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Playing Hooky in Hawaii

Nene Goose, Kaua'i

Just returned from a welcome family vacation in Hawaii – a nice break from the recent cold snap in Seattle. To make it a true vacation, I took only one camera body and one lens (albeit the handy Nikon 18-200mm) rather than the usual 50-60 lbs of gear I normally haul around.  This is a great lens for snapping the grandkids surfing, and (with the benefit of a sturdy plastic bag) shots of them underwater in the resort pool.

But since I don’t get to Hawaii all that often, I took a few hours off from the pleasures of grandparent-hood and went looking for Nenes – the endangered Hawaiian Geese. Although threatened by habitat loss, they are not hard to find in a few locations on Kaua’i, most notably at Kokee State Park and all along the north shore.

I was lucky on this occasion to 1) find them easily, 2) have bright overcast light (full sun can be a picture-killer) and 3) to find adults without the ubiquitous numbered leg bands. These help scientists ID and track birds, but look a little jarring in a picture.

Adult Nenes with Chick

These particular Nenes seemed to like hanging around parking and picnic areas – apparently hoping to cash in on human discards. This made for some pretty unnatural backgrounds: car tires, yellow lines on asphalt, and garbage. In the end, however, I managed to find birds in more wild settings, including a pair with a young chick. Photographing that chick, however, proved a challenge: like most parents, the adult Nenes were forever blocking my view to protect their little one.  Patience, and persistence, eventually afforded me a few quick glimpses, nothing more.

After an hour or so, the sun came out, the birds left, and my grandkids needed my attention. Would I have loved a little more time with the Nenes? Sure… But hey, this was a vacation and time with the grandkids is almost as rare as these birds.

Nikon D300 with 18-200mm lens