Underwater life: Hawkfish

Most definitely the clowns of the underwater world. Wikipedia rather boringly describes them as 'strictly tropical, perciform marine fish of the family Cirrhitidae.' Well yes that does explain their taxonomy but rest assured Hawkfish are fish with attitude.

Who are you looking at? Hawkfish don't back down easily
There is one species that we come across (I think, as I am no expert in identifying fish) on our dives off Colombo and that is the Pixy Hawfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus). This also appears to come in two flavours, the usual spotted kind and a more solid colour morph which is sort of orange with faint spots to be seen sometimes. You will often see them perched amongst corals or a parts of a ship, looking out like a lord looking over its domain. Apparently this habit of superciliously peering around is what inspired their common name, 'hawkfish.'

The spotted version of the Pixy Hawkfish doing what it does best, hawking

I used to see these fish quite frequently while diving but it wasn't until I started taking photographs on dives that I truly came to appreciate their character. This was brought home to me when I was trying to take a photograph of a nudibranch I had found on the Medhafaru wreck, a new species that I hadn't seen before so I was quite excited and determined to get an image of it. This of course since nudi's are generally sessile creatures wasn't rocket science. I did however notice a strange anomaly when I was trying to take the photo, an orange flash that kept appearing and disappearing in the viewfinder.

On removing my eye from the viewfinder to ascertain the cause of the confusion, I was surprised to see a Hawkfish staring at me, eye to eye. Apparently in my efforts to photograph the nudi, I had strayed into his territory and he was having none of it. Despite the fact that he was about 1% of my size he pugnaciously charged the camera and me repeatedly.

Attitude..this is with my macro lens on so the fellow is right up in the camera

I've experienced this many times with Hawkfish who seem territorial to the point of foolishness. They are also incredibly inquisitive. Again on the Medhafaru, DJ and I were diving it and DJ had swum into the cabin to investigate. Being afraid of dark spaces I remained outside to photograph his bubbles streaming through a gap in the cabin. It wasn't long however until this attracted the attention of a Hawfish. First he investigated it and then for a few minutes tried to attack the bubbles.

Hmm...what's that?

Unsuccessful in this he finally discovered that if he leaned against the bubbles he received a rather wonderful massage. The expression of bliss on his face was comical though perhaps tinged with a bit of narcosis on my part.

Getting relief for that backache

Hawkfish are definitely fish to watch out for on the reef and make great photographic subjects for a bit of eye-to-eye action.

Obviously this courting couple did not appreciate being disturbed


GG said...

:D that's funny. I particularly like the back massaging. Cool fish!

Offthebeatentrack said...

definitely one of the great characters of teh reef :)