Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Island Living - Bimini, Bahamas Part III

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

Today I spent my morning herping, and as hard as possible. I was up at the crack of dawn and on the ferry over to South Bimini. I decided to spend as much of the morning walking the roads on South Bimini and exploring. I was hoping to find old homesteads, rock piles, trash, boards, etc. I also was planning on scanning the trees every step of the way to find my last elusive anole species, the twig anole. Quite the agenda for the day!

It started off fast. Right when I got off the land taxi to start the walk, I was able to find 3 out of the 4 anole species in one tree. Of course, there was not a twig anole.

Bimini Bark Anole Anolis distichus bimiensis
Bahaman Brown Anole Anolis sagrei ordinatus

I think this is a dark Bimini Green Anole Anolis smaragdinus lerneri

Things got real slow for a long time after that first tree. I flipped enough trash, palm fronds, and rocks to turn my hands raw. I explored random side roads and trails. I had a virtually impossible time spotting more anoles as well. Roadside in the thick bush just wasn't a great way to try and spot them. Finally, after slogging miles in the hot sun I flipped a piece of cardboard to find a nice little racer. This one did not give me the slip!

Bimini Racer Alsophis vudii picticeps

There was also a large DOR racer in the road to finish off my morning. Molly and I enjoyed a nice lunch and decided to rent a golf cart to explore North Bimini. We traveled all the way up north to the Resorts World resort. This place "seemed" real nice, and was the only place on island that took credit cards for small items. We enjoyed some nice gelato here and I was able to photograph a Palm Warbler calling from one of the trees.

Unfortunately, Resorts World is creating quite the controversy. It is making jobs and helping bring an influx of tourists. The resort is upgrading and enlarging the airport (destroying herp habitat!) to allow for larger jets. They are putting money into upgrading the islands sewers and water infrastructure. For an island culture based on fishing, diving, drinking and Hemmingway, some people think too many tourists may ruin a good thing. I don't really have much of an opinion there. What I do know is they are destroying the vital mangrove ecosystem that is so important to Bimini and the oceans. The fish, sharks, lobster, conch, and sea turtles all rely on the mangroves as a nursery. They talking about putting in a golf course (no room!) and they have already started construction on a major jetty for their large cruiseship/high speed ferry from Miami which has raised concerns over the reefs it is destroying.

We worked our way back south along the beach and I took the chance to flip rocks and logs when able. I was able to find another example of the sphaero species that eluded me earlier, and this time I made the grab. I shot a quick voucher shot for ID purposes, then tried to photograph it in a more natural environment. It disappeared immediately into the rocks. I am starting to hate sphaeros at this point. Lesson learned though - photograph in a room studio! A few more were seen but I couldn't bring any to hand.

There is a neat old shipwreck along the beach we stopped to check out.

From here we returned our cart and headed back to the room to get cleaned up for dinner. We took the taxi over to the south island to try some new dinner spots out and enjoyed a different view of the sunset than we were accustomed to.

This day would be my last dive day. I opted to skip one of the wrecks and stick to shallower water. Somehow, I was the only diver most of the days and essentially got private diving. This had been working to my advantage so far. I like to stay on shallower reefs to optimize bottom time and more photographic opportunities. We dove turtle rocks (hoping for a turtle), and the dive was full of life. The dive guy sketched out though and had me finish the dive at 45 minutes, with 1200 PSI left. What's the point of a shallow private dive then?

Goldentail Moray Gymnothorax miliaris

I guess turtle rocks is actually named because at very low tides the top of the coral formations are visible and look like the backs of turtles. They do sometimes have turtles too. Unfortunately, not today.

 I think this is a Southern Stingray Dasyatis americana, but I am not positive. It has small tubercules along its back and tail which may make it a Roughtail stingray Dasyatis centroura? Any stingray experts out there?Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis, Rock Beauty Holacanthus tricolor

The second dive was a caribbean reef shark dive. It did not disappoint.

Caribbean Reef Shark Carcharhinus perezi

That night I was able to convince Molly to go on a short night hike. She wasn't super excited about me walking around alone so joined me in the search for another Sphaerodactylus species. After about 10 minutes of searching I spotted our quarry, but it quickly disappeared. Luckily, another one was found under a rock and stayed put long enough to get a photo.

Black Spotted Dwarf Gecko Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicauda
A Centruroides was also hanging around. Anyone able to help me with the species?

Our last day I went for a last ditch effort hike in the early morning. I was hoping to catch basking snakes and slow lizards in the early morning sun. A great idea, except I chose a location on the west side of the island. It took a few hours of hiking before the lizards even started to come out. I was able to flip this sickly looking Sphaero though. My third species of the trip.

Sphaerodactylus notatus
I also flipped one of the ameivas. My closest look of the trip. This was proof I was out there too early for lizards!

My time was running short though as I had to make the trek back to north Bimini. Boas and twig anoles were just not in my cards. I was seeing and hearing more rustling in the trees though, and branches that were without lizards a couple hours ago now had them. One in particular caught my eye...

Twig Anole Anolis angusticeps oligaspis

I was beaming to finally knock off the last of the anole species on the island. Unfortunately, my time was now very much up and I had to hoof it back to the ferry quickly. Walking back through north Bimini though I spotted this on one of the streets near my hotel.

Bimini Dwarf Boa Tropidophis canus curtis
Pretty tough to find one this way. It was on a small side street, with houses on either side. I couldn't help myself by trying to flip a few items of cover in the last few blocks. My persistence paid off. I finally was able to photograph the north Bimini Sphaero.

Ocellated Gecko Sphaerodactylus argus

A few more items of cover ticked off another one of Bimini's snake species for me.

Typhlops lumbricalis

That afternoon we visited the Bimini Shark Lab. If you like sharks, you should check it out. They have a ton of really fascinating research ongoing in an effort to learn more about these fascinating creatures. At this time, the visit was free, but they asked for a donation.

A view of their lemon shark pens.
Speaking of lemons...
When we visited Bora Bora last year, a diver was attacked by a sicklefin lemon shark (different species, but very similar) the day we had arrived. It was all the buzz on the island, and Molly didn't deal with that too well. She saw many sharks while diving, but we never did see a lemon, and she never had a chance to conquer her fear after hearing the story of the attack.

Conquering old fears!
The Bimini islands were a pretty fascinating place. For such small islands, with tons of cover, they were suprisingly hard to herp successfully. Great company and some nice diving made the trip more than enjoyable though. The weather was amazing the whole time.

Even the dogs enjoy the blue water. Farewell Bimini!
Hope you enjoyed!


Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Island Living - Bimini, Bahamas Part II

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

Today was the big day.

Nurse Shark Ginglymostoma cirratum and Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran
I had been trying to photographing this nurse shark in the sand flats when I noticed the looming shape in the background. The game was on! Technically, not a great shot by any means, but I just love it.

I wish I could have spent all day with the hammers. My limited bottom time just didn't cut it. Looking back I realize this is ridiculous, and I should be extremely thankful to even get a second long glimpse of this regal and magnificent fish. As it was, I got to hang out and get multiple looks. It was hard to convince myself to take a few passes to just focus on the shark and the moment, and to leave the camera pointed down, but it was worth the imprint in my memory of the grace of the shark cruising underwater.

The next dive was much less eventful, but I had my WA lens loaded, and I enjoyed trying to photograph the large schools of fish on the shallow reef. Since returning, I have really gotten a kick out of trying to ID all the fish that were photographed in the picture. It has proved difficult, but rewarding and my fish identification skills should be much improved on future dives.

French Angelfish Pomacanthus paru, Porkfish Anisotremus virginicus (top right with vertical black bars), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Black Durgon Melichthys niger (top left), Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Yellowtail Snapper Ocyurus chrysurus (top left), Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum
Spotted Goatfish Pseudupeneus maculatus, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, White Grunts Haemulon plumierii

Gray Angelfish Pomacanthus arcuatus
Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis, White Grunts Haemulon plumierii, Spotted Goatfish Pseudupeneus maculatus
Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Blue Tang Acanthurus coeruleus, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis

Atlantic Trumpetfish Aulostomas maculatus, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Tomtates Haemulon aurolineatum, Spotfin Butterflyfish Chaetodon ocellatus, Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis, Ocean Surgeonfish Acanthurus tractus, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis, Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus, Doctorfish Acanthurus chirurgus 

The pythons in south Florida may be getting much of the bad press, but another hugely problematic invasive species introduced by the pet trade is the Red Lionfish Pterois volitans. The fish have become widely established on reefs in the caribbean and the gulf. They grow very large, very fast, and eat many of the native reef fishes. They reproduce extremely quickly and have enormous clutches. A recipe for disaster. So far, it seems they have no native predators. Luckily, very strong efforts have been initiated to attempt to help keep their numbers in check. We know they can't be eradicated, but are working hard to provide some form of natural predator - humans! Reef.org (check out their site for wonderful information and ways to help) is helping lead the way, organizing lionfish hunts and contests and even publishing a lionfish cookbook to provide safe cleaning methods and delicious lionfish recipes - Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em!

Unfortunately, I saw lionfish on every reef dive. My divemaster usually brings a small spear along to do his part, but we didn't have one today. He was pretty sure he had taken care of them all at this dive location. Guess not...
Red Lionfish Pterois volitans, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Bluehead Wrasse yellow initial phase Thalassoma bifasciatum (yellow fish to left center), Longspine Squirrelfish Holocentrus rufus (two bottom right, better IDed from photos earlier in sequence), and maybe a schoolmaster Lutjanus apodus

Red Lionfish Pterois volitans, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus (top center with black tails), French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum (bottom center), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii (intermixed, mostly bottom left), Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus (left center background), Goatfish Sp. (Red Goatfish Mullus auratus???? - left center red fish in sea of grunts)
I spotted a nurseshark on this dive, which I left to his slumber.

And finally I will leave you with a couple eels spotted on the reef. This was actually quite an enjoyable dive.

Goldentail Moray Gymnothorax miliaris
Green Moray Eel Gymnothorax funebris, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus (all over with black tails), French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum (bottom left), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii (intermixed, mostly center left and center right), and maybe a Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus (partially hidden bottom center)???
More Bimini (and sharks, and snakes!) to come very soon.

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.