Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kauai Part 2: All the magic seabirds that live by the sea... (#243-248)

So things are getting down to the assignment due this week, taxes due sometime soon...(?), photos to edit, social appearances to make, garden to get growing, trips to plan, guests to host...all to say I'm doing some mega-procrastinating and find myself here. at least I'm still getting something done that needs to get done, right?

So it's now a month ago but let's close our eyes and transport ourselves back to the beautiful island of Kauai, at the beginning of my trip. Need a refresher? Wave-crashed lava coast, secluded beaches, green mountains, smell of the ocean and freshness in the air, windswept and salty hair, awesome surf, teeny tiny bikinis and fresh avocados and papayas on the side of the red dirt road (oh wait! this calls for an INTERLUDE! i know I said we were only going back to Hawaii in March 2013, but let's actually go a little farther east circa 2003...just for a second!)

Right of the bat, on day one, we headed to Kilauea Lighthouse, which was close to where we are staying and a great spot because a) it is beautiful and b) it's a great spot to see seabirds. I should mention right away that Matt took almost all of these shots as I'm apparently quite useless photographing moving objects and he's quite useless shooting still's that for yin and yang?

ok, I took this one.
#243: Red-footed booby; Kauai, March 2013
Love the colours on the bill of this bird! There were so many of them at Kilauea, nesting on the cliffsides. 

#244: Laysan Albatross; Kauai, March 2013
Don't be deceived by this picture of a kind of average-looking bird. There is nothing average about it, with a six-foot wingspan, the Laysan has a big story to tell. I first became familiar with this bird when I watched the midway videos by photographer Chris Jordan. If you haven't seen them, you must, but you are fairly warned: they are heartbreaking. They will change how you live your life. Laysan are a threatened species. They have a large breeding colony on Midway in the middle of the ocean in abandoned navy buildings. Chicks eat chips of the lead paint from the buildings and are poisoned. The parents also mistake plastic floating in the ocean as food and feed it to their chicks, who them die because their bellies are full of plastic. It is horrifying. So STOP USING PLASTIC. NOW.

You probably can't see it in this web version of this image, but Albie here has a band on his leg. You can report sightings of banded birds to the U.S. Geological Survey/Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, which helps them monitor them. They break down the types of bands by material and colour and what those things mean for you. So rad! Go science!

#245: Great Frigatebird; Kauai, March 2013
I had seen magnificent frigatebirds in Mexico, and they sure look similar but these are different. During our trip I had to have faith in the guidebook that there were no Magnificents in Hawaii so I knew for sure I was looking at a lifer. I like to know what I'm looking at because I can see all the identifiers, not just trust the map. Of course, we have to remember that the keys to identification work together, and ranges is one of those things (for more on the others, see Cornell's Birding Basics). I've just never really trusted maps because they can change, and if birds wander like I do you could never rely on a map.

I've done some more research and can now positively identify this as a female Great because of the white throat/breast. Not surprisingly, these birds were hanging around Kilauea, where there is a huge booby colony, whose nests they harass (means birds).
#246: Red-Tailed Tropicbird; Kauai, March 2013
I can't believe this amazing shot Matt's like an angel...
#247: White-Tailed Tropicbird; Kauai, March 2013
White-tailed tropicbirds seemed fewer than red-tailed. And equally difficult to photograph.

Shearwater nesting sites are all around this part of the island. It's majorly difficult because of cats get at the ground nests, and people let their dogs of leash and they kill the birds too. The park staff said if we wanted to see thousands of shearwaters, all we had to do was come at dusk. Unfortunately we never made it...

Later on in the week, we took a catamaran trip along the Na Pali coast. This wasn't really meant to be a birdwatching outing, but we still managed to get a lifer! Plus breaching humpback whales and the amazing scenery didn't hurt at all! This laughing gull hung around the back of our boat for a while, while a humpback was jumping beside us. I think everyone thought the camera was facing the wrong direction!
Laughing gull

And later on, around sunset, I saw this one off in the distance...a lifer! We didn't see these at Kilauea, so that was pretty exciting.

#248: Brown booby, Barking Sands/Na Pali Coast, Kauai, March 2013

The day after Kilauea we headed to Hanalei Wildlife Refuge for marsh birds of Kauai. Also expect some local sightings coming up too. Stay tuned!

Kauai Part 1: Two Chickens in Paradise (#237-241)
Kauai Part 3: In a land called Hanalei...(marsh birds) (#251-256)
Kauai Part 4: Coming soon!
Kauai Part 5: Coming soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

And now, we interrupt your scheduled programming...(for another owl!) (#242)

I know I promised another Hawaii post, but there are lots of exciting things on the local bird scene as the mercury slowly creeps up (and back down again, and back up, every few days it seems). Spring is in the air, and so is the song of bird courtship. The signs are all there...those birdies are getting ready to make babies!

Several weeks ago, I caught wind that there was a great-horned owl in the area. With no real specific leads, I went with a hunch and managed to find it with some sleuthing and keen observation. Nadia was in town so she was brought along on this adventure too. She was a great sport.
matching earmuffs and bird seed at the ready
The owl was snoozing and had its head tucked in and behind a bunch of branches. It didn't seem to be moving anytime soon, so we left to walk for a bit. On the way back, we passed by again, and it was being mobbed by 5 or 6 rowdy crows. The crows left as soon as we did, so hopefully it got a few minutes of peace. We left again, since we still couldn't get a very good look--only the bottom half.

After we dropped Nadia off at her destination, we decided we'd try another shot. This time Matt asked his principal if she wanted to join us, as he's apparently been recounting our birding adventures to his teaching colleagues to much awe and wonder (maybe I'm exaggerating a little...). I guess she must have been curious what it's like to go on a birding adventure. It seems everyone thinks "Big Year" (a la Owen Wilson/Jack Black/Steve Martin) when they find out we are birders---and it's something like that, to an extent I guess. She brought along her two kiddos, who learned what it's all about...the great outdoors, and sometimes, a ton of patience. It's nice to see kids out there learning about this stuff and being outside...I think I'm going to grow a little army of mini birders...yes?

This is the 5th species of owl we've seen this year alone (actually 6th...there was one in Hawaii but it was too far to tell what kind it was). When I started birding, I dreamed of seeing owls, but I could never spot them. They are so hard to see; in the day, they don't move much or make sounds, and those are the main ways we spot birds. There are really two ways to spot owls, I have determined:

  1. getting a tip from someone in the know.
  2. extreme luck. 

This leaves me with only a few owl species left to spot, in these parts anyway--a barn owl is my next target!

#242: Great-Horned Owl; Ottawa, Ontario. March 2013
oh, hey there. well aren't you handsome?
I'm getting older so it took me awhile to catch onto this YOLO thing. But I thought this is pretty cute. And true. 

Violet and Donovan stop to feed the chickadees.
via Etsy
On they way home, we headed to Hilda. Found this cute little one along the road.
The redpolls were still there in huge numbers. It was the end of the day and I didn't feel like revisiting the differences between the subspecies so we just snapped a few pics and went our merry way.
When I went home for Easter, I was disappointed that dad told me I had missed the huge rafts of migrating ducks at the island (why doesn't he just call me and tell me??). I always seem to miss them by a week or two. We still saw lots of duckies on the way though, and my fave ones at that.
hooded of my faves
Looks like somebody forgot to account for the wire when casting their line 
found another little buddy!
Too bad the focus was on the male when this happened.
lots of river friends today!
beautiful wood these too!
Spring is definitely on its way...can't wait for the warblers to start showing up! Ok, next post will be Hawaii, Part II--that's a promise! Come back soon!