Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coral Crisis

A green sea turtle glides over fire coral

 The beautiful island of Barbados is surrounded by coral reefs. In fact the whole island is composed of ancient coral stone. But there is a problem: the reefs are but a shadow of their former selves.

Knobby sea rods sway in the ocean swells

Pollution, agricultural run-off, warming water, acidification, over-fishing and coral collecting have all taken their toll over the years. Concerned citizens are taking action to restore the reefs and there is now one marine reserve established in Barbados. But there is still much to be done here and around the world.

A massive brain coral

Did you know that coral reefs are the most complex ecosystems on Earth? Amazingly, 32 of the world's 39 animal phyla are found on reefs, compared with only 9 phyla found in tropical rainforests.*

*Barbados: a Coral Paradise, p. 31

A garden of flower corals

So let's all do our part to raise awareness of the plight of coral reefs and work to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

A large sea fan anchored firmly to the coral rock

Plate corals can grow huge if they have a chance
Daytime feeding  pillar coral

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Green Flash

The Green Flash: I caught this elusive natural phenomenon on video this week as the sun set over the Caribbean Sea. I slowed down the ending so you won't miss it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

‪Pseudosphinx tetrio‬

I found a beautiful caterpillar crawling up a tree, here in Barbados.
Naturally, I took a few photos and then looked him up on the internet.

It's never a good idea to pick up caterpillars that you aren't familiar with.  In this case, it was a good precaution as he has a nasty bite.

Pseudosphinx tetrio is a common Caribbean moth whose host plant is frangipani which produces the flowers we call plumeria.

Like monarch caterpillars on milkweed, it converts the sap of the frangipani to a chemical which make him very unpalatable to eat. Hence the bright colours of the caterpillar: birds beware!

A couple of nights later, a large, dark sphinx moth flew into the kitchen, drawn by the lights.

It was indeed the Pseudosphinx tetrio‬, commonly known around here as the frangipani hawk moth.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Black Witch Moth

A Black Witch Moth, (Ascaphala odorata) flew into the house last night.  In Mexico and Costa Rica they are called Mariposa de la Muerte and are considered bearers of bad omens.

These moths, members of the family Noctuida, are very large but not very beautiful, until you look more closely. The intricate patterns are quite striking when seen through a macro lens. It makes me wonder about the whys and the hows of evolution.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Amazonian Giant Centipede

Lying in bed, half-asleep, just before dawn, I felt something on my arm. It was like a silk ribbon being pulled across my skin. I glanced over at Gail who was still asleep. It suddenly occurred to me that there was something moving in our bed!

Dead centipede with a Bajan quarter for scale
Scolopendra gigantea, or the Amazonian giant centipede, can get up to a foot long, though this one was about 4 inches. They hunt other arthropods, even frogs, lizards and small birds. They bite their prey with their fangs and inject a venom. A fascinating creature, and fortunately not deadly to humans.

But I wasn't taking any chances. I switched on the light, shook the sheets, and saw him scurrying across the floor. I generally avoid killing things but made an exception here. One quick blow from my iPhone and it was over.