Black-backed Oriole – Probable Excapee

On January 31st a resident of Berks County, Pennsylvania, found a very strange oriole in their yard.  Someone quickly identified it as a Black-backed Oriole.  If this bird is accepted it could be potential 1st ABA record.

The bird was seen at 20 or 21 Indiana Avenue, Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.

The people in the neighbourhood were open to visitors but there were rules to be followed.

Viewing only between 7:30 and 4, please sign the logbook, please stay on the sidewalk and be courteous.

Well after a month of indecision and seeing numerous photos of this Oriole, I decided to make the 1500 km pilgrimage to see the bird.  I asked the guys if anyone was interested in going and Richard Killeen said he’d love to go see the oriole.

Richard and I had decided that to go March 1st at the end of my shift but the weather was terrible, rain and snow all the way.   So we left on the Thursday at 5am but weather still wasn’t great, winds were high, with falling and blowing snow.

There was a Clarks Grebe in Oswego which was on the way but when we got there the winds were blowing at 50-60 mph in our face so we had no chance of seeing that bird.

Not much else happened and we arrived in Sinking Spring at 2pm.  One birder was standing on the sidewalk and told us that the Oriole had just been there and she’d seen it 3 times in 30 minutes.

It didn’t take long and the Oriole came in to feed on the grapes that had been put out for it.  Below is a composite photo of the bird, showing top and front views, because we had to stay on the sidewalk, these images are from over 150 feet.

After 30 minutes it was time to head home, there really wasn’t much time to bird n the way home, so we drove straight home arriving at 11:00pm.

Eventually they may say this is an escapee but regardless its a beauty.

Ciao for now….

 

 

 

 

Notably, this is not the first incidence of this species in the ABA Area. In 2000, a Black-backed Oriole was present from April-June in San Diego, California, returning the next summer. That bird was accepted by that state’s Bird Records Committee until it was refound in its preferred eucalyptus grove in January of 2002, at which point the committee felt it had reason to suspect that it was an escaped cage bird and removed it from the list in as much as its status could be determined. Many observers believed that this species was still a good candidate to occur in the ABA Area, though perhaps none would have predicted Pennsylvania. More information on the California bird is available here.

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That Damned Gull with the Yellow-Legs

This trip with Chris Feeney would be my 3rd try for the Yellow-legged Gull, that has been seen of and on every winter for a few years.

We decided to make this a crazy, go for the rarities trip….first 3 days in St. John’s for the Gull, then leave from Halifax in my car and drive to St. John, New Brunswick for the 3 Shelduck and then on to Rhode Island for the Graylag Goose.  Chris would then fly home and I’d drive 8 hours back home.

I drove the  13 hours to Halifax Airport (a trip I’ve done many times) and caught my flight to St. John’s on January 9th.  Chris had arrived in the middle of the previous night and had a good yet short sleep and was raring to go.

Off we went in the rental car and over the next 2 1/2 days glassed over 10,000 gulls hoping to see the Yellow-legged Gull or the even harder Kelp Gull, but the gulls had a different idea.  The weather was warm but the winds high, the gulls were spooky with all the Eagles in the area and you’d no sooner started to go over a flock when they’d all take off as a group and then resettle.  You’d then have to start scanning through them again……

I’ve seen a few Yellow-legged Gulls in Europe but never in the ABA.

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Well we did that for 2 1/2 days, we saw birds that could have been but they never were.  We saw birds that are very hard to find anywhere else in the ABA but easy here.  Tufted Duck, Eurasian Widgeon, Adult Iceland Gull, Black-headed Gull and Common Gulls, but the Yellow-legged Gull was a no show.

First Winter Black-headed Gull

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Winter Plumage Black-headed Gull

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Dovekie

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American Widgeon

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1st Winter Glaucous Gull

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Iceland Gull Adult Winter

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

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Tufted Duck

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Iceland Gull 1st winter

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Almost Pure Iceland Gull Adult winter

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Lesser Black-backed Gull Adult Winter

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Eurasian Widgeon

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Common Teal

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Was good having dinner with Jared Clarke and sharing stories over a good meal and a few pints.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

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Greylag and Slaty-backed Gull – #719 and #720 ABA

After Chris Feeney and I missed the Yellow-legged Gull in St. John’s, Newfoundland and the 3 Shelducks in St. John, New Brunswick we were more than a little discouraged.  We drove the 750km  to Providence,  Rhode Island, hoping that at least the Greylag Goose was still in that area.

Arriving late in the evening, we were up early next morning and headed out to the Metacomet Country Club in East Providence.  There had been a Greylag Goose hanging with a flock of Canada’s for the past few weeks.

We scanned the Canada’s but no Greylag, but within minutes we saw the bird coming out of a patch of bull rushes.  It moved around quite a bit and was certainly not liked by the Canada’s. My 719th ABA bird was in the books

Greylag Goose – ABA Life Bird #719

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The next day we spent the day just birdwatching without pressure, a very cold but good time had with friends.

Chris had to leave early the next morning, so I decided to head for home.  I checked and saw that a Slaty-backed Gull was being seen in Niagara Falls but I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive there then home.  When I did a google search and found out Niagara Falls was 3 hours closer than home, my decision was a no brainer.

I have searched for this gull in Alaska, West Coast and everywhere it has been reported over the last 10 years without luck.  I arrived at 2 am and found a nice secluded spot on the street and fell asleep wrapped in my sleeping bag.   I was comfortable but it was cold.  I may have gotten 3 hours sleep but as soon as the sun came up I drove through the gate to Goat Island State Park and started looking through the thousands of gulls.  I could tell this was not going to be easy.

I found a spot where I could get fairly close and saw Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous, Greater and Lesser Black-backs but I sure couldn’t pick out anything different.  To make matters worse you couldn’t see there legs because they were standing in water.

I saw another car approach the area and park.  A gentleman walked over to me and asked if I’d seen the Slaty-back.  I said I’d seen a lot of possibilities but nothing really jumped out at me because I couldn’t see their leg color.   He said I wonder if its in the same place as yesterday, then “yup”.

Well I watched that gull for over an hour before it decided to move, all it did was scratch its head, showing me those bright pink legs and combined with a dark mantle, there was no doubt.

Slaty-backed Gull – ABA Life Bird #220

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I headed for home, stopping to visit a cousin in Toronto.  Long trip, lots of kilometers driven, not as good as it could have been but the Slaty-back was well worth it.

Ciao for now…..

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A Mad Dash to Texas and Florida

It never fails rare birds always show up just as I start my shift and disappear when I approach my days off.

In early January a Rose-throated Becard was being seen at Estero Grande Park, Texas, in Florida there was a Western Spindalis and a Bananaquit.  So in mid January I booked a flight to Texas for 4 days and then on to Florida for another 4 days.

I asked Sue if she wanted to go with me but because of a conflict at work she could only join me for the Florida leg of the trip.

On February 4th I left for on a milk run, crazy 4 stop, flight to San Antonio.  Arriving at 2:30pm I figure I had enough time to go to Refugio and hopefully get the Gold-crowned Warbler (not a life bird but wanted it for my year list).   Arriving at 5:15pm I got a partial look before it got too dark and then followed a 3 hour drive to McAllen. I did find a very obliging Barred Owl in the park.

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I was up early, had breakfast,  then headed over to Estaro Llano Grande State Park and began  my morning looking for the Becard.  There were many great birds but the Becard was a no show for 3 days.

Cinnamon Teal

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Least Grebe

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Grapefruits didn’t only attract Birds

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Altamira Oriole

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Common Pauraque

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I met up with a friend Huck Hutchens and He was going to search for sparrows, that afternoon.  Since there wasn’t much happening at the park, I decide to join him.  Was a fun but slow afternoon (the general theme for my 4 days in Texas, SLOW)

Loggerhead Shrike

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The next morning I planned to go to the NBA (National Butterfly Centre) and Bentsen Rio State Park, to see what butterflies and birds were in the area.  It also was close enough to Estero that if the Becard was spotted I could get over there quickly.

There were plenty of butterflies at the NBA but birds again were slow.

Cardinal

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Lyside Sulphur

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Brown Longtail

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Fatal Metalmark

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Large Orange Sulphur

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American Snout

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Laviana White Skipper

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Texas Crescent

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Lyside Sulphur

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Black Swallowtail

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Crimson Patch

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White-striped Longtail

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Not sure?

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Eastern Screech Owl

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Mating Queen Butterflies

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

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Red Eared Slider

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I spent 5 hours there, spending at least two hours up on the levee scanning for Hook-billed Kites, then I  headed over to Bentsen Rio’s hawk watch tower and spent another hour on the tower scanning for anything without luck.  On the way out I stopped at a few of the feeding stations.

Javalina

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Green Jay

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

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Kiskadee

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Next morning I went to Anzalduas Park for a quick hour and then it was time to head back up north back to Refugio and on to San Antonio.  While none of my target birds were very obliging, a few of the locals did appear for the camera.

Turkey Vulture

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Crested Caracara

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Redhead Duck

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Reddish Egret

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Willet

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Black Skimmer

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Caspian Tern

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Monk Parakeet

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Quite an disappointing trip to Texas but was great meeting up with Huck Hutchens for a afternoon of sparrow hunting.

It was time to meet up with Sue in Florida but the weather had other plans, an ice storm cancelled flights from Ottawa.  I arrived at 11am and found out that Sue wouldn’t arrive until 6pm.  You gotta love Air Canada.

Since I had some time to kill, I drove to nearby Bass Pro Shop and bought a pair of knee high boots I’d need for my next days trek through the Everglades in search of the Cape Sable Sparrow.

I left the next morning at 5, meeting up with Larry Manfredi in Homestead at 6:30.  After a quick coffee off we went.

The Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) is a subspecies og the Seaside Sparrow a bird endemic to southern Florida.  In my Golden Guide 1966 edition it was considered a species and therefore I needed this bird for my book.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried for the Cape Sable Sparrow without success so I decided I needed help on this bird.  I contacted Larry Manfredi one of the best Florida Guides out there, fun to be with and he knows his birds.

Check out his website:  http://www.southfloridabirding.com/

I knew the spot well where you could find the birds but snakes and alligators will put a damper on going off road, alone.  Larry led the way saying that he could hear the birds ahead. I couldn’t hear a damn thing but I had faith.  Within minutes we were watching 3 sparrows in the grasses.

Cape Sable Sparrow  (#682 of 706)

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My photos would have been a lot better but that morning there was a heavy fog and I upped my ISO when getting out of the car and forgot about it when the birds showed up in front of me.

We had a good but long day, with many good birds.

Bannanaquit – ABA Life bird #721

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The Western Spindalis was a no show at Crandon Park but while waiting a few good birds were found.

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Spot-breasted Oriole

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Black Racer a 1st for me..

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Great Crested Flycatcher

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Prairie Warbler

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Palm Warbler

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Egyptian Goose

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Sue and I returned to Crandon Park a few more times over the next few days, seeing lots of good birds but the Spindalis was nowhere to be seen.

Laughing Gull

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Least Sandpiper

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Semi-palmated Plover

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Piping Plover

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Tri-colored Heron

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Common Gallinule

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Royal Tern

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Ruddy Turnstone

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Lesser Black-backed Gull

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It was a great 4 days with Sue, good food and a few drinks…just good getting away.

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Ciao for now…

 

 

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Smith’s Longspur – Crazy Day in the Life of a Birder

Time to start catching up with my posts.

I heard about the Smith’s Longspur being seen, near Long Point, Ontario on December 17th, a few weeks before the January 1st 2017,  date I planned to get going again after a few months break, from birding.

This was a great bird and I just couldn’t pass it up but the 7 hour drive through Toronto, wasn’t that appealing.  I checked for flights and the prices were out of this world so my only choice was to drive.

So I decided to go on the 19th of December if it was still there…I waited at home, until I saw Rex Bartlett’s post that the bird had been seen at 8:10am.

I jumped in the car and off I went.   611 km from my door, through Toronto traffic, after being stuck for an hour in Oshawa and then again in Pickering, I arrived at the area at 3:33pm.   Most of the people were packing up after having seen the bird, I could see the flock feeding by the side of the road and the Longspur was among them.

Pulling over to the side of the road to have a better look, a car coming the other way spooked all the birds…..I though here they go but to my surprise the birds flew in a circle and landed right beside my car, leading the way was the Smith’s Longspur.

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After 30 minutes the light began to fade and it was time to drive back the 611 km to home.  I stopped for a bit to visit with friends in Toronto and got home at  1am.

Someday I’ll visit Churchill to see this bird in breeding plumage but for now, it will have to do.

Ciao for now

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AutoCentrics – Oiltrell, 106-30 Stafford Rd, Nepean ON K2H 8W1

I just returned from a trip to Europe expecting to sign a contract with the owner of Oiltrell in Bells Corners for a 1991 Mazda Miata, as per our verbal arrangement on the 27th of October.

I was so excited to have Greg start working on this car for me that I ordered $500 dollars worth of parts from California for the car.  Hopefully I can still cancel the order.

Well Today I went and saw him to arrange our meeting for tomorrow and he told me that he sold the car.

I guess his word means nothing.  I will never do business there again.  Words can’t describe how disappointed I am today, I was so looking forward to this.

I guess a verbal agreement means nothing these days.

Paul

 

 

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Rarotonga Cook Islands

We arrived in Rarotonga, Cook Islands after a relatively short flight.

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Petrified Coral could be found anywhere on the beach, huge pieces of coral and shells are everywhere.

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Not many shorebirds but Wandering Tattlers were common

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Lovely Flowers…

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First day Frigatebird

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Our accommodations at http://www.tropicalsands.co.ck/

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Pacific Reef Heron on Beach, they come in two color phases.

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Another Tattler

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Tropical Sands

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My Birding Ride

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Avatiu Harbour

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Shoreline at low tide

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Unlike other ocean destinations, we’ve been the shallows were alive with life

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Lovely blue clam, I found while wading

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Rarotonga Starling

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Most abundant bird Jungle Fowl

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I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Ian Karika who is the manager of the Takitumi Conservatin Area searching for a Kakerori or Rarotonga (Flycatcher ) Monarch an endemic species of the island. The totally Grey bird is over 4 years old and the other is under 4. Pretty cool to watch Ian call the birds in, not by pishing but clapping and calling out. He has more than doubled the population of these rare birds since 1996. Thanks Ian

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Rarotonga Flycatcher Adult Above, younger bird below

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Going to the summit

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Not what I signed up for but what a blast..

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For info Contact: Ian Karika – Kakerori@tca.co.ck

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Big surprise at summit was the fly by of two White-tailed Tropicbird’s, I wished I’d been more ready.

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Cucumber Moth

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Second most numerous bird the Myna

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Something seems familiar

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Jungle Fern

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Insects

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Large Bats

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Life in the shallows

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Early morning sighting on beach in front of Tropical Sands

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At night the sand becomes alive with movement

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More photos of Tropical Sands

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Our hosts Kanoe and Rudy, great place, very clean, nice people

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White Tern

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I took a photo of two flying tropicbirds and it was a total surprise to find they were a pair of Red-tailed Tropicbirds

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No Idea

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I wanted this shirt, but they only had mediums

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From the Islander Hotel across from the airport, waiting for flight and watching whales

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A great time…

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Whales were happy too

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Last look at Rarotonga

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Until the next adventure

Ciao for now

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