Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Midway

We hit the ground counting albatross nests here on Sand and Eastern Islands. Hundreds of thousands of albatross nests to be counted. More on the importance if the data later.

We wanted to share a few photos. 

A pair of nesting Brown Boobies amongst the albatross. They were involved in interesting mating behavior. 

A view of the sunrise as we were preparing to head to Eastern Island for the day. 

The stars of the show - the albatross;)

Merry & Happy Holidays­čÄů

Turtle & Hawk

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Big Island Birds- What a Treat!

We have been in Kona Hawaii (The Big Island) for a week getting ready for our trip to Midway Atoll to count Albatross nests. We leave tomorrow!

We were able to get out birding a few times and we wanted to share some photos of a few of the birds we have seen. 

On Sunday we participated in the annual open house for the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. The KBCC was formed by a few groups for the critical task of breeding almost extinct birds on the Hawaiian Islands in captivity. The big one is the Alala (Hawaiian Crow) which is now extinct in the wild. They have been successfully breeding the Alala in captivity and have approximately 175 between 2 locations. They are also breeding the Paiohi (Small Kaua'i Thrush) , Maui Parrottbill and the Palia. All  critically endangered birds. It was an amazing experience to get the opportunity to see the Alala and other birds at close range. Unfortunately they ask folks to not share photos in public forums- such as this blog.  It was a lifetime dream to actually see them. 

Sunday morning, before our visit to KBCC, we stopped at Bird Park which is part of Volcanos National Park. One of our favorite spots to take a walk. This forest is a mixed forest of multiple tree species located on the flank of Mauna Loa. 

Erckel's Francolin

The ever hard to photograph- Apapane

This was a first- we have heard this bird before in Kaua'i - it is very loud and they call to one another. It is the Hwamei or Gray-sided Laughing Thrush. 

These Japanese White-eyes are everywhere!

The following bird is the Hawaii Elepaio- what a cutie- they are very curious and will follow hikers along the trail. 

The next photogenic bird is the Hawaii Amakihi. It is interesting that almost all of the endemic birds have different species on each island. 

On Tuesday this week we visited one of our favorite birding spots up on Saddle Rd- Pu'u O'o Trail. This trail is a historical trail designed to take cattle from the interior part of the island down to Hilo to be shipped to the Main Land. The forest here is intermittent with tracks of Ohia and Koa trees amongst old lava flows. These tracks or islands are remnant old growth plants and trees that survived the surrounding lava flows. These are called Kipukas. Here are a few of the photos from Tuesday's outing:

The trees with the red blossoms are the Ohia. You can see many of the birds feeding on these blossoms. 

These are Koa trees. The birds feed on blooms and insects galore. 

The following photos are of the Oma'o or Hawaiian Thrush. They are quite the songsters- this one sat for quite a while and sang and puffed up his feathers for us. This was the closest I have ever been to one. 

The I'iwi- what can you say about this spectacular bird- it has a call to match its spectacular appearance. You can see them flying and calling as the travel from tree to tree. You can just picture their bill in an Ohia bloom. 

We had a number of Amakihi around us through the hike. Very photogenic:)

An Apapane hiding in the shadows. 

There were quite a few Hawaii Elepaio following us through the forests. These dry forest Elepaio are a little lighter in color than the variety seen in Bird Park. The 2nd photo is of a juvenile bird. 

We drove home along the Saddle Rd looking for Pueo or the Hawaiian Owl. We saw 5 of them!! These owls hunt during the day - which makes it easier to see:)

Aloha - Happy & Healthy Holidays to everyone,

Turtle & Hawk

Thursday, December 12, 2013

So Much to Be Thankful For

Most of the country has been experiencing extremely cold temperatures. We left Arizona (& Shak3 warm and toasty in a storage facility) to spend Thanksgiving with family in the Bay Area. Our last days in Arizona were chilly but we had not seen anything yet! After Thanksgiving we left the Bay Area to tend to business in Ashland Oregon. Brrrrrrr - the temperatures were in the 30s during the day and the teens at night. We heard snow was expected so we made an effort to take care of everything and get out of town before the snow since the pass often closes due to weather. We got out of town in the nick of time - the snow hit and then verrrry cold temperatures which turned the roads to ice closing schools and businesses for days. We have some amazing people in our life there in Ashland that have been angels helping to take care of some weather related complications:)

In the meantime we have been blessed to be able to put on our gear and get out to see who is flying about. The following are highlights of our outings during the past few weeks.

We participate in a count of Snowy Plovers when ever we are able out at Stinson Beach. There is a population of approximately 18 Plovers on the beach but Point Reyes Bird Observatory does not have any records of successful breeding here on this beach since the mid 80s due to the human and animal activity level. On our most recent survey we counted 17 and were able to see only one that was banded.


The one below is OGWR (orange-green-yellow-red) for the bands on its little legs

Thanksgiving morning was beautiful so we grabbed the gear and headed out to Las Galinas early so we would be back in time to begin the meal preparations. The family had decided on Ribs this year instead of Turkey:) 

This Northern Mockingbird was illuminated by the early morning sun:

I love the way pickle weed color matches the Coot's eyes

As you will see by my photos there were Song Sparrows everywhere

The male Bufflehead is striking

As is the Common Goldeneye

This juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron was hunting along the far shore. Boy did he blend in to his surroundings

The male Canvasback-he is gorgeous

There were quite a few Savannah Sparrows along the shore line

Amazing looks at the male and female Northern Shoveler

This Northern Harrier male or Gray Ghost came flying by us- what amazing looks- notice the concave cheeks like an owl to aid in their hearing

A Snowy Egret trying to be inconspicuous:)

The next day we were hanging around outside and this Pileated Woodpecker came flying into the yard in Fairfax!! Incredible bird. He seemed to be feeding on the seeds in the Tulip Tree. You can tell he is a male due to the red mustache.

We ventured out to North Mountain Park when we were  in Ashland. There were quite a few birds flying about. This Dark-eyed Junco was eating seeds.

This Pacific Wren came out and was making quite a commotion when we came along. They have so much personality!

This Merlin was sitting in the large Walnut Tree looking down at the bird feeders - licking his lips so to speak

This Fox Sparrow was such a poser for me

The following 2 photos are great examples of the difference between the juvenile and adult Golden-crowned Sparrow

California Towhee taking a break at the feeder

I don't see Steller's Jays too often in North Mountain Park- this was a peek-a-boo look

There were a few Purple Finches in the park. This male looks more orange than purple. It must be something they are eating?

We were back in Marin and it was a beautiful day so we decided to head out for a hike at Las Galinas WWTP. It was pretty chilly but we got the best of the day. There were quite a few Great Blue Herons around the area. They are so stunning.

A pair of Muted Swans were swimming about

This female Cinnamon Teal was hiding in the reeds. 

These 2 female Northern Harriers were having quite the arial debate

This Ruby-crowned Kinglet was just hanging out in a bush next to us- very unusual- they are usually hopping and flitting about like a butterfly

Another Snowy Egret with a bill full of feathers from preening

This is a great comparison of the Cackling Goose on the left with the shorter neck and the Canada Goose on the right. 

The Gadwells are such beautiful ducks. It is hard to capture the striking design in their plumage with the camera.

A Golden-crowned Sparrow hanging around

There were a large number of Violet-green Swallows that were feeding along the water. They appeared to be unusually slow- I typically have a very hard time capturing them with my camera but this day they seemed to be swooping low and taking their time:) Notice the white rump band- that helps to differentiate them from the Tree Swallows.

As I wrote before- there were lots of Song Sparrows- I just can't help myself-they are so beautiful

We got a few good looks at some Least Sandpipers- a bit tough to see along the mud bank

A male House Finch that has that very strong hue of orange- something they are eating??

Great Blue Herons were lining the shore

There is nothing quite like the male Green-winged Teal

This American Kestrel was following along behind us.

A White-crowned Sparrow looking over its shoulder

We were stumped with this gull on the lower right hand corner- it ends up it is a Leucistic Mew Gull. You can see how different he looks than the normal Mew Gulls surrounding it. Apparently this gull has been returning to the Las Galinas WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plant)for many winters

I can't help myself they are so majestic

This Red-shouldered Hawk lives right around the house in Fairfax. It is quite vocal and we can here it calling throughout the day.

And yes- another Song Sparrow- chowing away on seeds

We were lucky to get a look at this White-throated Sparrow hanging out with the Golden-crowned Sparrows in West Marin

We headed out to Abbott's Lagoon in Pt Reyes one day to see if we could find the reported Mountain Plover and Lapland Longspurs. It was freezing but we did some scouting and took a hike. We ran into a field of Killdeer (below) and there were some American Pipits but we did not see the Mountain Plover or the Longspurs. However the next day in the local bird reporting network- someone did see the Plover and the Longspurs near a group of 10 plus Killdeer- wouldn't you know it- right where we were looking!!! So we will keep on looking.

We are truly blessed:)
Life is full of beauty & wonder,

Bettina & Bob

PS- We are getting ready to head out to Midway to count Albatross nests. Internet connection is very spotty so it may be awhile until the next blog.