By John Bloomfield

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Ring-necked Duck

The other day I went birding with a friend — for the first time since the term social distancing entered my lexicon. We took separate cars and were careful not to stand too close together. It wasn’t as awkward as I thought. After a while it seemed almost natural. Perhaps in time it will be.


Conservation and cuisine in the heart of Cajun country

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We were birding the fields and wetlands in the shadow of the rusted Sabine Pass Lighthouse that guards the border of Texas and Louisiana.


Wilderness and worry in the Great Plains

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Up close and nearly personal with a bison at Throfore Roosevelt National Park.

North Dakota evokes classic American imagery: big blue skies, open prairies, miles of rugged Badlands landscape, bison roaming in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The images are straight out of Remington, cowboy movies and the nostalgic pull of the legendary American west.

This is the North Dakota of our imagination, and a land worth preserving.


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Red Knots feeding on the shores of the Delaware Bay in New Jersey.

If you weren’t looking for them, you might not know they were there at all.

Walk onto the sand at Fish Haul Beach Park on Hilton Head Island and make a right. A few hours after low tide, you’ll see a sandbar a quarter of a mile away, jutting out into Port Royal Sound. On it will be a mass of shorebirds. You might just walk past them, taking them for granted, not realizing that each one has a story to tell.

Shorebirds are in constant motion, chasing springtime around the world.

As endangered Piping Plovers leave our shores each spring to breed in the north, Semi-Palmated (meaning partially web-footed) Sandpipers, globally threatened Red Knots and others move in for a time. …


A Glimpse Inside a Country and its Birds

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Yesterday and today: The time warp paradox of Cuba

Wherever you go in Cuba, there is music, from soft flamenco guitars to the folk strains of Guantanamera to the infectious Latin Jazz booming from the doors of local bars. Music is like the air in Cuba. You breathe it in and it breathes life into everything around you. It starts like a soft flute and gentle son guitar rhythm, but it builds up inside you and sticks with you until you can’t get out of your head.


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I read Travels with Charley, and as an antidote I read On the Road. And then I got on another plane.

It was April in McAllen, Texas, before it became ground zero in the American war on migrant children. In places like McAllen, kids were being shockingly separated from their families at what our government charmingly referred to as processing centers. As the parents faced criminal charges, the kids were being kept in makeshift shelters.

America was an ideal when I grew up, even if we didn’t always live up to it. We stood for something more, something better. Now in the confines of unmarked warehouses and used-to-be Wal-Marts there are children, and families, and cages. What do we stand for now? This wan’t policy; this was cruelty. …


Inside the Career of David Mizrahi, New Jersey Audubon’s vice president of research and monitoring

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It’s late May and the temperature is steaming into the 90s on the mud flats in Heislerville, NJ. More than a thousand Semipalmated Sandpipers — toes webbed for part of their length — are poking around in the South Jersey mud, side to side with hundreds of Dunlins, Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers. Ruddy Turnstones peck under small pebbles. Black Skimmers rest on a black-green log. A Bald Eagle surveys overhead.

The banding is smooth and steady — the team knows one another well. David Mizrahi guides the process as the sandpipers move from the nets to the holding boxes to a banding table between two tailgates, tarpaulin shielding the birds as well as the team. Check the bird’s appearance. Weigh it. Measure the wing span, beak and head. Take a tiny blood sample. Band. Release. …


Adventures in the Texas Hill Country, the Land of Leopold and a cruise through Alaska

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Looking back on it now, after the time and the miles, I realize this is something built in — a clockwork occurrence of yearning and hope in the middle of a beating heart’s winter. Cabin fever. Wanderlust. Zugunruhe, a German term for migratory restlessness in birds.

For a bird like the Arctic Tern, that means packing on the extra ounces and looking northward for the right time to start its yearly trek from the Antarctic to Alaska, where if all goes well, it will tend to a pair of young for a few months before heading back south to start all over again. …


Part 2 of our unforgettable 2016 journey to New Zealand and Australia

Marina and I took a short flight from Christchurch to Sydney and fell in love with the harbor as soon as we saw it from the air. Only a photo describes the blue water. Only a photo describes the opera house.

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People see elements of nature such as sea shells and bird wings in the design. Others see the sails of clipper ships. The building’s architect, Jorn Utzon, said the shells reminded him of the segments of an orange.

We spent the first day basking in the warm sun and harbor breezes. We took a ferry to the zoo and liked the ferry so much we rode it around for hours. We went to the botanical gardens and took puctures of birds and roses. We learned that Circular Quay is pronounced “key”. We took a dinner cruise where were serenaded by an Eastern European singer mouthing the English words and pretending to get the inner meaning of the Carpenters’ “Close to You”. We officially toasted our 25th wedding anniversary over a glass of champagne as we looked out at the evening lights of an amusement pier. …


New Zealand and the beginning of a very big month

Early last November Marina and I landed in New Zealand to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Six days later, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Five days after that, a devastating earthquake rattled New Zealand’s east coast.

A fiend texted me: “How many seismic events can you take?” Four weeks worth, apparently. Between New Zealand and Australia, that’s how long we were away.

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Coffee and gelato in Auckland helped relieve the jet lag and anxiety.

It was vaguely unsettling at the outset. Airport fiascos. Lost bags. Driving on the left side. Pubs in Auckland advertising all-day happy hour “The Donald & Hillary Show.” …

About

John Bloomfield

Nature writer and photographer wandering life’s Audubon highway, currently in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

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