Down East at the Autumnal Equinox

We took a few days off from our work with the Massachusetts White Shark Research team to travel to Down East Maine and embrace the onset of Autumn in the New England north country. We were eager to explore a new destination in the mid coast region well known to birders especially in the fall migration. Our target was Monhegan Island , a tiny wooded rock pile about ten miles off the Maine coast. The island is well visited in the fall as it is a famous stop-over for southbound migrants that get blown off the coast in certain weather conditions. Among these visitors are various warblers, other song birds and the raptors who feast on them in these confined island habitats. The island was settled some 400 years ago by English colonists and has been home to fishing families ever since. In the early Twentieth Century a private land trust was set up by a generous benefactor to set aside most of the island as natural woodlands with maintained trails. The result is a beautifully wooded natural preserve of conifers and deciduous trees which at the fall time can harbor some exotic migrant birds who found there way to Monhegan as the last refuge before getting blown out over the Atlantic Ocean. While we were on the island we observed Merlins and Peregrine Falcons constantly in pursuit of the visiting song birds. Warbler highlights included a Cape May warbler, Nashville warbler, Black throated Green warbler, Black throated Blue warbler and many Myrtles. Pam spotted a Scarlet Tanager male and the star bird of the few days was a Yellow headed Blackbird that was way out of its range usually seen west of the Rockies… Pretty amazing sight, though no photos were acquired of this bird.

Meanwhile the islanders were busy getting lobster traps rigged for the big October 1st opening. They were very friendly and knowledgeable about the birding that was going on all around them. We were privileged to join a group of experienced birders which included ornithologist Dr. Trevor Lloyd-Evans from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. The weather was magnificent and Monhegan is truly a magical place at this time of year and we look forward to returning!

Monhegan Is (24)

Monhegan Is (19)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (11)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (5)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (13)

Monhegan Is#2 (13)

Monhegan Is#2 (14)

Monhegan Is#2 (15)

Monhegan Is#2 (16)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (3)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (8)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (7)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (1)

Monhegan Is#2 (6)

Nashville Warbler Fall 2014

Monhegan Is#2 (5)

Monhegan Is#2 (10)

Monhegan Is#2 (12)

Down East Maine Fall 2014 (22)

Monhegan Is (4)

Monhegan Is (23)

Monhegan Is (20)

Monhegan Is (17)

Monhegan Is (21)

Monhegan Is (22)

Monhegan Is (10)

Monhegan Is#2 (2)

Monhegan Is#2 (1)

Monhegan Is#2 (3)

Monhegan Is#2 (4)

Monhegan Is#2

Monhegan Is#2 (7)

Raven in the lower foreground

Monhegan Is#2 (9)

Monhegan Is#2 (11)

Monhegan Harbormaster – Shermie Stanley receives his surprise gift. The photograph is of a school of Blue-fin tuna “Giants” taken by legendary spotter pilot and photographer Wayne Davis in celebration of their time fishing together years ago.

Read more.. Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

British Columbia: The Rugged Coast

We are overdue in reporting on some of the details behind our recent journey to the Pacific Northwest. As mentioned in a previous post, our goal was to restock our freezers with a stock of salmon, halibut, ling cod and hopefully have a chance to record some of the truly wonderful wildlife that is resident at this time of year there. Our trip took us north by plane to Bella Bella, a village on the coast well north in BC on the famous cruising grounds known as the Inside Passage. Bella Bella is primarily a First Nations community depending on  commercial fishing as a primary livelihood for residents. From there we caught a ride by water about 20 miles to the south and west to a mobile fish camp anchored in a protected cove for the summer sport fishing season. The camp caters to return visitors who have frequented the beautiful Hakai Pass recreational area before and are comfortable getting around safely in their 17 ft custom fit out for fishing Boston whalers. Accompanied by son Spencer we were eager to get fishing as soon as we arrived. Our perseverance paid off over the 4 days we were on the grounds and managed to return with more than 100 lbs of frozen fish filets to restock our larders. Also sent a few choice pieces to the Smoke house as well. Following are few of the memories. We had a couple of days of dense fog which made it a challenge to get around but when it did clear is was beautiful. And the prize of the trip was a great one hour encounter with a small pod of Transient killer whales.

 

Hakai (3)

Hakai (5)

Black turnstones join a small flock of Surfbirds

Hakai (4)

Hakai 2014 (2)

Gulls and auk-lets intensely feed on a herring bait ball

Hakai Pass 2014 (4)

Female matriarch of the pod…did this surface “spy – hop likely to check us out.

Hakai Pass 2014 (8)

Hakai Pass 2014 (10)

A young member of the pod did a complete breach just before this frame was taken

Hakai Pass 2014 (9)

Hakai Pass 2014

This male had a very distinctly deformed dorsal fin. Likely son of the female above

Hakai Pass 2014 (2)

Hakai Pass 2014 (3)

Hakai Pass 2014 (1)

Hakai Orca

Hakai Pass 2014 (6)

Hakai (2)

Hakai (1)

Rhinoceros auk-let

Hakai Pass 2014 (11)

Hakai Pass 2014 (5)

Hakai 2014 (1)

Ceremonial native canoes from as far away as Alaska and Washington State were visiting

Hakai 2014

Hakai 2014 (3)

Pacific oystercatchers

 

 

Read more.. Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Offshore with Blues

Summer brings with it many changes to the marine environment in and around Cape Cod and surrounding islands. As the ocean currents slowly bring warmer currents from the south the water temperatures rise and some of our migrating fishes return to New England waters along with seabirds who also feast on the bounty that the ocean yields at this time of year. We have longed to hook up with shark conservation legend and filmmaker Joe Romeiro to go offshore to find and swim with Blue sharks in their natural wide open ocean hopefully in clear green and blue water. There is also a chance that a mako shark might bolt into the situation just to liven things up. To accomplish this goal we ventured to Rhode Island to Point Judith for an early departure on board with Pelagic Expeditions, an adventure shark diving operation run by Joe and Brian Raymond. These guys really know their stuff and even though we set out to find clear water in dense fog this Sunday morning – their confidence and experience paid off as we finally broke out of the fog to a sunny flat calm day in the Atlantic ocean. Humpback whales and Minke whales surfaced lazily around us and we waited while our chum slick sent out a call to the ocean scavengers that might be within a few miles of our position. We were also blessed with some close up views of the Wilson Storm Petrel another ocean voyager that makes it’s way to our waters seasonally from deep in the Southern Atlantic, some 9000 miles away. Here are a few shots that tell some of the tale of the day. In case you are wondering we had an absolute blast doing this. Check out Pelagic Expeditions in Rhode Island for more information on how to get in on this local action.

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (11)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (18)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (9)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (17)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (2)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (1)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (5)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (4)

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (14)

https://www.facebook.com/PelagicExpeditions

Blue Sharks with Joe Romeiro (15)

Wilson’s Storm Petrel gets in on the feeding

Read more.. Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Swimming with the Great Whales

DCIM103GOPRO
Links below to two new videos we have just posted to provide some more “color” on these experiences. One compiled from our expedition to Dominica in February 2014 followed by another compiled from footage shot during one incredible day on the Silver Bank – 80 miles north of the Dominican Republic in early March. Please check them both out below.

Sperm Whale Heaven

Sanctuary

DCIM104GOPRO

_JJK9330

DCIM100GOPRO

Spotted Dolphins off the bow. Amazing!

JJK_1441

Young male sperm whale checks us out with a close approach to our boat

_JJK1063

_JJK1271

Estela – our fellow adventurer on the Silver Bank who inspired the vid “Sanctuary” in this post

Read more.. Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Pacific Northwest Signs of Spring

Our time in the Pacific Northwest has been heavy with family and the brand new babies as our previous posts will attest. However we have managed an outing with our old friend and fellow birder Paula Johnson who lives in the area. Paula was kind enough to guide us to a couple of birding hotspots in the region one day this past week. They are the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington near the Columbia River and also the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia.

We got on the road long before dawn, were blessed with some decent spring weather (read no rain) and were rewarded with some excellent sightings of the areas wildlife feeling the urgings of spring.

Nisqually

Nisqually NWR

Nisqually 2

Bald Eagle

 

Blog Bird PNW15

Tree Swallows were in abundance on their way north to breed

Blog Bird PNW12

Nisqually NWR

Blog Bird PNW11

A pair of river otters frolic

Blog Bird PNW10

A Pair of Cinnamon Teals

Blog Bird PNW9

Newly fledged Bald Eagle watching

Blog Bird PNW8

Hooded Merganser pair

Blog Bird PNW7

Hooded Merganser pair

Blog Bird PNW6

A family of raccoons

Dowitchers yellowlegs

Blog Bird PNW4

A pair of Wood Ducks

Blog Bird PNW3

A Yellow -rumped warbler migrant just showing up at NIsqually NWR on its way north

Blog Bird PNW2

Cinnamon Teal Drake preening

Blog Bird PNW1

Red winged Blackbird displaying his colors proudly hoping to attract a mate

Blog Bird PNW

A pair of Northern Shovelers

Blog Bird PNW5

Read more.. Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Polar Migrations

The Barents Sea region well north of the Arctic Circle encompasses territory from Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The area is uniquely wild and is home to one of the last truly nomadic herding cultures on earth, the reindeer herding Sami people.

We had an opportunity to travel to the Norwegian region of Finnmark in Norway’s far north to observe this remarkable landscape first hand in the waning days of winter. Gearing up for an expedition like this meant shifting to our cold weather kit. After three weeks in the Caribbean swimming with whales this presented some challenges.  The temperatures were cold with averages during the day of – 10 degrees C and as low as -30 degrees C at night. One of the most beautiful spectacles in nature, the aurora borealis or “northern lights”, are often visible at this latitude on cold clear evenings. We ventured out a few evenings and braved the cold to witness this. During this expedition we also explored the rocky, treeless coast and ventured far into the frozen river system that separates Norway from Russia in the land of brown bear and wolverine. We traveled by snowshoe, snow mobile and dog sled into the birch forest areas where reindeer graze for the winter before they make a spring migration back to the coast – a trip they have been making for thousands of years with the indigenous Sami people. The people were warm and welcoming and the landscapes were dramatic as you can see. In another post we will report more about the region’s political organization formerly known as Lapland and now known as Samiland.

Here are a few images recorded along the way. We have included a few examples of artwork by indigenous artists we found in special places on our journey to help tell the story. Huge thanks go to Kevin Clement of Zegrahm Expeditions who lead our trip and also to Kaare Tannvik, our mentor and guide for this journey. They lead us back in time into places that most people will never see. And our traveling companions from South Africa and the USA were wonderful to be with for this extraordinary adventure.

JJK_3194

Steller’s Eider Drake

JJK_3456

Long tailed duck drake

JJK_3401

Magnificent King Eiders in flight

IMG_2595

A Painting by Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa

JJK_3508 JJK_3013JJK_3620IMG_2430JJK_3072JJK_2918JJK_3603JJK_3955IMG_2337JJK_3540JJK_3353IMG_2577JJK_3947IMG_2466JJK_4037JJK_3728JJK_3314_JJK1299JJK_3262Samiland 2014 (7)JJK_4040JJK_3818JJK_3875JJK_3506 JJK_3688IMG_2522JJK_3559IMG_2408 JJK_4260

Read more.. Saturday, March 29th, 2014

In the Cathedral of North Atlantic Humpbacks

Thinking of these magnificent creatures making their way on the long journey from summer feeding grounds some females heavy with calves makes a visit to the Silver Bank off the north coast of the Dominican Republic very special. This was our third trip to be with Tom Conlin and his brilliant crew of Aquatic Adventures on the Silver Bank. Weather conditions on the Bank had been a little breezy with the afternoon trade winds blowing up to 25 kts for a few days presenting some cloudy underwater conditions for many locations but the interactions were absolutely remarkable. For months we have been training to increase wind and build flexibility to be lithe and supple in the water and to be able to stay underwater for longer periods while being a passive observer of the delicate mother and calf bonding and feeding activity.

JJK by TConlin 2014

Tom Conlin got this magical image of JJK while the youngster nursed by its mother. All rights reserved – Tom Conlin

 

11 year old Estela was impressed with the young calf and “nicknamed” her Racci

_JJK1063_JJK0876_JJK0448_JJK1211_JJK0723_JJK0673_JJK1157JJK_2381JJK_2632

Check out the blog post prepared by Lisa LaPointe of Aquatic Adventures describing our week with them.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Aquatic-Adventures–Whale-Tales-S24-W6—Updated-weekly-from-the-Silver-Bank-.html?soid=1107080557940&aid=NyEpvrHwW4w

Read more.. Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Sperm Whale Heaven

_JJK0003Once again we were fortunate to travel to the island of Dominica to observe the population of sperm whales that inhabit the waters surrounding the island. This expedition was organized by Ted Cheeseman of Cheeseman’s Ecological Safaris and was conducted under a special permit from the Dominican government. Over the nine days we spent on the island we were extremely fortunate to witness some incredible interactions with these whales including the seldom seen entry of a large bull sperm whale into the area which made for some terrific observations of social behavior among the females. We were also treated to sightings of Spotted dolphins and Fraser’s dolphins and many seabirds._JJK0062_JJK0011_JJK9401_JJK9648_JJK9750_JJK9899_JJK9910JJK_1093JJK_1479

Read more.. Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Forest Observations: Costa Rica

Flower piercer in Savegre

Scintillant hummingbird - Savegre

We manged to take time out of enjoying the Cape Cod winter to perform a surgical strike into two distinct wild areas of Costa Rica over a short ten day window. Long a preferred destination by Eco-adventure travelers all over the world we had never taken the time to visit and were keen to get in on the experience. Our primary goal in this exploratory trip was to explore two significant  and different areas in the country – the magical lowland rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in the south and the spectacular cloud forest near San Gerardo de Gota and the headwaters of the Rio Savegre in the Talamanca Mts. What we found with the help of excellent local guides were some of the most beautiful bird life we have witnessed anywhere in the world. In fact we were successful in identifying more than 200 different species while on the ground in Costa Rica. 75% of which were birds we had never seen before anywhere..known as “life birds” among the active birding community. Here are a few of the images we recorded.

Yellow thighed Finch - Savegre

Silver throated Tanager

Golden Winged Warbler - A Rare Beauty, Osa Peninsula

Long tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black mandibled toucan, Osa Peninsula

Violet eared hummingbird

Collared Redstart

Incredible Scarlet Macaw

King Vulture

Mangrove Black Hawk

White Hawk and Scarlet Macaw share space but have different interests

Magnificent Quetzal (female)

Black chested Trogon

Magnificent Quetzal (male)

Tiny Hawk - Rare and hard to see in Central America

Sunrise Osa Peninnsula

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Patagonia: Magellanic Spring

Our recent posts about traveling in Ecuador and Peru got us to remembering our trek into Patagonia now five years ago. In this “hot stove league” time of year and while we gear up for some new adventures in 2014 take a peak at some images of mountain spring memories from out journey into Chile’s incomparable Torres del Paine park and then on to Argentina’s El Calafate thereby bracketing Patagonia. Some breathtaking scenery and a first hand look at one of the largest ice sheets on Planet Earth …third behind Antarctica and Greenland. The hiking was grand! If you are thinking of making the journey to Antarctica some day ( and we hope you do) consider adding  two weeks to see this area on the front end of your trip. You will not be disappointed. On this adventure we traveled with our friends at Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle. We recommend them highly.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park

Guanacos - Torres del Paine

Magellanic Fox in rest mode

White Tufted grebe and youngster

The Towers at Torres del Paine

Black faced Ibis in a field of wildflowers

Young Andean Condor

Dawn at Torres del Paine

Read more.. Saturday, December 28th, 2013