Friday, July 30, 2010

Birding Hot Day Hotspot

My favorite local birding spot continues to be at, of all places, a cemetery.  I stopped by Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery one steamy afternoon this week thinking birdwise it would be dead (ugh).  But it turned out to be one of my best birding photography adventures ever! 
A couple sweaty hours later I had photographed no less than eight species and I saw a couple more.  The star to me was the Wood Stork, my favorite bird because of its size, prehistoric looks, cool black bordered wings and rarity.  You just don't see these big birds as often as many of the other coastal species. 
Seeing a Green Heron was also a treat.  I had never seen this small bird before and needed some help to accurately ID it.  It may have been the intense heat making the birds not want to fly away so quickly but I was able to get fairly close to many perched birds.  They knew I was there but didn't fly away, allowing me to get all the photos I wanted. 
Like Wood Storks, American Anhingas are big and awkward.  And also like the Wood Stork seeing an Anhinga with its wings extended is an impressive site. 

More cemetery birds next posting!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


St. John's many iguanas were a neat surprise.  They were everywhere around the resort where we stayed this summer. They don't bother people and they are really interesting to observe.  So rugged looking and they come in many sizes and coloring.  And their tales are just magnificent!  The hotel grounds people say the iguanas are no trouble.  I was told they eat some of the pretty flowers on the grounds but on this tropical island the flowers bloom year-round so no worries.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Virgin Islands Birds

I came across some interesting birds during our St. John vacation this summer.  My favorite photo is of a Yellow Warbler my family and I saw while hiking to Leinster Bay, one of St. John's many beautiful beaches.  The pretty little bird kept flying around this vehicle parked in the woods.  It seemed to be fascinated by its reflection, perhaps thinking it was another Yellow Warbler!  It didn't stay in one spot but for a few seconds so getting good pictures of it was a challenge. 
Black-headed Gulls were bountiful on the shores of this Caribbean island.  Using some treats, I attracted some to my hotel room terrace and soon one gull turned into several.  They raised quite a ruckus with their shrills and shreiks.  I have a video clip of the ruckus on a YouTube video I just produced about our trip (it's at the very end). 
It can be viewed at:

Probably the island's most common bird is the Pearly-eyed Thrasher. They have a vibrant and endearing song and always seemed busy, busy. We'd see them around the resort and everywhere else on the island. 

I see lots of herons back home but not with the coloring of the one spotted a few times in a marsh at the Westin resort where we stayed.   My friend Suzanne helped confirm that this is a Little Blue Heron in the process of changing from white to blue. 
My featured last bird I spotted while snorkeling in Leinster Bay.  It was cruising the waters below for fish reminding me of the Brown Pelicans seen back home.  But I quickly noticed the different profile and thought it may be a Frigatebird.  I had seen some of these large birds over the waters of Puerto Rico during our previous Caribbean excursion.  I took this photo with my snorkel camera.  I was hoping it would fly lower over me but it never did so this was the best I got.  I cropped the original to give a better look at it. Later at the hotel I got on the internet and confirmed it to be the mighty Magnificent Frigatebird. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Favorite Five: St. John Vacation

New note: Check out my St. John YouTube video at

This is no easy task:  selecting my five favorite photos from my family's St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands) vacation this summer.  My first pick is a gorgeous sunset we enjoyed our first night on the island.  We were dining at the Westin Resort where we stayed.  We were at one of the outdoor restaurants as the sun began to set.  The beautiful sunset would set the tone for a wonderful week of ideal weather and fun in the sun and water.
St. John's reputation for excellent snorkeling did not disappoint.  There are numerous places to snorkel and we visited several during our stay.  We saw squid, turtles and many colorful fish big and small.  The water was clear and the beaches and surrounding rugged lands were beautiful.  Here we set out at remote Leinster Bay which takes some effort to reach because once you park you must hike for about 30 minutes to get there.
I enjoyed learning about St. John's history, how Denmark long owned the island until selling it to the U.S. in 1917.  American Laurance Rockefeller, in the 1950s, bought much of the island with the intention to protect it from development.  He would turn some 50,000 acres over to the U.S. National Park Service.  What a joy to today travel through the Virgin Islands National Park and take in all of its natural beauty and reminders of its sugar cane history.  There are historic sites and ruins throughout the park including the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins.  I've been a big fan of sugar mill ruins since seeing so many on Barbados several years ago.
Curvy mountainous roads and left-side driving are part of the St. John adventure.  But you are rewarded by many spectacular vistas and views.  Photo opportunities abound.  I really like the grayness of this sailboat setting and the little touch of blue on the boat.  This was taken at very eastern point of St. John at Coral Bay.
Iguanas, many huge, are common sites on St. John.  They were everywhere at the Westin Resort, as accepted as the human guests.  They are no threat and make for an unusual part of the exotic island landscape. I was excited to find one in a natural setting on some rocks near the Westin beach.  I like this photo because it really shows the iguana's claws and face, at the expense of not seeing its really long tail-- so I've included a sixth shot as part of my Favorite Five.  It's my blog-- so I guess that's OK to do! 

Great times on the Virgin Islands!  I definitely give St. John and the Westin Resort five stars. Hope to get back there again. Still many things we weren't able to squeeze in during our week. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bull Island Pelicans

Brown pelicans were abundant on the Bull Island beach during my recent visit. It was fun to walk up and try to capture them close-up with my camera. A couple types of terns also turned out for the beach party.