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Tuesday, November 1
My 67th birthday. Who would have ever thought I would make it this far?
The ladies were up early today for their 6 AM departure on a catamaran. They tell me it was starting to get light by then, although it seemed pretty dark to me when I got up to pee the last time, at about 6. I was up about 7 and out of here by 9:15. I had a new plan for today. Before the trip, I had bought a CD of Hawaii bird calls – a two CD set, actually. I can’t remember calls worth a damn, but I ripped the CD and put about 20 of the calls and songs on my phone, so I could listen to them in the field. I also planned to play them in the field, to see if any of the native birds would react to their calls and songs being played.
Having done that preparation, last night and this morning, I went back up to the Koke’e State Park area, where we had been on Sunday. That is the only accessible place on the island to see any of the native forest birds. It is about an hour and fifteen minute drive from here. I had a list of 8 potential species, of which 6 were sort of reasonably possible, and 5 of those are supposedly “common”, according to the Birding Hawaii website. Well, their idea of “common” is different from the way any other birders use the term, I think. Normally, when I visit a place for several hours, I expect to see about 70% or 80% of the birds listed as “common”. Not so here. I had spent several hours on Sunday and hadn’t had a sniff of any of the native species.
When I got up this morning, it was raining like mad here, and it didn’t really stop until about the time I left. Even then, it was very cloudy up in the mountains, and showery off and on along the coast, as I drove to Waimea, where the drive up the mountains starts. I was concerned it would be rainy up there all day, but I went ahead anyway, to see. As it turned out, it stopped raining just about the time I got up there, about 10:30 or so, although I had sprinkles from time to time all day, and a couple of real showers.
I stopped at the park headquarters and museum and looked at their map of the trails and roads. I also walked up on their little nature trail behind the museum. On the trail, I played the call and song of what was reported to be the most abundant forest bird in the park, and a bird seemed to be answering it. I didn’t see anything, but after walking the short length of the trail, I backtracked, and when I got the start again, I played the call/song again. (A call is a very short note or two that birds make when they are just letting other birds know they are there. A song is longer, sometimes only several notes, and sometimes much longer.)
This time, I definitely got a response. I am terrible with recognizing calls and songs, but I had heard this one enough by that time that I recognized it as coming from a bird overhead. Then the bird flew down close, presumably to take a look at this strange being that was making this song. I got an excellent look at my first native Hawaii forest bird, a lovely little APAPANE. It wasn’t a lifer, I had seen them in 1999 when I was here, but it was a great one for my year list. It flitted around, and I tried for pictures. What I got is terrible, but they do show the bird enough to identify it, and since this is the only native forest bird I have seen so far, I am going to show three pictures, despite the fact that they are blurry and from underneath. Just scroll though them; I’m putting them here for myself.
I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. I am just pleased to get anything at all. Here is a picture of the little nature trail where I saw this gem:
As it turned out, just about when I gave up on the nature trail, we had one of the pretty good showers, so I hotfooted it to the car and moved on. Along the road, I once again saw an Erckel’s Francolin, which had been a lifer on Sunday. Here is a picture:
Francolins are grouse-like birds, introduced to Hawaii, presumably for hunting. There are three species here, on the various islands.
I next stopped at Kalalau Lookout, because it was listed as a place to see 4 or 5 of the birds I was looking for. I spent at least two hours walking around that area, and I did see another Apanane, but nothing else. No other birds, anyway. There was a lovely rainbow that could be seen from the lookout, and people were snapping pictures like mad. Here is my best effort. It looked a lot brighter and more impressive in person.
I ate my humble lunch (ham and cheese sandwich, which I had made, and some Maui Onion potato chips, with a Diet Coke – a typical lunch for the Old Rambler) and I wandered around, playing bird calls and songs, and enjoying the day. There was a Pacific Golden-Plover up there, which surprised me. The elevation was 4000 feet, and that bird winters in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, and it spends its time on grassy fields. Somehow this one had found this grassy area at the lookout, way up here in the mountains, and presumably it is spending the winter here. I pondered on the amazing fact that these birds spend from September to April here in Hawaii, in a virtual paradise, and then in the summer they fly thousands of miles to Alaska or northern Canada to mate, lay their eggs, and raise a family. Then they all fly back here for the winter. I would have thought that at least some of them would be smart enough to just save all the flying and have their families here in the summer, but as far as I know, they never ever do that. Amazing. Here is the Golden-Plover:
After a couple of hours there, I headed back toward “home” and stopped once more, at the trailhead for the Awaawapuhi Trail. There was a lot of birdsong there, and I saw Apapane again, more than once, and I saw one flash of a yellowish bird flying (would have been a lifer for sure, but I couldn’t tell which one of three species it might have been). I walked a couple of hundred yards along the trail, but didn’t see anything except another Apapane. Here is that trail:
After that, it was about three o’clock, and I headed for home. When I walked in here at “home”, I was treated to a chorus of Happy Birthday, and after drinkies, we had a special dinner, which consisted of grilled pork tenderloin, squash and spinach raviolis, salad, and a sautéed mixture of tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, onions, and okra. They had also gotten me what has become my favorite wine, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I just asked about dessert, and was told to “just wait’. (It turned out to be Costco cookies,, and I got three oatmeal raisin ones.)
So, that was my day today. Tomorrow I plan to head north, to see if I can see a couple more species for my year list. The ladies are going to drive north in their separate car, and they plan to hike and maybe snorkel in the north, if they can find suitable beaches. Maybe I will see them somewhere along the way.
They tell me that they enjoyed their catamaran trip with snorkeling today. They saw some birds that I would have liked to have seen, especially some Great Frigatebirds, which would be a lifer for me. That is one of the species I hope to see tomorrow, up north.
I stand at 51 species for the trip now, which is actually very good. I also am at 410 species for the year, which is also very good. I have seen 116 lifers so far this year. We’ll see if I can add one or two species tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 2
I guess I had a good day, as I did better than what I had hoped for last night. I was up and out of here by about 9:15 this morning. The four ladies had already left by then, and they were heading for the north end of the island, as was I.
My first stop was the Kilauea Lighthouse, which is also a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). My old fart’s pass for Federal wildlife places got me in for free, thus avoiding the $5 charge. I guess there is some compensation for the hell of getting old (not that I would have preferred the alternative, which is to die young, of course).
The weather was extremely changeable today, alternating between heavy rain and sun. I took shelter as needed and survived just fine. Here is a picture of the lighthouse from the free viewpoint outside the refuge:
Here is what it looked like up close, soon after a rain shower:
There were at least a couple of hundred Red-footed Boobies roosting in the trees across the way, and they would also fly around from time to time. Here is a picture of one of them in the air:
And, here is an immature one, recently fledged. Notice it is much darker:
I was also pleased to get a picture of one of the very few Brown Boobies flying around:
But, the most important one for me was the lifer, a number of GREAT FRIGATEBIRDS (lifer). Here are pictures of some of them:
Okay, so maybe that was overkill on the Great Frigatebirds, but I was very happy to see them, and I loved their individual look, with the split tail.
There was one other bird I was hoping to see at that place. They nest there, and the parents lay only one egg each year, in a burrow, of all things, and then when the egg hatches, the parents go out all day long, fishing. They return at dusk and regurgitate some of the fish they have caught for their young one. The young one sits patiently all day long in its burrow or outside of it, waiting to be fed. I knew I wouldn’t see any adults, as they are out all day fishing, but I was hoping that the young ones were still at their burrows. I asked one of the volunteers at the gift shop if the young shearwaters were still around, and she just pointed to a bush about ten feet from where we were standing. Sure enough, there was a baby WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER sitting there, within a few feet of where people were walking into the shop. Not a lifer for me, as I had seen them in Australia, but one for my US list, my trip list, and my year list. Here is a peek-a-boo shot of the little fuzzy dear:
After that, I looked around and saw at least six more of them in the area. Here is another one, in its burrow:
While walking around the area around the lighthouse, I saw a small bird fly in that seemed different form the usual things. It turned out to be a House Finch of all things. I had read that the proportion of yellow and orange colored House Finches was much higher here than on the mainland, and here is a picture of an orange colored male House Finch:
On my way out of the lighthouse area, I stopped at the overlook outside the refuge, and I got this picture of a perched Red-footed Booby:
Finally I left the lighthouse area and moved on to the overlook of Hanalei NWR. I had one bird as a target here, but the overlook was much too distant to be able to pick out individual birds. Here is a view from the overlook. It poured rain when I was there, but I ate my lunch in the car and waited for it to end.
I used Google Maps on my cell phone to find the road that went up the valley. It was very very small, not wide enough for two cars in most parts, but I ventured out on it, in search of my bird. I managed to negotiate passing a couple of vehicles that were coming toward me, as I wound my way up the valley. I eventually came to the end of the road at someone’s property, and I backed up and turned around. On the way back, I finally saw a couple of ducks come out of a pond, and I added HAWAIIAN DUCK to my trip list and year list. It was probably actually a lifer, as I had counted Hawaiian Duck before, on my 1999 trip, on Oahu. Now I know that the ducks on Oahu are considered to be hybrids of Hawaiian Ducks and Mallards, but here on Kauai, they are considered to be “pure” Hawaiian Ducks. Here is a picture of a female Hawaiian Duck:
And here is a male, not much different, except around the head:
On the way out of the valley, I also got this picture of the Hawaiian subspecies of the Common Moorhen, or Common Gallinule, according to the new name.
So, I added three more birds to my year list and trip list. That brings me to 54 species for the trip and 413 for the year, of which 117 are lifers. I don’t expect any more here on Kauai, but there are two or three that I will look for, and maybe I will get lucky. We leave for Maui on Saturday, and there could be 2 or 3 that I could add there, as well. We will see.
Thursday, November 3
Not a very long report today, I’m afraid, and not many pictures. I was up, breakfasted, lunch made, and on my way by 8:45 this morning. I headed west, along the southern shore of Kauai. I was going to Kawaiele state waterbird sanctuary, which I had read about, mainly to look for three species that had all been reported there recently. None seemed very likely, and none were waterbirds, but my only other real choice would have been to have gone up into the mountains for a third time, to be frustrated by the scarcity of birds up there.
When I got to the sanctuary, there was a sign on the fence saying it wasn’t open to the public, but I turned in and parked in the driveway, down the road from the sign. The main road going into the area had a locked gate and said No Trespassing. I wandered around a little, looking across the ponds I could see, but there wasn’t much there. About that time a police car pulled in and the officer nicely asked me what I was taking pictures of. I explained about the waterbird sanctuary (not mentioning the sign down the road that said it wasn’t open to the public – a sign he turned out not to be aware of, seemingly) and said I was hoping to take pictures of birds. He explained that adjacent to the waterbird sanctuary was a Navy missile range, and he didn’t think they would appreciate someone taking pictures of it. I assured him I would only take pictures of birds and that I wouldn’t go anywhere beyond any No Trespassing signs. He was fine with that and told me to “go for it”.
So, given that semi-official permission, I went through a gate that didn’t have a sign on it, and I did see a few waterbirds. I got a picture of some Sanderlings, a common shorebird that I see in California in the winter, and that I had seen on Oahu on our tour of the James Campbell NWR.
There were also a few of the Hawaiian subspecies of the Black-necked Stilt there, and I got this picture of a pair of them:
I wasn’t ready to give up on the birds I had come to see, though, so I walked across the road where there were some scrubby trees and bushes, and I played the call and song of a bird I had been trying to see all week here, which I had put on my cell phone. By golly, I soon got a reply! I am terrible with bird songs, but even I could tell that I was hearing my target bird, but it was deep in some scrubby trees and shrubs. It just kept singing and singing, and every now and then I encouraged it by playing the recording some more. Eventually I got a few glimpses of it, back in the bushes, and at least then I knew where to look for it. There turned out to be two of them, and they kept flitting around and answering my phone’s recorded song. Finally, I got a good look at one of them, through my binoculars, and I could see the rich brown color and the white eye ring and white line going back from the eye, which are the distinguishing features of the MELODIOUS LAUGHINGTHRUSH (lifer). The bird is also called a Hwamei or Chinese Hwamei, but I like the laughingthrush name better, and at least I know how to pronounce it. They are supposed to be fairly common on Kauai, but this was the first time I actually saw one, and I can see why, the way it stayed in the deep brush. If I hadn’t played the call, it wouldn’t have sounded off itself, I suspect, and without it singing, there is no way I would have ever seen it. I also don’t think there was anything special about the location I was in, but the species had been reported there, so I gave it a try there.
After that pleasant experience, I continued down the road, going very slowly, looking for Black Francolin, a grouse-like bird that is sometimes seen along the edges of roads. There was little traffic, as I was approaching the end of the road, so I could go slowly and look all around. I drove as far as I could, including on a little road that went up into the hills a little way and ended at a Navy magazine area, where they store munitions. I wondered why there was a paved road in that place, and I found out why. I didn’t see any francolins, though, or anything else of interest. I could have taken the 4.5 mile dirt road to a state park beach out there, but the signs were ominous (road not maintained, no emergency services, etc), and even though it looked pretty good at the start, I didn’t want to take a chance on getting to a bad part where there wasn’t room to turn around. I guess I’m basically a chicken, when it comes to taking a chance on getting stuck in the wilderness when I’m alone. I had read several reviews of that road last night, and they all made it sound pretty bad for anything less than a four wheel drive vehicle. If I had had one of my birding buddies with me, I would have been glad to venture out there, but being alone, it did not appeal to me.
It was getting to be late in the morning by then, so I headed back toward Poipu, where we’re staying. I stopped at the Port Allen airport, where I had been a couple of days ago, and this time I got a good look at some Western Meadowlarks. I had seen a lot of them on the mainland, earlier in the year, and I had added them to my trip list earlier this week, even though I had had only brief views of them, flying away from me. It was nice to see them well, today. Here is a picture of one of these handsome birds:
I tried Salt Ponds County Beach Park, playing the recording of the other species I was looking for, the Japanese Bush-Warbler, but never got a response. They are not very common, and the place that they are supposed to be the easiest to see is a place I had been to earlier in the week, before I had put the bird recordings onto my phone. I think I might go back there tomorrow, and try again for that one, playing its call and song this time.
By that time I was getting hungry, and I drove to a little county beach park near where we are staying and had my humble lunch (ham and cheese sandwich – what else? Along with some Fritos, a Diet Coke and a couple of cookies.) After that I parked at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, which is just down the road from out Poipu digs. It turned out to be another disappointment. To really see the gardens, you have to sign up for a tour, and they take you in a group by tram up the valley, and you walk a mile and a half or so, on one of two or three different tours. I just hung around the shop area for a while, resting in the shade. I did see a male White-rumped Shama and a number of Japanese White-Eyes. I got some pictures of the white-eyes. Here is one:
They move about constantly, so getting a picture is always a challenge.
I finally threw in the towel and returned “home” about 3 o’clock or so. I have been working on my spreadsheet for the trip, to see what is left to look for on Maui. I have a list of 9 target species for Maui, including the Japanese Bush-Warbler which I plan to look for here on Kauai again tomorrow. My spreadsheet indicates that I should “expect” to see about 3.5 of those species, so if I see four more, that will be a victory. Three more would be satisfactory, and anything less than that will be disappointing. There are three native forest birds on that list, and you know my luck seeing native forest birds, so maybe my estimates are a bit high. We will see.
I don’t imagine there will be another report for a couple or three days, as I am not likely to see anything else new until Sunday at the earliest. But, sometimes there are surprises, and I’m not giving up, just trying to be realistic.
I now stand at 55 species for the trip, of which 35 are new for my year list and 5 are lifers. My trip spreadsheet indicated 32 species for my year list on the trip, so I am doing very well to have 35 already. I stand at 414 on the year, of which 118 are lifers. The beat goes on…
Sunday, November 6
On Friday I went back out to the Keahua Arboretum, where I had gone earlier in the week. The water over the road at the creek crossing was higher this time, as it had been raining a lot the last few days, so I parked on the near side, and when the rain stopped falling, I walked across the causeway with my shoes on. The water was up to the bottom of my calves, and it was moving fast, so I went slowly. I’m sure I could have driven across, but I didn’t want to take the chance of a problem, including the chance of the water rising rapidly if it rained a lot upstream. I had read warnings that that could happen. I definitely did not want to be trapped on the other side of a raging creek, as there was no other way out.
I spent a couple of hours there, but never saw either of the two birds I was hoping for. I had my humble lunch and returned to the house in the middle of the afternoon.
Saturday was a travel day. I have really come to hate travel by air. We had to get up early (which always ruins a day for me, anyway), packed and loaded up, got gas on the way to the airport, turned in the rental car, and then stood in several lines, etc. You know the drill. It was a short flight to Maui, and after going through the reverse of what I call the Airplane Game, we had our rental car and were headed for our new digs in Maalaea. I kept asking myself why I had planned a trip that involved four plane flights. Check in time was listed as 3 PM, but we were there by shortly after 11 AM. I would have arrived later, but Hawaiian Airlines only has one non-stop a day from Kauai to Maui, and I chose to get up early versus having to change planes in Honolulu. (Four plane flights is bad enough, five would be over the top.)
Anyway, when we got to our condo, the last people were just moving out, so we went off and drove down through Kihei to where the road finally more or less ends, beyond Makena. We had been on Maui together once before, in 1999, and it was interesting to see what things had changed and what things had not. This island sure is more populated and developed than Kauai. It was a Saturday, so the locals were jamming the beaches, along with the tourists.
We stopped at Safeway in Kihei and loaded up on food and drink, and got back to out condo just after 3. We didn’t go out again that afternoon, but enjoyed our magnificent view of Mount Haleakala, Kehei, and the bay. We are on the third floor, oceanfront, and I had deliberately chosen the place because of the view. Both bedrooms and the living room are on the ocean side, and the unit is on a corner, so we have a partially surround view. The air conditioning seems to work fine, although we turn it off once the sun is almost down and open the place up for the night. I love the sound of the waves, which are maybe 40 feet from my bed.
C grilled chicken breast for us at the shared oceanside BBQ grills. Here is a picture from our balcony (lanai to the locals):
We watched a movie on the large screen TV in our living room and got to bed early (for me, anyway), about 10 PM.
So, finally to Sunday and the birds. We were up and out of here by 8:30, without really trying to start early, and we headed up to the volcano, Mt Haleakala. Here is a picture of Haleakala from our lanai, as the sun was coming up:
The only convenient place to see the native forest birds here on Maui is at Hosmer Grove, at the entrance to Haleakala National Park, at an elevation of almost 7000 feet. There is a 0.6 mile nature trail there, along with a small campground and picnic area. We got there by a series of back roads across the island, navigating with Google Maps and my cell phone. I think we got to Hosmer Grove about 10:00, and after putting on long pants and in C’s case, a light jacket, we walked around.
Almost at once, we heard a bird singing, and there in a tree on the edge of the parking lot was my highest priority of the forest birds, a lovely bright red IIWI. Here it is, with its long curved orange bill and orange legs:
The Iiwi is one of my favorite birds, and I have been using a bookmark with a picture of one that I got here in 1999 ever since then. I read a lot of books, so I have looked at that bookmark many thousands of times.
That was a great start to our morning, but it slowed down after that. As in all forests, it was pretty quiet, although a lot better than the forests on Kauai. We saw several more Iiwi and some Apapane (also red with black wings, so one has to look closely to distinguish them from the Iiwi. I had seen Apapane on Kauai and posted some blurry pictures here. The other native ones we were looking for are small and greenish yellow in color, and we saw a number of small green birds flash past or got brief views, but not good enough to identify any of them. There were Japanese White-eyes around, too, and they are also small and yellow green, and that added to the problem. We walked and looked and listened, and I played some songs and calls, but at the end of our walk (with a lot of time spent stopped), I had still only added the Iiwi to my lists.
C had gone back to the car ahead of me, to read and rest, and when I got back, I wandered around the parking lot, playing my recordings and looking and listening. There were a few birds around, but not the ones I wanted to see. Finally, as it was approaching noon (and time to eat our lunch), I got a good look at a COMMON AMAKIHI, a bird I had seen on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1999. That made two of the three I was hoping for at this location, so I was pleased. I got another view of another one, or maybe the same bird, and then it was time for us to have our lunch.
Lunch brought out a few more birds. There were House Sparrows, of all things, and a male Northern Cardinal who came around. I had seen Northern Cardinals in a number of places on this trip, but this was the first time I could get a decent picture of one. They are an East Coast bird that was introduced here decades ago, and they are fairly common on all the islands, I think. I had seen them in Arizona in April/May, so they didn’t add to my year list here.
Another surprising visitor to the campground while we were eating was a male Ring-necked Pheasant. I had seen a couple of them on Oahu, so it didn’t add to any lists, but I was able to get a good picture this time.
Then, to our surprise, we had a visit from a Common Amakihi, probably the same one I had seen in the trees earlier. Here is a closeup picture of that little guy:
The distinguishing features of this species are the long curved bill and the black between the eye and the bill. These features distinguish it from the other native forest species I had hoped to see at this location. More on that subject later. Meanwhile, while I was moving around to get his picture, he discovered my sandwich on the table, and helped himself:
C said he was going for the cheese in the sandwich.
So, with two out of three target forest species under my belt (and multiple sightings of Apapane, too, although no pictures), we headed on up the mountain. Haleakala is just over 10,000 feet in elevation, and it is a steep road with switchback after switchback. It was surprisingly uncrowded, which was nice. We stopped at one or two lookouts, and here is a picture of Christina. You can see that we were above the clouds at that point, although we hadn’t actually had to drive through any clouds to get there. We had sunny weather all day long.
We finally made it to the top, and here is a picture of the crater of Haleakala, taken from near the crater visitor center:
Here is the visitor center itself:
C went for a little hike, while I sat in the sunshine somewhat out of the wind. Walking uphill at 10,000 feet isn’t my idea of fun. Here she is, coming back over the hill she climbed. That is her at the crest, in the middle of the picture:
We moved on from the crater visitor center to the actual summit. There is a rare plant that grows up there, and nowhere else on earth. It has a Hawaiian sounding name, but the common name I can remember is Silversword. It is aptly named, as when it is young, it looks like a bundle of small curved silver swords.
That plant was about the size of a volleyball. They can live for up to 50 years, and they slowly get larger over that time, I guess. They only bloom once, and after that, they die. The blooms are amazing. We didn’t see one with the blooms open, but here is a plant that is blooming and the blooms are about to open. The flowers are bright red when they finally do show themselves, I understand.
Here is a closeup of the unopened blooms:
On the way up the mountain, I had seen a Chukar standing on a rock next to the road, where we couldn’t stop. That was only the second Chukar I have ever seen in my life, the first being on my way back from Arizona in May this year. It was one for my trip list, though. At the summit, there was another one, and this time I got a number of pictures. Here is one of them:
They are a game bird from North America, introduced here for hunting, I guess. They are bigger than a quail and smaller than a grouse. It sure seemed like a strange place to see one, at 10,000 feet on top of a dormant volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
So, after that, we started back down the road. We stopped a couple of places, including Hosmer Grove again. I saw a Leiothrix, a very pretty little introduced forest bird that I had seen on Oahu, but I couldn’t get a picture. Then, as we were leaving Hosmer Grove, we saw a large bird flying over the road and hills ahead of us. There is only one bird that big on Maui, and sure enough, it was the Hawaiian subspecies of Short-eared Owl. One for my trip list. I had seen my first and only Short-eared Owls in January, so this wasn’t one for my year list, but it was still a nice sighting. Someday they might make this subspecies its own species, and if they do, I can add one to my life list. I tried for pictures, but it was too far away and none are any good.
A little later we saw a couple of birds at the top of a tree, and the road was wide there, so we pulled over and I got out to check them out. I couldn’t find them again but in the meantime, C had gotten out, too, and she saw a little greenish-yellow bird, and called me over. I figured it would be a White-eye, but it wasn’t. It was definitely one of the small yellow green forest birds I had been looking for, but which species? As I mentioned before, they are similar, and the main difference in appearance is that one has a longer bill and has blackish coloration between the eyes and the bill, but otherwise they are very similar. I got a good long look at it, and it seemed different from the Amakihi that I had seen earlier and gotten pictures of, but the bill seemed longer than the pictures of the other species. I couldn’t see any blackish color at all around the eye and bill area, which would seem to rule out Amakihi. It hung around just long enough for me to get my camera and take one picture. The picture came out surprisingly good, but the distinguishing feathers were hidden behind part of the tree it was in. Here is the picture:
The picture is not definitive, at least not to me. It bothers me that the underside looks so gray, for one thing, when for both species it could be it should be yellow green on the underside. Maybe that was just the light, though, or maybe it is an immature bird. At any rate, after weighing all the evidence, including its feeding behavior, I am calling it a MAUI ALAUHIO (lifer), formerly called Maui Creeper. I sure wish I could have gotten a picture that showed the bill area, though.
So, that was number three for my year list on the day, and number 5 on my trip list, but it wasn’t over yet. Farther on down the road, there were a couple of quail like birds feeding on the side of the road. We went back and I got a good look at them, and they were GRAY FRANCOLINS. Not a lifer, but a great one for my year and trip lists. I wasn’t able to get a picture, unfortunately, before they spooked and sent into the underbrush.
On top of all that, we got a good look at a bird that was flying and displaying over a field along the road. It went down into the grass before I could get a good look at it, but I am pretty sure it was a Sky Lark. That is a European bird that was introduced here way back in the 1800’s. I have seen them in Britain and also in Australia, where they were also introduced. I decided that my look wasn’t good enough, so I’m not counting it (it would be a year bird for me), but I’m pretty sure that is what it was. I hope to get back up to that area to look for them, as they are supposed to be common up there.
So, it turned out to be an excellent day of birding. I got 4 for my year list and 6 for my trip list, of which one was a lifer. I also got some pictures that I like, and I had a great day out with my honey. I may not add any more to the year list here on Maui, but even getting four is better than my expectations. There are three or four more species that are possible, including the Sky Lark, although I don’t think any of them are especially likely.
We had dinner in again, as is our custom, and watched the very long movie, Forrest Gump. I am writing this on Monday morning.
For the trip, I am now at 61 species, of which 39 have added to my year list and 6 are lifers. For the year, I am now at 418 species, of which 119 are lifers. I’ll be hard pressed to add many more, but it has been a great project, to keep track of what I have seen all year long.
Tuesday, November 8
Well, I didn’t really think there would be another report from Hawaii, but here it is. The fact of a report implies that I saw a year bird today, but a few times I have posted reports anyway, just because I had some pictures to share or some other story to tell. Which is this? Read on to know, gentle reader.
Yesterday (Monday) we drove around the north end of the island, after I finished processing my pictures from Sunday and wrote my report covering Sunday. We drove through Lahaina, looking for the town center we remembered from 1999, but missed it, as the highway seems to have moved, or maybe we just don’t remember correctly. Memory is a damn funny thing.
We continued through the resort areas of Maui. Neither of us is the slightest bit interested in staying in that kind of place, but I can understand why so many people would like it. Golf courses, huge hotels, resorts and condo buildings, with a few obligatory public access points to the beach. We snorkeled there on our last trip, and the beaches were great, although it was pretty amusing to see how few parking places the resorts have been forced to provide for the hoi polloi who aren’t staying in their resorts. We didn’t stop anywhere on Monday.
We drove on around the north end of the island. There are some beautiful bays and surfing beaches up there. The country got pretty rugged, and the road got smaller and smaller, until finally it was an unabashed single lane paved road, and you were on your own to find a wide enough spot to pass oncoming traffic. In some parts, it was right along a cliff, with no guard rail or anything, and C hates heights. She was clutching the seat and gasping some of the time. We were going the right direction, though, and at least she was on the inside part of the road. At one point, in the middle of the narrowest stretch of road, there was a tiny community and a guy was there who was selling pineapple and other stuff, and he came right out into the road, to give his pitch to each car as it came along. Afterwards I regretted not buying a thingie of pineapple, just to reward the guy for his aggressive way of trying to make a living. He reminded me strongly of the guys who rush out to wash your windshield in some east coast cities, at traffic lights, expecting a tip for their efforts. Very obnoxious, but at least they are trying.
Anyway, we enjoyed our drive around the unsettled part of the island, stopping a couple of places to walk a little and have our lunch which we had brought with us. Once we got back to Kahului, we stopped at Kanaha Pond, a wildlife refuge right next to the airport. There had been a report of a Ruff there last week, and that would have been a really great bird to see. There was little to see, though. I did see a bird across the water that I couldn’t see well enough with my 10X binoculars, so took some pictures at 30X, and later I discovered that it was only a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. Here it is:
I also took some pictures of some Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones.
After that, we found Longs Drug Store and Safeway and got food for dinner. So, there were no new birds yesterday, but we had a very nice time driving around the north end of he island. If you are ever here and want to take that drive, be warned that the road gets very narrow and somewhat rough for 5 or 10 miles along the east side of the island. After our Christina-cooked dinner of chicken, vegetables and pasta with alfredo sauce, we watched the movie, Quigley Downunder, which I enjoyed very much, as I like both Tom Selleck and Australia.
So, to today, Tuesday. Today was our day to take the long, slow drive to Hana, on the windward side of the island, at the south end. It is a slow, twisty road, but very scenic, with lots of places to stop to enjoy the coast. We did indeed stop several places, and finally came to Waianapanape State park, where there was a bird I wanted to look for. As we approached the park, we saw a mongoose run across the road in front of us, and then a little while later, we saw another one. We discussed whether we had seen two mongooses, two mongeese, or maybe even two mongoose (like two moose). Looking it up now, we saw two mongooses, and there were more in the park, in the parking area. Here is a picture of one of the slightly creepy little critters:
They have done unimaginable damage to the Hawaiian ecosystem, after having been introduced here deliberately, to catch rats in the sugar cane fields, I think. Ground nesting birds have no chance on islands with mongooses. Kauai is one of the mongoose-free islands, which is why the Hawaiian goose, the Nene, can live there.
Here is a picture of the bay at Waianapanape State Park. You can see the little black sand beach in the background, and in the middle of the picture is a little island rock where my target birds supposedly nest and roost,
I walked around to the left and sure enough, I saw roosting BLACK NODDIES. Here are some pictures of these members of the tern family:
I hadn’t thought it was the right time of year to see these birds, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that they were still around at this time. I was also pleased that they roost so close to shore, where I could not only see them, but get pictures of them.
Here is another picture of the bay at Waianapanape State Park. Christina is standing next to the palm tree in the middle.
To show off the zoom ability of my camera, here is a closeup of C, almost full frame, and not even at full zoom:
We had our humble lunch at that park, and then moved on to the town of Hana. We drove beyond Hana a little way, but we knew the road got smaller and smaller after that, eventually turning into a four-wheel drive road, where we weren’t supposed to take our rental car. So, we turned back, but not after seeing dozens of Frigatebirds wheeling around over an offshore island. There was at least one Red-footed Booby in the crowd, and probably others and maybe other species as well.
By that time, it was time to head for home, so we retraced our steps along the long twisty road with the dozens of single lane bridges and curves. It is a very slow drive, but well worth the time. We stopped in Kahului and picked up some dinner and a movie at Safeway, and came on home.
It was an excellent day on Maui, with a little light rain, but with nice sunshine when we needed it. So, with the Black Noddy, that brings me to 62 species on the trip, of which 40 are new for my year list and 6 are lifers. I am at 419 for the year, of which 119 are lifers. I don’t expect any more on the trip, but it is always possible, so we will see.
Thursday, November 10
Omigod! Another report from Hawaii! I feel like an aging entertainer who just keeps doing one more tour. I promise this will be the last report from this trip, and possibly the last one of the year.
Yesterday (Wednesday), we had intended to snorkel, but a big wind came up overnight, and even the people at the snorkel rental place said that snorkeling wasn’t a good idea that day. So we regrouped and decided to go see the Iao Valley, with its “needle”, then do some errands we had to do. On our first pass at the Iao Needle site, we couldn’t get a legal parking place, so we went back down the road to the park there, and walked around. Then we went back up to the Needle area and got a parking place. They charge five bucks, from a machine, and there is no way that it is enforced, but we were good tourist-citizens and contributed our five bucks to the state of Hawaii. Their parks are very nice, and they don’t charge for very many of them. This was the first time we paid anything at any of their parks, so I didn’t mind.
We walked around the paths, along with the crowds who had come by tour bus, limousine, taxi, and rental car. Incidentally, the five dollar charge for parking only applies to non-residents of Hawaii, thus making the enforcement all the more of a joke, since they would have no way of knowing if a given car was being driven by a resident of Hawaii. Politics is interesting. Here is a picture of the “needle”, which is a rock formation that juts up to 2500 feet:
Here is a picture looking down the valley:
After enough time walking around there, enjoying the other tourists (as they were no doubt enjoying us), we went back down to the little park below the paid area, and had our humble lunch, brought from home, as usual with the Rambler on his travels. I think I had a ham and cheese sandwich, as usual, but C has added a nice touch to it – a single layer of lite salami slices, along with all the ham and cheese I put in. Very nice indeed. She puts lettuce on hers, but I don’t bother with that.
After lunch, we went looking for a book or books for C, as she was almost through the ones she had brought, and she needs a book to read at all times. We had previously tried Safeway, but they had no books, and C had written down the addresses of four book stores in the Wailuku and Kahului areas. As it turned out, none of them were currently in business. We tried Kmart with no luck, and finally she found a couple of books at Costco. All that consumed an hour or more, but we had books!
That was pretty much it for yesterday, other than stopping at the post office to pick up a box to ship some material back in. We had gotten material for 4 or 5 aloha shirts for Josh and me. (C makes them, bless her generous heart. Us Big Guys need them to be custom made, and I like two pockets on my shirts, and you can’t buy them that way, even if you could get the size.)
We did stop at Safeway, to turn in the movie that C had rented the night before and to pick up some shrimp, frozen vegetables, and dessert for our dinner. I got more water, too, as I am suspicious that the local water doesn’t agree with me, although it doesn’t taste bad. After dinner we watched another movie, An American President, and I got this picture of the full moon over the bay, with Kihei and Haleakala in the background:
So, all that was yesterday, Wednesday the 9th. This morning we had again hoped to go snorkeling, but again it was very windy, and the ocean out in front of our condo had white caps, so we again changed plans. We drove “upcountry”, as they say here, which means up the road to Mount Hakeakala, to about the 3500 foot level. I dropped C at a botanical garden there, in Kula, and went on up a little farther, to look for my Bird of the Day.
I stopped a couple of times and played the song, just to familiarize myself with it, mind you. I knew that this species did a lot of singing and display flights, and I knew they lived in that area. On the third stop, when I played the song, a bird flew up and around me, and I could see with my binoculars that it was indeed a SKY LARK, a species I had seen in Australia and Britain, but never in the US. It is a European bird, and the only other place in the US where you could see them was in the San Juan Islands, near where we live. They might not be there any more, though, I’m not sure, but there are supposed to be a few in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Anyway, it was a nice addition to my lists, year and trip, even if it wasn’t one for my life list. The bird even perched on a bush, and I got this picture, among others:
Not a very good picture, as it was distant and the light was wrong, but it shows the bird, and that is what counts, for me. The little guy even burst into song, repeating the very song I had been playing on my phone. He (or she) kept that up for quite a while, and here is a picture of the little darling, singing its heart out:
Again, apologies for the poor quality of the picture, but I was glad to get it at all.
So, my birding mission accomplished for the day, I went back and picked up C at the arboretum, and we proceeded on down the road, going around the island toward Hana. The road deteriorates and we knew we could only go so far. It was pretty, though, and interesting. Wait a minute, before doing that, we did two other things. The guide book to Maui, that we had gotten twelve years ago when we were here, mentioned that there were quail (meaning California Quail) up a particular very narrow road, so we drove up there. No quail, but it was a pretty little neighborhood of small farms and houses. We also stopped along the road and got a picture of me next to a bush called brugmansia. We first learned about this plant many years ago, at an arboretum in Vancouver, BC, and we see it sometimes on our travels. We have seen them here in the islands on this trip, but this was an especially nice one, so I had C take my picture by it. I call this picture “Brugman with brugmansia bush”:
So, it was after that that we went down the road, until it got too narrow and uninteresting. We had wonderful views of Maui, looking down over Kihei and Kahului, to the north. On our way back, after deciding to turn around, we stopped at a deli in Ulupalakua and got a big sandwich to split and some macaroni salad (a very much Hawaiian thing), and a coconut chocolate bar for our lunch. We went back to a park I had stopped at earlier to pee, to have our little bought’n lunch. One of my few bought’n lunches of the trip.
We had a fantastic view of the north end of the island from our little lunch park, which was in a little place called Kula. I tried out a feature of my camera I had not tried before, and here is a panorama of the view from our lunch place:
On the left is the bay where we are located, and on the right is Kahului, which is where the airport is. We were at an elevation of about 3500 feet. Sky Larks serenaded us continuously, while we ate.
When we were finished eating, I was looking out at the view, as shown above, and I saw a large brown bird – a Pueo, the Hawaiian subspecies of the Short-eared Owl. It wasn’t one for my lists, but I managed to get some lousy, distant pictures of it, and I am now going to show them to you. Isn’t the front end of an owl interesting? The body just keeps getting wider, and then it just ends in a flat face. For your enjoyment, here is the Hawaiian subspecies of the Short-eared Owl:
I guess those two pictures pretty much look the same, but they were taken at different times. Here is another one:
Just after that, the bird dove down and we didn’t see it again. I hope it caught something and had a nice lunch.
So, when we got tired of the view, we headed back down to sea level. I dropped C at a beach at the north end of Kihei, and I went on up to the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. There isn’t really any good access, but I stopped along the highway and climbed up on a bank, to get a view of the birds on the pond. I didn’t see anything unusual, and it was so windy that it was hard to see anything at all. I took a lot of pictures, hoping that I might capture something interesting, but there was nothing. I was just too far away, and the wind was too strong, thus introducing motion blur into my pictures.
I went back and picked C up, and we returned home about 4 PM. Tonight we went out to dinner (for the second time in the two weeks that C has been here), and now we only have one more night, and then the Airplane Game tomorrow, and we are home.
So, in a revised count for the trip, I saw 63 species here in Hawaii, which is excellent. 41 of those added to my year list, which is also excellent (I had expected about 32 or 33). I added 6 lifers on the trip. That brings me to a total of 420 species for the year, of which 119 are lifers. Once again, I expect this to be my last report for a while, and maybe the last of the year. It has been a really great project, to see as many species of birds as I could in 2011.
Sunday, November 20
A couple of birds that I needed for my year list had been reported over the last several days, in Tacoma and Puyallup, and it was a beautiful sunny (though cold) day today, so I set out to chase them. I was out of here by about 9:30, and after a stop to gas up the car, I got to the Pierce County Health Department building in Tacoma about 10:30. It was easy to locate the place where the subject bird had been seen recently, but I didn’t see any birds around. I played the song and call of the bird on my cell phone, and I heard a definite answering call, so I knew it was there somewhere. To get a better view, I went around to the parking lot of the building next door, and again played the call. Again I got a responding call, and within a minute or so, a bird flew out of the evergreen trees and into the top of a leafless deciduous tree right next to me. I got my binoculars on it, and sure enough, it was a lovely TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (lifer). Here is a picture of it where I first saw it, at the top of the tree:
The woman who had reported it mentioned that there was a male Anna’s Hummingbird that hung around the area, too, and by golly, he flew in and landed in the same tree top. I guess he just wanted to be part of the action. It was too distant for a very good picture, but here is that little guy:
You can see the out-of-focus solitaire behind him.
After about ten minutes, the solitaire flew down and I got some close-up pictures that I like. Here is one that shows all the field marks:
Here’s one from the front that I actually like better, just because of the pose:
And finally, here is one that shows its back:
OK, so that’s more pictures of a Townsend’s Solitaire than anyone should have to look at, but I was starting to develop a complex about never being able to see this bird, so I was very jazzed.
After that fun, I headed on over to Puyallup for the second half of my dual twitch. At Bradley Lake Park, there were lots of people out walking, many of them with dogs. As I said, it was a lovely sunny Sunday, and people were out and about. There were ducks out on the lake, and there were birders on the edge of the lake, with binoculars, scopes, and cameras. Not a lot of birders, but I saw at least a half a dozen while I was there, and I chatted with 3 or 4 of them.
The target bird here was a duck, and it really doesn’t look all that different from the Ring-necked Ducks that were out on the lake, along with American Wigeons, Mallards, and Hooded Mergansers. There in the midst of them all was a male TUFTED DUCK, though, and I had another one for my year list. It wasn’t a lifer for me, as I had seen Tufted Ducks in Britain in 2010, where they are common, but it was a new one for my US List. They live in Europe and Asia, and vagrants sometimes show up on either one of our coasts. Presumably this guy got lost on his migration and ended up here. He might very well spend the winter here, and if so, I am sure that a lot of American birders will see him, as they only show up here in the US infrequently. He was first reported several days ago and has hung around this long, anyway.
Here is my best picture of him. Keep in mind he was pretty far away, and I was hand-holding my camera with the zoom set to the 35 mm equivalent of about 800 mm, which is about 25X “normal”. With so much zoom, any shake at all introduces motion blur to the picture, and you can see it here. Nevertheless, the picture shows that it is a Tufted Duck. Note the bill of the bird in the center (the Tufted Duck). There is no white ring around the bill, nor is there any white at the base of the bill, like the Ring-necked Ducks to its right have. The bill is bluish-gray with a dark tip, and the eye is golden, just like the field guide describes. You can also see the purple sheen to the head, in that particular light. You can even see a small tuft of feathers on the back of his head. Later in the season, presumably that tuft will get larger.
When I first got there, the bird was just sitting out there, and one of the other birders let me look at it through his scope. I had left my scope in the car, and only had my binoculars at the lakeside, along with my camera, of course. After a short while, the other birders left and all the ducks started to feed. They moved around a lot and the Tufted Duck and the Ring-necked Ducks feed by diving completely underwater for 20 or 30 seconds at a time, so it was hard to keep track of the Tufted Duck, while I tried to get a decent picture of him. Another pair of birders with a scope showed up, and the three of us spent 10 or 15 minutes trying to find it again and show it to the others. We kept locating it, but it kept diving and never stayed still for long. Eventually it had enough to eat for a while, I guess, and it settled down again. We were all able to get good scope views of it then, and I got the picture above at that time. It was birding, and it was fun.
While I was moving around on the lake bank, trying to follow the Tufted Duck while it fed, this crow posed for me in the light, and I got this picture. This one’s for you, Bev:
Getting good pictures of black colored birds is tricky, and the light was just right for this picture.
So, that was my birding adventure for today. I added two more to my year list, one of which added to my life list, and the other added to my US list. That brings me to 422 species for the year, of which 120 have been lifers. Will there be any more reports this year? I have hopes. It appears that this might be developing into a Snowy Owl irruption year. Every several years, Snowy Owls, which normally breed in the arctic and winter in Canada, move farther south. They have been sighted in a number of places here in Washington in the last couple of weeks, so maybe one will show up where I can see it. I have only seen one once before, in the last irruption year, several years ago. Or, something else could show up and be reported in the area; or I could make a trip over to Eastern Washington, where I could possibly see one of several winter species over there. We will see.