plenty of fish, shrimp and other creatures, but overall it was mostly crabby.

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June 18th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

With new snorkeling gear in hand, Yann and Marie came by yesterday and we set of for Baie Maria and Molly Smith Point despite a rising swell that was already tossing the seas quite a bit. Entries and exits were tricky, and the visibility was less than ideal, but we did manage to make a number of interesting finds. A small octopus was determined to extract a large snail from his shell, so he was bothered by my presence, but not willing to leave without his lunch. Out of curiosity, I tried to take the shell from him and he pulled back on it with surprising strength. He was apparently not strong enough, though, to extract the snail. After snorkeling elsewhere for a bit I returned and he was no longer trying to open his lunch.

We also found a couple scorpionfish, which despite their excellent camouflage, are often spotted by an alert snorkeler noticing a patterned fin on an otherwise cryptic body. West Indian sea eggs, a type of urchin which often grabs bits of algae to camouflage itself, apparently does the same with whatever is around, be it small stones or limpet shells. The last great find was a starfish that Yann discovered clinging to a loose piece of sponge with an anemone attached. A closer look revealed a cleaner shrimp inside the anemone. Another portable menagerie!

The bonus for the afternoon was seeing the iguana that lives in the large rock at the end of Molly Smith Point.

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