Tag Archives: birds

A New Mexican at The Biggest Week

From the first time that I heard of The Biggest Week in American Birding, a birding festival on the south shore of Lake Erie in Ohio, I wanted to go. I had planned to go last year, but professional obligations kept me from attending. This year I was determined to attend. I rented a little cottage right on Lake Erie very near Magee Marsh.

I arrived rather late on Saturday evening, and I was pleased to have dinner with birding friends Dawn and Jeff Fine and equally pleased to see and meet other old and new birding friends.

The next morning I woke up early and headed for Magee Marsh. I was looking forward to attending a photo workshop with Christopher Taylor. I had followed him on Twitter for four years. I am an admirer of his work, and I was anxious to meet him in person.

Our little group of eight photographers set out along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, looking for warblers and other migrants.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Christopher Taylor (far right) leads a group of photographers in search of migrants.

There were many warblers in the trees, but many of them were in the shadows. This is a situation that I am not much accustomed to encountering in sunny New Mexico, and I struggled a bit to adjust my camera.

The Biggest Week in American

Yellow Warbler

I seem to have a certain effect on birds when I attempt to photograph them.

Biggest Week in American Birding

This is the most common view I had of warblers on my first day in Ohio.

This Palm Warbler was sitting prettily on a branch until I tried to photograph it.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

A Palm Warbler flees from my camera.

We spent some time watching a Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling still in the nest. Here is the nest, which was right on the boardwalk.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Do you see the hole in the tree? That’s the chickadee nest!

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding an almost-grown fledgling,

A highlight of the morning was seeing a pair of Great Horned Owlets that were almost ready to fledge.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Aren’t they adorable?

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Another look at the Great Horned Owlets

Of course, being a handsome, successful photographer isn’t only endless birds and admiration. There can be fallout from standing under trees filled with warblers.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Chris Taylor is appalled that those lovely warblers would treat him with disrespect.

I am now four days into my personal Biggest Week. I have seen more warblers in three days than I have seen in my entire life, and I’ve even taken photos of some of them. My slow internet connection makes it difficult for me to do many blog posts, but they will come along in a few days. In the meantime, please enjoy Christopher Taylor’s beautiful photos here

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Beautiful McBryde National Botanical Garden

On our last day in Kaua’i Eric and I decided to visit McBryde National Botanical Garden. The garden is close to the condo where we were staying, and Eric is very fond of any outing involving horticultural adventure. Almost as soon as we arrived at the garden I heard the distinctive call of the White-rumped Shama. After a bit of searching, I was able to locate it in a palm tree.

White-rumped Shama, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

White-rumped Shama

We wandered around the grounds, admiring the flowers.

There were beautiful orchids.

Orchid, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Orchid, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Orchid, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

There were other lovely flowers as well.

'Awapuhi kuahiwi, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

'Awapuhi kuahiwi

Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawai'ian Baby Woodrose

Amaryllis, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Amaryllis

There were lovely hibiscus throughout the garden.

Hibiscus, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Hibiscus, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

We took a tram to a remote area of the gardens, which was quite beautiful. We walked along a stream through lush, tropical vegetation.

McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

There were many Hawai’ian Moorhens in this area …

Hawaiian Moorhen, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawai'ian Moorhen

… and Cattle Egrets flying overhead.

Cattle Egret, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Cattle Egret

I was fascinated by the multicolored bark of the Mindinao Gum Tree.

Mindinao Gum Tree, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Mindinao Gum Tree

As we walked along the trail we saw more lovely tropical flowers.

Heliconia, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Heliconia

Brugmansia, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

Brugmansia

I stopped on a small bridge to gaze at the stream …

Stream, McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden

… and realized that it was time to leave.

We made one last stop at Spouting Horn to watch the waves force water through the lava tubes.

Spouting Horn, Kauai, Hawaii

Spouting Horn

This was where I had seen a lovely double rainbow earlier in my trip.

Double rainbow, Kauai, Hawaii

As we drove to the airport I was once again amazed at how quickly two weeks in Kaua’i had gone by. I can hardly wait to return next year!

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A Return to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

A highlight of my annual visit to Kaua’i is a visit to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 when the land and the historic lighthouse were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the U.S. Coast Guard. The ocean cliffs and open grassy slopes of an extinct volcano provide breeding grounds for native Hawai’ian seabirds and Nene, the endangered Hawai’ian goose.Kilauea Point gives visitors the unique opportunity to see Red-footed Boobies, Laysan Albatross and other seabirds in their natural habitat. In winter the National Marine Sanctuary waters off Kilauea are home to migrating Humpback Whales.

When you arrive at Kilauea Point the first thing that you notice is the astonishing numbers of huge seabirds circling around the point.

Great Frigatebird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Great Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

A Great Frigatebird hunts over the ocean.

I love watching the Red-footed Boobies!

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge,

Red-footed Booby

These birds, though ungainly and awkward on the ground, are lovely and graceful in flight.

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby

The Red-footed Boobies are excellent fishers. The frigatebirds are less skilled and often steal fish from the unfortunate boobies. It is common to see frigatebirds chasing boobies.

Great Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The chase is on!

Great Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The chase continues.

For me, the most impressive birds are the Laysan Albatross. These huge birds fly so fast that they’re difficult to photograph. Most of my photos of them are not very sharp.

Laysan Albatross, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Laysan Albatross

I was fortunate enough to have one fly right over my head. I was, at last, able to get a nice sharp photo.

Laysan Albatross, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Laysan Albatross

By far the most beautiful birds are the tropicbirds, both red-tailed and white-tailed. They are enchanting to watch.

White-tailed Tropicbird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

White-tailed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Nene wander on the grounds near the lighthouse. The official bird of the state of Hawaiʻi, the Nene is exclusively found in the wild on the islands of Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi.

Nene family, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene family

Nene have feet that are only half as webbed as other geese, and they have longer toes for climbing on the rocky Hawai’ian surfaces.

Nene feet, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene feet closeup.

This Nene pair let me take a close photo of their darling gosling.

Nene gosling, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene gosling

The recently restored historic Kilauea Lighthouse is a beautiful sight. The first phase of the restoration work was completed in November 2008 when the anchor bolts securing the lantern room to the concrete tower were repaired and replaced. The second phase of the restoration involved repairing the unique cast iron roof and lantern assembly and stabilizing the fragile lens. The final phase, which was finished within the past year, entailed repairs to the concrete tower, opening the closed vents and window openings, installing new windows, and removing some exterior coating to return the tower to its original appearance.

Historic Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Historic Kilauea Lighthouse

And did I mention that in winter you can see migrating humpback whales spouting from Kilauea point?

Migrating Humpback Whale, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Migrating Humpback Whale

Here is a short video that I took at Kilauea NWR:

If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel to the beautiful island of Kaua’i, be sure to include a visit Kilauea Point in your travel plans.

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Boobies, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

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A Rough Voyage to Ni’ihau and Lehua

One of the activities that my son Eric and I enjoy when we travel to Kaua’i is a snorkel cruise along the Na Pali coast. This year we decided to book our trip with a different charter company than we have used in the past because they visit the area between the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau and Lehua Island State Bird Sanctuary. We were a bit concerned about taking a cruise this year because of unusually stormy seas on Kaua’i’s south coast this December, but we decided to go forward with our plan. This particular cruise required us to be at the dock in Port Allen at 6:00 am. It was dark and a bit windy, but warm. We set off, and eventually the sun began to rise behind the catamaran.

Kauai sunrise at sea

Kaua'i sunrise at sea

As the windy, cloudy day began to lighten, we could see the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau, which lies about 18 miles west of Kaua’i, touched by the dawn colors.

The Forbidden Island of Niihau

The Forbidden Island of Ni'ihau touched by dawn colors.

Ni’ihau is one of the smaller main islands in the archipelago. It has been owned by the same Caucasian family since they bought it from King Kamehameha IV for $10,000 in the 1860′s. The population of about 200 are nearly all are of pure Hawai’ian descent, and the island is also the last spot on Earth where the Hawai’ian language is routinely spoken.

The imposing cliffs of Na Pali were difficult to photograph in the early morning light. You can see a Brown Booby flying over the cliffs.

Na Pali cliffs, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali cliffs in the early morning light.

Here is another Brown Booby as it flew past the boat. It was the first close look that we had of these birds that day, but it would not be the last look that we had.

Brown Booby, Kauai, Hawaii

Brown Booby

The day was cloudy and misty, and the sea conditions were quite rough, all of which contributed to very difficult photo conditions. You can still see how lovely the coastline is. Here are a few photos of the Na Pali coast:

Na Pali coastline, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali, Kauai, Hawaii,

Na Pali, Kauai, Hawaii,

We pulled into a sheltered cove to get a brief respite from the rough conditions, and a Green Sea Turtle (Honu) swam alongside the catamaran.

Green Sea Turtle, Honu, Na Pali, Kauai,

Green Sea Turtle (Honu)

Spinner Dolphins swam along with the boat from time to time.

Spinner Dolphins, Na Pali, Kauai

Spinner Dolphins

We saw migrating Humpback Whales in the distance, but none came close enough to the boat for photos.

We crossed over to the crescent-shaped area between Ni’ihau and Lehua Island State Bird Sanctuary. The lack of running water on Lehua and Niihau keep the waters around Lehua very clear. As we approached Lehua, we began to see many seabirds:

Brown Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

Brown Booby

Brown Boobies, Lehua, Hawaii

Brown Boobies roosting on the Lehua cliffs

Red-footed Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

Red-footed Booby

Great Frigatebird, Lehua, Hawaii

Great Frigatebird

(I will note for the record that I did not take my birding lens on this boat. Given the weather and the rough sea conditions, it was all I could do to handle one camera with a zoom lens.)

The weather in the crescent-shaped area near Lehua was clear and much calmer than the rough seas which we had experienced earlier in the day. We anchored near Lehua and got ready to go into the water for snorkeling. It would be my second attempt with my underwater camera.

The coral on the ocean floor was beautiful. The reef appeared to be very healthy. We were cautioned not to touch the living coral.

Coral, Lehua, Hawaii

Coral on the ocean floor

Our boat was anchored at the edge of a steep drop in the ocean floor. We could peer more than a hundred feet down into the depths.

Coral and fish, Lehua, Hawaii

Coral and fish where the ocean floor drops down.

After snorkeling and lunch, we started back to Port Allen. We saw a Monk Seal sleeping on the Lehua cliffs at the edge of the water.

Monk Seal, Lehua, Hawaii

Monk Seal

We set off through very rough seas for the voyage back to Port Allen. I was happy that I am not susceptible to seasickness; others were less fortunate. I barely kept my footing on the pitching boat as I caught this last photo of a Brown Booby.

Brown Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

One last Brown Booby photo

Eric and I had a wonderful time on the seven-hour cruise. I could feel the boat pitching for the remainder of the day.

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Little Blue Heron

I liked the light in these photos, taken at Laguna Madre Bay near Port Isabel, Texas on a cloudy day.

Laguna Madre Bay, Texas

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

Little Blue Heron, Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas,

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A Birding Expedition on Laguna Madre Bay

A highlight of my trip to South Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was a pontoon boat trip on Laguna Madre Bay with Scarlet Colley of the The South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Nature Center. We arrived at the dock in Port Isabel just at sunrise on a cloudy morning.

Laguna Madre Bay

Sunrise at Port Isabel

Six of us boarded the pontoon boat with Scarlet and Dan Jones, an excellent local birding guide.

As we cruised slowly around the harbor, Brown Pelicans seemed to be everywhere.

Laguna Madre Bay

Brown Pelican

Black-necked Stilts waded in the shallows.

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas.

Black-necked Stilt

A Great Blue Heron was fishing in the harbor…

Laguna Madre Bay

Great Blue Heron

… and a Common Tern hunted overhead.

Laguna Madre Bay

Common Tern

Black Skimmers were resting on the sand bars, occasionally making forays out over the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Black Skimmer

Once we were out on the bay, we saw many wading birds:

Laguna Madre Bay

Little Blue Heron

Laguna Madre Bay

Whimbrel

Laguna Madre Bay

Marbled Godwit

Laguna Madre Bay

American Oystercatcher

I am always excited to see Roseate Spoonbills with their lovely pink color and prehistoric faces.

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills fly overhead

There were groups of Red Knots feeding on the sand bars in the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Red Knots

As we headed farther out into the bay Rozzi, Scarlet’s dog, began to bark excitedly.

Laguna Madre Bay

Rozzi

We soon saw the cause of her excitement …

Laguna Madre Bay

Bottlenose Dolphin

… but I will save that for another post.

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