Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ian's Warbler Moment

I interrupt my continuing images from Mexico for this very important, to me :-), essay by Ian that was just posted in AHEM, Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts. He wrote it his freshman year and is now finishing up his Junior year at UMass Amherst. AHEM was founded by some very good friends of ours, dedicated to providing information and support to families interested in homeschooling in MA. As you can see from Ian's writing and viewpoint, homeschooling worked very well for us, one of the best decisions we ever made.

My Warbler Moment

By Ian Davies
Ian Davies
My obsession with the natural world, and birds in particular, began the first time I went to Manomet Bird Observatory. Since that time in August 2004, I have spent basically all my time pursuing my bird-related interests, something that was enabled by my homeschooling, as well as the boundless support of my parents.
The person who started it all by putting that living gem of a bird in my hands goes by the name Trevor Lloyd-Evans. A Welsh immigrant, Trevor came to the US in the early 1970s to work on migratory songbird stopover ecology in Manomet, and in the past 40 years he has converted dozens if not hundreds of people to a love of the natural world, and educated thousands of children about what goes on in their back yards every day.  A born teacher, he will frequently appear out of thin air to regale you with tales of the most obscure facts, bad puns, or ludicrous stories. His mellow voice with an upper-class Welsh accent is lulling on a warm day, especially when waxing poetic about politics of 14th century Europe or something equally esoteric. When reaching the crucial point of a joke or story, a mischievous smile will tweak the corners of his mouth as he dry washes his hands before delivering the culmination of his masterpiece.
The creature, the bird, the spark behind all this, is commonly called in English, the Canada Warbler; in Latin, Wilsonia Canadensis; and in Spanish, on its wintering grounds, Chipe de colar. Canada Warblers are small birds, weighing around 10 grams, or less than half of an ounce; one could mail two of them for the price of a stamp. This individual is partway through its biannual journey to Central or South America, a trip that is 2500-3500 miles one-way, something it will repeat again in the springtime and every year after that until the end of its life, most likely four or five years.
The location where this all went down is known as The Banding Lab, a place where over 300,000 birds since 1966 have been banded, measured, weighed, and released, in order to better understand population trends and migration patterns of birds. The lab itself has a very distinctive smell, a musty rich scent that is so unique that every time I enter the room I feel like I’m coming home.  It is full of many strange objects, ranging from magnifying glass headsets and rusty machetes in one corner, to an arrow that’s presence is completely inexplicable, and massive ancient binders slowly disintegrating under the stress of frequent use.
When I showed up unannounced at the lab on that day with my mother, despite never having set eyes upon me in his life, Trevor was willing to set aside a chunk of his time and effort in order to show me just how intricate this bird was, and when he placed it in my hands to be released back into the wild, he unwittingly converted me to a lifestyle that defines who I am. 

That first day I stayed for perhaps an hour. The next day I came back for three hours. The day after, six, then eight, and after that, the rest was history. I started off merely watching, but after coming back season after season, I started performing the processes myself, and after volunteering for close to four years, I began working there.

Working at Manomet I was able to benefit from Trevor’s omniscience daily, as well as learn about many different facets of biology and life in general. Living in dorms with my coworkers there helped to prepare me for life in “the real world” and the experience has helped me travel and get work and internships elsewhere. 

Another “consequence” of homeschooling is the freedom to travel. When I was younger I would go with my parents to such locations as Spain and Costa Rica, and before I went I would find out everything there was to know about the fauna of the region. Starting last year I’ve been traveling with friends, beginning with a 10-day road trip in Panama, and culminating this year in a three-month odyssey across western South America. During these trips I would occasionally be a paid guide, which helped make contacts, and already has netted me some job offers in Ecuador that will be waiting for me at the end of college. My travels have netted me over 2,100 species of birds, a significant percentage of the approximate 10,000 species in the world, and three times as many as the 700 in the entire continental United States and Canada. My eventual goal is to see all the species in the world, but a more realistic goal would be to see 8,000 species, a feat that has been achieved by less than 10 people. 

Trips and life experiences such as these would never have come to pass if it were not for my foundation of scientific and ornithological knowledge, laid down by Trevor and other kind souls at Manomet.

Ian is currently a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst, expecting to graduate with a degree in Wildlife Ecology this fall. He is still in love with travel, photography, and all aspects of nature.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Wonderful 60th Happy Birthday!

Last week I entered a new decade, my 60's, and I was so happy to celebrate it in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico with my longtime friend Susan, her husband, Scott and my husband, Joe. We visited them on their vacation at our old condos, Villas Del Mar, while we are staying in Cancun for our last few weeks here in Mexico. That was a first visiting friends on vacation while we are on vacation... What a great time we had, lots of good photo ops as you can see by the too many photos. Just sayin'.... I'm a very lucky woman and count each birthday as a special gift!!

Having drinks at the jacuzzi bar with Susan and Scott at the Omni.  

All 4 of us with my iPhone by a nice estrangero.

 Just another day at the beach.

 Susan looking great! Vacation suits her :-)

 Inside Susan and Scott's Condo.

 Their night time view.

Scott made some yummy fruity drinks with mango, coconut, pineapple and rum. Guacamole Joe making his signature Guac.

 Nice shot, Joe!

Happy to be 60!! 

The back of a can of Sol beer.

For breakfast the next morning we tried this pretty fruit. Don't know the name, I just like buying strange things to eat.  I don't think any of us will seek it out again :-)

 The next day we visited a nearby Cenote, a freshwater sink hole, one of many all over this part of the Yucatan. 
Joe getting his shot, a blog he will post in a few days.

 Click to view full size. This was a beautiful pool of water with lots of fish and caves, I loved it!!

 A young boy from Russia enjoying the fish, too.

 If you stay still in the water, these tiny fish will nibble at your skin, as in exfoliate it, feels odd but I liked it.

 The best swimming water ever!

This photographer was part of the Russian family swimming there, she has perfected a technique of keeping hold of her baby and getting the shot of the others in the water.

Ancient art carved into the stone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Photos from the past few days around Cancun

The main thing this grouping of photos has in common is that I took them. I like them and just wanted to post them, they were all taken during the last 5 days here in Cancun, but if I have a style I don't know what it is :-) Just things I like...

St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, so he has my vote.
A real bird flew onto this sculpture and there I was with my camera, sometimes you just get lucky.

 Working mens boots on the bus.
 Lunch time at a natural foods restaurant.
 Modern art.

 Back to the beach theme.

Night shot looking towards downtown Cancun.

 The windiest day we've had here, white caps on the ocean.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Great Egret in Cancun

It may be a common site at the beach, but not for me, and I had the best time stalking this beautiful bird.
Very early morning on the beach in front of our resort, when only a few joggers were running by, this Great Egret was catching his breakfast, while I was trying to capture him with my camera. Fun!

 The light is always best early in the day and before sunset.

 The Great Egret doing his beautiful bird thing while I do what humans with cameras do....

 Got it!

Around the corner was another pretty ocean scene.

These photos were taken with my Canon Rebel and Tamron 18-280mm telephoto zoom. Not the best lens for capturing bird images, and not as sharp as the lenses real bird photographers use, but it made me happy today :-)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Old Plaza with a Patisserie

Looking for something interesting to photograph? Take a walk. The last two mornings Joe and I have headed out at 6:30am for a look around our new environment, and I found the best old plaza with great bones. There are some offices inside, a couple of 'guards' at a desk that were fine with me taking pictures and a Patisserie, with the smell of baked goods permeating the premises. Perfect!

Yes, we're still in Mexico, but this bakery had a definite French feel. I bought a bag of muffins and chocolate croissants, meant to take a photograph but ate them on the way home. Maybe tomorrow...

 Not sure Cancun has been here since 1952, just a bit older than I am.

 I'll be back, it's only 1 1/2 kilometers from Casa Maya, where we're staying.

 This is the other part of this fairly abandoned plaza, great lines and textures.

 Looking down a hallway...

 I found this.

An interior courtyard.

The other images were with my Canon, this one and the next are with my iPhone. 

 This bird flew right into the frame at just the moment I clicked the shutter!

This plaza is next to the main road, and here's the bus we take to get into town. R2.