Jul 172017
 

On July 2nd, Echo held an open house at Kunuku Dos Pos in Rincon.  For those who aren’t familiar with this organization, Echo is a non-profit group with a mission to protect the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona Barbadensis) on Bonaire and in the Caribbean.  We attended the open house to learn more about this wonderful organization and its mission here on the island.

One of Echo’s main projects is reforestation of the habitat of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot in Bonaire. By growing and planting indigenous trees at sites all around the island, Echo is helping to restore the unique habitats favored by this amazing bird.  In addition to the extensive reforestation effort, Echo also conducts research (such as nest monitoring and roost counts) and rehabilitates injured and illegally captured parrots.

This beautiful parrot lives at the Echo kunuku in a spacious enclosure. It was an illegal pet and can not be released into the wild. Echo cares for it, and others like it.

Echo also cares for a pair of Scarlet McCaws that were illegal pets and can not fend for themselves in the wild.

At Echo’s Kunuku Dos Pos, they also have an indigenous tree nursery, at which members of the public can purchase indigenous trees (which are favored by the Amazon Parrots) to plant on their own property.

The entrance to Echo’s kunuku in Rincon

Echo conducts public tours each Wednesday at 4:30.  Please visit if you are interested in learning more about its important work.

Email – Info@echobonaire.org

Call –  701 1188

A wild Yellow-shouldered Parrot in Rincon, Bonaire

Jun 252017
 

When most people think of “birds” and “Bonaire”, they picture the island’s unofficial mascot – the Caribbean Flamingo.  Bonaire’s flamingos are undoubtedly a thing of beauty and awe, but they are only part of the picture when it comes to Bonaire’s avian life.

A juvenile flamingo, rendered in Black and White

Over 210 species of birds call Bonaire home.  From shore birds to sea birds to land birds, Bonaire is an often-overlooked haven for birders and bird photographers.  It’s our goal to spot and photograph as many of these fliers as possible.

Luckily, we don’t have to leave the house to find beautiful subjects.  Our own yard is a rich source of inspiration.

A bananaquit rests in our garden in the bougainvillea

A Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot enjoys a snack in our backyard

Bonaire’s shore birds and wading birds can be found throughout the island in the mangroves, salinas, and ocean shores.

Easily identified by its bright red beak, the American oystercatcher, true to its name, enjoys a diet of oysters, clams and mussels.

Steve caught this American oystercatcher as it prepared for take-off

Sharing the shore with the oystercatcher is the common Brown pelican.  Although it seems rather large, the Brown pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican.

Brown pelican eating a fish

Approximately thirteen species of Herons and Egrets are found among Bonaire’s shores.

Reddish egret

A Yellow-crowned night heron feasts on a crab

A Green heron rests on a mangrove root

And finally, we’re excited to announce that scientists have discovered a new Bonairean bird species with a wingspan of 60.3 m (197.83 ft)!  We finally managed to photograph it in its native environment.

KLM Airbus A330 bound for Amsterdam

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

What is your favorite bird on Bonaire?

May 302017
 

On April 23, 2017, an oil spill occurred at Trinidad’s Petrotin oil refinery in the Gulf of Paria. As a result of a ruptured storage tank, approximately 20,000 gallons (or 300 barrels) of crude oil cascaded into Trinidad’s Guaracara River (according to Trinidad and Tobago’s Guardian Online).

During the past month, the wayward blobs of oil have traveled in a westerly trajectory in the southern Caribbean sea.  Thus far, Venezuela (and its Los Roques islands), Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba have all reported the presence of oil on their shores.

When I imagine our weekly walk at Sorobon, I don’t envision stepping on gummy toxic blobs of crude oil, but this is exactly what happened this weekend.  Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Flamingos and Royal Terns all perched nearby as if nothing was amiss – oblivious to the danger that surrounded them.

Oil Spill Effects seen at Sorobon

The oil, seen here at Sorobon, has morphed into tar

Sorobon is home to endangered sea turtles, endangered mangrove forests, flamingos, queen conch and many other avian and aquatic species. This delicate ecosystem is a showcase of nature’s finest work, and now it is suffering daily assaults as the oil continues to wash in with the tides. The extent of the damage is not yet known and can not yet be assessed.

Thankfully, Bonaire has dedicated contingent of conservation agencies and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to contain the damage.  Yesterday, Steve joined STINAPA and Dutch military forces at a cleanup at Lagoen.

Dutch Military Forces at work, photo by Steve Schnoll

Clean-up efforts underway at Lagoen, photo by Steve Schnoll

Photo by Steve Schnoll

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has also been working around the clock to help coordinate clean-up efforts.  This morning it held a clean-up at the old shrimp farm near Sorobon.

Photo courtesy of STCB

Photo courtesy of STCB

Your Help is Needed.  STINAPA Bonaire is coordinating clean-up efforts for the coming days. Please send an email to volunteer@stinapa.org (make sure to include your name, phone number and address) if you would like to assist in these efforts on Bonaire’s east coast. Also, please follow the Facebook pages for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire and STINAPA.

a
If you find sea turtles, birds or other marine life affected by the oil, please call the STCB Hotline at (+599) 780 0433 or Stinapa at (+599) 717 8444.

Several friends and frequent Bonaire tourists have asked what they can do to help from afar. We will inquire and share what we find.

Online News Sources

Oil Spill Reaches Bonaire

Trinidad Oil Spill Pollutes Beaches in Venezuela

Oil Spill Reaches the ABC Islands

The Oil Spill is Spreading in the Gulf of Paria – includes an aerial photos of the spill site

 

 

Mar 142017
 

Steve and I recently traveled to Lake Tahoe for the wedding of a close family member.  It was my first visit to this magical mountain playground, but it won’t be my last.  While I grew up in the mountains as an avid skier, I lost my fondness for cold weather and any and all sports that go along with it.

I haven’t willingly been in the snow for several years, so I was unsure as to how I would handle the environment in Lake Tahoe in March.  Would I remain inside, huddled by a fire, making every attempt to avoid the out-of-doors except when absolutely necessary (i.e. when leaving the premises for the wedding or rehearsal dinner)?  Or, would I don my snow boots, brave the elements and venture down to the lake to take photos?  Thankfully, my obsession with love of photography took charge, and as it turns out, I had a great time in the fresh mountain air.

Panoramic lake view in Incline Village

Panoramic view of Lake Tahoe

We had two sunny winter days during our trip

We had two sunny winter days during our trip

The sky during a storm which dropped two feet of snow

The sky during a storm which dropped two feet of snow

Steve and me braving the storm

Steve and me braving the storm

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, which is nestled amongst the evergreens on its own private beach (with pier).  I was very pleased with our lodging choice.  The resort has a beautiful spa, several outdoor hot tubs and a large heated outdoor pool that I used daily.  It also has several good restaurants, a Starbucks and a great gift shop.  And if you ever get a chance to dine at the Lone Eagle Grill – run, don’t walk.  Not only is the food amazing, but the view is one of the best you’ll find in the area.  And for the skiers out there, the resort has a ski valet and is close to Northstar and Mount Rose ski resorts (among others).

The beach at the Hyatt Regency Incline Village

The beach at the Hyatt Regency Incline Village

The resort's pier - no doubt amazing during summer

The resort’s picturesque pier

Close-up of the beach, which was comprised of pebbles in an array of neutral hues

Close-up of the beach, which was comprised of pebbles in an array of neutral hues

Large pinecone were found all along the shore

Large pinecones were found all along the shore

Devouring the Baked Tahoe at the Lone Eagle Grille. This marshmallow-meringue encrusted dessert is pure perfection!

Devouring the Baked Tahoe at the Lone Eagle Grille. This marshmallow-meringue encrusted dessert is pure perfection!

There were a few wildlife sightings during our brief time exploring the lake’s beaches.

A beautiful mallard on the shoreline of the lake

A beautiful mallard on the shoreline of the lake

Well, alright, not exactly wildlife... This is Piper, she travels around the country in an RV.

Well, alright, not exactly wildlife… This is Piper, she travels around the country in an RV.

The wedding that we attended was the perfect representation of the couple’s love for Lake Tahoe and the mountains.  It was held at a beautiful rustic-chic venue near the lake.  The couple attended to every detail themselves, including hand-crafting most of the decor (including the centerpieces).

The Groom hand made the wedding place card holders

The Groom hand made the wedding place card holders

The Groom's father hand-crafted a rustic wooden bench for guests to sign.

The Groom’s father hand-crafted a rustic wooden bench for guests to sign.

Champagne was served on the balcony overlooking the pine forest and snow-capped mountains

Champagne was served on the balcony overlooking the pine forest and snow-capped mountains

Steve and me during cocktail hour

Steve and me during cocktail hour

I can’t wait to return to this paradise, perhaps in the warmer months.  Have you been to Lake Tahoe?  Winter or summer?

Oct 092016
 

My ears perk up, and my eyes open. It’s 3:00 am in the middle of the Tanzanian bush. Was that a lion roaring outside of our tent? As Steve and I lie sleeping in our cozy bed, the only thing separating us from the wildlife is a layer of canvas fabric.  And yet, this may be the most peaceful sleep I’ve ever experienced.

A symphony of bird songs alerts us that dawn is near. As anyone that knows me can attest, morning is not my time to shine. But I’ve ignored my internal clock, hard-wired as it may be, to greet the day before sunrise. Why? Because I am in equatorial Africa, and this may be the most spectacular sunrise I ever see.

The aroma of freshly brewed Tanzanian coffee wafts through the tent. The air is brisk and cool, despite the fact that we are three degrees south of the equator. We will soon meet David, our safari guide, for a sunrise game drive.  We plan to take full advantage of the golden-hour light that makes photographers swoon.

Sunrise in the Serengeti

We gather our packs and pile into the Land Cruiser. It’s early, and we are still swaddled in layers of fleece and cool-weather gear. The sun peeks over the horizon as we head towards the river in search of wildlife. As we leave the dirt road leading to our lodge, our guide spots a solitary male lion lying in the grass. We pause for a moment to admire his grandeur. Game on.

Serengeti Camp

I’ve never been one who enjoys road trips. I am content to get from point A to point B as quickly and easily as possible. But I was beginning to sense another major change in myself, here in the midst of these vast amber plains. I’d completely lost my focus on “ the destination”, and I was simply enjoying the journey.

Today we are in the northern Serengeti during a natural phenomenon known as The Great Migration of Wildebeest. During The Great Migration, over 1.5 million Wildebeest traverse Tanzania and Kenya, in herds both unbelievably vast and dense. We hope to witness and photograph the holy grail of wildebeest Migration activities – a river crossing.

wildebeest in northern serengeti

We drive down the road, eyes peeled for animal activity. Wildlife spotting has become our sport of choice, and this is The World Cup. To the right, I spot a giant marabou stork – a massive bird 5 feet (150 cm) in stature. Just ahead a herd of gazelles graze in the grass. On our left side, I spy a cape buffalo. So much beauty surrounds me that I don’t know where to look.

gazelle in serengeti

cape buffalo in serengeti

Thirty bumpy minutes later we near the river. Wildebeest and zebra surround its banks, contemplating their upcoming journey across it. I think I can see the anxiety on their faces and in their body movements. They are afraid – afraid of the unknown, afraid of the water, afraid of the crocodiles that lurk in the shadows. I watch as a lone wildebeest dips its foot in the water, and then quickly pulls it out. It only takes one brave wildebeest for a crossing to commence. Once one takes the plunge, they all march forward.

Our radio crackles, a quick conversation in Swahili ensues, and we speed down the rutted road leaving a virtual dust storm in our wake. We pull up to the river to see thousands of wildebeest leaping in. It’s happening! They swim, single file, hoping to reach the safety of the other side. Some struggle, slip on rocks and lose their footing. It brings tears to my eyes thinking that they may not make it. But I continue snapping away, hoping that I can convey the reality of this unreal scene through my Canon lens.

wildebeest in Mara River

Wildebeest Crossing Mara River

Wildebeest in Mara River

A half an hour later I exhale and put down my camera. This crossing is over, and every single wildebeest made it safely across.  I know that this is a fluke of nature, but I am relieved that I didn’t have to witness a crocodile feast. Dripping wet and exhausted, wildebeest lie all around taking a hard-earned rest.

We go on to witness two more river crossings before noon- each one more exciting than the next. Even our seasoned guide, who has become family after ten days together, is surprised by our good fortune.

Satisfied by what we had seen thus far, we decided to head back to our lodge for lunch. But Mother Nature must have decided that the show wasn’t over.  A leopard was waking from its nap just above us in the trees.

leopard leaping