Dominica Grass Beds

Dominica Grass Bed with urchins
The grass bed at Champagne, one of our favorite dive sites.

This is the last in our series of posts from our recent trip to Dominica. Alternate habitats like sand flats and sea grass beds can be “hit or miss” – we might find all kinds of interesting things or we might wander around for an hour and get skunked. Either way, it is the thrill of the hunt that makes it fun. The grass bed at the site called Champagne was a winner so we ended up diving there 3 days. The Flying Gurnards we saw were some of the prettiest we’ve ever seen:

Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) in grassbed Dominica
One of the prettiest Flying Gurnards I’ve ever seen.
A flying Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) Dominica
A flying Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans)

One of the animals I was happy to find was the Atlantic Longarm Octopus, Macrotritopus defilippi. The first time we ever saw one was in 2000, on a black sand bottom at the other end of Dominica. We had just visited Lembeh Strait, Indonesia for the first time and had seen our first Mimic Octopus there. To our amazement, the Atlantic Longarm Octopus behaved much the same way, stretching and contorting itself into all kinds of shapes. We chronicled the encounter in the Spring 2001 issue of Ocean Realm Magazine.

Atlantic Longarm Octopus (Macrotritopus defilippi) Dominica
The very expressive Atlantic Longarmed Octopus

Our guide Tony surfaced after our first dive to tell us we should make a second dive there to see the batfish and frogfish he found while scouting in the opposite direction. The last one into the water, I trailed behind the group and ran right into a 3-inch, black, Shortnose Batfish. “Here! It’s over here,” I signaled, but Tony was insisting that I join him across the sand to see…the batfish! We ended up seeing five different individuals, including my tiny black one and Ned got this great shot of it extending its tiny lure:

Shortnose Batfish (Ogcocepahlus nasutus) Dominica
This batfish was tiny, but it knew how to wiggle its lure.
Shortnose Batfish (Ogcocepahlus nasutus) Pair Dominica
Shortnose Batfish (Ogcocepahlus nasutus) – We saw 5 different individuals in the grass

It pays to look at everything. Our friend Madelyn found this lovely nudibranch, Spurilla sp. in a clump of algae

Nudibranch, Spurilla sp. in the grass bed in Dominica
Nudibranch, Spurilla sp., in the algae

And there were lots of eels, including a Margintail Conger – a new species for many lifelists. Goldspotted eels seem to fill the niche occupied by Sharptail Eels in other parts of the Caribbean.

Margintail conger (Paraconger caudilimbatus)
Margintail conger (Paraconger caudilimbatus)
Goldspotted Snake Eel (Myrichthys ocellatus)
Goldspotted Snake Eel (Myrichthys ocellatus)

Lots of juveniles, including Queen Triggers:

Juvenile Queen Trigger (Balistes vetula) Dominica
A juvenile Queen Trigger (Balistes vetula) hides out in the grass.

And behavior…here’s a young jack, hunting with a Yellow Goatfish. As the goatfish disturbs the bottom with its barbels, the jack dashes in and snaps up tiny fishes and invertebrates:

Shadow feeding young jack with goatfish
A young jack shadow feeding with a Yellow Goatfish

I ended last week’s post with a beautiful yellow and orange frogfish, tucked into a similarly colored sponge. In the algae-covered rocks and sand, our guides found two very cryptic frogfish – no beauty contest winners here:

Frogfish Dominica
Very well camouflaged frogfish.

A big thank you to our buddy Mike Poe, for sharing some of his photos from the trip. We’re off to Indonesia, with little expectation of access to Internet service, so we’ll post as we can for the next month – watch this space.