Wednesday, May 31, 2017
The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a western species with a range extending from Washington to southern Mexico and eastward as far as Texas. They do well in urban settings (they love feeders) so their population has been increasing. I've seen quite a few of them along the Tuolumne River.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The bird plays an important in Hawaiian mythology, being regarded as a deity that brought fire to the humans (the red shield is considered to have been caused by the scorching of the flames). Hearing one call at night was considered a bad omen.
Monday, May 29, 2017
I saw the bird along the Byron Ledge trail near Kilauea Iki near the summit of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. It was perched in the upper branches of a dead Ohia tree (they often feed on the nectar of the flowers).
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
seeing and catching pictures of an 'Apanane (Himatione sanguinea) at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The thing is, I wasn't birding at the time. I was participating in a geology field studies trip, and any birds I saw off in the distance were icing on the cake. I didn't have the time to watch quietly and carefully, nor was I in the best place to see them. But the other day was different. We headed up to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for the expressed purpose of checking out some of the best birding spots in the park, particularly the Moana Loa Road and the Kipuka Puaulu, the "bird kipuka". And the 'Apanane were quite evident! I probably saw a hundred or more, and some were close enough to capture some images.
To the extent that most people are not birders, and that the native birds of Hawai'i mostly live above 4,000 feet because of avian malaria spread by mosquitoes at lower elevations, and that only a small part of the human population of the islands live at that elevation, I suspect that even most Hawaiians don't get many chances to see these colorful birds. But in the right circumstances they are fairly common. Kipuka Puaulu is an ideal choice, as it is an isolated island of mature rainforest surrounded by young lava flows (that is the basic definition of a kipuka, an area missed by lava flows). The isolation helps to keep out the mongooses and feral cats who have destroyed many a bird population. Fencing has also kept out cattle and goats that would destroy the underbrush that supplies food and shelter to the birds.
|What do you think these two are arguing about? One shouting and the other with its nose in the air!|
Monday, May 22, 2017
I've only seen a few of the Honeycreepers, perhaps just three species, and I've captured decent shots of none, which explains their absences from these pages so far. I'm on the Big Island this week, however, and I spent the last two days in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. We were exploring the edge of an intriguing pit crater called the Devils Throat when I saw a bird soaring on the far side. It landed for a few moments and I was able to confirm: it was a Honeycreeper called the 'Apanane (Himatione sanguinea). These are the pictures I got, at extreme zoom from about 150-200 meters away.
The bright red plumage of the 'apanane found its way into many robes of royal Hawaiians, but the birds were prolific enough to escape extinction when the islands were colonized. They are considered secure for the time being as long as an "island" of cooler air remains above the 4,000 foot level where mosquitos can't thrive (some of the birds may be developing resistance to malaria as well). Their current population on the islands is estimated to be just over a million individuals. And I finally photographed one of them!
|The Devils Throat lava pit. I love my camera; the pictures above were on a bird in the shrubs on the opposite rim several hundred feet away.|
Saturday, May 20, 2017
I had a short post showing the 'Auku'u (Black-crowned Night Heron; Nycticorax nycticorax) at night searching for fish in Hilo Bay in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. I never got a good luck of the bird in the daytime. That changed this morning. I spied him from my window hanging out with the fishermen along the shore, and went downstairs to see if I could get a closer look. It didn't seem too concerned about humans, given that some were standing just a few yards away.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
I mentioned in the last blog how much I love our migrant bird species. The Orioles have arrived, and so have a number of others. I saw a couple of yellowish birds flitting in the trees at the Tuolumne River Parkway trailhead the other day, and caught a few fuzzy images, but not really good enough to post. It was enough to identify them as Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum).
A day or two later I was out walking again and saw a flock of birds fleeing a hawk and eventually they settled down in a dead cottonwood tree along the river. I got some much sharper shots, though at some greater distance.
The Cedar Waxwings are colorful birds, with yellow breasts and distinctive "raccoon" masks around their eyes. They can make noise, but I rarely hear them vocalize (A year or two ago I had an entire flock in my front yard tree and I didn't notice them for hours).
Monday, May 15, 2017
I don't know, maybe he was irritated with me after all...
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Monday, May 8, 2017
We were at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge last week and made a stop at the nature trail near the visitor center. At first glance not much was moving. At that point the value of binoculars or a powerful zoom lens became apparent. I saw something moving in the brown vegetation in the center of the picture above. I could barely make it out.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
The California Towhee is aptly named. Except for some populations in southern Oregon, it is a California endemic, with a range throughout California and Baja, but nowhere else (The Canyon Towhee is very similar and closely related, but inhabits the Four Corners states and Texas).