Today, 7-20-09, I visited the reef in the afternoon. I understand I missed a nice large pod of spinners that were there this AM. I had hoped to run across Rocket Girl again but you never know what, if anything, you might see out there. At the north end of the reef, I saw a spotted eagle ray but wasn't able to catch up to it. I swam down to the south end and started my way in to the beach when I came across a small spotted eagle ray feeding in this sand canyon that leads to the beach.
It was clearly not comfortable with me approaching it too close and I wasn't sure if I couls get close enough while it was searching in the sand for crabs for a descent shot or not.
Notice the tapered profile of its snout in the image above. This is its form when it is swimming and not sorting through the sand.
In the image below, you can see that its snout has widened out as it seeks a meal. There were numerous fish standing by for the disgarded shells of the crabs. The ray would lift off and swim off a bit and then you would see the white shell of a crab drop down and behind it and the "gang" would zoom in.
I have come across rays feeding in the past but they would not let me get so close or continue on feeding while I hung around. This young fish was either too hungry to be bothered by me or it accepted me as no immediate threat. I realized that I was better off keeping it its line of sight as opposed to trying to sneak in close without it seeing me. I startled it a couple times doing that and it would scoot off quickly. In the series below, it looked like it had found something and I dove down in front of it and in clear view. It is amazing to watch it adjust its wings for stoping and hovering and finer adjustments as it sinks its snout and searches.
In the image below, I dove down in the ray's wake and got a shot of a disgarded crab shell seen between the adult and what I presume to be keiki, puffer fish. They went at it as soon as I backed off.
Below, the ray had just dropped another crab shell and right after the shot, the puffer went after it. I wonder how this ray got the kink in its tail and I wonder if it will straighten out over time. I saw one ray with a really short tail but I have no idea how well these heal or if there is any regeneration potential.