2014-04-24 / Around Town

For Weaver, Photography is a Passionate Vocation

By Jack Kelly


Bob Weaver volunteers weekly at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and the Norman Bird Sanctuary, but his camera is never far away. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Bob Weaver volunteers weekly at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and the Norman Bird Sanctuary, but his camera is never far away. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Newport resident Robert “Bob” Weaver is a well-known and highly respected photographer. He has captured images from many of Newport’s most prestigious events, including multiple America’s Cup races, music festivals of various genres, civic assemblies, and coaching weekends. In 1981, he was employed as an Associated Press stringer to cover the first Claus von B├╝low trial at the Newport Courthouse.

However, Weaver is best known for his stunning nature and wildlife photographs taken across the scenic habitats of Newport County and picturesque rural regions of Rhode Island. His depictions of nature’s art have been featured on the covers and pages of many nature publications and regional newspapers.

Weaver is an ardent bird watcher and nature enthusiast who began his love affair with the natural world as a 14-year-old Boy Scout exploring the wonders of the Norman Bird Sanctuary. In the 56 years that have followed, he has identified and recorded nearly 600 avian species for his “life list” and has taken tens of thousands of photographs of all types of creatures, great and small.


Crossbills foraging for pine nuts at East Beach, Charlestown, R.I. (Photos by Bob Weaver) Crossbills foraging for pine nuts at East Beach, Charlestown, R.I. (Photos by Bob Weaver) A newly-published bird watching guide, “Birds of Ireland,” contains five of Weaver’s exquisite photos of Crossbills, a type of finch that resides in the forests of the northern United States and Canada, but also visits Ireland. This colorful small breed has a speciallyadapted bill for forcing open cones to retrieve pine nuts. Weaver, a man of few words, said “I am honored and humbled that they chose these pictures for this very informative guide.”


The multi-colored strips on this crane’s legs denote the many times the bird has been banded to follow its migrations. The green band on its right leg is actually a radio tag for scientists to keep track of its movements. The multi-colored strips on this crane’s legs denote the many times the bird has been banded to follow its migrations. The green band on its right leg is actually a radio tag for scientists to keep track of its movements. Weaver enjoys traveling to visit family and nature-watching friends across the United States. Recently he journeyed to Vero Beach, Florida, to celebrate his 70th birthday with his daughters, Kimberly and Tamsyn, as well as with his three grandchildren. He also hoped to finally observe and possibly photograph one of the rarest species in North America, the Whooping Crane, a breed that had eluded him for decades. “This bird had been on my ‘bucket list’ for a long time and I’d just missed it on other visits,” Weaver said.

With a body length of 57 inches, a dramatic wingspan of 87 inches, and very long dark legs, this elegant white wading bird stands at nearly five feet, the tallest of North American species. It has a red crown and malar (group of feathers that extends from the base of the bill downward and slightly backward along the throat), black wing tips, and a large “bustle” of feathers near its rump. Cranes perform exuberant courtship dances that involve leaps, bows, dips, and wing movements, accompanied by bugling cries.

The Whooping Crane breeds in the Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada and winters in salt marshes on the Texas Gulf Coast. But this critically endangered bird was nearly extinct in 1941, when only 16 adults remained because of development and loss of habitat.

Over the past 70 years, biologists, ornithologists and conservationists in Canada and the United States have labored to save the majestic Whooping Crane through innovative programs. One plan even included the use of ultra-light aircraft to guide first-year migrants to their breeding grounds! Another project established a wintering, migratory population in the saw grass marshes of central Florida, which has shown success. The overall population between the two wintering sites was recently recorded at 600.

On the morning of Weaver’s birthday on March 27, word came that his reclusive quarry had been sighted in a nearby Florida marsh. “JoAnn Andrews, my good friend, picked me up and the two of us went out looking. Once at the marsh, JoAnn spotted it first, way across the marsh and feeding with a group of Sandhill Cranes. What a thrill it was to finally see one through the telescope! But it was too far away to photograph. We drove around the marsh in an attempt to get a better view and maybe a closer picture. I worked my way down a dike, creeping to keep a low profile, until I was about 100 yards away. I spent the next 30 minutes watching and photographing this great bird. What a gift from nature, on my birthday and with a good friend. It was a longheld dream come true on this special day,” Weaver recounted.

While this adventure might be hard to top, Weaver received an even greater belated birthday present on March 31, when his daughter, Kimberly, gave birth to a healthy baby girl who was named Jasmyn. “This is my fourth grandchild and second granddaughter and she is just beautiful! I won’t ever forget this trip. It was the best I’ve ever taken, by far the best,” Weaver proclaimed.

For more information on the Whooping Crane or other avian species, visit allaboutbirds.org.

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