Posts Tagged With: nature

Kauai: Hawaii’s Garden Isle

Every February-March, my editor asks if I can once again update the Destination Hyatt books for the Maui, Kauai and Waikiki resorts. I look forward to this assignment because I’m a wordsmith, and it’s a chance for me to get creative, writing new sidebars, little-known facts, and intros for each of the resorts and the islands they inhabit. And that means I have to come up with new themes and ideas each year.

A few years ago, I wrote this one for Kauai. And since I just returned from six days on the Garden Isle, now seems like the perfect time to put words and photos together for a blog post. My husband calls this “flowery” writing, but I call it fitting for a garden island.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any Kauai experiences, do tell.

A father takes a photo of his five children at sunset on Brennecke’s beach, Kauai.

Kauai: The Magician

Abracadabra! Endless stretches of powdery-sand beaches strung together like jewels glittering gold in the sunlight. Throngs of red-footed boobies and other acrobatic sea birds soaring gracefully above the cliffs and lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. An impregnable mountain fortress known as Na Pali flaunting its steepled spires, sea arches, and isolated, idyllic pillows of sand.

When it comes to sleight of hand, Kauai is a master, transforming the raw lava of a once barren volcano into an emerald-robed Garden of Eden complete with groves of coconut palms and a smorgasbord of fruits: papaya, banana, breadfruit, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, and the tempting mountain apple.

Like pulling a rabbit out of its hat, the island reveals hidden gardens filled with colorful tropical flowers, the languid Wailua River and its ethereal Fern Grotto, waterfalls galore, a replica Grand Canyon known as Waimea, and towering Mount Wai‘ale‘ale—the wettest place on earth.

Once Kauai has mesmerized, resistance is futile. You’ll find yourself playing 18 holes on a world-class, cliff-top golf course, hiking into Waimea Canyon’s wilderness of pastel reds and yellows or along Na Pali’s carved-into-the-cliffside footpath, kayaking a rainforest river, sipping coffee made from the island’s homegrown beans, relaxing in a rejuvenating spa, visiting locations where movies such as Jurassic Park and South Pacific were filmed, exploring by horseback or astride an ATV, stretching out on a beach in the company of a Hawaiian monk seal or green sea turtle.

Kauai waves its magic wand and you gladly fall under its spell.

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Categories: flowers, Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Travel theme: Animals

October 4 celebrated the Feast of St. Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It has also been designated World Animal day, so this is perfect timing, says Where’s my backpack? to share our animal photos. Perfect timing for me, too, since I’ve recently returned from a visit to the San Diego Zoo, where my camera caught many animals just hanging around and being their charming selves.

gorilla mother and youngster

Ok, ok. You can have a Twinkie, but you’d better be hungry for dinner.

Just click on any of the photos to access larger images in the photo gallery. (My apologies for some of the incorrect designations [gazelle, not antelope; bonobo, not orangutang; etc.] I’m trying out the gallery style and still have a few kinks to work out)

Categories: Animals, nature, Photography, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Hummingbirds

hummingbirds

Face-off

Fascinating hummingbirds. They’re the tiniest birds in the world, weighing between 2 and 20 grams (a penny weighs 2.5 grams). They can see and hear better than humans. They can even see ultraviolet light. Yet they have no sense of smell. Their hearts beat about 250 times per minute at rest and up to 1,260 times a minute while flying. Their wings beat about 70 times per second, but up to 200 times per second when diving. Their metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant.

I’ve never seen a hummingbird here in Hawaii, so on a recent visit to San Diego, I was delighted to find a colony of them hovering around my house-host’s feeder. I could have watched them all day, but time did not permit. Here are just a few shots from my short time with these captivating creatures. And some more hummingbird facts that might surprise you.

Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly both forward and backwards. They can hover in midair, fly sideways and even upside down. They can fly at an average speed of 25-30 miles per hour but can dive up to 60 mph.

hummingbird flying

A hummingbird’s wings will rotate in a full circle.

Hummingbirds do not mate for life. Females do all the nest building, and males do not help raise the young. Baby hummingbirds cannot fly and remain the nest for 3 weeks. A hummingbird’s average life span is 5 years, but some can live for more than 10 years.

hummingbird perched

Hummingbirds can flash bright colors (I saw red, green and blue on the head), or hide them. The colors come from iridescence similar to that on a soap bubble or prism. Females find these iridescent feathers attractive.

A hummingbird’s brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.

 

 

 

Hummingbirds are very smart, and they can remember every flower they have been to and how long it will take a flower to refill.

A hummingbird does not drink through its beak like a straw. It uses its tongue, which is grooved in the shape of a W and has tiny hairs on its tip, to lap up nectar from flowers and feeders.

hummingbird perching

Hummingbirds spend most of their life perching. They have weak feet and can barely walk, preferring to fly. Their body temperature is around 107 degrees F.

An average sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers.

30% of a hummingbird’s weight consists of flight muscles. In comparison, human pectoral muscles are about 6% of body weight.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been known to travel 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds. The trip takes an estimated 20 hours. Some hummingbirds will travel over 2,000 miles, twice a year, during migrations.

Contrary to popular misconception, hummingbirds do not migrate on the backs of geese. Geese fly on different migration paths or fly zones than hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds need to eat on average 7 times per hour for about 30-60 seconds (so I have to ask myself, how does a hummingbird make it 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico?), and will visit an average of 1,000 flowers per day for nectar, lapping it up at a rate of about 13 licks per second. They also eat small soft bugs for protein.

To sleep, hummingbirds go into a hibernation-like state called torpor to conserve energy. When in torpor, they appear dead and have occasionally been found hanging upside down. It takes up to an hour to fully recover from torpor.

hummingbird flying

Male hummingbirds are very aggressive and will chase other males out of their territories.

Hummingbirds are only found naturally in the Americas, as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile.

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds.

A hummingbird’s favorite color is red. They pollinate flowers by rubbing their forehead and face in the flower as they get nectar.

Early Spanish explorers called hummingbirds flying jewels. Can’t argue with that.

Categories: Birds, environment, nature, Photography, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Tulips in Turkey

tulips arranged in S-curves decorate the border of a driveway leading to Istanbul University

Turkey is full of surprises. For example, it is commonly believed that tulips originated in Holland. In fact, tulips are native to Central Asia and Turkey. It seems that in the 16th century, someone brought them from Turkey to Holland where they became wildly popular.

In Turkey, under the reign of Sultan Ahmed III, the period between 1718 and 1730 became known as the Tulip Era—an era of peace in which handmade textiles, embroidery, carpets, clothing and other objects were adorned with tulip designs and large tulip gardens sprang up around the Golden Horn in Istanbul. When the sultan was dethroned, the Tulip Era came to an end, but tulip gardens can still be found in Istanbul, and the lovely designs still adorn many handmade goods (see photo below).

The botanical name for tulips, Tulipa, is derived from the Turkish word “tulbend,” meaning turban, which the flower resembles. The tulip is considered the king of bulbs and is Turkey’s national flower.

a gold letter opener from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul sports a tulip design

Categories: culture, flowers, History, nature, Photography, Shopping, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How to Fall in Love with a Goose

This Canada gosling was obviously a music lover

It was the cutest thing I had ever seen. A baby goose—a gosling—nestled in the pocket of a teenager’s shirt.

I had been visiting friends in the town of Penticton, Canada, a beautiful place surrounded by mountains and lakes. Their outdoorsman son had found an abandoned goose egg and brought it home. He kept it warm, and within days, the shell cracked and a fluffy little gosling emerged. For the chick, it was love at first sight. Thinking the boy, Craig, was its mother, the little goose attached itself to him. Outside, Craig carried the gosling everywhere in his shirt pocket. Indoors, it had the run of the house, its webbed feet padding after him wherever he went.

The gosling also accepted the rest of us as fellow geese, showing no reluctance to approach us. I held the tiny creature in my hands, felt its little feet in my palms, the softness of downy feathers, and I was captivated. We enjoyed watching our new baby waddle through the garden, nibbling small flower heads with its tiny beak. When Craig’s sister played her guitar, the gosling positioned itself within inches of the strings, listening intently and watching her hands pluck and strum.

But Craig knew the adorable little bird didn’t belong in a human environment. He had seen a mother goose and her new hatchlings in the area where he had found the egg and felt sure this was the baby’s mother, so he made a plan, hoping she would recognize and accept her own.

Since I had become as attached as he, Craig took me with him. Together we paddled his canoe across the mountain lake, the little bird rustling around in his shirt pocket. When we spotted the mother goose and her brood near the shore, we drifted as close as possible without alarming them, then placed our charge in the water and started paddling away.

The gosling followed us, its paddle-like feet working overtime.

Realizing this wasn’t going to be easy, I plucked it out of the water while Craig maneuvered the canoe back to our original drop point. This time, after setting the little goose back in the water, we each grabbed a paddle and jettisoned away as fast as possible. The gosling followed once again, honking in desperation. I could hear the distress in its little voice. It broke my heart. I could feel tears welling up, the salty drops trickling down my face. I begged Craig to turn around or let it catch up, but he was resolute. And, as it turned out, he was right not to stop.

Finally we had pulled far enough away. Our little bird stopped swimming. It sat in the water, watching us. It must have realized it couldn’t catch up.

Then an amazing thing happened. The mother goose and her brood glided out of the shallows gently honking at the stranger. In response, the gosling turned and swam towards them. After a brief introduction and some nuzzling—perhaps a goose way of checking I.D.—the whole group glided back to the shore, our gosling among them.

I was sad and overjoyed at the same time. I would miss the little Canada goose, but it was with its family, back in the wild where it belonged.
(published as Back to the Wild, in “The Ultimate Bird Lover,” HCI publications 2010)

Categories: environment, nature, Photography, Published Work, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , | 37 Comments

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