Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rockin' robin

Even though Mother Nature keeps toying with us here in New England, both the calendar and the recent influx of Robins indicate that spring has finally arrived. While Robins are occasionally spotted during the winter months, it's when we start seeing handfuls of them dotting yards and fields that we know the warmer weather is indeed on its way.

When I visited Mom and Dad Monday night for dinner, there were at least a dozen or so Robins either searching the ground for food or flying in and out of the trees bordering the property. Or, in the case of this bird, taking advantage of the cover offered by the blue spruce to do a little preening:

However, the lawn was where the real action took place. Mom and I were actually checking out a Red-winged Blackbird (which tend to be a fairly rare sight near their place) when she noticed a female Robin working on pulling a worm out of the ground:

As it turns out, it was a really long worm, which meant a great chance for me to get some fun shots:

She kept pulling, and the worm kept coming:

Success at last:

After she finally got the worm free, the Robin spent the next little while hopping from place to place with it. Each time she stopped, she'd peck at the worm a bit before picking it up and finding a new spot to begin the process all over again:

I kept this one a wide shot because I liked the glimpse of the two Robins streaking past:

Finally, it was dinnertime:

Kind of looks like a post-meal belch, doesn't it?:

Not only did I really like how this shot came out, but you can also see how distended the Robin's crop is after her super-sized meal:

Finally, while the Robin in the lower left corner of this image was my intended focus, the two Robins having a slight disagreement on the right definitely ended up stealing the show:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Scratching the itch

During the same visit to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge that garnered me the whale photos I posted a while back, I also took this sequence of shots of an Albatross as it flew past me. More specifically, one of the many Laysan Albatrosses that had established a nesting colony on one of the nearby hills. Their bodies are usually less than 3 feet long, but their wingspan averages between 6 and 7 feet—when they go by with their wings outstretched, it's pretty damn impressive sight to behold.

At the time that I took these photos, I felt very fortunate that this particular bird was both close enough and slow enough as it went by to allow me to get a bunch of shots that were all basically in focus and within the frame. I had a feeling it was a good sequence that would yield at least one nice image of the bird as it soared past, but since there were so many other things to photograph I barely had any time to really examine the pictures on my LCD screen. It was only when I'd gotten that day's photos downloaded that I realized there was a lot more to the shots than I possibly could have hoped for—I'd captured this Albatross scratching its head with its foot as it soared along:

Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Waimea Canyon

In addition to my first honu sighting, this year's trip also included my first visit to Waimea Canyon, located on the west side of Kauai. Since we stay on the north shore, you'd think this would be a fairly straightforward trip. However, the road that circles most of the island literally stops a few miles from where we stay, which means we had to drive to the east and south sides of the island to finally reach our destination. So what could have been, in theory, a 30-45 minute drive was closer to 90 minutes instead. Good thing we all enjoyed each other's company (and before I get any further, I have to give special thanks to my dad, who did all of the driving for both this excursion and anywhere else we went during our time on Kauai).

Once we finally got to the west side, the next step was driving up Mount Waiʻaleʻale. Partway along we stopped at one of the lookouts, both so I could take some pictures and so we could all stretch our legs for a few minutes. My camera doesn't have any sort of panoramic photo setting, but hopefully these pics will give a decent sense of the view we had:

However, even a vista like that doesn't really prepare you for seeing the canyon itself; Mark Twain dubbed Waimea Canyon "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and when you finally get there it's not hard to see why:

A closer look at some of the rock formations:

Further on up, the view from the top of the mountain wasn't too bad either:

A closer look at a waterfall nestled against the above mountainside:

A catamaran we spotted as we enjoyed the view:

Different lookout, same gorgeousness:

A couple of shots of an ultralight that went by overhead:

A few photos I took of the nearby hiking trail:

Looking back up the trail toward where I'd started from:

And a couple of shots of the surrounding terrain; I loved the contrast between the red dirt and... well, everything from the green vegetation to the blue sky:

When I noticed this view of the canyon on our way back down, I just had to ask Dad to turn around and go back so I could take a picture or two; this particular shot turned out to be one of my favorites from that day:

I thought the dead tree at the top of the ridge helped make for a striking visual:

And one last look at the canyon from a lookout point a little further down the mountain:

All in all, just a gorgeous place to visit, and most definitely worth the time it took to get there. I hope I get a chance to go again during future trips to Kauai.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Believe it or not, I was all set to post these pictures on Sunday. But seconds—and I do mean seconds—after I'd finished getting them ready to upload, my computer went completely wonky on me. I didn't get things straightened out until Monday evening, and I wanted to give it at least a day to make sure everything was copacetic and that my laptop wouldn't freeze right in the middle of writing this post.

This year's trip was my third visit to Kauai. On previous vacations I'd seen seals, whales, and birds galore. But I had yet to see a Hawaiian green sea turtle, usually referred to on the islands by its Hawaiian name: honu. I'd hear about people spotting them on the beach or in the water all the time, but I'd yet to experience it myself.

Happily, about halfway into this year's trip, that all finally changed. The road we use to go back and forth from where we stay to... well, everything else, is literally carved into a mountain, and the shoulders are about as wide as a bicycle tire; in one lane, the person riding shotgun would be able to touch the mountainside if they stuck their arm out the window, and on the other you had a guardrail, about a foot of land, and then the Pacific Ocean. Dad and I were returning from a second visit to the Kilauea preserve, which put me on the ocean side of the road. I was checking out the water as he drove when I noticed something fairly large floating in the clear aquamarine water. I told Dad I was pretty sure I'd seen a turtle, so once he found a suitable place we turned around and went back; the photography gods were definitely smiling down upon me that day, because the place I'd noticed it was right next to a scenic pull-off. I hopped out of the car, camera in hand, and almost did the Snoopy happy dance when I saw the turtle was still there:

As I watched and clicked away, it floated up to the surface...

...took in some air...

...and then casually allowed itself to sink back down into the water:

Just after I'd taken that sequence of photos, a large wave came in and crashed upon the rocks below where I was standing; when the water had settled enough to see into once again, the turtle was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, I was still totally psyched about seeing my first honu; even more so when I saw that the photos came out okay.

And yes, that really was the color of the water at that time; I didn't tinker with or alter it in Photoshop even one iota. Amazing, huh?