Jump to content

Wildlife Watching


PABirder

Recommended Posts

Just wondering if anyone out there would like to share which excursions they took (either through the cruise line or independent) that yielded the best wildlife viewing for different ports of call throughout the cruiseline world. You may also list some of the more interesting species you saw and the locations.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Our favorite cruiseline excursions were on the island of Dominica: In the AM we went on the aerial tram, and had surprisingly great looks at some interesting forest birds, including hummingbirds, warblers, and an amazingly cooperative brown trembler. In the PM we went whale watching and had a close encounter with a number of sperm whales...just a great day overall.

 

We have also had wonderful birding on a cruiseline sponsored tortuguero canal tour in Limon, Costa Rica...highlights inculded collared aracari (small toucans), squirrel cuckoo, black hawk, flycatchers, tanagers, and a number of interesting waterbirds and mammals. We took the rainforest jitney ride in the PM, and although the birding was slow (wrong time of day), the habitat was great, and we did see oropenolas and masked tityras, as well as several sloths and some very colorful poison dart frogs.

 

We have had wonderful birding from ship in Alaska in may and in Canada/New England in September...I brought a spotting scope and tripod and was able to scope out puffins, shearwaters, waterfowl, and jeagers (as well as whales). The number of surf scoters and pacific loons in alaska in May was amazing. We did rent cars on shore in Canada/New England for independant birding and touring.

 

We took a private excursion in Ocho Rios, Jamaica to the Cranbrook Flower Forest, and although we were there in the middle of the day, there were quite a few birds around, including streamertails (hummingbirds), bananquits, and a lizard cuckoo...would love to visit the Rocklands sanctuary near Montego Bay.

 

Would love to read about other peoples experiences as well!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whale-Watcher,

 

Thanks! Most of the critters I have seen have been on regular land tours (I spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica and have a fauna list of 3 pages including several aracari and oropendola species) not to mention all kinds of monkeys, 2/3-toed sloths, trogons, and I won't even get in to the hummers!

 

Also, last year, I was in St. John and stopped at 2 key birding spots - Frank Bay Pond (near Cruz Bay - south central side of the island) and Frances Bay Pond (northern tip of island on west side by Mary Point). Between the 2 sites, I saw white-cheeked pintails, black-necked stilts, American coots, great egrets, common gallinules, greater yellowlegs. Throughout the island I also saw little and great blue herons, smooth-billed anis, iguanas, bananaquits, green-throated Carib and Antillean crested hummers, ground doves, pearly-eyed thrashers, brown anoles, tropicbirds, brown boobies, brown pelicans, and of course frigates galore.

 

I have an Alaska trip in August (cruisetour). Will let you know how things go.

 

I've heard there is decent birding in Jamaica -sounds like you confirmed!

 

By the way, what scope did you get. Have you tried "digiscoping" at all?

Link to post
Share on other sites

You will love Alaska!

 

We actually own several scopes (we are a family of 5, and all of us enjoy birding); my favorite all-around scope is the Swarovski 65ATS-HD...small enough to be portable, but very bright , with superb optics, even with the zoom. We have an older-style 80mm swarovski as well, but this is so bulky and heavy that we just use it for wildlife watching from our living room and deck (we often see timber wolves, otters, and eagles, as well as waterfowl on the lake).

 

I recently purchased the new ultra-compact Nikon 50mm fieldscope ED with a zoom lens, and this is even better for travel...I use this with a manfrotto 785B compact tripod. These pack easily even into a small carry on, and they are convenient for cruise shore excursions where a larger scope and tripod would be inconvenient. I did just pick up a special digiscoping eyepiece for this scope from e-bay, but still need to find a bracket that will fit my camera. Otherwise, we take a lot of photos by just holding the camera up against the eyepiece...our large scopes are a little better when it comes to digiscoping, but the little nikon is still an excellent choice for travel...we even take it along kayaking and biking.

 

One of our favorite all around trips was a whale and bird watching trip to Baja to see Blue and Gray whales...this was a land-based trip, but we spent part of every day on the water, and saw some interesting seabirds in addition to all the cetaceans. Costa Rica is still my all time favorite vacation spot...and it was my favorite stop on our recent panama canal cruise.

 

We will have to check out St John if we make it back to the USVI...our next cruise is to Hawaii in Januaray, and I am trying to arange a birding excursion on the big island (would love to see an Iiwi). We will be visiting family in Europe this summer, so I will need to start brushing up on my old world warblers before then.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We went to the Galapagos late last year with Celebrity. Everyday we were surrounded by wildlife. The twice-daily shore excursions (included in the cruise) went to the different islands where there were always some creatures I'd never seen before. My favorite was the Blue Footed Booby - a fun bird to watch, especially when their doing their mating dance. Many, many species of birds, iguanas, tortoises, sea turtles, all kinds of fish, sharks, rays, Galapagos Sea Lions, and much more. If you want to see wildlife, you wouldn't be disappointed in this trip - whether it's thru Celebrity or one of the other small ships in the Galapagos.

 

We've also seen grizzly bears catching salmon at a waterfall in Alaska (precruise), and monkeys flying thru the trees in Costa Rica (port). We did a land trip a few years ago to Churchill, Manitoba and went out in a tundra buggy to view the Polar Bears in the wild. Amazing!

 

It's hard to beat a trip that features wildlife in their natural environment.

Link to post
Share on other sites
You will love Alaska!

 

We actually own several scopes (we are a family of 5, and all of us enjoy birding); my favorite all-around scope is the Swarovski 65ATS-HD...small enough to be portable, but very bright , with superb optics, even with the zoom. We have an older-style 80mm swarovski as well, but this is so bulky and heavy that we just use it for wildlife watching from our living room and deck (we often see timber wolves, otters, and eagles, as well as waterfowl on the lake).

 

 

 

I recently purchased the new ultra-compact Nikon 50mm fieldscope ED with a zoom lens, and this is even better for travel...I use this with a manfrotto 785B compact tripod. These pack easily even into a small carry on, and they are convenient for cruise shore excursions where a larger scope and tripod would be inconvenient. I did just pick up a special digiscoping eyepiece for this scope from e-bay, but still need to find a bracket that will fit my camera. Otherwise, we take a lot of photos by just holding the camera up against the eyepiece...our large scopes are a little better when it comes to digiscoping, but the little nikon is still an excellent choice for travel...we even take it along kayaking and biking.

 

One of our favorite all around trips was a whale and bird watching trip to Baja to see Blue and Gray whales...this was a land-based trip, but we spent part of every day on the water, and saw some interesting seabirds in addition to all the cetaceans. Costa Rica is still my all time favorite vacation spot...and it was my favorite stop on our recent panama canal cruise.

 

We will have to check out St John if we make it back to the USVI...our next cruise is to Hawaii in Januaray, and I am trying to arange a birding excursion on the big island (would love to see an Iiwi). We will be visiting family in Europe this summer, so I will need to start brushing up on my old world warblers before then.

Wow, so you see all that on a roughly day-day basis in Minnesota? Wow! The best I do at home is the odd deer (I just saw 6 in my front yard), some foxes, 'coons, 'possums, skunks, winter feeder birds, hummers, red-tails and sharpies.

 

As far as Alaska - I know I will love it. I was there for 2 weeks in '90. I should like it even more with my niece (who is freaking ga-ga about nature at the age of 10), nephew, and girlfriend in tow.

 

I imagine Hawaii should be better for birding than St. John (although not as good as Costa Rica which is where I first learned about digiscoping - 3 years ago). St. John is excellent for snorkeling, though (like Hawaii I would imagine).

 

What kind of camera do you use? I have had moderate success with my Canon S1 IS and a Kowa TSN-2.

Link to post
Share on other sites
We went to the Galapagos late last year with Celebrity. Everyday we were surrounded by wildlife. The twice-daily shore excursions (included in the cruise) went to the different islands where there were always some creatures I'd never seen before. My favorite was the Blue Footed Booby - a fun bird to watch, especially when their doing their mating dance. Many, many species of birds, iguanas, tortoises, sea turtles, all kinds of fish, sharks, rays, Galapagos Sea Lions, and much more. If you want to see wildlife, you wouldn't be disappointed in this trip - whether it's thru Celebrity or one of the other small ships in the Galapagos.

 

We've also seen grizzly bears catching salmon at a waterfall in Alaska (precruise), and monkeys flying thru the trees in Costa Rica (port). We did a land trip a few years ago to Churchill, Manitoba and went out in a tundra buggy to view the Polar Bears in the wild. Amazing!

 

It's hard to beat a trip that features wildlife in their natural environment.

 

 

CSloan, thanks for sharing! Hopefully the Churchill bears won't have too much trouble with the icepack melting the way it has recently. It is something I would love to see. Is there anything else to do up there at that time of year?

 

Whereabout did you see the bears in Alaska - Katmai?

 

Galapagos is also on my "must see" list - especially after reading Darwin and Jonathan Weiner (The Beak of the Finch)!

 

One of these days I would like to do one of those "boutique-type" cruises that are just geared towards wildlife watching.

 

When I was in Costa Rica, I remember taking a picture of a "ferreteria" and showing it to a person I work with here in PA who is in to ferrets. I told her that they have these "ferret stores" all over the place down there. I finally told her that the term really means "hardware store".

Link to post
Share on other sites

PABirder-

The Polar Bears are about the only game in town that time of year. They're waiting for the bay to freeze over, so they're everywhere and pretty playful.

 

The Alaska bears were in Katmai. Really incredible!

 

I have pics posted on my webiste of the trips I mentioned, if you want to see.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Wow, so you see all that on a roughly day-day basis in Minnesota? Wow! ....What kind of camera do you use? I have had moderate success with my Canon S1 IS and a Kowa TSN-2.
We don't see the wolves daily, although we hear them at least once every few days:D ...we do see eagles most days, and otters and loons daily in season; we usually have a moose or two wander by every few months,and have even seen cougar and a few times. We live on a remote and undeveloped lake in the "sax-zim" bog area, famous for its northern owls (we had an amazing invasion a few years ago, and had great gray, hawk, and boreal owls in our yard all in one day. we are expecting our saw whets to start tooting again anytime now)

 

I just use an ultra compact canon sd630...seems to be OK, and I like the camera overall because of its size (as you can tell, I really don't enjoy bulky or heavy optics)

 

We went to the Galapagos late last year with Celebrity. Everyday we were surrounded by wildlife. ....We did a land trip a few years ago to Churchill, Manitoba and went out in a tundra buggy to view the Polar Bears in the wild. Amazing!

 

It's hard to beat a trip that features wildlife in their natural environment.

these are both dream destinations for us as well. Did you catch any of the new series on the Galapagos that has been airing on one of the cable networks (not sure which one, but it is in HDTV, and really stunning).

 

Did you like cruising with X-pedition?

 

...I have pics posted on my webiste of the trips I mentioned, if you want to see.
they are wonderful...thanks for posting the link!
Link to post
Share on other sites

Whale-Watcher-

Sounds like you live in a great spot! Do you see the Northern Lights?

 

We didn't see the TV special on the Galapagos - we don't have the Nat Geographic Channel, but saw the previews. Maybe they'll put it out on DVD.

 

We liked the Xpedition a lot. There were less than 80 passengers on our sailing. The Cruise Director is actually the Head Naturalist. The nightly "entertainment" is the Naturalist doing a presentation about where the ship will be the next day, and the different excursions available. The Naturalist guides on each excursion were wonderful, and very knowledgeable. It's a beautiful ship, and the service was the best I've ever experienced. The first day onboard, we did an afternoon excursion. When we got back to the ship I commented that if we see nothing else the whole trip, it would have been worth it already. The rest of the excursions definitely met our expectations. I'm not much of a photographer, but this trip really is wildlife photographers dream!

Link to post
Share on other sites
We don't see the wolves daily, although we hear them at least once every few days:D ...we do see eagles most days, and otters and loons daily in season; we usually have a moose or two wander by every few months,and have even seen cougar and a few times. We live on a remote and undeveloped lake in the "sax-zim" bog area, famous for its northern owls (we had an amazing invasion a few years ago, and had great gray, hawk, and boreal owls in our yard all in one day. we are expecting our saw whets to start tooting again anytime now)

 

I just use an ultra compact canon sd630...seems to be OK, and I like the camera overall because of its size (as you can tell, I really don't enjoy bulky or heavy optics)

 

these are both dream destinations for us as well. Did you catch any of the new series on the Galapagos that has been airing on one of the cable networks (not sure which one, but it is in HDTV, and really stunning).

 

Did you like cruising with X-pedition?

 

they are wonderful...thanks for posting the link!

 

I think for my next vacation, I'll camp in your back yard. How are the bugs?

 

We had a saw-whet hanging out down here by my house in suburbia a few years ago. It was pretty cool!

Link to post
Share on other sites
June can be a little scary, but the rest of the summer isn't bad (unless you are deep in a bog listening for Connecticut warblers...). No bugs this weekend, however...we are having an ice storm!

 

June - is that the blackfly season? Sorry about the ice storm. We had one a week and a half ago (although this week it got up to near 80).

Link to post
Share on other sites
June - is that the blackfly season? Sorry about the ice storm. We had one a week and a half ago (although this week it got up to near 80).
We don't have too many blackflies by the house, but they can be thick in the spruce bogs. They start to thin out just as the first big hatching of mosquitoes starts to swarm.
Link to post
Share on other sites
We don't have too many blackflies by the house, but they can be thick in the spruce bogs. They start to thin out just as the first big hatching of mosquitoes starts to swarm.

 

Well, it gives you something to look forward to.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Ice finally started to break up on our lake this weekend...our loons started making flyovers a few days ago, but didn't land on the lake until this AM, when there was less than 50% ice cover left. Hope the terrible nor'easter didn't decimate too many early migrants on the east coast!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was "down the shore" last week and saw tons o'ducks. Of course, that was before the nor'easter. Haven't heard about any avian "fallout" from it yet. Overall, it wasn't quite as bad as was expected. What we had about 2 weeks ago was stranger (3-4" of solid sleet), though.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

our family was in Hawaii for island hopping cruise. Afterwards, we stayed in our cabin in Maui for a few weeks. We have seen many humpback whales both on the cruiseship and on land. Make sure you bring your binoculars. We had one pair of zen-ray summit waterproof binoculars back then.. now we had one pair for each person for our upcoming Alaska curise. Whale-watcher, What's spotting scope, is it a very power binocular? Do I have to use it for my Alaska trip?

Link to post
Share on other sites
our family was in Hawaii for island hopping cruise. Afterwards, we stayed in our cabin in Maui for a few weeks. We have seen many humpback whales both on the cruiseship and on land. Make sure you bring your binoculars. We had one pair of zen-ray summit waterproof binoculars back then.. now we had one pair for each person for our upcoming Alaska curise. Whale-watcher, What's spotting scope, is it a very power binocular? Do I have to use it for my Alaska trip?

 

Dreamalaska, a spotting scope is essentially a telescope (monocular, not binocular) that is made more for land viewing rather than celestial viewing (although it certainly could be used for such). Spotting scopes are best used for viewing things that stay somewhat stationary for periods of time or at least don't move very far very quickly (e.g. ducks, geese, egrets, herons not in flight; stationary hawks and owls; bears; ambling herds of wildlife). They are typically more powerful than binoculars and are more stable as they are usually on tripods. (If you have ever watched anyone target-shooting with rifles and you see a small scope on a tripod sitting next to them, that would be a spotting scope.) Hope this gives you an idea about spotting scopes. I too will be going to Alaska in a few months :D and definitely will have spotting scope and binoculars with me although I wouldn't think a scope would be absolutely necessary. Definitely binoculars!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, dreamalaska...sounds like the whales are almost a sure thing!

 

I agree with PABirder...I would only bring a spotting scope if you plan to spend a lot of time watching birds and wildlife on land...they are difficult (but not impossible) to use from the ship itself. Mostly I use mine for digiscoping distant wildlife, but it does come in handy for other things (for example, looking at distant moutain goats while you are in Juneau).

 

PABirder...how is the migration going out east? We have had a nice variety of warblers (including Bay breasted, Cape May, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Golden winged) over the last few days; still awaiting tanagers, but our orioles have returned, and the loons are sitting on eggs! We have our big "birdathon" this weekend.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks, dreamalaska...sounds like the whales are almost a sure thing!

 

I agree with PABirder...I would only bring a spotting scope if you plan to spend a lot of time watching birds and wildlife on land...they are difficult (but not impossible) to use from the ship itself. Mostly I use mine for digiscoping distant wildlife, but it does come in handy for other things (for example, looking at distant moutain goats while you are in Juneau).

 

PABirder...how is the migration going out east? We have had a nice variety of warblers (including Bay breasted, Cape May, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Golden winged) over the last few days; still awaiting tanagers, but our orioles have returned, and the loons are sitting on eggs! We have our big "birdathon" this weekend.

 

Down along the Jersey coast, we just had the "World Series of Birding" this past weekend. Un-related to that, I led a birdwalk same weekend (5/12) up in the hinterlands of suburban Philadelphia. Orioles (Baltimore and orchard) are back in force and I've been hearing scarlet tanagers (haven't seen any, though). Saw a bobolink, indigo bunting, rose-breasted grosbeak, bluebirds, common yellowthroats, heard lotsa' yellow warblers, lots of house wrens, and the hummers are back at the feeders. This weekend, I am going to Cape May to look for the typical knots, turnstones, et al - lately it's been a downer as the knots (being considered to be addded to the endangered species list) have been drastically reduced. I was in Cape May in April and saw tons of ducks - just about every kind you could imagine! Sounds like you've

been getting some nice warblers!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Whale-Watcher,

 

Was in Colorado last week (Denver) on business. Got a chance to get up to Rocky Mountain NP for the day and a couple of the local state parks around Denver/Golden/Boulder areas. Saw a few interesting critters: magpies, ravens, yellow-headed blackbirds, Stellar's jays, un-identified hummer (dark, possibly rufous?), western meadowlarks, bighorn sheep, elk, yellow-bellied marmots, Richardson's groundsquirrels, Colorado chipmunks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
Whale-Watcher,

 

Was in Colorado last week (Denver) on business. Got a chance to get up to Rocky Mountain NP for the day and a couple of the local state parks around Denver/Golden/Boulder areas. Saw a few interesting critters: magpies, ravens, yellow-headed blackbirds, Stellar's jays, un-identified hummer (dark, possibly rufous?), western meadowlarks, bighorn sheep, elk, yellow-bellied marmots, Richardson's groundsquirrels, Colorado chipmunks.

Rocky Mountain NP is one of my favorite parks...I have not been there in years. We are thinking of taking a road trip "out west" next summer, and this will be high on my list...

 

I am in Maryland visiting my mom today, and we took a quick run through Bombay Hook...I don't ever recall seeing so many Avocets before in my life!

 

We had Moose, Bear, and Wolves in the yard over the past few weeks, but many of the warblers and other neotropical migrants seem to have moved on already...perhaps because of the dry weather?

 

When is your AK cruise, PABirder?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
Rocky Mountain NP is one of my favorite parks...I have not been there in years. We are thinking of taking a road trip "out west" next summer, and this will be high on my list...

 

I am in Maryland visiting my mom today, and we took a quick run through Bombay Hook...I don't ever recall seeing so many Avocets before in my life!

 

We had Moose, Bear, and Wolves in the yard over the past few weeks, but many of the warblers and other neotropical migrants seem to have moved on already...perhaps because of the dry weather?

 

When is your AK cruise, PABirder?

 

 

As you wrote the above message, I was aboard the Radiance of the Seas (RCI) for the second day. Just got back from the cruisetour this morning (2:00 AM - Friday, 8/10/07). We went to the typical 3 Inside Passage spots, plus Hubbard Glacier, Hoonah (a.k.a. Icy Strait Point), and landed at Seward. On the Inside Passage part, saw tons of eagles all over (naturally); pigeon guillemots all around the waters of Juneau, Skagway, Hoonah, and Seward; red squirrels all over; harbor seal, marbled murrelets off of Skagway, ravens all over; mew gulls all over; humpbacks, a long-tailed jaeger, and Stellar's sea lions off of Hoonah; orca, kittiwakes, sea otter, puffins (horned and tufted), cormorants, and sea lions off of Seward (Resurrection Bay - Kenai Fjords); tons of silver salmon all over; a tundra red-backed vole on land near Seward (Exit Glacier), and 3 brown bears off of Hubbard Glacier. In the interior (Denali and Talkeetna), saw gray jays, magpies, ravens, eagles, grizzlies, caribou, moose, trumpeter swans, red squirrels. I was surprised I didn't see more of the small mammals that I saw back in 1990 (e.g. hoary marmots and Arctic groundsquirrels). Like you noted, I saw few migrants (1 myrtle warbler and some chickadees) - the woods were pretty quiet.

 

Didn't see any wolves or black bears (unlike your backyard - you lucky so-and-so!). I'm not sure I ever saw avocets at Bombay Hook - just lots of stilts (and a snow bunting a long time ago).

 

As far as our own backyard, most migrants will be here for a few more weeks ( the hummingbirds are still here

and typically leave about the second or third week in September).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Thank You for 25 Years - Click for Fun Stuff!
      • Forum Assistance
      • ANNOUNCEMENT: Crystal Cruises - New! Luxury Bahamas Escapes
      • ICYM Our Cruise Critic Live Special Event: Explore the Remote World with Hurtigruten!
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...