Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas eve with the Big Sister

What a great way to celebrate Christmas eve, none other exploring the rich marine life of Big Sister's Island! I have not been to Big Sister's for more than a year!

The stretch that is jam-packed with corals and other associates is doing well despite the coral bleaching earlier this year. I'm so glad to know that!

Since it is so crowded with life, I had difficulty moving among the corals, zoanthids and sponges. But it was really wonderful to have this kind of coral reef fix at a good southern shore after visiting the northern shores for two days previously.

As usual, the Favid corals (Family Faviidae) are just so so gigantic!!

This was also my first trip using a new DSLR on a night trip. Though it was not easy to begin fidgeting with the camera, I managed to still get some not bad shots like the stunning polyps of the hard corals. I realized later at home that I got some settings wrong during the trip, thus the photos may not be of the best. Hehe!

If you stand still at the reef, you will start noticing life moving around you! The whole place is teeming with marine creatures, celebrating christmas eve together with me haha! This is a reef fish that was beside a hard coral.

The circular mushroom corals are doing well on Big Sisters! Ivan, Marcus and the rest saw many of them on another part of the shore.

While looking at the graceful Corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia), I saw this blackish thing that looks like a flatworm from far.

And on a closer look, indeed it looks really like a flatworm. But when I tried to touch it, it shrunk it. And then I realized it is actually a corallimorph as well. Can you see the upturn mouth in the middle?

The reef however was relatively a bit covered with sargassum and hairy seaweeds. Nevertheless, I managed to get a snapshot of this Striped eeltail catfish (Plotosus lineatus) before it went hiding among the greens.

Ria shared with me her fantastic find of the Saron shrimp (Family Hippolytidae)! It is quite a shy shrimp and will sometimes just hide away from our torchlights or camera flashes.

I went to the usual big lagoon to check out life there and noticed some corals did not survive the bleaching event. Thus, some parts were a bit lacking in coral cover. Nevertheless, there are still other coral survivals like this Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).

Corals are great hiding places and home to tiny critters like this tiny crab!

Here are more residents of the hard coral: tiny clams, brittlestars, porcelain crabs and tiny shrimps.

The only slug find of the day will be the Ornate leaf slugs (Elysia ornata). None of us saw any nudibranch. This is weird!

I came across this Swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) that is usually more common in our northern shores.

I saw this tiny reddish sponge with spikes, not too sure if it is exactly the Pink puff ball sponge (Oceanapia saggitaria).

Another reddish creature, with nice colour matching to the festive season, will be this Red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus). I also saw the Brown egg crab (Atergatis floridus) and the Mosaic reef crab (Lophozozymus pictor).

Andy had a great find of a huge Decorator crab (Camposcia retusa). This decorator crab is very very pretty, with lots of beautiful assortment of sponges on its body for camouflage purposes.

Beside a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), there was a tiny little nemo or the False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) swimming outside. And also two tiny anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)!

Wedged inside a rock crevice with a little end exposed, this unknown sea cucumber immediately shrunk inside the hole when light was shone onto it. It looks a bit like the Dragonfish sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens) but I'm quite sure it is not.

The top find of the day for me will be this pair of pair of the Tiger-tailed seahorses (Hippocampus comes). At first I thought there was only one, the big yellow one! Until James came and told me there were two! Can you see the tiny brown one at the bottom? Both are clinging onto the sponge.

I especially like this shot where they both were clinging onto the sponge and curling together. Like doing a dance for us. Haha!

It was good to be back at Big Sisters. Hope that the gorgeous nudibranchs will be sighted again during the next trip!

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and a blessed 2011 new year to all of you readers! :-)

More photos of the trip here:

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