Ring-billed Gull (winter adult)

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Ring-billed Gull (winter plumage) | Goéland à bec cerclé | Larus delawarensis: Taken at Jericho Park in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (both photos: ISO 1100 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/500, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

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Red-winged Blackbird (male)

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Red-winged Blackbird (male) | Carouge à épaulettes | Agelaius phoeniceus: Taken next to the pond at Jericho Park in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (both photos: ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/100, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

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Pigeon Guillemot showing off

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Pigeon Guillemot (Guillemot colombin | Cepphus columba): This bird’s plumage was moulting from winter to breeding. They were all busy trying to impress each other with this kind of display.

Taken January 14, 2016 from Burrard Dry Dock Pier it the City of North Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/250). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Mew Gull in flight

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Mew Gull (Goéland cendré | Larus canus): Taken January 9, 2016 from Jericho Pier, at the eastern end of Locarno Beach in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/7.1 | 1/2000). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Cattle Egret in Kaua’i

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Cattle Egret | Héron garde-bœufs | Bubulcus ibis: This species was deliberately introduced to Hawai’i in the 1950s. This photo was shot on the grounds of Kaha Lani Resort on the east coast of Kaua’i on January 2, 2016, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Common Myna in Kaua’i

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Common Myna | Martin triste | Acridotheres tristis: This is a ubiquitous bird on Kaua’i and can be seen almost everywhere on the island. According to an article published by the Hawai’i Biological Survey led by Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, this bird was first brought to Hawai’i (Honolulu) in 1866 and may have arrived only a few years later in Kaua’i, although the first confirmed specimen was only collected in the 1890s. It is considered by many biology and ecology experts to be among the world’s 100 worst invasive species, due to their impact on native birds and mammals. Still, the pure white areas on their wings and tails is quite striking when these birds are in flight.

Taken in Lydgate State Park, on Kaua’i’s east coast, on January 2, 2016, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Red-crested Cardinal

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Red-crested Cardinal (Paroare huppé | Paroaria coronata): Although “true” cardinals were also introduced on Kaua’i (Northern Cardinals), I did not get any usable shots. But I did get several nice shots of the very abundant Red-crested Cardinal, including this shot at a popular bird “watering hole” created by a leaking faucet in Lydgate State Park, on the island’s east coast. This species (like many others) was introduced to Hawai’i in the 1930s.

Taken on December 29, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/640). Not baited, called in or set up.

Zebra Dove

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Zebra Dove (Géopélie zébrée | Geopelia striata): This species was introduced to Hawai’i in 1922 and is commonly found on all of the main islands. We thought that its call was quite exotic the first time we heard it; it was surprisingly “un-dove” like, in fact.

Taken on December 29, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/320). Slightly cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

White-rumped Shama

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White-rumped Shama (Shama à croupion blanc | Copsychus malabaricus): This species, native to densely vegetated habitats in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, was introduced to Kaua’i in the early 1930s, but are not as prevalent as some of the other introduced birds. Taken on Kaua’i’s west coast (between Lihue and Kapa’a) with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm (all three photos cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

  • Top: Female, December 28, 2015, ISO 400 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1000
  • Middle: Male, January 1, 2016, ISO 1600 | 320mm | f/5.6 | 1/125, cropped
  • Bottom: Female, December 28, 2015, ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/250

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Japanese White-Eye

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Japanese White-Eye (Zostérops du Japon | Zosterops japonicus): Today will feature the first of a series of photos of the introduced birds commonly seen in Kaua’i. Endemic birds have struggled throughout the Hawaiian islands after the arrival of the first humans and the transformation of their natural habitats. The pace of the disappearance of these birds accelerated with the arrival of European colonizers. Over the years, the endemics were almost entirely replaced by introduced birds, especially in urban and cultivated areas.

Known as the mejiro (メジロ, 目白) in Japanese, the Japanese White-eye was introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1920s and 30s to control insect populations in crops and agricultural areas. This is a rather attractive little bird, but there is much evidence that they are especially harmful to endemic birds, because white-eyes have expanded to old-growth forests and efficiently hunt for insects. If you are interested by this subject, you may want to read the following article.

This is one of of the earliest photos taken with my new (and fabulous) Nikon lens. Taken on December 27, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1600), cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Why do Mew Gulls do that?

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Mew Gull (Goéland cendré | Larus canus): Before I continue posting a few more of the bird photos I took in Kaua’i over the holidays, I thought I would post something I took last weekend right here in Vancouver. Aside from the fact that I like this photo, I would also like to test the collective wisdom of my followers to answer the following question: Why do Mew Gulls (like the one pictured here) dunk their bills repeatedly in the water when they are flying? Since they to do not seem to be taking a drink or catching any fish/crustaceans/seaweed (or anything else, for that matter), I was not sure why this was happening.

Since I took this picture, however, I have received several suggestions on various explanations on a number of Facebook groups. The two most compelling reasons I have heard are that it is doing this to attract fish to the surface of the water or (my favoured explanation) it does this to clean its bill of food and other debris, including fish scales and the like.

Thoughts?

Taken January 9, 2016 from Jericho Pier, at the eastern end of Locarno Beach in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1600). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Koa’e Kea (White-tailed Tropicbird)

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Koa’e Kea (White-tailed Tropicbird | Phaéton à bec jaune | Phaethon lepturus): We saw these wonderfully exotic birds on several occasions on Kaua’i, mostly from fairly far away, such as Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge and Waimea Canyon State Park. We did get a very (and magical) close look at three of them when we were kayaking on Wailua River, but I wisely decided to leave the camera at home, given that we were told we might be ankle deep in mud and even waist deep in water at one point on our journey towards Wailua Falls. The stories were accurate, as we found out, so this was no place for electronic and optical equipment!

This photo was taken in Waimea Canyon State Park as the birds put on an impressive areal display in the canyon. This is an extreme crop (only 11% of the original pixels remain!) of one of the more usable photos, so I will dispense with the usual exif data and such.

I’ve been publishing photos every day of the week for over a week and have decided to take a little rest. But I will be back next weekend with photos of some the introduced species that I was able to see in Kaua’i!

Moli (Laysan Albatross)

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Moli (Laysan Albatross | Albatros de Layman | Phoebastria immutabilis): My family and I were quite lucky to be given a wonderful tour of Na ‘Āina Kai (“Lands by the Sea”) Botanical Gardens, Sculpture Park and Hardwood Plantation by our very knowledgeable guide Julie. We were especially privileged to witness the “pre-courtship” behaviour of several young adult birds, who certainly knew how to have a good time prancing around! These are simply amazing birds, especially in flight.

Taken on December 30, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 410mm | f/5.6 | 1/800). Not baited, called in or set up.

On a more somber note, it would seem that only a few hours after I took these photos, a person or group of persons deliberately targeted another colony of these birds on Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, the westernmost tip of land on the island of Oʻahu. Fifteen nests were destroyed and perhaps as many as 12 birds were either killed or chased away. Although humans seem to reserve the worst behaviour for their fellow humans, this is quite an appalling and senseless act of destruction, especially since it seems to have been so calculated and deliberate.

‘A (Red-footed Booby)

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‘A (Red-footed Booby | Fou à pieds rouges | Sula sala): These birds are quite abundant on Kaua’i’s north shore, in the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. I would have liked to get even better pictures of them in flight, but with a fair amount of cropping and image tweaking, I’m fairly happy with this one. Still, it does not approach the perfection of Ron Dudley or Mia McPherson’s bird flight photos (to mention only two of my favourite bird photographers), so I’m going to have to keep practicing!

Taken on December 28, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover)

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Kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover [winter plumage] | Pluvier fauve | Pluvialis fluvia): Although this species is fairly regularly spotted in the Vancouver area in the fall as they migrate south from Alaska, I had to go all the way to Kauai to see one on a beach. And then I came to realize that they are in fact quite widespread on the island and are normally found on lawns and roofs in most urban areas, parks and open country.

As a matter of fact, I could have had some excellent photos of this species on the beach (the sand was quite beautiful in the morning light), except for one crucial fact: I left my camera in our apartment. Now I did that on purpose to be able to enjoy the first day on the beach with my family, but I wish I had seen some again later on a beach, but that was not to be. Still, it was a magical moment and I was able to get many good shots of these birds later in less “natural” settings. I chose this particular photo because the sandy patch on the lawn around the complex where we were staying reduces the “grassiness” of the scene to some extent.

Taken on December 27, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/2500), slightly cropped for composition. Not baited, called in or set up.

Moa (Red Junglefowl)

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Moa (Red Junglefowl | Coq bankiva | Gallus gallus): Red Junglefowl are found everywhere on Kaua’i. In fact, it is sometimes hard not to run them over with your car and the roosters start singing at 3am! But most of the birds seen outside of the island’s highland forests are escaped birds or hybrids of the domesticated and feral subspecies. It is in fact hypothesized that they are so common on the island now because many domestic birds were released into the wild when 1992’s Hurricane Iniki destroyed a large number of chicken coops and the escapees were never retrieved.

Although this beautiful rooster was taken near Kaua’i’s highlands, in Waimea Canyon Park, the fact that it lived close to human activity in open country and that it did not seem particularly shy indicates that this individual was not in fact wild. I did not get to see the wild population (or any of Hawai’i’s endemic passerines, for that matter), because it was pouring rain on the day we chose to go to the highlands and decided against walking the Alakai Swamp Trail or any of the rainforest trails. These trails are definitely on my bucket list, however!

Taken on January 1, 2016, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 200mm | f/5.6 | 1/640). Not baited, called in or set up.

‘Alea ‘Ula (Common Moorhen or Hawaiian Gallinule)

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‘Alea ‘Ula (Hawaiian Gallinule or Common Moorhen | Gallinule poule d’eau | Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis): This is the only endemic bird subspecies that I saw in Kaua’i. We found this individual near some Hawaiian Coots on the Wainiha River in Hanalei, a few steps from the Wainiha General Store (on the island’s north shore).

Taken on December 28, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/500), cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

‘Alae ke’oke’o (Hawaiian Coot)

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‘Alae ke’oke’o (Hawaiian Coot | Foulque des Hawaï | Fulica alai): Along with the nēnē featured yesterday, the ‘Alae ke’oke’o is the only bird species endemic to Hawai’i that I managed to see during our recent trip to Kaua’i. We found this individual strutting its stuff on the Wainiha River in Hanalei, a few steps from the Wainiha General Store (on the island’s north shore).

Taken on December 28, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/400), cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Nēnē in Kaua’i

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As I indicated yesterday, the nēnē (Hawaiian Goose | Bernache néné | Branta sandvicensis) is Hawai’i’s state bird. This individual was photographed on Kaua’i’s north shore, at Na ‘Āina Kai (botanical garden and sculpture park), during a wonderful bird tour.

It is currently believed that this vulnerable, endemic Hawaiian bird evolved from the Canada Goose about 500,000 years ago. Although this species can be observed (sometimes quite closely) in many areas on Kaua’i, it was actually introduced to this island only a few decades ago because the mongoose (an imported species on the other Hawaiian islands) is not present there. It is hoped that the absence of this bird and egg predator will increase the nēnē’s chances of survival in the wild.

Taken on December 30, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 640 | 370mm | f/5.6 | 1/800). Not baited, called in or set up.

Aloha from Kaua’i!

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Aloha! My family and I are rapping up a great trip to the island of Kaua’i, in the state of Hawai’i. Needless to say, birding is only one of the many, many things you can do there, but I thought I would start this particular posting with a photo of one of the island’s many iconic landmarks, the lighthouse on Kilauea Point, featuring in the foreground a photo of the state bird, the nēnē (Hawaiian Goose | Bernache néné | Branta sandvicensis). Taken on December 26, 2015 with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G (ISO 640 | 18mm | f/13 | 1/640).

Over the next few days and weeks, I will feature some of the bird species I was able to capture during this trip (featuring for the most part my new Nikkor 200-500mm, instead of our general utility lens!). I would have liked to take even more, but birding was really not the primary purpose of this trip!