Andre Zarour, a 14-year-old boy who is an avid bird watcher and photographer, captured an eagle ray as it leaped gracefully out of the water in the Bay of Eilat on Thursday. He was there with his father to observe sea birds and other fowl. The young Zarour aimed his camera at a tern flying toward him when the rare sea creature appeared at the center of his frame.
"My son attempted to photograph a Caspian tern, and out of nowhere, something leaped from the water, and he successfully captured it," Henry Zarour said. "At first, we weren't certain about the species, but after consulting experts, we realized that it was an exceedingly rare documentation of a white-spotted eagle ray in mid-jump. Such an event has never been documented in Israel, and possibly elsewhere in the world. They spring into the air for a fleeting moment, making it exceptionally difficult to photograph."
The white-spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) is a species of ray that can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. It is known for its distinctive appearance, with a dark upper body and white spots on its back and sides.
It has a diamond-shaped flattened body like other rays and can grow up to 5 meters (16 Feet) in length and can weigh up to 230 kilograms (500 pounds). Its wingspan can reach up to 3 meters (10 feet). The upper side of its body is usually dark gray or black, while the underside is white.
"Our observations reveal that the adults tend to visit Eilat from May to August, coinciding with their breeding season," says Adi Barash, head of the 'Sharks in Israel' foundation. "The younger rays seem particularly active during the summer months, often lingering near the northern beach of the southern resort town, for extended periods before maturing and venturing into deeper waters.
"A remarkable aspect captured for the first time by a photographer is their airborne leaps above the water's surface, a phenomenon that occurs even during the peak of boat traffic along the northern coast. While we were aware of their practice, this documentation provides valuable insights. The white-spotted eagle ray is classified as a species of concern in terms of conservation efforts," she says.