Underwater Macro Life at the Blue Heron Bridge

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Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera  Beach, Florida. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Possibly you have had the wherewithal to explore the site on scuba or while snorkeling? Even manatees use the site as a pass-through and many sea cows winter in the warm-waters of the nearby Florida Power and Light’s Manatee Lagoon. The Bridge is rich with life, large and super small. It has a little of everything!

Blue Heron Bridge has rare creatures amongst its diversity. These pipehorses inspired me to learn to do macro underwater video! Pipehorse photographs taken on June 27 & July 1, 2019. Nikon d850/105vr/SMC/Subal U/W Housing.pipehorse,scuba diving,Blue Heron Bridge,Florida,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.compipehorse,scuba diving,Blue Heron Bridge,Florida,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com
pipehorse,scuba diving,Blue Heron Bridge,Florida,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.compipehorse,scuba diving,Blue Heron Bridge,Florida,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com

Since 2002 I’ve been scuba diving from Phil Foster Park, around and under the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach, Florida. Underwater photography has been my passion, but recently I wanted to show more of these submerged but fascinating stars of the bridge.Yes a lot has changed at Blue Heron Bridge over the years, but then again what interesting spot hasn’t changed and gotten more popular? I still love diving there and always see something new!

These pipehorses (Amphelikturus dendriticus) are an example of a fish I’d always wanted to see around Florida, but kept missing. In 2019 my dive buddies told me of a small colony of pipehorses at Blue Heron Bridge. Looking just like other small bits of seaweed the pipehorses were challenging to find, but worth the exciting search! Their antics were so special that I began to research what it would take to get high-quality 4K macro video of them? Fortunately my Nikon d850 is up to the task, although I didn’t learn how to maximize my camera’s video capabilities in time to capture the behavior of this small colony. The pipehorses at Blue Heron Bridge were wiped away by a bridge reconstruction project and I have not found any others to this day. I won’t stop looking though as they are the perfect subject for my new skill of underwater macro video. Pipehorses inspired me to do something new to me!

Recently, during this summer’s dives at Blue Heron Bridge I was determined to learn how to get some nice 4K video utilizing my Nikon d850. You may know I’ve been able to produce some high-quality wide angle manatee video with my setup, but macro video is another adventure entirely. The beautiful sensor of the Nikon d850 produces quite stunning images, so I knew its video would be lovely too.

I am very happy with the results! Here’s a link to my Vimeo account that will show it in its best 4K quality (without any ads).

Blue Heron Bridge Macro Life includes: Longsnout seahorse; Spotfin jawfish; Polkadot batfish; Common octopus; Striated frogfish; Arrow crab; Spotted scorpionfish with spongy decorator crab; Yellowhead jawfish; Northern stargazer; Florida regal seagoddess nudibranch; Yellow garden eel; Neck crab (with hydroids); Pipefish sp.

Here are unusual aspects to note in the video. I added them as chapter markers but if they don’t display, here’s the overview:

1. Longsnout seahorse recent eye injury. The day before his left eye was perfectly clear. I suspect he may have had an encounter with another male seahorse as territorial conflicts can happen. He hasn’t been spotted since, so it’s also possible he is an older seahorse and this is Rusty’s Swan Song? Notice his wrinkly brown well-used brood pouch. Rusty has welcomed many baby seahorses into this world. And maybe Rusty just moved on? His eye didn’t get in the way of his feeding the day I videoed him!

2. Spotted scorpionfish being preened by a small yellow spongy decorator crab. This was WILD! Forgive me for saying this but the spotted scorpionfish is perhaps the most boring fish at Blue Heron Bridge…, and then there was this adorable spongy decorator crab preening him? That’s a new crab species sighting for me. Is the preening consensual? Is it cleaning behavior? I am skeptical that it is cleaning behavior as scorpionfish commonly eat crabs! But again, the spongy crab is being so thorough! And crawling near and actually on the scorpionfish’s eye? That’s what I love about Blue Heron Bridge, there’s always something I’ve never seen before and never even imagined I’d see!

3. Longsnout seahorse, the same individual 24 hours before with healthy left eye. Later in the video is footage of Rusty from the day before with a healthy unmarked left eye. The eye injury happened in the 24 hours prior to when I found him the next day.

4. Unusual striated frogfish lure variation. Usually the lure is a split-lure, but this one looks like a pom pom of worms all tied together. It’s an unusual variation of the striated frogfish lure. I did find one similar though, from a photograph from 2019. But they usually have split-lures, that’s why they are also called the “split-lure frogfish.” So the lure variation is unusual?

It’s really amazing to show many of the creatures I’ve photographed over the years, now in motion! Do you see where the pipehorses would fit in brilliantly? We will find pipehorses again, along with many other small critters I want to video. Next time I’ll try adding my closeup Nauticam SMC lens to the video mix and more. This video passed the test of my 5k computer monitor and our new 4K LG OLED TV also. I really wanted to capture footage that I could watch on my TV and enjoy.

I’ll definitely be doing more video in the future! But there was one dive last month where I set the Nikon d850 up for photos instead of macro video. It was a beautiful and sublime dive with my long-time scuba buddy Elaine. Here’s photographs from that outing. Although I’m wishing I could have gotten video of that leopard searobin munching on that snapping shrimp!

A leopard searobin gulps down what is most likely a snapping shrimp. Look at those long antenna (or at least what’s left of them)! Remaining photographs were taken on July 23, 2021. Nikon d850/105vr/Subal U/W Housingleopard searobin, underwater ©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com ,scuba diving,behavior,leopard searobin, scuba diving, Blue Heron Bridge,©CGrant/oceangrant.comleopard searobin, underwater ©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com ,scuba diving,behavior,

Guilty as charged! I cannot pass up any opportunity to photograph an octopus. They can’t take a bad picture! Octopus, scuba diving,Blue Heron Bridge; Florida;©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com

Elaine was familiar with this Bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) and kindly introduced us. She knows what type of sargassum it craves. Aliens are real!Bobbit worm, Eunice aphrodtois face view Blue Heron Bridge Florida,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.comBobbit worm, Eunice aphrodtois face view Blue Heron Bridge Florida

And last but certainly not least, I am obsessed with the chemical-emitting bioluminescent lure of the polkadot baitfish. It’s featured in my video and here in photographs.Polkadot baitfish lure,scuba diving,underwater,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.comPolkadot baitfish lure,scuba diving,underwater,©️CGrant/Oceangrant.com

Well that does it for now! Photographs or video you can’t go wrong with the fascinating characters residing under the Blue Heron Bridge!

Get out and explore! Best, Carol