The Green Sand Beach – Hawaii

While spending some time on the Big Island of Hawaii there are numerous things to see and do and one of those items is to walk on the green sand beach. This is becoming more and more popular for a number of reasons. One of those is that this is one of only four green sand beaches in the world making it very unique. Another is getting there has become easier due to transportation availability. You can choose to pay for a ride unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, which is definitely required, or you can hike the 3 miles one way to get there.

Walking to the beach

Our group decided to take both options. Some payed for a taxi ride both ways, some used a taxi for one direction, and others hiked both directions. These “taxi’s”, which are 4 x 4 vehicles, cost us $15 per person round trip or $10 per person one way. They save a lot of time and make this beach more accessible which is both a good and bad thing in my opinion. I chose to hike both directions because the scenery is incredibly beautiful and I’m able to physically handle this hike. Just remember to bring plenty of water to drink and sunscreen or this can turn into a miserable experience. In the photo above you can see the views  while walking next to the ocean. On the right side of the photo is the trail leading from the boat landing, where this journey begins, with a few people walking over the ridge. Unfortunately they are pretty hard to see due to the size of the photo. In the very top picture you can see the beginning of the trail with a boat landing in the little bay. Again the boat landing is difficult to make out in this photo but you can see buoys in the water directing boats into the landing.

The first view of the green sand beach

After walking over some fairly rough terrain for over an hour due to many distracting views along the way we came upon this beautiful sight of the green sand beach. Once these amazing views were taken in I was surprised at how small this beach actually is and how steep the climb is down to the beach itself. I was quite warm by this point and ready to get into the water so we quickly made our way over to the trail down to the beach and went plowing into the ocean waves. The sand is very soft and felt nice on bare feet while working towards the salty water.

Down on the beach

There was only a little over an hour to enjoy this incredible Hawaiian beach so not much time to really explore the area around it. Once I had cooled off in the ocean there were some pictures I wanted to take while here so I dried off and grabbed the camera to remember how beautiful it is from a distance and up close. The water is such a beautiful turquoise blue, the rocks are interestingly carved by the ocean waves, and the sand is an amazing blend of green, white, and black grains which you can see in the image below. These green particles apparently are from lava mixing with certain minerals as it flows from the earth and deposited in this remote location. There’s a better explanation of this on this USGS page. I could have spent a lot more time taking in this beach but there were other sights to continue on to so it was time to return to our car and head to the black sand beach.

Close up of the green sand

Pansies Close Up

Pansies are a beautiful spring flower showing off their vibrant colors when many people want to see flowers in bloom. They are striking flowers so I spent a little time photographing them and was fortunate enough to encounter some wildlife while doing so. Well, if insects can be considered wildlife. While really looking into these flowers I was setting up to take some close up abstract photos when a fly decided to enter the picture.

A fly decided to get in front of the camera for a photo

Already set up I quickly snapped a few photos while it was in focus under the lens just for some added interest. Below is the photo I was attempting to get before the fly flew into the frame. Seeing pansies this close makes me wonder how insects see them. Supposedly the veins, which are the darker lines, draw them into the center part of the flower where the pollen is so they can exchange this pollen in hopes of creating new seeds. But then why is the center yellow? Does that attract the insects once they are on the flower enticing them to the pollen? I like how this photo shows pollen grains sitting on a flower petal shaken from the stamen either by insects or wind. A nice contrast to the purple.

Abstract close up of a purple pansy

The Next Generation of Monarchs

Every night as I walk into the house there have been a couple of monarch caterpillars munching away on the leaves of milkweed which we let grow specifically for them. It’s always amazing how fast these caterpillars grow. They become noticeably larger each day. There’s some debate as to if we should put these into a protected place so they can cocoon and turn into butterflies or let them find their own hiding place to cocoon and risk something eating them. Looking forward to seeing the butterflies soon floating around the neighborhood.

Another monarch caterpillar

Ladyslippers Are Blooming Again

Cold hardy ladyslippers are in full bloom again so I’ve taken a little time to capture a few photos of them before they begin to fade. These are all plants that I have growing in containers in my yard so they can be enjoyed year after year. Well, providing I do a good job growing them and they survive each year.

After a light rain

There are a few different color variations ranging from all white to combinations of white, yellow, and red/brown. Some of these have a great fragrance but you have to get close to the flower to smell it while others really have no scent. A sweet perfume really adds to the enjoyment of any flower in my opinion.

Pink and white lady slipper

The most difficult part of growing ladyslippers is they only bloom for a few weeks and then they’re done for the year and this seems to regularly occur as the heat of summer arrives which reduces their length of blooming. Unlike other flowers, ladyslippers bloom all at once so there is this mass of blooms and then it’s all over with instead of a staggered bloom extending the season. This just means you have to take time to enjoy them when they’re blooming or it will be a while before you get to see them again.

Red and yellow lady slipper

Waterfalls in Hawaii

When thinking of Hawaii one of the first things many people envision is of a waterfall in a tropical paradise. Well there are several on the Big Island of Hawaii to meet this expectation. Our first day on the island brought a conversation with a local orchid grower near Hilo regarding sights to see with waterfalls being high on our list. His response was a laugh followed by an explanation that there are numerous waterfalls with fast flowing water as it had been raining almost every day since the 1st of the year.

Rainbow Falls

Our first stop was at Rainbow Falls near Hilo providing a beautiful waterfall flowing over the edge of a volcanic cliff crashing into the channel below. We were told that during the right time of day the sunlight casts a rainbow in the mist below giving this falls its name. It’s definitely a beautiful sight attracting many people to the area to explore this great water feature of Hawaii.

A popular waterfall near Hilo, HI

After taking some time to enjoy this area and listen to the water as it falls over the cliff and into the river bed below and use the available restrooms, it was off to see another of Hawaii’s popular waterfalls. After a short drive we arrived at the spectacular Akaka Falls State Park. Here there is a nice paved path winding through the jungle bringing you to an almost unimaginable waterfall. This is a waterfall with a 400 foot drop! I never imagined being able to get this close to such a place being able to witness this plunging river from a paved platform across the gorge. It is so tall and you’re close enough that it’s almost like you’re in a dream.

Akaka Falls

While the tall Akaka Falls is certainly the highlight of this state park, it is not the only waterfalls visible here. Another one can be seen through trees and shrubs and one more is quite a bit shorter but still beautiful to see. We were nearing the end of our day with the parking lot gate soon to close so it was time to leave but still difficult to tear away from a waterfall that seems like you only would see it in a movie or on tv.  There are several other waterfalls but these seem to be the two most popular and worth seeing.

A small triple waterfall

Capturing The Great Blue Heron

With the late spring this year migrating birds such as the Great Blue Heron were restricted in places to find food. This gave me an opportunity to get closer and get some great photos of this skittish bird. Several days earlier I was walking through this area and was only able to catch a glimpse of this heron as it flew away before I really even knew it was there. A couple of days later the same thing happened only allowing me to get a blurry photo as it few away.

And down it goes

Finally, the next day being a Saturday I ventured out again before sunrise. As I got closer to this little stream, which was beginning to open up after the winter, I moved more cautiously and tried to appear as though I wasn’t even paying attention to the stream by looking the other way. After a bit of surveying the landscape in the opposite direction I caught this heron out of the corner of my eye so I now knew it was there and hadn’t taken flight yet.

Surveying the surroundings

Returning my attention in the opposite direction from this bird I would glance back from time to time to find it was going back to its business of fishing. Slowly I retrieved my camera and attached a larger lens before turning it on this Heron over a downed log. The more I just relaxed and continued my normal movements from this distance the more comfortable this bird seemed to get even allowing me to slowly move closer over time getting even better photographs and observe its behavior. Occasionally a pair of wood ducks would swim by since the Heron deemed the area safe with me their. I had a great time and stayed there until the Heron stopped fishing and departed with another one passing by.

Heron fishing while a wood duck drake looks on

Emerging

Once spring arrived plants began to return to life rather quickly. I took a little time to capture some of the surrounding trees as their leaves returned to life bringing green back into the landscape. In the above photo is a silver maple extending new leaves into the warming air to capture the power of the sun creating energy for life.

Emergence of oak leaves

Oak leaves expanding with their tiny lobed leaves while still perfect in form before the tribulations of summer take its toll on them.

Gingko leaves unfurling

Here are Ginkgo leaves emerging from a long winter unfurling into the bright sunlight as they stretch out of the bud. Below are the flowers of an oak tree getting ready to create new acorns. The beginning of another oak tree?

Flowers of an oak tree

Capturing a Little Bit of Spring

Unfortunately there has been limited time available to go exploring with the camera while spring explodes all around us but I have taken a few opportunities to enjoy the landscape as it returns to life. Above is a purple and white bicolor wild violet. Below are oak tree flowers.

Flowers of an Oak Tree

Crabapple in full bloom

Bringing some very enjoyable sweet fragrances are the blooms of crabapple trees and hyacinths. They don’t last very long but sure do bring a smile to many with their pleasurable smell bringing great springtime moments.

Hyacinth beginning to bloom

Snorkeling in Hawaii

One of my favorite things to do on a tropical island is go snorkeling to see all of the amazing corals and colorful fish. So when we began planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii I knew we had to set some time aside underwater adventures. Anytime there were a couple of hours free we headed to a beach to see what was swimming below and was never disappointed. Our very first morning in Kona we walked to a nearby beach and saw yellow tangs swimming everywhere. Within a few minutes I had to go back to the hotel and get snorkeling gear to get a better view of these fish.

Yellow Tangs

A short time later we were in the water swimming among these beautiful fish watching as they dart back and forth finding food and swimming with the motion of the waves as they came barreling towards shore. It becomes so easy to lose track of time when you enter this amazing underwater world. So much of the land world slips away down here. Well, until you find something from land that has made its way into the ocean such as a tire or plastic bottle.  Some of it from careless people while other pieces make their way here by accident from either the wind or a larger wave. I ended up losing a key card at one point adding to this foreign debris. Fortunately it was found again and I was able to keep this little piece of trash out of the ocean.

A school of fish

During a few of our last snorkeling adventures we were fortunate enough to come across sea turtles swimming along the reef. One of them kept swimming closer and closer to a point I needed to swim away trying to keep a safe distance from it for its protection. It was so much fun to see these large turtles up close as they scour rocks and swim around the sea. They move in such a lazy fashion like they really have no worries at all and just go with the tide. Even though I was able to get in the water on four different occasion for a couple of hours each, I could have spent so much more time in the water exploring the different beaches and bays around Kona. It was a great time that I hope to be able to repeat sometime in the future.

Swimming with a Sea Turtle

Ducks, Ducks, and More Water Fowl

Over the last few weeks I’ve been able to get out and photograph several different types of ducks and other waterfowl as they begin their migration north. Fortunately for me there has been limited areas of open water so these ducks have had to congregate into these areas making it a little easier to photograph. There have been thirteen different ducks that I’ve photographed this spring. Out of those, six are types I’ve never seen before so that’s pretty good success in my book. The top photo is a pair of wood ducks searching for a place to build their nest.  (Click on each image below to view a larger version of it.)

A pair of Mallard drakes                  Canadian Geese

In these next two pictures are the most common types of waterfowl in my area which include mallards and Canadian geese. Mallards can have some great colors but are seen all the time during the summer making them less interesting. Canadian geese are a pretty bird with their combination of brown, black, and white colors but they are kind of annoying with their constant honking.

Great Blue Heron                  A pair of Blue Winged Teal

The first image on the left is not really a waterfowl, but a bird that spends a lot of time in the shallow waters. This Great Blue Heron took me several attempts to get nice photos of because I would continually scare it away as I approached the thawing creek without knowing it was there. Finally on the third time going to the area I saw it before it took off and stopped. After awhile it didn’t seem to care that I was there so I could get close enough for some nice photos. In the second picture is a pair of blue winged teals which I’ve photographed a number of times before.

Green Winged Teal                  Ring Neck drake

During one of my outings I came across this duck on the left above which I have never seen before. Upon getting home and doing a little research I found out this was a green winged teal. A very pretty duck which would have been nice to get closer to for better photos. Not this time I guess. The duck above on the left is a ring neck duck which I’ve seen and photographed a couple of times. A fun duck to watch.

A pair of Bufflehead ducks                   Red Head duck

Above on the left are a pair of bufflehead ducks. Another duck which I had not yet seen so it was nice to add these to my collection. Fortunately I saw several of these during a weeks time span. On the right above is a read head duck which was mixed in with a flock of lessor scaups below on the left. These I’ve seen a number of different times during the spring and fall migration. They are very distinctive to pick out in a flock of ducks due to their red heads.

Lesser Scaup ducks                   Hooded Merganser drake taking off

Getting ready to fly away on the right photo above is a hooded merganser. These are another fairly common duck in central Minnesota. Moving to the pictures below, the one of the left is a red breasted merganser and the common loon on the right. Both of these are new to my photo collection and I’ve never seen a red breasted merganser before so that was fun. Very interesting and pretty ducks. While loons have been visible from time to time I’ve never actually taken a lot of time to watch them up close. They are fun to sit and watch with a binoculars or spotting scope (or in my case a zoom lens) for awhile as they fish, preen, and maintain their territory. With any luck I’ll be able to get out more this spring and observe more fowl as they prepare for the summer.

Red Breasted Merganser                    Loon on take off

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