Tag Archives: nature
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.
We wandered around the grounds, admiring the flowers.
There were beautiful orchids.
There were other lovely flowers as well.
There were lovely hibiscus throughout the 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.
There were many Hawai’ian Moorhens in this area …
… and Cattle Egrets flying overhead.
I was fascinated by the multicolored bark of the Mindinao Gum Tree.
As we walked along the trail we saw more lovely tropical flowers.
I stopped on a small bridge to gaze at the stream …
… 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.
This was where I had seen a lovely double rainbow earlier in my trip.
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!
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.
I love watching the Red-footed Boobies!
These birds, though ungainly and awkward on the ground, are lovely and graceful in flight.
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.
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.
I was fortunate enough to have one fly right over my head. I was, at last, able to get a nice sharp photo.
By far the most beautiful birds are the tropicbirds, both red-tailed and white-tailed. They are enchanting to watch.
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 have feet that are only half as webbed as other geese, and they have longer toes for climbing on the rocky Hawai’ian surfaces.
This Nene pair let me take a close photo of their darling 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.
And did I mention that in winter you can see migrating humpback whales spouting from Kilauea point?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Spinner Dolphins swam along with the boat from time to time.
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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.
Eric and I had a wonderful time on the seven-hour cruise. I could feel the boat pitching for the remainder of the day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had no problem recognizing a number of birds:
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.
After a fun day of birding, I paused at the SPI Convention Center to admire a beautiful 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:
Great Blue Heron
Eurasian Collared Dove
Eastern Hermit Thrush
American White Pelican
Little Blue Heron