I first met ruddy turnstones on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, at the entrance of the Bay of Tampa. From our very first encounter, it was impossible to forget their name (although I didn’t know the name at the time we met) because that is exactly what turnstones do: they turn stones on the beach looking for insects and other little creatures they can eat, quickly moving from one stone to the next, never staying in place for very long.
These two were enjoying the white foam on the shores of Keālia Pond on Maui.
Hey, look over here!
This one looks so familiar.
No, must be elsewhere…
I approached quietly enough, I thought
Even held my breath
Then I stood at the edge of the water, still
Watching, observing, even admiring
You floated about without a care, but
In an instant you both tipped forward
Holding your breath I assumed
Your behinds pointed to the sky, duck
I see you…
I had been photographing Hawaiian stilts, coots and ducks when a flash of white caught my attention, from the thicket of tree across the pond. The sunlight and the shadows from the tree’s branches played on that magnificent bird, highlighting it from its surroundings.
It turned out to be a cattle egret, with its bright yellow to reddish sharp bill, red legs, bright white plumage accented by a red or brownish patch on its forehead. I had no doubt it was aware of my presence as it continued poking around the base of the tree for some insects. Eventually, it strolled away, hidden by the long grass and bushes.
The Hawaiian coot is an endangered species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, with a population estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 birds. I came across this coot at the Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Its distinctive bright white frontal shield (sometimes with a red patch) and its deep red eyes are quite striking. A member of the rail family, its feet are not webbed, but it is a good swimmer.
Much is said about the endangered Kukuluae’o, the Hawaiian stilt, at the Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Stilt(s) seems like a most appropriate description for its red legs that look disproportionately long and at times awkward for the size of its body. I kept expecting to watch them tip forward, head first into the water, but that never happened.
As if dressed formally in a black tuxedo with a bright white shirt, this skinny-legged bird tip-toes through the shallow water in search of food, which it catches with its sharp long black bill. The bird’s call emitted from a mouth that seems spring loaded shut, consists of a series of unmistakable loud shrieks that are sure to get everyone’s attention.
The Hawaiian stilt (Kukuluae’o).
The Hawaiian stilt (Kukuluae’o) catching some food.
A Pacific golden plover stands amid four Hawaiian stilts.
A couple of Hawaiian stilts (female on the right).
The Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is home to a number of species of native and migratory birds. The coastal boardwalk provides great viewpoints to observe the many birds in the wetlands North of Kihei, and several paths lead to nearby quiet Sugar Beach.
On the prowl with my 70-300mm zoom, I enjoyed the view from the boardwalk, which I had almost to myself on that bright but very windy Tuesday morning. The first bird I spotted was a black-crowned night heron. Its striking features make it easily recognizable: black-grey-white as if dressed smartly in a tuxedo, short and stout, two long white neck feathers, yellow legs, fierce looking red eyes, mean pointy beak. It is also most impressive in flight.