An unexpected oasis in the desert with wildlife…Five days and counting…

Impressive clouds over the mountains while I toured the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

With both of us having visited Nevada many times in our old lives, we had already been to many of the popular sightseeing venues throughout the state.  With many tasks to accomplish before leaving the US until our next family visit in a few years, we had much to do with little interest in traveling around the state in the outrageous heat.

The entrance to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is secure to avoid trespassers entering during hours the facility is closed.

At this point, we’ve almost completed everything we needed to do. Today, we’ll make the final visit to our mailing service to pick up the last of our mail and drop off a few items we’ll store in our oversized mailbox for future shipment.

Also, we’ll make a quick stop at the pharmacy and Smith’s Market which will see us through until we leave for the airport on Tuesday morning to fly to Costa Rica for the upcoming three and a half month stay.

Too distant for close up photos, we spotted these two Cormorant sitting on a rock in a pond.

Two days ago, when I decided to head out on my own, leaving Tom behind to have some time to himself, I headed to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve with few expectations, hoping to see a few birds.

There is a total of eight distinct ponds within the facility.

On many occasions, we’d attempted to take photos of the few birds we’d seen here and there, including some in the yard by the pool.  In most cases, they’ve flown away before I could grab the camera.  While out and about we’ve seen a few birds and virtually no wildlife.

Each pond had a distinct look with a variety of birds and vegetation.

As our long time readers know, wildlife is the single most exciting aspect of our travels.  Without the opportunity to see Mother Nature’s treasures, we try to focus on culture, scenery, and vegetation. 

Unfortunately, where we’ve been located in Henderson with a population slightly under 300,000, (bordering Las Vegas which has a population of over 632,000), there have been few opportunities to see desert wildlife in the metropolitan area. 

In the summer there are fewer birds at the facility but I was surprised to see as many as I had.

Even if we’d ventured deep into the desert (as we’ve done in the past), it would be unlikely we’d see much in the way of wildlife.  The heat and the sun keep most animals under cover during daylight hours.

Arriving at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve at 11:10 am, I had no idea the facility closes at noon during the summer months.  A kindly staff member explained they’d be closing soon and the gates would be locked. 

Duck on a rock.

When I explained about our website and the fact I’d hoped to prepare a story on the facility, I was not only welcomed with open arms but was offered a private tour through the entire facility on their utility vehicle I couldn’t have been more appreciative. 

Oddly, the typically sunny sky this time of year was overcast and not ideal for taking photos but the unseasonable cool temperature at 75F (24C) was perfect weather for the tour.  I was determined to do my best and take as many photos as possible to share here with our worldwide readers.  It proved to be a perfect tour.

This bird is a vulture.

As for the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, here are a few facts from their site:

“Description
The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve (HBVP) is one of the best places in southern Nevada to watch birds and dragonflies. Marsh and stream-side habitat in the nearby Las Vegas Wash, combined with open ponds and trees in the HBVP ponds, attracts birds of all kinds to water in this otherwise parched land. Desert species, waterbirds, wading birds, migrant songbirds, and shorebirds can be abundant here. Paved (fully accessible) and dirt (mostly accessible) walkways run on dikes that divide the area into nine brush-lined ponds and provide many vantage points. An elevated platform gives good views over much of the area. Access to the area is free, but it closes early, especially during summer.

The HBVP began as part of the Henderson city sewage treatment system, but with changes in the treatment process, the HBVP now uses reclaimed water and the odor is gone. Even so, the staff still ask people to remain on the trails and stay out of the mud and water.”

More information may be found on their site, including year round hours of operation and the amazing fact that there are no fees required to visit this exceptional spot. 

Please keep in mind a liability waiver must be signed upon entrance into the facility via the visitors center.  However, staying on the trails is safe for people of all ages although the roads are rough in spots and may not suitable for those with disabilities.  

In the usual heat of the desert, certain plants bloom pretty and colorful flowers.
The walk through the facility may take several hours and it’s imperative to dress for the weather and bring plenty of water.  Cooler days definitely would be more suitable for those interested in walking the entire distance.  Binoculars and/or a camera are a must. 
 
Shortly after Barbara, who’d volunteered to give me the tour, we were joined on the utility vehicle by Anthony, a biologist, who plays a big role in overseeing the wildlife in the preserve. 


During and after the tour, I had an opportunity to speak to Anthony at length as we shared wonderful stories of nature and wildlife.  He, too, was originally from the Midwest with an innate passion for nature so much so that it had become his dedicated lifelong career.

Las Vegas/Henderson is located in a valley surrounded by mountains.
Over the next several days, we’ll continue sharing more photos from my visit to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve although the stories included may not necessarily be relevant to the photos.


So, folks, we’re winding down our visit to the USA.  On August 1st, “travel day,” we’ll include all of our expenses and a recap of our favorite photos from the 24 days we’ll have spent in Nevada.

Have a pleasant day filled with wonderful surprises!

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Photo from one year ago today, July 27, 2016:

One year ago…the second bedroom in the Phuket house which we never used which included an en suite bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2, a day to remember…Thanks to new friends…The Laysan Albatross story begins…

Here’s our video of the Laysan Albatross.
 When we lived in Africa, whether on safari in Kenya or in our yard in Marloth Park, each time we had the opportunity to see wildlife, our pulse quickened and a rush of feel good hormones, one of which is dopamine rushed through our bodies.
Looking up to see if her mate is coming back with dinner.

It may be a work of art, an animal, or a stretch of beach that triggers the release of the powerful hormone that makes us feel great. For many, the triggers may be different. For us, seeing wildlife sends us both into a level of joy that is hard to describe which has only escalated these past few years as we’ve traveled the world.

This nesting albatross was the first one we spotted, sleeping on her/his nest. Both the male and female tend to the nest.

When our friend Richard invited us to walk with him in his neighborhood to see the many nesting Laysan Albatross in various neighbor’s yards, upon sighting the first bird, I felt as if someone shot me in the arm. An immediate smile overtook my face, my heart raced with excitement, and for some odd reason  (hum…) I felt as if I was “home” (wherever that may be).

The dark coloration around their eyes varies from bird to bird.

For at least 30 minutes, we wandered from yard to yard, occasionally waving or talking to neighbors who were comfortable seeing us with Richard rather than tourists snooping in their yards. 

Even a hibiscus plant is a good spot to nest.

What our eyes beheld was awe-inspiring; as many as five albatross at one time in various yards throughout the neighborhood, paying little attention to us as we made a special effort to stay far back to avoid disturbing them.

 
These two were hanging around the dense vegetation in the center of the cul-de-sac.

It’s important not to get too close to these seemingly friendly birds. They release a hormone when frightened which may be dangerous to them. Staying as far back as possible is imperative for their good health.

Then, there were three…

Luckily, our camera has an excellent ability to zoom in, making it possible for today’s video and photos.  Our course, the dopamine coursing through my body, made my hands a little unsteady, so I did my best. Usually, I refer to this shakiness as excitement and enthusiasm when in essence, it is dopamine.

Then there were four…

As we walked from house to house, we couldn’t believe how many nesting, dancing, interacting, and sleeping albatross we spotted. If we say that we saw the exquisite birds in no less than a dozen yards, we wouldn’t be exaggerating. 

A loner, nesting close to a house.

I wondered how residents would be able to go about their daily lives when these precious birds were living in their yards. Surely, if it was us, we’d be sitting outside on lawn chairs, at a safe distance, watching their daily interactions with the hope of eventually seeing a hatchling.

This one reminded me of Tom, “Oh, I hate going for a walk!”

Well, we’re the people who sat outside all day in the bush in 90 degrees, bug and snake-infested Africa waiting for the next moving creature. Of course, we’d be equally enthralled with these birds.

So beautiful!

For Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology’s information about the Laysan Albatross including a clip of the sound of the birds, please click here.

Flying is the Laysan Albatross’s forte, not walking which appears awkward.

Again, we thank our friend Richard for bestowing this amazing opportunity upon us. Without his assistance and friendship, we’d never have known about these exquisite birds, only seeing them when they occasionally fly over our heads.

It was surprising how they paid no attention to us walking by, continuing with their adorable antics.
Contemplating their next move under a lemon tree.

Once again, we find reasons to be grateful for perhaps another bit of “safari luck.”

These smaller two may have been siblings, were grooming each other.
Marine Conservation Biologists in Hawaii band the birds in order to maintain an accurate record of as many birds as possible.

Tomorrow, we’ll share a wonderful story of the oldest banded Laysan Albatross. Do check back and have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 27, 2014:

Neither of us had ever seen the Sickle Bush which grows in Africa. We were fascinated by its prickly feel and look, along with its beautiful colors. For more “small things” we found in the bush, please click here.

Quiet contemplation while winding down…Check out the senior version of photo taking using a tripod! One year ago at the river, a White Fronted Plover…

This bright ray of sunlight when captured by Tom’s steady hand this morning. Tom took all these sunrise photos this morning around 7:00 am. He’s getting better!

With a renewed sense of wonder after a day without spotting a single “blow hole” this morning we dashed out the door when Tom spotted two Humpback Whales breaching the surface of the sea. 

It impressed me that Tom took these sunrise photos. 

Grabbing the newly purchased $15.99 tripod, we set up the camera prepared to take a few more whale shots, dreaming of the full-body breach one may never capture in a lifetime. 

Based on current reports there’s been a tremendous number of whale sightings in Kauai at Hanalei Bay, where we’ll be in a mere six days. Although we’ll be living across the street from the bay, we’re prepared to buy two portable lawn chairs from Costco when we arrive to haul them along with the camera and tripod to the beach each day for whale watching.

The beaming rays of sunshine always warrant a photo. Good job, Mister!

It won’t be as convenient as it’s been living only 30 feet from the roaring sea here in Pahoa but, as always, we’ll revise our strategy to make it work. I’ve kind of grown attached to this cozy beach house as Tom and I have returned to our simple way of living alone together, having more fun than two seniors would ever imagine at our ages.

Although he took the sunrise photos using my camera, he adjusted the tripod and older camera hoping to get a few whale photos. Alas, they didn’t breach again for now. This pose made us laugh. Here’s the “senior” way to use a tripod, comfortably ensconced with one’s butt in a chair, (although the tripod raises up to a full height).

Again today, we prefer to languish at home beginning to think about organizing and packing. Plus, we have the empty cardboard box to fill with unused food and household products to take to the post office in Pahoa to mail to ourselves in Kauai. This time we’ll mail it only one day before arrival since it takes only one day for inter-island packages.

Salt resistant vegetation commonly seen along the shore.

In reality, we could pack it all in a matter of a few hours, but we’ve found planning ahead is a great stress reducer, making our departure seamless and uncomplicated which we thrive on.

Yesterday, staying in once again, we were at a loss for photos to post today. We’d literally used all the good shots we’d had in the “Next Day Photos” folder on my desktop and wondered, as we often do, what we’ll post for today. 

Last evening’s waves were breathtaking.

Alas, the beauty of our surroundings, as always, provides the opportunities we seek, and the worthy scenes are presented to us, begging to become a permanent part of our website.

A beautiful scene is our neighbor Yoko’s yard.

Today, in its simplicity, we cut our words short to share these photos and to allow us time to get back outside and see what else Mother Nature may have in store for us in the next 24 hours. She seldom lets us down.

                                            Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2014:

It was a year ago today that we stood on the shores of the Crocodile River enjoying the various wildlife including the White Fronted Plover, quietly at rest.  For other photos of the wildlife we spotted that day, please click here.

Final full day in Maui…Disappointing whale watching…

The Maalaea Marina as we made our way out of the windy bay.

Boarding the boat that held 146 passengers was a lengthy process. Not only were we asked to arrive by 12:15 for a 1:00 pm sailing but after we’d checked in, we had to wait with the crowd for another half hour for our guide to “walk us” to the awaiting tri-hulled boat.

The view in front of us while we were seated on the boat. Our condo building was straight ahead.

VIP members of the Pacific Whale Foundation were allowed to board first which after making their donation, made sense to us. Luckily, we were next in line after that group able to pick preferred seating on the boat which surprisingly ended up with less than 101 passengers on the long holiday weekend.

We’d read numerous reviews on TripAdvisor.com on the Pacific Whale Foundation stating that passengers were disgruntled when they were “required” to have their photos taken. Long ago in our travels, we learned that no one can “make us” have our photo taken unless one has signed a contract agreeing to do so.

As our boat was heading out to sea another similar boat was returning.

Shoo them away! That’s what we’ve done in all of our travels and again yesterday when pressure was exercised for us to get in line for a photo before getting on the boat. We passed right by, shaking our heads and saying, “No thank you,” as we’ve done many times in the past.

Its hard to determine the severity of the winds from our photos.  Our eyes were focused on spotting whale blowhole spouts as we were instructed by the marine biologist on board as the easiest way to spot a whale.

The wind was blowing so hard, it almost knocked me over. We’d both worn our matching BugsAway bill hats, having to hold onto them during the entire period to keep them from flying away. 

We enjoyed sailing past the same road we’d taken to get to Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach.

The crisp white of the boat, the glaring sun, and the huge waves made watching the ocean for whales a bit challenging. Wearing the hat helped block some of the glare. Holding onto it was annoying. Even wearing my quality sunglasses, I needed the hat to allow me to see anything at all. We sat on the top deck of the boat, adding to the feel of the wind. 

As we took off, the captain explained that Maalaea Bay is the windiest harbor in the US and second windiest in the world and that yesterday was one of the windiest days they’d seen of late. Had we spotted any whales it would have been challenging to take a photo or a video when it was nearly impossible to stand up and maintain one’s balance.

The scenery in Maui is always beautiful.

After the first 30 minutes, I left Tom in the seats we’d originally picked to find a better vantage point, hoping I wouldn’t miss a shot. Although one whale spouted from its blowhole, I never saw it nor did many others. We waited in the area for it to reappear, only to move on 30 minutes later when it never surfaced again.

At the end of the event, all the passengers were offered another complimentary outing, good for one year, since we never really had a sighting, also due to the fact the two-hour boat ride was so uncomfortable in the high winds. We’ll have no way to use it when neither of the upcoming two islands has locations for the Pacific Whale Foundation.

After I’d move to the bow of the boat, I stood for another 30 minutes, holding on with one hand while the other held the camera in ready mode. On a few occasions, the boat lurched substantially. Luckily, I held on for dear life, using my left, not my bad right arm.

We’d have loved having photos of a whale to share today but, the scenery is all we have to offer.

After that, I found a decent spot to sit with a good view of the bow, ready for action. The only action I saw during the last hour was the lively conversation with a lovely tour guide I met who lives in the islands.  Exchanging business cards, we agreed to get in touch in the near future.

When the boat finally docked at the Maalaea Marina, I walked back to find Tom with a huge smile on his face, cheerful as ever, happy to see me.  He’d stayed in the same seat during the entire two hours, knowing I’d find him at the end. Based on the fact the captain never announced that anyone had fallen overboard, he never had a worry in the world.

In Maui, one minute the sky is blue, and moments later, the clouds roll in.

We weren’t as disappointed as we could have been had this been an actual “vacation” in the islands.  Whales will be surrounding us in many of our future locations and we’re certain that at some time in the future our whale watching aspirations will be fulfilled.

Today is packing day. Now that it takes less than a half-hour to pack everything we own, it causes no concern or stress for either of us. 

The reality finally hit us that we’re leaving Maui. Last night, as Tom peered out the open door to the lanai he said, “It’s hard to believe we’re actually in Hawaii. Then again, it’s always hard to believe wherever we maybe.” So true, my love. So true.

Tomorrow on travel day, we’ll post our total costs for the entire six weeks we spent in Maui, including a breakdown of rent and expenses. Please check back for details which will be posted at our usual time.

At the moment, Tom is watching the Minnesota Vikings football game on his computer and is happy as a clam.  That’s not to say that they’re winning!

Have a happy Sunday!

                                                Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2013:
One year ago, it was a travel day from Diani Beach, Kenya to Marloth Park, South Africa, a long and laborious journey. As a result, no photos were posted on that date. But, soon as we arrived in Marloth Park, the fun began when we had visitors every day during our three months of living in the bush, having the time of our lives. For details of that travel day, please click here.