Sunday, September 26, 2010

Land Crabs

We have several quite different land crabs around here. They're true crabs that have taken to living on land, or at least halfway between land and sea.

They have all managed the transition between water and air breathing, although often in quite different ways. This is a fairly momentous step for a mere crustacean.

Kayabang (Cardisoma hirtipes) live back in the coastal coconut groves, digging large holes, that, like earthworm casts, help circulate and aerate the soil.

Once a month, at full moon, dozens of kayabang come out of the coconuts, and head straight to the beach to mate and lay their eggs. They march purposefully in an almost straight line, often through the town. At the last full moon, one came straight through a group of us sitting outside Lourdes' Food House, only to be trapped by Big Marty's foot. He told me it made a good part of his breakfast. The local people go to the beach at full moon with flaming torches made from dried coconut leaves, and pick them up by the dozen.

Their claws are roughly equal size, but still just as vicious, and they are fiercely defencive.

This is one who came through the house, and finally ended up defending my dish rack.

Kayangjan (Cardisoma armatum) live near creeks and mangroves, and don't have the same mass mating system.

One claw is much bigger than the other. The right hand claw is usually the bigger. This is similar to humans, whose right hand is usually the stronger.

Because of their bright colours, they are known as rainbow crabs in other areas, and are very common all over the Pacific.

Friday, September 24, 2010


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Andreas the Asshole - Again

My wonderful next door neighbour has done it again - first he stole the copy from my website and pretended he'd written it himself. Now he's copied a map that I spent a lot of time making (from naval charts, etc). So I'm going to sue him. Not that it will do much good - his wife (Elizabeth) is closely related to the Surigao City legal mafia.

Smoked Eel

You might not think that this is a very appetising looking fish. I can assure you it is, and very much sought after.

This English site sells roughly 100gm portions of vacuum packed smoked eel for £6.45 (that's P450/$10/100gm, or P4500/$100 per kilo)

Viktor (phone (+63 920 287 2450) sells exactly the same self-smoked stuff without all the fancy packaging for P401/$7/kilo. It's the same species as American or European eels (or at least one of the two - you have to count their vertebrae to tell the difference, so good luck to you).

The eels come from the small river that leads up from the mangrove swamps at Pilar, to Maasin in the middle of the island, and they are caught there when they migrate upstream to breed; with fish baskets, and then thumped on the head with a bolo, as you can see.

Eels are becoming very rare in Europe, because of pollution of the major rivers, which is why they are expensive. These local ones are a lot cheaper, but still as delicious.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RIP Herbert

Herbert died last night, just before his scheduled release into the wild (well, my garden). I don't know why he expired so suddenly; I fed him on coconuts, and he seemed very active. There are plenty enough coconuts in my garden to have sustained him.

These crabs never go through a seafood stage; they graduate to a wholly terrestrial lifestyle after only a month's infancy in the sea. The young ones are very common indeed; they are virtually every terrestrial hermit crab you might come across here, and they all have a characteristic large left claw, which closes off their shelter shell..

Piglet Feast

My piglets are now 6 weeks old, so I am going to sacrifice 2 of them as lechon de leche - genuine suckling pigs, and invite a few friends to try them.

Filipinos call anything grill/roasted a Lechon (even a chicken - Litson Manok) so this is just a personal gesture against misunderstood Spanish words.

We're having smoked chicken and various strange pickles as well. Will tell you how they go.

I will be making a stunning pork pate with the heads and feet, plus the livers and hearts. It will be sealed with a mixture of butter and pork fat, and will probably last me a couple of years lke the last one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Crowd 9

Cloud 9 - The best surf break in the Philippines is not doing very much in this photo, which is why there are so many aspiring surfers trying their stuff.

Too many.

When the break is really pumping, and the rollers are coming in huge from some passing typhoon, none but the brave and foolhardy will even try to surf it.

Very Junior Coconut Crab

This is a very junior Coconut Crab (Birgus latro), and almost completely land-adapted, except for about a month in the sea in its extreme youth.

This particular one has been visiting my house regularly over the past few years, but I didn't recognise its species.

This very crab has woken me up at night by scrabbling up my book-cases, and falling off.

It has been using the very same Fox Shell (Pleuroploca trapezium) for all this time, but it's getting a bit battered, mainly because I got fed up with it, and used to kick it into the middle distance every time it turned up on my front doorstep.

These, to the right, are part of a harvest of shell-bearing crabs from my garden, collected by my neighbour's little boy. You can probably recognise the fox shell shown above at the top centre. I can't be sure, because I didn't recognise them at the time, but I would bet that most of them are Birgus latro wannabes.

In which case, most of them have very little chance of ever making it to monster size. There are simply not enough large shells on land, or washed up to the top of the beach, to give them ways to grow.

Probably many of these shells will be used over and over again, in a crab's vain hopes of growing up. There is a lot of competition for new houses.

Some may well turn into monster terror crabs, if they get a lot more chances, but I think most will have run out of large shells to inhabit in the meantime.

Because of the offshore reef in GL we get very few wavy storms within the lagoon, so very few larger shells get washed up. Most that do end up on land have been harvested by local fishermen. Certain of those, like baler shells, helmet shells, and conchs, are plenty large enough, but have strangely shaped apertures that can't accomodate a crab comfortably. They like a circular aperture that they can easily plug with their major claw and one leg.

About the only local shell that a large Birgus latro can use is a Triton, but these are becoming very rare. If one is seen walking around, the crab is casually sacrificed so the shell can be sold.