Muscovy Ducks Took Over My Life

It’s been a long life filled with adventure. I backpacked around Southeast Asia, visited Europe, lived in South Korea and Guam, and met more amazing people than I could ever tell you about. I’ve always been kind of a rolling stone, walking the Earth looking for adventure.

Then I got married to someone who is possibly the most stable person on Earth. So, we bought a house and put down roots (literally, because we planted an awesome garden and beautiful trees.)

I’ve never really been one to take on responsibilities. My only pet I had in my adult life was a snake that my friend David gave me. But, Rich LOVES animals. We went to a petting zoo on a farm in Waimanalo and he saw a duckling for the first time, and he had to have one.

Of course, once we had one, we had to get a second. It turns out ducks are flock animals and they get lonely if they’re by themselves. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell the sex of a duckling when they are babies, so we needed up buying a boy. Turns out if you have a boy, you need at least two girls. So, then we had to get another duck.

I had my doubts about ducks as a pet a first, but it didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love. I met other duck owners and it became one of my Autistic Special Interests. I annoy people with how much I talk about them. And, I’m okay with that.

It’s true, I avoided pets because I never wanted to hold still or stay in one place. I always felt restless and wanted to travel, and pets stop you from doing that. But the truth is, these last few years settling down and having a little farm and some ducks have been the happiest of my life. I guess I was finally tired enough to rest a while, and so I sit in my rocking chair on my porch, and I watch the ducks play in the garden, and life is good.

Pearl Harbor Tour

Rob and Rich in front of the USS Missouri with the memorial to the USS Arizona in the background.

There are actually three different sites to go to see parts of Pearl Harbor’s WWII history. On Ford Island you can see “The Mighty Mo,” otherwise known as the USS Missouri. It;s not a museum dedicated to the life of the ship, including its time in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack.

The tour of The Mighty Mo is long. I recommend comfortable shoes and eating beforehand. It’s a big ship, and even though they don’t let you look at all of it, there are many things to see.

A map in the officer’s dining room. Everything on a ship is very small and cramped, so the officer’s dining room is the biggest open area. If your claustrophobic, it’s a nice spot to rest.

The Mighty Mo wasn’t just at Pearl Harbor in December 7th, 1941. The ship went all over the world until it was decommissioned in March of 1992. In fact, the ship participated in WWII, The Korean War, and The Gulf War. It features some of the biggest guns every put on a ship, and after it’s upgrade in 1986, it had some of the most modern equipment in the fleet for a while.

Of course, looking at the ship now, that “modern” equipment is laughable. What was modern in 1986 belongs in a museum in 2021. So, I guess it’s very appropriate that after The Mighty Mo was decommissioned, it became a museum.

The tickets were $29.99 each for adults, which feels a little steep. You can buy a package Pearl Harbor deal for $79.99, but we didn’t because we got tickets to the Arizona for free, and only two of us wanted to go on the USS Bowfin and see the aviation museum.

In 1986, this was state-of-the-art technology. You may laugh, but plenty of ships in service today have equipment that isn’t much more modern than this. (I’m looking at YOU, USS Frank Cable.)

After touring the USS Missouri on Ford Island, you can go over to the main Pearl Harbor Memorial park, which is right across the bridge and to the right off the Kamehameha.

Once you enter the park, there are statues and memorials throughout to look at. On the far right is the USS Bowfin (a decommissioned submarine) and on the far left is the waiting area to take a ferry to the USS Arizona. It’s best if you reserve tickets for the ferry in advance, but the tour operators buy them up so fast that we couldn’t get any. We would have had to wait in a very long line, but thankfully, someone had extra tickets and gave them to us.

When you go to the memorial, all active duty soldiers should remember that you are required to wear your dress uniform. This is to show respect for the men who died in Pearl Harbor.

Rich and Rob on the USS Bowfin. I saw the sub they have at OMSI in Portland, so I chose to skip this part. Ships are okay, but submarines are just too crowded for me.

Although the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park is operated by the National Park Service, the ferry to the USS Arizona is operated by the US Navy. Therefore, when you get on the ferry, you’ll see actual sailors manning the ship.

On the ferry over and in the memorial itself, it is asked that you maintain silence or whisper quietly. The folks who operate these memorials take their jobs very seriously, and they don’t like anyone to disturb the quiet and somber atmosphere. Therefore, you may not want to go with children unless they are very well-behaved.

Coming up to the USS Arizona by boat.

The USS Arizona is still underwater where is sank in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The memorial is on top of the ship, so that when you stand at the windows you can look down and see the wreckage.

The memorial is beautiful, with arched ceilings and decorative windows. But, it’s a sad place. Unlike The Mighty Mo who survived the attack, the USS Arizona was lost with nearly all hands.

This is the inside of the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits on top of the wreckage of the ship.


The memorial is small. There’s the main area with windows that look out of the sunken ship, and then a small alcove in the back with a wall of the names of those who died. It’s a big wall, and there are a lot of names on it.

I do recommend doing a Pearl Harbor tour. But, there’s a reason it took us two years in Hawaii to get around to it. Rich is a sailor, and that doesn’t make it easy for either of us to walk around these memorials devoted to dead sailors.

I mean, you know when you enlist that there is a chance. It’s just that facing that so directly is heart-wrenching.

The wall of names. These are the sailors who died when the USS Arizona was lost in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The main things to see are the USS Missouri on Ford Island, the USS Arizona memorial, and the USS Bowfin and Aviation Museum.

However, there’s a bonus that not a lot of people know about.

I’m mentioning it last because the tour buses don’t go there. You can take a shuttle from the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park to the USS Missouri, but it will only bring you back to the park after. However, if you have a military ID, you can drive yourself over to see The Mighty Mo, and then pop over to the airplane graveyard. It’s right behind the cafe, and if you ask the guard they can direct you.

Rob and Rich with one of the old prop planes.

There’s a small tent with a little museum inside that talks about these old planes and what they were like. Flight technology advanced very quickly through the 20th century. These early examples are so scary up close. They feel like they’re made out of little more than a few sheets of tin foil!

When you think about the people who flew in them, you really have to marvel at their courage. I’ve been in a few small planes and in two helicopters, so I know that not all aircraft even in modern times feel very safe. But, these planes look like death traps.

Tuesday’s Child, a plane so small that it only fits two adults.

Everyone should see Pearl Harbor once. It might not be a cheerful place to visit like the rest of Hawaii, but it is an important part of our history.

I don’t want to make any claims about the bombing of Pearl Harbor justifying what the US did to Japan. My grandfather Sigurd Johnson was in the Navy in WWII. When I was a small child, he used to take me to the Japanese Friendship Gardens in San Jose. He’d tell me about what Japan was like after the nuclear bombs, and how there would never be a justification for it. I believed him. He was a good man and he saw it for himself, so I think he would know.

However, the attack on Pearl Harbor was horrible, and seeing the memorial to the people who died there felt important.

SeaLife Marine Park

There is a separate fee for parking and entrance, but if you buy the membership then parking is free.



On the Southeast Tip of Oahu in the shadow of Makapu’u Lighthouse, you will find SeaLife Marine Park. It’s nothing like SeaWorld or an aquarium in the mainland. It’s a very small park, but it’s very important to Hawaii!

SeaLife Marine Park is the only place in the United States with a Sea Turtle breeding program. They breed endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, which are distinctly different than Green Sea Turtles in other parts of the world. Here in Hawaii, our turtles enjoy basking in the sand and coming out of the water to eat algae on land. This behavior has never been observed before in any other sea turtle. (Usually they only come on land to lay eggs.)



Turtles basking in the sand at SeaLife Marine Park. These are the adults that comprise the breeding program. All are rescues that have been at the park since the 1970’s.

In addition, the turtles here have been observed hunting fish, and eating different kinds of foods than Green Sea Turtles in other areas. That’s why right now, the folks at NOAA are fighting to get the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle classified as its own subspecies.

The SeaLife Marine Park turtle breeding program is therefore very important, because without them, the population here in the islands would be in great danger. SeaLife hatches, grows, and releases hundreds of turtles every year. This supspecies was nearly extinct until the breeding program began. Now, there are an estimated 2,000 Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles! This isn’t as much as we would like to see, but it’s a lot.

My husband Rich pets one of the baby sea turtles who is almost big enough to be released. Once they are released, they will be at the mercy of sharks and other animals who would eat them, but SeaLife gives them a good start so that they have a fighting chance.

I recommend that you visit the park or donate to them simple because of the importance of the turtle breeding program, but it’s not all that they do! They also rescue and rehab endangered sea birds. If you go, you might get to see a brown-footed boobie or a Hawaiian albatross! You never know what birds they’ll be tending to in their seabird rehab area.

SeaLife also takes on dolphins who have retired from service with the United States Navy. What they did for the Navy is sometimes classified, but dolphins are used for all kinds of things like testing the affects of sonar on sea life and finding mines underwater. These dolphins now perform in the Aloha Dolphins show twice a day, and are available to swim with if you make a reservation and pay extra. My husband did the Royal Dolphin Swim Package and absolutely loved it.

My husband getting a kiss from a dolphin when he did the Royal Dolphin Swim. I highly recommend that you purchase the pictures when you buy the swim package. It’s very worth it.


Another fun thing to do is go feed the love birds. I don’t know how this exhibit got started, but it’s fun to take pictures in the lovebirds enclosure because they are so colorful.

If you live in Hawaii, I recommend buying the yearly membership. It comes with perks like private parties for holidays, and discounts on all the merchandise, dolphin encounters, etc. It’s well worth the fee, and remember: You’re supporting a good cause.

My husband Rich in the bird enclosure. This is mostly lovebirds and a few others, and is different from the area with the rescued seabirds.



If you’re just visiting us here on Oahu, I still recommend you go. I know locals here in Hawaii appreciate when tourists take an interest in supporting our local land and animal conservation, and supporting SeaLife is a great way to do that.

It may not be a big, fancy park; but they do a lot of good and that’s what really matters!



The Aloha Dolphin Show, which is free when you pay to enter the park. Definitely don’t miss it!

Keeping in Contact

The house we are moving to doesn’t have mail delivery. People think every home in America has access to the USPS, but that’s not true. Reservations, rural areas, and any home in a city where “the driver would have to dismount” are ineligible for delivery of mail.

If you want to send me a letter or card, you will now have to use my P.O. box.

Jenifer DeLemont
P.O. Box 861631
Wahiawa HI 96786

As always, my e-mail address is still jenifer.delemont@gmail.com. I’m happy to get e-mails instead of snail mail, if you prefer.

The house I’ll be living in isn’t too far from the post office. Unfortunately, it’s set back from the street in a way where it isn’t eligible to be added to the USPS route (yes, this also means we can’t get package delivery.) It’s a small house, but it has a yard that the ducks will enjoy, so that’s nice.

Wish us luck!

Ka’ena Point

I first did this hike in the winter when it was slippery and muddy. It’s not as beautiful in the summer, but it certainly is easier and drier.

There is no way to drive to Ka’ena Point. You can access the point from the North Shore side, or from the Waianae Side. To get there from the North Shore, take the H2 over the mountains and then follow the Farrington Highway to the end. To get there from the other side, just take the H1 until it becomes the 93 as it goes through Waianae, and follow it all the way to the end.

large_oahu

From the North Shore side, you can follow a road or a path along the coast. The coastal path is more beautiful, but it zigzags up to meet the road several times, so you end up walking a lot more than the three miles it is point-to-point.

From the Waianae Side, you follow a path that is raised up on a cliff. I like this side better because it has the little blowhole and striking views. However, it’s a splash zone in the winter and the spring, and it’s definitely more dangerous.

Once you reach the point, you open a gate and go into the wildlife preserve. Please remember not to let any animals in here, including dogs and cats. The birds that nest at Ka’ena Point build their nests in the sand, so they could be threatened by any animal that gets in, including a mongoose (who would eat their eggs.) Also please remember not to feed anything or touch anything, because we need to respect nature if we want it to continue to exist.

Inside the preserve, there are several trails that you can follow. The state of Hawaii has provided lots of helpful signs to tell you about the plants and animals that live in the sanctuary, so stop and read about the many things you might see.

At the very tip of the sanctuary you can walk down a sandy hill and get to the point. It’s comprised of a combination of lava rock and coral chunks that have washed up, so the land is a striking contrast of black and white. Hawaiian monk seals love to come up on the rocks to rest and catch from sun. Please remember that they are an endangered species, and they are best viewed through binoculars or through the telephoto lens of your DSLR. Don’t get close to the seals, because you may startle them and force them back into the water before they have rested. This could lead to them getting eaten by a shark, and no one wants that!

This is one of my favorite places on Oahu because it’s typically very peaceful, and it offers so much beauty. However, even in the winter this hike can be hot and dry. You want to bring at least a gallon of water per person, and I’d recommend some snacks as well. Suncreen is a must, and long-sleeves and a hat would be smart. Also, it’s very windy at the point. Be prepared to hold on tight to everything that you have with you! I’ve absolutely had to chase my hat when it blew off, because the wind didn’t care about the strap that is supposed to keep it on my head.

Although the internet says that it’s three miles from either side to the point, I’d argue that the North Shore side is longer and offers a wider variety of terrain to navigate. Either way, it’s a six mile round trip at least. We started at 7am and finished at 11am last time, with lots of stops to admire wildlife and enjoy the views. You could probably do it in two hours if you were in a hurry, but you wouldn’t see nearly as much.

This is my favorite. Two albatrosses dance with each other to celebrate their chick (which is in the picture too, but well hidden.)

Remember: Last time I was there I saw tourists collecting rocks and shells. I know the urge to collect souvenirs can be strong, but if everyone did this then our island would be destroyed. Please take only photos and memories, and leave nothing behind.

 

Catarina and Chaos

Catarina before she could walk

In October of 2019, Rich rescued a malnourished Muscovy duckling from a feed store here on Oahu. The duckling could not stand or walk, which is common when they don’t get enough nutrients as they grow. We didn’t know if they were a boy or a girl; only that we had to save them.

It took her weeks to learn to walk and run

By December, we had determined that the duckling was a girl, and we had named her Catarina. She turned things around for herself by eating all the food we gave her and working very hard to learn to walk.

Catarina once her feathers came in

We decided not to clip her wings when her feathers came in. She still trips over her feet, so I don’t see her evading any predators on foot.

However, we learned that ducks get very lonely on their own. They need the company of other ducks in order to be happy. That is why, on December 9th, we brought home a week-old duckling to join Catarina.

Chaos Duck sitting in his food

Of course, the second duckling wasn’t malnourished at all. It was healthy! We’d never cared for a healthy duck before, and we soon found out that it wasn’t easy. There was a lot of jumping, loud peeping, and general chaos.

Chaos Duck started out so tiny!

So, we named the second duckling Chaos Duck.

Can you tell that we got Chaos Duck in December?

It turned out that Chaos Duck was a boy. So, we have found ourselves with a pair of Muscovy ducks.

They got a photo with Santa

People often ask about the quacking, but Muscovy ducks don’t quack. They’re very quiet, and mostly only make quiet hissing noises.

We built a sand man instead of a snow man

This is because Muscovy ducks are descended from Geese, rather than from Mallards (like most ducks.)

Chaos Duck grew so fast!

Muscovy ducks are not Native to the Hawaiian islands. They came here with the Spanish and the Portuguese several hundred years ago, and those that escaped were able to flourish because Hawaii is a fairly pleasant environment most of the time.

Rich and Chaos Duck

It’s actually not very different here from the Muscovy duck’s Native land, which is South America. Yes, South America.

At the North Shore

You’d think they’d be from Russia because of the name. However, they just got that from being sold to Europeans first by Russian traders. They’re Native land is the mangroves of South America, where they live in brackish water and dive for fish.

At the black sand beach where the mangroves grow

Catarina and Chaos Duck love to swim. However, they do have the trait that most Muscovy ducks have under-performing oil glands. This means that they don’t love to swim for more than 30 to 45 minutes. After a while they start to get waterlogged, because they’re just not very water-proof.

We took them kayaking

They are loving ducks who beg at our feet just like dogs when we eat dinner, and who love to snuggle and play with toys. We even taught Catarina to play ball, although Chaos Duck never quite caught on.

At Likeke Falls

Right now, we live in a house with a very small back yard. Since they don’t have a big yard to play in, we try to take them on as many adventures as we can.

In an orchid tree by the house

We’ve taken them hiking, kayaking, and swimming. They love adventure, and are generally excited to get in the car. I am not sure I would recommend ducks as pets. They are a lot more work than a dog, because they poop a lot more than a dog. But, we love them.

One of the swings on the North Shore

Diamond Head State Monument

sunrise

Most of the hikes on Oahu are a bit off the beaten path, but Diamond Head hike is not. It’s located in Honolulu, and it looks out over the resorts and the downtown area.

You drive up and pay $5 per car to park. You’ll get a ticket to put on your dashboard and a map of the park.

pineapple shop

At the entrance, there are bathrooms, a gift shop, and a pineapple stand (where you can get those fancy drinks in pineapples that everyone always has pictures of.)

Then, you start up the trail. It’s a brutal hike in the summer because it’s very steep and crowded. However, it’s not as difficult in the winter. I still recommend bringing water and sunscreen, though.

stairs

The trail wraps up along the wall of the crater, and takes you through a very narrow tunnel.

At a lookout halfway up, you can choose to continue back into the tunnel and do a spiral staircase to the top, or take metal stairs that are outside.

I recommend the metal stairs because being crammed into dark and narrow tunnels with lots of people isn’t my idea of a good time.

better tunnel shot

From the top, you can see Diamond head lighthouse directly below, as well as Honolulu on one side and Koko head on the other side.

view of city

The sweeping views are pretty amazing for what is a fairly short hike. I did it at sunrise, and it only took me about half an hour.

looking towards kokohead

In spite of the crowds, it’s a nice little hike. I recommend everyone do it once.

lighthouse

The Esmeralda of Chile

better whole ship

One morning not long ago, a sailing ship called The Esmeralda made it’s way into Pearl Harbor.

Most of the ships that come here are on very serious military missions, and as such, they’re not meant to be photographed or toured.

In general, you’re never meant to take photos in Pearl Harbor.

chilean sailors

However, The Esmeralda was visiting from Chile.

Their mission was to improve diplomatic relations with the people of the United States. And as such, several very patient sailors did their absolute best to give tours.

We met on the dock, and were given a walk through of all the unclassified parts of this tiny ship.

ladders

Most sailing ships are fairly old. However, The Esmeralda was actually not commissioned into the official Armada of Chile until 1954.

It is a more modern ship in that regard, and so it possesses engines that can be used when they are becalmed.

It also has more undated features for the crew, such as modern cooking equipment in the mess.

little boats

My tour guide did his very best to converse only in English (as he had been ordered to,) which meant that I wasn’t able to ask a lot of questions.

Thankfully, I was given a helpful brochure on the tour that told me everything I wanted to know.

The ship’s maximum speed with sails is 21 knots. It’s engines are much slower, and can only move it at 13 knots. That means that it takes a long time to get places.

guns

On the specific tour they were on, they’d gone from Chile to New Zealand, then to Australia, then to Bali and Indonesia, then to Singapore, China, South Korea, and Tokyo.

We were their second to last stop here in Hawaii, on their way to French Polynesia and then home.

wooden seal

Unfortunately, boats can only come into the harbor being pulled by tugboats. Therefore no one here was lucky enough to see The Esmeralda under full sail.

My tour guide assures me that it’s just like flying to be up on one of the masts when the sails are down. He actually got pretty sentimental about it when I asked.

victory or death

A few facts that I found truly charming:

The National Bird of Chile is a chicken, and The Esmeralda has one on the bow of the ship.

The motto of the Chilean Armada is “victory or death.”

Also, it’s a training ship, as as part of their training the left the new sailors in the middle of the ocean in life boats for a day and just sailed away.

And finally, the guns work, but they are antiquated and my tour guide assured me “they’ve never been used on anything living.”

Very classy, Chile. Very classy.

Jenifer DeLemont

Aloun Farm

pumpkins on truck

I should disclose that my husband and I do not have kids. This is releveant because I think Aloun Farms is probably a great way to spend a day if you do have kids. They had so many games and rides set up that it was like being at a State Fair. I imagine children would find Aloun Farms to be a paradise.

However, for myself personally, I did not enjoy it as much as Waimanalo Country Farm.

extreme fun

First, it’s on the leeward side of the island where it’s always a few degrees hotter. That made it less pleasant than Waimanalo Farm. Also, the unpaved road is longer and rougher, and the parking lot is muddier.

Second, it was loud. They had a stage where a DJ was blasting seemingly random music out of enormous speaker stacks, and it was actually hard to hear my husband talking to me.

 

ponies

And third, the petting zoo and pony rides are really sad. Like, the animals didn’t look happy or well taken-care-of. I grew up on a farm, so I’m perhaps a little oversensitive about unhappy animals, since I bonded to so many chickens and horses and cows and a youngster. Someone else might not have noticed, but for me, I found it sad.

The pumpkins come in on pallets. I think they’re from off island. So, there’s no wandering around a patch looking for the perfect one. I guess you could consider that to be an advantage if you’re in a hurry, but the prices were pretty high.

 

stunning views

The sunflower field does have more variety. There were some very striking reds and jeweled mixes. However, it’s less impressive because the mountains behind it are not as stunning, and it’s under the light rail tracks.

 

red sunflowers

All that said, this is the farm you want to go to in October if you have children. It’s loud and full of shiny things, which is everything kids love. And, you can easily grab your pumpkins on the way out from the giant cartons that they’re shipped in. There are bathrooms and food options available, as well.

jeweled mix

Again, bring sunscreen and a hat. Admission was $5 per person, but if you have kids, you’ll need to bring cash for the rides and games.

pumkins by exit

Waimanalo Country Farm

scare crows and pumpkins

Near Makapu’u, there is a little farm named Waimanalo Country Farm.

It’s only open to the public on specific dates in the summer and the fall. However, it’s worth it to go out there when you can.

turkey

The parking area is dirt, and it’s pretty rough. I recommend taking a car or truck that won’t mind a less improved road.

After you park, you walk in and see a ticket booth. I paid $17 for access to all parts of the farm, which is the best deal.

sunflower feild is awesome

There is a hayride around the perimeter of the farm, a sunflower field, a pumpkin canon, a pumpkin patch, and a petting zoo. The petting zoo is actually quite good, and has a lot of animals. We saw ducklings, turtles, a cow, several types of goats, an alpaca, and a llama. You can buy food for a few dollars extra so all the animals will be very excited to see you.

If you’re allergic to bees, bring your epinephrine, because they are everywhere.

bring your epie pin

As for the rest of the farm, it’s definitely a photo opportunity. A lot of people do their wedding photos, Christmas cards, and other pictures there.

This is because the sunflower field is positively magical, and it’s set in front of some of the most striking mountains on Oahu; making for truly spectacular photos.

Jenifer DeLemont

There isn’t much in the way of things to do other than take photos and pet animals. I would allow for one hour, or two at most if you have kids.

There is food and drinks available, but nothing spectacular.

goats

The important thing to remember is that it’s hot in the Hawaiian sun, so wear a hat and put on plenty of sunscreen.

As we were walking up, I observed several people leaving with glowing red sunburns, and you don’t want that to be you.

turtle

They do sell pumpkins there, and they’re a little more expensive than what you’d get at Costco or Lowe’s.

However, I think it’s good to buy from local vendors, so I encourage you to pick out your pumpkins for Halloween here.

pumpkin line

Also, they make and sell local honey products, and you’ll want to get some of those too.

For a family of hour, I’d plan to spend about $150 between admission, pumpkins, and local honey. It’s well worth the trip!

local honey