Jan 222018
 

With over 210 species of birds, Bonaire is a haven for birders and bird photographers.  While almost everyone that visits Bonaire is familiar with its bright pink flamingos, there are many other avian species that are just as intriguing to observe.

Reddish Egret at Salt Works

Osprey near Bopec

Brown-throated Parakeet

Southern Lapwing

Blue-winged Teal – adult female in flight

For those who are just getting started, or for the most serious of birders, we highly recommend the newly published field guide, “Birds of Aruba/Bonaire/Curacao” by Jeffrey V. Wells and Allison Childs Wells.  The Wells’ spent over two decades studying the birds of the ABC islands, and their guide is packed with valuable information as to where to observe birds on the islands, species ID tips, directions and maps and other helpful items.

A few weeks ago Steve observed a banded Ruddy Turnstone on a beach in the south of the island.  The band data shows that it was first captured and tagged in southern New Jersey in May 2012, was documented in Delaware in May 2014, May 2015, May 2016 and May/June 2017 before its first international sighting here on Bonaire.  This bird knows how to get around.

Ruddy Turnstone on Bonaire

There is a new option for birding tours on Bonaire.  Elsmarie Beukenboom, Bonaire-born naturalist and retired director of STINAPA is now giving personalized birding and nature tours.  Elsmarie’s knowledge of Bonaire and its nature is virtually unmatched.  Her contact information is below.

elsemarie boNature birding & nature tours BROCHURE

 

Aug 142017
 

For almost two months we’ve been working on a secret project. We’ve spent hours watching, waiting and studying, all the while trying our best to respect this beautiful gift that Mother Nature bestowed upon us. We’ve been so eager to share bits and pieces of this with you, but we needed to see it through to completion. Now we can finallly reveal our secret from start to finish.

Special thanks to Bruce Zavon for contributing photos and a video.

Photos by Steve Schnoll, Meredith Schnoll and Bruce Zavon.

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?

Dec 042016
 

The holidays are rapidly approaching (yikes), and, if you’re like most of us, you may be struggling with gift ideas for those on your list.  We’re here to help.

We’ve put together a list of some of favorite products and services for Travelers, Photographers, Scuba Divers and Bonaire Lovers.

 

For Travelers & Global Nomads

Swatch Watches– I rarely travel without a Swatch watch.  The affordable price point means that you don’t have to fret about loss or theft.  And the fact that all Swatch watches are waterproof makes them indispensable for ocean lovers. Another plus, many larger airports have a Swatch store, and Swatch offers free battery changes for the life of your watch.  This white one is my new fave.

Amazon Kindle Voyage – This is the new device in my arsenal, and I’m in love.  Where do I begin?  The battery life is incredible.  It lasts for weeks.  The screen is easy to read, easy on the eyes and user-friendly.  And who doesn’t want access to new books at their fingertip?

Elta MD UV Clear Sunscreen, SPF 46 – Whether you are trekking in the Himalayas, Skiing in Taos or sailing the South Pacific, sunscreen is critically important.  I go through bottles of this product.  It has a high level of protection, yet it feels light and will never cause breakouts.

Dakine Split Roller Duffle Bag – My Dakine bag has not had an easy life.  It’s been thrown onto luggage belts in Fiji, rolled through rocks and dirt in the Serengeti and hauled in and out of multiple boats in The Maldives.  Yet it has held up like the workhorse it is.  And type-A neat freaks those who like multiple organizational options will love its many sections and pockets.

Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarers – These classic shades are now made in a cool folding design that fits easily into your pocket or travel bag.

 

For Photographers

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 – This is hands-down the most critical element of my photography arsenal.

Gitzo 3532LS Tripod – This sturdy carbon-fiber tripod is also flexible and adaptable.  We love it for outdoor and wildlife photography.

Think Tank Perception Pro Camera Backpack – This backpack went with me to Tanzania, and it was perfect for my safari needs.  Inside it I hauled one SLR body, two point and shoot bodies, two lenses, an underwater housing for my Olympus TG-4, my MacBook Pro and multiple other accessories.

The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge – If you want to learn underwater photography or want to perfect your underwater photography, this is without a doubt the book for you.

 

For Scuba Divers

Henderson Lycra Dive Skin – Whether you wear it alone for snorkeling or under a warmer wetsuit for diving, this dive skin is comfortable and well-made.

Reef Fish Identification Book – These fish identification books by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach have been a crucial part of our library for as long as I can remember.  They are a must-have for every scuba diver.  They are available for the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Caribbean and Atlantic.

Scubapro Spectra Mini Mask – My mask of choice.  The low-profile design and smaller size is a great choice for female or smaller divers.

Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) Membership – We faithfully renew our DAN memberships each year.  The benefits are numerous and include dive accident insurance, a subscription to Alert Diver magazine and dive safety education.  Membership is $35 for an individual and $55 for a family.

 

For Bonaire Lovers – Our favorite local Bonairean products & services

Cadushy Rom Rincon – This spiced and artisan-crafted rum is made for sipping.  Get it while you are in Bonaire. It’s not available anywhere else.

Phish Phaktory Bags – These tote bags are made from recycled sails and materials found in underwater cleanup dives on Bonaire.  The bags are cute, sturdy, well-crafted and will last forever.  The owners/artists are super cool and truly care about our environment.

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire's Carnival

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire’s Carnival

Flaming Flamingo hot sauces, salt and jams – We love these made-in-Bonaire products.  Our fave is the mango hot sauce (Steve practically drinks it).

A tank card from Dive Friends Bonaire – Give the gift of air!  Dive Friends Bonaire offers a handy tank card for local divers.

Elements Jewelry – Elements dichroic glass pieces made great colorful gifts and souvenirs.

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire hats and shirts – Help Bonaire’s sea turtles and wear cool gear at the same time.

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire Diver Certification Course – We are both PADI certified Coral Restoration Divers.  It’s both fun and important work.  Courses are available at Buddy Dive, Harbour Village and Wannadive.

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Meredith cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery at Klein Bonaire

Italy in the World, Bonaire – Give a beautiful bottle of Italian wine or a great Prosecco from this boutique and restaurant in Bonaire.  We love the Santero 9-5-8 prosecco for a sunset toast.

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

Latitude 12° Designs Bonaire Necklace – OK, this is my jewelry design company.  I design and create custom jewelry in sterling silver (or the metal of your choice).  My Bonaire Necklace is a great choice for showing your Bonaire love.  But the choice is yours – all pieces are custom made, and the sky is the limit.

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

All of the products mentioned above are products we use and love.  We have purchased each of these products (some over and over), and they were not gifted to us or given to us for promotional purposes.

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