Posts tagged “travel

Wild Turkeys in Hawaii

Wild urkey on the Big Island of Hawaii

There are tons of wild turkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii!  They roam the golf courses and lava rock fields searching for insects, lizards, seeds, berries and anything else that’s edible and relatively small.   It’s a lovely thing to see.

The Wild Turkey evolved in America and was domesticated by Native Americans.  In the early 1500s turkeys domesticated by the Aztecs were taken to Europe and interestingly enough, their descendants were brought back to America by the pilgrims who soon found out their indigenous neighbors were raising them too.

They soon spread to China and in 1788 they were introduced from there to the Hawaiian islands. Over the years, more have been released, whether purposely or not, by ranches and farms and perhaps by people who wanted to hunt them.  Currently you can hunt them on the island along with pheasant, doves, francolin, quail, as well as introduced mammals such as goats, sheep and boar.

Turkeys especially prosper on the Big Island because of it’s dry grassy sloping landscapes, and as you can see, they seem right at home.


An Entwined Zebra Dove

Stage at Ala Moana Mall - Honolulu, HawaiiThe Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu Hawaii is not exactly a birder’s paradise.  If you’ve ever been there Zebra Dove on stage at Ala Moana Mallyou’ve probably seen the stage near the Waikiki side entrance.  On the day of my visit it was draped in red curtains that created a deeply textured vision of color on the floorboards.  Hence the photographs.

Oftentimes birds are there, probably because people feed them.  Mall birds.  Not exactly picturesque herons or majestic bluebirds.  More like zebra doves and rock doves (pigeons).  (Are pigeons, like, flying mall rats?)

But every one of those mall birds are just as worthy and deserving of life as any heron or bluebird.  So it broke my heart when I discovered that this little zebra dove had its legs entangled with some of kind of thread or very thin fibers.  The poor thing managed to walk but its appearance was disheveled, skinny, sickly.  The entanglement was taking its toll.Entwined Zebra Dove  You can see its entwined legs clearly in the silhouette photo on the left (click to enlarge).

I look back at that moment with regret.  I regret that I did not help that bird.  I Zebra Dove on Ala Moana Mall stagecould have found some big gloves and grabbed the bird and cut that twisted piece of twine that was holding it hostage.  That would have at least given it a chance.

As you can see it came right over to me, along with several pigeons, probably looking for a generous person tossing scraps.  It was close enough to me so that I could have done it!

But no, there were no gloves and I am not that gutsy.  Not that spontaneous.  And maybe it’s not a good idea to touch a bird that might be diseased or to take these matters into my own hands.

All I know is, we need to do more for the birds that are affected by our carelessness.

This is what a healthy zebra dove looks like, found right down the street near the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

Zebra Dove in Waikiki


“Planned Pigeonhood” in Waikiki

Pigeons in WaikikiIf you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the beautiful island of Hawaii you’ve probably visited Honolulu.  And if you’ve visited Honolulu that means you’ve probably been to Waikiki.  And if you’ve been to Waikiki that means you’ve seen the pigeons (a.k.a. rock doves).

Lovely birds, as special as any living creature, but not very popular with the tourists.

Hawaii is a common destination for Alaskans in the winter.  With an almost total lack of sunshine from November to February we pledge to ourselves that this winter we are getting out!  Hopefully it happens.  And there is nary a more direct route to full-on sunshine then the quick five or so hours from Anchorage to Honolulu.

Pigeon missing footThe pigeon on the very left is looking pretty mangy (click on the photo to see it larger).  There are so many pigeons in Waikiki, with no natural predators anywhere in sight, that they over breed and become a danger to themselves and people.  The photo on the right shows another pigeon from Waikiki, this one missing a foot and walking around a restaurant hunting for food scraps and somehow managing to avoid being clobbered.

So when I saw this posting by the Human Society about OvoControl, a contraceptive-laced food that property owners can feed pigeons, I was thrilled.  It describes how the manager of The International Marketplace, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Waikiki, chose to take a chance on the product and saw a 60% reduction in pigeons after 12 months. (It costs $9 a day to treat feed/treat 100 pigeons.)

Talk about an ideal non-violent and humane solution!  Maybe this will catch on in communities that are fed up with the overpopulation of this city-loving bird.


Bald Eagling in Homer, Alaska

Bald Eagle on DriftwoodMy friend and I drove into Homer, Alaska one evening in April of 2006.  Our trip was fortunately timed – though not purposely – because we caught the eagles still in town.  They were reaping the benefits of friendly human feeders before leaving for summer’s greener pastures.

Bald Eage on a Street LightAs we drove down onto the Homer Spit eagles were perched on nearly every building.  The sun’s long evening rays set them off and they were so still that we asked each other, are they real??  But as we drove down the spit to the Land’s End Hotel, we saw enough of them shuffle their feathers or blink their eyes to know they were totally and gorgeously real.

If I had only thought to take a photo… (Though at that time I used a plain point and shoot which would not have done justice to the moment.)

Over the next couple of days I took plenty of time to walk the beaches and absorb the feelings of a place that was (and still is) pretty much totally foreign to me.  As a landlubber in Alaska I see plenty of wildlife, but usually not the same wildlife as near the coasts.

Bald Eagles, Gulls & Crows

This was a common sight on the beaches, people leaving fish guts and carcases out for the eagles.  Gulls and crows benefit too.

Bald Eagles in Homer, AlaskaI never saw an eagle growing up (bald or not!) until about 10 years ago.  Now I see them at least a couple of times a year in and around Fairbanks.  It could be that as a child or young adult I wasn’t paying attention, but I’d be willing to bet that their population has grownImmature Bald Eagle in Homer, Alaska throughout Alaska over the last couple of decades as it has generally in North America.

On the right you can see the mottled feather pattern of a 2 or 3 year old eagle.  It takes 4 years for an eagle to get its adult plumage and wing length.

Valdez has quite a few bald eagles too, but I’ve never seen this many at a time anywhere but Homer.  (Some day I’ll make it to Haines too for the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival and the Chilkat Preserve.)  If you’re a bald eagle fan all three of these places should be on your list!

Bald Eagle sitting on a nestPeople watching bald eaglesBald Eagle Talon Prints


Chipmunks at Athabasca Falls (not a bird to be seen)

My husband and I are presently traveling from the north of the United States – Alaska – to the south of it – North Carolina.  I have gotten some unbelievable photographs of wildlife, including a close encounter with a grizzly bear that was digging up roots alongside the Alaska Highway (you can see them here).

Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta, Canada were spectacular.  Surrounded by sunlit mountains, we drove through the parks with our mouths agape, peaks above us and streams meandering through valleys below us.  And though we saw barely a creature but tourist’s dogs in the parks, I did catch a few up close photos of scurrying chipmunks at Athabasca Falls in Jasper.

Canadians definitely have their national parks figured out, if these two are representations of them as a whole.  Athabasca Falls had wooden stairways interspersed between towering rocks – sometimes you have to duck to or go single-file to get through.  Lots of concrete walkways in different viewpoints of the falls, accessed by sun dappled paths with views of game trails through the moss.  A peaceful and necessary stop, and in our case at least, not too crowded.

The only large wild mammal we saw in the parks was Bighorn Sheep.  A group of 6 or 7 were nibbling something on the rocks (my husband says they were ingesting minerals from the rocks).  The chipmunks were also nibbling, moving with rocket speed over the concrete and moss, not too scared of us big hulking humans except perhaps to be caught underfoot.

So, no birds this time.  The only ones I’ve managed to capture with my camera are swans and ravens, back up in the Yukon Territory.  But that’s a post for another day.   Until then, best wishes to you all…

Don’t forget to click for larger images! 


A Bridge to the Birds of Paradise

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve was the single most heavenly tropical place I’ve ever been.  Even without the amazing birding experience, I would go back in a second.

Sian Ka’an is close to Tulum, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula – a dazzling coastal ecosystem.  My husband and I rambled along in our rented Jeep with no A/C on a long white gravel road that winds along the coast of the Caribbean Sea.  It was a drop dead gorgeous sunny hot day.  The shining white beaches were radiant even with the washed-up garbage strewn about.  I hopped over photo op after photo op, looking for pieces of beach glass (something I could do for days, weeks, months!).

If it had been our choice, my husband and I would have driven that road till the end. But as we all know, daylight is limited and vacation time goes especially fast.

Possibly the best part of Sian Ka’an was the old weathered bridge that stood alongside the newer bridge that we traveled on.  They cross a beautiful blue-green river that flows into the ocean.  You can see a video of them here.

Locals fished off the bridges, breezes relieved the heat, and I found bird after bird to photograph.   To the left are female and male Great-Tailed Grackles.  The gull, tern, and turnstone were firsts for me (below).

I’ll fondly remember this old weathered bridge for all my days, along with the fine feathered friends I met that day.


Say’s Phoebe on Rosie Creek Trail

I spotted this sunbathing beauty near Rosie Creek Trail outside of Fairbanks in August 2009.

Maybe it was migrating south.  Or maybe it was spending the last couple of days surveying its territory, waiting for a Crane Fly to wander by.  Either way, doesn’t it look more majestic than its humble 4 or 5 inches?

The Say’s Phoebe is named after Thomas Say, a naturalist who named hundreds of new species at the beginning of the 1800s.  He identified over 1,000 species of beetle alone, and over 400 other insects.  He saw and described the Say’s Phoebe during an expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1819.

But isn’t it kind of silly to associate this enigmatic little creature to a man from the 1800s?  And what did Native Americans call the Say’s Phoebe?  … What is in a name anyway?

… Alas, we must communicate.

 

You might have noticed that this spruce tree has a lot of cones.  Apparently, the year after a conifer goes through a period of stress – such as drought – the tree produces a crop of cones that is much larger than normal. The dark ones are immature.

This is a Black Spruce (there are no naturally occurring pine trees in interior or northern Alaska though spruce trees are often mistaken for them).  Black Spruce is looked at with disdain by a lot of Alaskans because it represents unbuildable wetlands fraught with frost lenses and mucky tundra.

But this mucky tundra is the Say’s Phoebe’s living room for the summer.  It spends its years flying between an arctic paradise and a tropical paradise.  To the Say’s Phoebe, this fair-sized Black Spruce (12-15 feet tall) is the perfect perch for hunting mosquitos, unbuildable wetlands and all.