Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kauai Part 1: Two Chickens in Paradise (#237-241)

Surprise! we just got back from an amazing trip to Kauai. Our long series of plane rides landed us at Lihu'e Airport just about as the sun was setting. Over the traditional Hawaiian music that a small band was playing at the open-air baggage carousel, I keyed in to what I had been waiting for--bird song. I kept having urges to abandon the baggage and run after birds. We had a lot to do that night--eat, drive up to where we were staying and get to bed since we were pretty excited, so the best looks I got where from a car speeding along Kuhio Highway (not really what you think of as a "highway"). However, at least a few birds where immediately apparent--the chickens and roosters...everywhere(!), the mynas, house sparrows (they've got those too!) and the doves.

Even though the windows were shut at the hotel, I could hear the roosters crowing at the first light of our first day. That's ok, because I was up before that anyway (thanks jet lag!). When we stepped out onto the balcony, it was just a matter of picking one bird to focus on...there were lots of birds, and every one of them a lifer.

These pictures and posts won't be in chronological order, but since there were so many birds I thought I'd do it in a way that makes sense. So let's get started!

#237: Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose); March 2013; Princeville, Kauai, HI
Turns out these geese like the pool as much as people do. Only they got to stay at the hotel for a lot less than we did! While they look like our Canadian friends the Canada Goose, don't confuse them. Nenes can only be seen on three of the Hawaiian islands and are considered a vulnerable species.We did have the luck to see lots of baby nenes!
Later in the week after a day in Koke'e State Park
There were two doves in Hawaii, neither of which are here at home. The spotted dove is about the same size as a mourning dove.

#238: Spotted Dove; March 2013; Kauai
This introduced bird from Asia is roughly the same size as our mourning dove, an looks pretty similar too.
#239: Zebra Dove; March 2013; Kauai 
The zebra dove is much smaller and so absolutely cute. They get busy with up to 5 clutches a year! These ones were imported from Malaysia in 1922---they are everywhere.
Kauai has house sparrows too! This was one of the few (3 or 4) types of birds we saw that we also have at home.
I've never included chickens before because they are always on farms and not wild. Hawaii is an interesting case. Since Hurricane Iniki destoyed chicken coops in 1992, the chickens have escaped and have multiplied and are just about everywhere. And since there are no predators (aside from the feral cats I suppose)...they multiply quite successfully. I've investigated if I can count this bird since technically it wild; however, it is not listed on the ABA checklist. And while we're on the topic, why not check out this great article on the many types of chickens and none of them can be counted. There were lots of little chicks around when we were cute!

#240: Common Myna; March 2013; Kauai
The mynas were one of our favourites. We just love how they look so angry. ANGRY BIRDS! We saw them bathing in the hotel fountains and I wish I got a shot of it, but I never caught them red-handed again. They were introduced in 1865 from India to control army worms in sugarcane crops and pastures.
#241: Japanese White-Eye; March 2013; Kauai.
Introduced in 1927 by the Hui Manu. This is another angry looking bird!

The hotel grounds were dripping with birds...I was a bad birder and took much enjoyment feeding them an watching them run after the cracker bits. Sadly I wanted the cardinals and the mynas to get some but the chickens were always too fast:
To sum up, of the birds in the post, the Nēnē is the only one that's actually native to Kauai. Sadly, the island's endemic birds are generally harder to find, and the easiest to spot have all been introduced. That doesn't mean that I don't find them amazing to watch and great to see.

*In case you were wondering, this post's title is a phrase that I modified from Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise (which is extra funny since I'm vegetarian) and Eddie Money's "Two tickets to Paradise." I belted it out without warning and whenever I pleased (to the tune of Money's song, of course). Just thought I would clarify since everyone who has seen the Facebook album has asked who the two chickens are (since they assume I'm referring to Matt and me).

Kauai Part 2: All the magic seabirds that live by the sea... (#243-248)
Kauai Part 3: In a land called Hanalei...(marsh birds) (#251-256)
Kauai Part 4: Coming soon!
Kauai Part 5: Coming soon! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wuk, wuk, wuk!

You know how sometimes the universe just lines things up for you? I've been trying to spot the pileated that hangs out in my hood with no luck. Then yesterday (I mean yesterday when I wrote this...about two weeks ago!) while I was at home the gas guy came to replace the meter, so I threw on my jacket to take him around to the backyard, and there is was, right in front of the house. On my way back around, it was still there so I ran furiously inside to grab my camera, but by the time I was out, it was gone.

So I settled back in to work, and even though it's winter so the windows are clearly shut, I can hear the loud call of the pileated and I race back out--this time it's a few houses down, then it flies off and stops at my house (!), and then back to where I spotted it first. Finally it stayed put for a few minutes...

you know you are a crazy bird lady when you hear and identify a pileated call even though all the windows are shut and you grab camera, memory card and bolt for the door like a bat out of hell...

Lots of posts around the corner...lots on plate right now but I will do my best to get them up. do check back soon :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Year of the Owl (#235-236)

I've been holding off on this post for a while, but I think it's finally time to post. I hit the trails (I'm intentionally being a little vague here...) a few weeks ago on my birthday, hoping for another birthday lifer (remember last year?) This was probably a little optimistic but it was still a beautiful walk. The woods were feeling particularly magical with beautiful snow falling (and there ended up being a pretty major snowstorm that night). 
There were lots of deer and even a not-so-wild turkey that approached. I seriously thought I was going to have to run....
Someone has created a sweet little memorial with bird and deer feeders and beautiful little handmade wind catchers and a sign. I don't know if Deer George was a dude or a deer, but I thought that that is a very nice way to be remembered. 
Very keen nuthatch--normally they are a little more shy than this, but this one kept coming back again and again!
I did go back on the weekend as I was on a mission. While walking the trail, this white mass passed right overhead--I swear, I wouldn't have seen or heard it if I hadn't been looking in the right direction.  Some people farther down the trail spotted it where it had landed. We continued on for a 1-2 hour hike and when we came back, it was still sitting in the exact same spot, not giving a hoot (ha) about its onlookers (including several ankle biters located directly underneath it). 

#235: Barred Owl
heart-shaped face---love

orange feeders on the trail
There has been quite a bit of hubbub around here about even more owls. I finally spotted this one with some tips from a few birders. It was best the first time I saw it--when there was nobody else there. Now the area is getting pretty ridiculous in the same way Green's Creek is.

I adore this owl--it is quite tiny but very intense looking. He cocks his head to try and figure you out and rolls his head around on his neck and it's quite hilarious to watch.

#236: Northern Hawk Owl

It looks pretty aggressive in this next shot but it was actually just stretching its wings...slowly one wing came all the way down and then they both went up and it settled back down...moving in much the way a hobbit does.
need to fix the colour on these..I don't know what the heck happened
And finally, another wildlife sighting, something a little different, not too far from home. Spotted this coywolf/coydog (the jury is still out) in a farm field beside Eagleson and very close to home. Looks healthy anyway...