Bird Fish Feeding Frenzy New Caledonia
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Panoramabillede af Richard Chesher PRO EXPERT MAESTRO Taget 03:51, 28/11/2011 - Views loading...

Bird Fish Feeding Frenzy New Caledonia

The World > Pacific Ocean Islands > Melanesia > New Caledonia

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A school of anchovies swarms together, forming a scintillating mass attacked from above and below in a fascinating example of interspecies hunting. This happens every day in New Caledonia's vast coral reef lagoon.

Predatory fish must identify a particular fish to catch it. The anchovies create a speeding vortex of thousands of individual fish moving in perfect unison so the predators can't single one out. But these huge jacks knew exactly what to do. They coordinated their attacks, some of them coming up from below while others peeled the anchovies away from the ball, right into the path of the ascending fish that would burst right out of the water with a fountain of glittering anchovies all around them. In the mayhem the anchovies would scatter, making perfect targets for the predatory fish and for the birds.

Red billed sea gulls (Larus novaehollandie) understand the strategy. They flew right above the jacks that were striking in from the side so the birds were in exactly the right spot to feast on the fountain of anchovies when the big jacks came bursting up from the depths. The gulls sometimes snatched anchovies right out of the mouths of the striking fish - then leaped back into the air, often tossing their catch into the air and then gulping it down.

After about 20 minutes of this mayhem it got really wild. Other species of fish joined in, barracuda, mackerel, snappers. A school of sharks swam around the whole group, moving in closer and closer, maybe picking up titbits of hashed sardines. More birds came from every direction, flocks of Noddy turns (Anous tenuirostris), stayed maybe 20 to 50 metres away from the centre of the feeding frenzy. A few of the tiny, white " Black Naped Turns", (Sterna sumatranta), circled around but they, like the noddy turns, stayed away from the centre of the intensive feeding frenzy. Possibly because the sea gulls might get aggressive if the smaller turns got in their way and would certainly try to steal any fish the smaller birds caught. You can see in the sphere image that when one sea gull caught a fish and didn't get the fish down the gullet fast enough, the other sea gulls made serious tries at stealing it.

This is fishing in the extreme, with continuous action that goes on for up to three hours with a bewildering array of species harvesting the small but abundant schools of "bait" fish.

  • Aaron Priest 12 months ago
    Phenomenal capture! Your hard work paid off. :-)
  • Richard Chesher over 1 year ago
    The second possibility is correct. But normally if you try to get a dinghy into the middle of a feeding frenzy the fish and birds swim and fly somewhere else. In this case I was really lucky because I had anchored my dinghy right over a big school of sardines and spent about 10 minutes fiddling with my camera gear before getting into the water to try and get a pano of the sardines. I had already tried to do something with the school for a couple of days and wasn't having much success as the images were just a confusing mass of fish and impossible to stitch. Still, the school was getting used to the dinghy and did not move off when we anchored over them. I was just getting ready to go over the side when a school of jacks started hitting the sardines. The sardines panicked and tried to hide in the shelter of the dinghy but there were so many of them they swirled into an enormous ball all around us. I took the camera back out of the underwater case and mounted it on a pole so I could get a little more of a downward view of the attacking jacks. By the time I got it all set up the birds were swarming in to join the feast (sea gulls first as they are not shy of people), Sardines were leaping everywhere and the jacks were vectoring in from different directions, forcing the sardines to stay right next to us. Then mackerels came tunneling through like bubble-comets; I never imagined a fish could move that fast. The jacks would come at the sardines from different directions and the birds were hanging just above them, tracking the jacks - when the jacks struck the sardines were thrown out of the water right into the bills of the birds. It was really exciting. The feeding was splashing water all over us and it was a damn good thing I had the camera on a pole or it would have been drenched. After about two hours Freddy and I were completely sun-toasted shaky tired from constantly taking photos, laughing and whooping. The fish ate pretty near every single sardine before vanishing.
  • Frank Taylor over 1 year ago
    Richard is a very clever 360 photographer and does underwater 360 photography. I suspect the fish happened to head in his direction and he had his gear with him. He then popped up and managed to take the 360. I can only imagine the surprise of both the fish and the birds when he popped up like that! I'm betting he had to do a bit of work on the resulting stitched imagery. It would be nice to hear Richard describe the story of how this photo came about.
  • Tomasz Makarewicz over 1 year ago
    Hi Richard, Great action panorama! I'm guessing you were in the water with a pole to capture that mayhem? With sharks around and a lot of movement, didn't you get a bit scared about not being mistaken with food?
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    Dette panorama blev taget i New Caledonia

    Dette er et overblik over New Caledonia

    New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.

    The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.

    The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.

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