Tag Archives: nature

Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Black Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Black Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

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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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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Pacific Golden-Plover, Koloa, Kauai

Pacific Golden-Plover, Koloa, Kauai

Pacific Golden-Plover, Koloa, Kauai

Pacific Golden-Plover, Koloa, Kauai

Pacific Golden-Plover, Koloa, Kauai

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache NWR

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Filed under Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico bird photography, New Mexico birds

A Popular Place for Finches

I have a finch feeder hanging outside of my living room windows. It is not an expensive feeder, and I have to replace it fairly often. The finches love it, especially in snowy weather.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

Corrales birds, New Mexico birds, New Mexico bird photography.

You will note that I have taken these photos through a somewhat dirty window. It’s too cold to go outside and set up the blind. The weather station says 20 degrees F. outside.

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Songbirds of South Padre Island

In preparation for my trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival I had signed up for a couple of birding trips. While I am not a fan of large bus birding I was excited about attending Better Birding with Jon Dunn, especially when I learned that the trip would be in a small van along with local knowledgeable birder Dan Jones.

We loaded into the vans early in the morning. I was amazed at how quickly Jon and Dan spotted birds, and how accurately they were able to accurately identify birds that to me looked like little more than distant dots.

Our first stop was the Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is a very small area of six wooded lots in a residential area. South Padre Island is a crucial first landfall for birds making the arduous cross-Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and northern Central America. Especially after a spring storm, wooded lots on the island can produce a surprising number of warblers, tanagers, orioles and thrushes. We saw quite a few birds in this tiny area.

Northern Mockingbird, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Northern Mockingbird

Wood Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Wood Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Hermit Thrush

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Yellow-rumped Warbler

When we arrived at the South Padre Island Convention Center, everyone was excited about the recent sighting of a Fox Sparrow, which was very unusual for the area. In fact, I believe that it was a record sighting for the island. I wondered if I should just give up and go back to the van. I have a very difficult time distinguishing various types of sparrows. They tend to all look like small brown birds to me. Jon and Dan were very happy and enthusiastic about the outing, and catching their enthusiasm I adjusted my attitude and happily accompanied them to see if I could recognize anything.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders, SPI Convention Center.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders.

I had no problem recognizing a number of birds:

Wilson's Warbler, SPI Convention Center

Wilson's Warbler

Eastern Phoebe, SPI Convention Center

Eastern Phoebe

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory, SPI Convention Center.

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view

I saw birds that were new to me as well.

And yes, there were sparrows. I consulted my notes, my books and my ebooks, and I still have a great deal of difficulty differentiating sparrows. Jon Dunn and Dan Jones were very patient in pointing out the differences among sparrows. Perhaps I am hopeless. I make the following identifications with great trepidation. Please feel free to offer corrections.

Savannah Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Savannah Sparrow

Fox Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

The Fox Sparrow about which everyone was so excited.

Clay-colored Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Clay-colored Sparrow

After a fun day of birding, I paused at the SPI Convention Center to admire a beautiful Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly, SPI Convention Center

Monarch Butterfly

It was a lovely day, and it was a treat to go out with such knowledgeable and informative birders. I believe that I learned a little something about sparrow identification. The next day, however, would bring new challenges. I would go in search of shorebirds.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a “lister.” Because I was riding shotgun in the birding van, I was assigned to keep a list for the day, which you will see below. You will note that my post contains nothing about the shorebirds that we saw that day. Watch this space…

Birds seen November 11, 2011:

Amercan Kestrel
Neotropic Cormorant
Roseate Spoonbill
Great-tailed Grackle
Laughing Gull
Harris Hawk
Mourning Dove
Eastern Meadowlark
Loggerhead Shrike
Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Long-billed Thrasher
Red-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Aplomado Falcon
Long-billed Curlew
Peregrine Falcon
Osprey
Crested Caracara
Northern Mockingbird
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
White Ibis
White-winged Dove
Swamp Sparrow
Gray Catbird
House Sparrow
Dickcissel
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Orange-crowned Warbler
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Eastern Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
House Wren
Northern Flicker
Bewick’s Wren
Great Kiskadee
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Painted Bunting
Pyrrhuloxia
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Wilson’s Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Magnolia Warbler
Bewick’s Wren
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Gull-billed Tern
Forster’s Term
American White Pelican
Sanderling
Northern Harrier
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Caspian Tern
Snowy Egret
White Ibis
Black-bellied Plover
Piping Plover
Semi-palmated Plover
Herring Gull
Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Pintail
Sandwich Tern
Little Blue Heron
Tri-colored Heron
American Oystercatcher
Willet
Ruddy Turnstone
Lesser Scaup
Redhead
Sedge Wren
Grasshopper Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Nashville Warbler
Western Meadowlark
Snowy Plover
Winter Wren
Green Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Field Sparrow
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Plain Chachalaca
Black-crested Titmouse
Green Jay
Least Grebe
American Coot
Ring-necked Duck
Gadwall
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Common Gallinule
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
American Wigeon
Anhinga
Turkey Vulture
Marbled Godwit
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Rock Pigeon
White-tailed Kite

115 species

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Roseate Spoonbill, Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

Roseate Spoonbill, Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

Roseate Spoonbills Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

Roseate Spoonbills, Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

Roseate Spoonbills, Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

Roseate Spoonbills, Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, Texas.

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