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Thursday, November 1
A new month, and a new year for me, my 68th birthday.† Bruse took care of some business in the morning, while I hung out at the condo.† We hit the road about noon, to look for birds.
Our first stop was a community park where I had seen a particular species last year.† It isnít very common, but they seem to be at this park most or all of the time.† I soon picked up SAFFRON FINCH for my year list.† Here is a picture of one.† I like the reddish tinge to the forehead.
Next we drove across the island to the windward side.† We stopped at the ponds outside Kaneohe Marine Base, and I looked for Black Noddy, but didnít see any over the ponds.† I hope to pick that species up on the Big Island; I have a particular site to look for them there.
It was past time for lunch by then, so we stopped at Kualoa Regional Park and found a table in the shade.† We had ham and cheese roll ups and roast beef and cheese rollups, like every day, along with some sugar snap peas and some baby carrots.† For a treat, we each had a Diet Coke as well.† I saw three Ruddy Turnstones there, foraging in the grass.† We saw a lot more of them later at the reserve we were going to.† Here is a picture of one of them from the park.
Next we stopped at Laie Point to look for sea birds, but there werenít any that I could see.† Here is a picture of the arched rock offshore, though.
Our main destination for the day was James Campbell NWR (National Wildlife Refuge), and we got there on time for the four oíclock tour.† The refuge is only open to the public for a few months in the fall and early winter, and then only for the two tours a week.† We had seven people for the tour, with three guides.† The purpose of the refuge is to protect native Hawaiian water birds, as well as to provide a place for migrant water birds to stop or spend the winter.† One of the main resident native birds is the Hawaiian subspecies of Black-necked Stilt.† They look pretty much like their mainland cousins.
Another resident bird is the Hawaiian subspecies of Common Gallinule, which used to be called Common Moorhen.
There were several Black-crowned Night-Herons around.† Here is a picture of an immature bird that is just starting to get its adult plumage:
Note the orange eye.† When it is fully mature, the eye will be red, as in this mature Black-crowned Night-Heron:
The black crown has developed fully on that mature bird, too, and the bluish-black back.
My next bird for my year list was HAWAIIAN COOT.† It looks pretty much like its mainland cousin, the American Coot (or its Eurasian cousin, the Eurasian Coot), but it is considered a separate species for some reason.† Here is a little flock of them, feeding in the grass:
My main reason for visiting the refuge was to see BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW.† This is the only reliable place to see them in the islands.† They breed in northern Alaska or Canada, and then spend the winter here.† Here is a picture of one of them:
There were other shorebirds, like Lesser Yellowlegs and Sanderling, which were good for my trip list.† Our guide also pointed out a couple of SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPERS, which is a bird that I have seen in Australia and I saw here last year. †I havenít ever seen one on the US mainland, where they are rare vagrants.† They arenít very common here, either, so I was pleased to get them.† Here is a distant picture:
Another bird that was surprising was a single Greater White-fronted Goose.† I didnít even know they came to Hawaii, and evidently they donít come here very often.† They also breed in the Arctic, and this one should be in California now with all its kin, but somehow it got lost and ended up here, 2000 miles across the ocean.† Go figure.† Greater White-fronted Goose:
This was the first sighting of this year here in Hawaii, they thought, and it might or might not spend the winter.† It is going to be lonely for others of its species, if it does, and if birds can feel loneliness.
Here is a picture showing part of the NWR:
There were some small birds feeding in the reeds, and I took a look at them.† Most were Common Waxbills, but I got a good look at a NUTMEG MANNIKIN for my year list, too.† To round out the day, our guide pointed out a male Ring-necked Pheasant in the distance.
By the time the tour ended, it was 5:45 and getting dark fast.† It was after 7 oíclock by the time we got back to Bruseís condo, so I just had one or two of my doctored up Mai Taiís, some nuts, and my humble dinner.† I didnít feel like processing my pictures or writing this last night, so it is Friday morning now, as I write this.
Itís a good thing that neither Bruse nor I get tired quickly of eating the same thing for dinner each night, because for the fourth night in a row we had chicken meatballs and stir fry vegetables from Costco.† Here is a picture:
So, thatís my report for yesterday.† I added five more to my year list and twelve more to my trip list.† Iím now at 485 for the year, of which 112 are lifers.† My trip list stands at 37 now.† There is one species I can look for here on Oahu still, but it isnít likely I will find it.† I have done really well here, seeing all the species I expected to see, along with some that I considered unlikely.† We head off to the Big Island on Sunday, so expect more reports starting then.
What a life!
Saturday, November 3
I thought I was through with reports from Oahu this year, but hereís a bonus one.
My plan this morning was to head up into the hills, to look for a native bird that I hadnít ever seen before.† I wanted to get up there as early as I could, because I had been told that earlier was better for hearing this species call, which is how you usually find them, I gather.
As it turned out, Bruse and I went out to breakfast with a friend of his that I hadnít ever met, and we had the opportunity this morning.† By the time we were finished with that, it was 10 AM, but I headed up into the hills anyway.† There is a scenic route above Honolulu that consists of Round Top Road and Tantalus Road, and I drove around that loop.
I stopped from time to time, especially when I could park in the shade, and I played the song of this native bird I wanted to see. †I had no idea whether this particular species responded to its own calls or not, but I thought I might as well try, while I was scanning the treetops for movement.† I saw a few birds, but usually couldnít get a good enough look at them to identify them, as they were usually high in the trees.
I turned off at a park, and on the entrance road I saw a couple of birds, so I got out to look at them.† They turned out to be a species I had seen in Kapiolani Park the other day, but I hadnít been able to get a picture.† Today I got this picture of a male White-rumped Shama sitting on a wire.
They have a very melodious song, and I heard them singing in the woods around me there.
I stopped a lot more places, maybe 10 or 12 in all, and by about one oíclock, I was getting hungry and I was also getting to the end of the scenic loop drive.† I was coming down Tantalus Road, just before getting to where the houses start, and there was a nice pullout with a view.† There was parking in the deep shade, so I decided to stop one last time.
I played the song of the bird I was looking for again, and this time a small bird flew down into a bush nearby.† That hadnít happened before, so I spent some time trying to see the bird.† It flitted around and then flew to another nearby bush and perched.† I thought it looked like a Japanese White-eye when it flew, so thatís what I was expecting.† To my amazement, though, it was an OAHU AMAKIHI (lifer), the very bird I was seeking!† I got a good binocular look at it, then started trying to get a picture.† It didnít stay still long, and it kept flying back and forth between two bushes, one on each side of me.† I kept playing the song, and it clearly was interested, although I never heard it vocalize in return.† I finally got some pictures that I was satisfied with.† There wasnít much light there under the trees, so the images are kind of soft, due to motion blur from hand-holding the camera at a slow shutter speed, but I like the pictures, anyway.† You can see the curved bill of the bird and the dark area between the eye and the bill.† So, here is an Oahu Amakihi for your viewing pleasure.
And finally, this one, which is my favorite.
So, I was very pleased with that sighting.† I really didnít give myself much of a chance of seeing one, especially when I got started so late.† Now I know that they will respond to a recorded call, but I didnít know that ahead of time.
I stopped one more place after that, to take a picture of Honolulu and Diamond Head.† It was kind of hazy today, which is unusual here, so the picture isnít very striking, but you can see that there is a beautiful view from up in the hills behind Honolulu.
I imagine that it would be a really great view on a clear night.
So, with about two and a half hours of birding today, I managed to add my first lifer of the trip, which brings me to 486 species so far this year, and 113 of those have been lifers.† I have 38 species for the trip so far.†
Tomorrow Bruse and I fly off to the Big Island.† Our first stop is going to be in the town of Volcano, which is located at about 4000 feet elevation next to Volcanoes National Park.† I have a number of places to look for birds in that area, and we have heard this week that the volcano is currently pouring out lava, so maybe we will be able to see that.† Watch for more reports.
Sunday, November 4
I saw a new bird for my year list today, so here is a short report.
I was up by about 6:45 this morning, and we were ready to go when our Star Discount Taxi driver showed up just before 9 to take us to the airport.† If you are in Honolulu and need a taxi to or from the airport, I recommend Star Taxi.† You have to book it ahead of time, but you will save 10 or 15 bucks on a ride to or from the airport to most places in Honolulu.
We jumped through the airport hoops, waited in the various airport lines, waited to board, and finally got on to our 11:15 Hawaiian Airlines flight to Kona.† Including taxi times, it was about a 45 minute flight, which means less than half an hour in the air.† It was a nice Boeing 717, a comfortable two engine jet plane that seats about 100 people.† Our flight was full, as far as I could see.
We landed at Kona, on Hawaii, which is referred to as the Big Island, as it is the largest of the Hawaiian islands.† It is a small airport, and is an outdoor airport.† There are some covered walkways, and the restaurant, the rest rooms, the gift shop, and the baggage claim are under roofs, but most of it is open air.† No jetways or concourses.† You get off your plane by walking down steps, or in our case, by walking down a ramp, since we had a couple of wheelchair-bound passengers on our flight.
I got my two bags ($17 each Ė the airlines have figured out how to make a little extra without making the fares higher.† My fare was only $72.), and we waited for the Alamo rental car bus.† Another line to wait in at the Alamo place, and when I got to the counter I was somewhat chagrined to find that I had made an error when I made my reservation online.† I had somehow made it for the period from November 5 to November 12, instead of the 4th to the 14th.† Oops.† Fortunately, they had plenty of cars, and I still got the Costco rate, which is a 25% discount from their normal rates, plus there is no charge for a second driver.† I figure that my mistake did cost me about 50 bucks, though, as when I had made the reservation, rates were at a real low point, and today we had to pay the current rates.† Oh well, a 50 dollar mistake isnít the biggest mistake I will make this month, probably, but it hurts my self esteem to realize I made the mistake.
I like the car we got, a Chevy Impala, and we hit the road about 1:00 or so, I think.† Our first stop was Costco, which is only a few miles from the airport.† We loaded up on food and booze.† Costco in Kona was very crowded on a Sunday afternoon, but I love the store, and we got a bunch of good food and booze at good prices, so it was worth fighting the crowds.† Our next stop was Safeway, where we got some more food Ė stuff not appropriate to get at Costco for one reason or another.
It took a lot longer than I expected to get from Kona to Volcano, where we are staying for the next four nights.† It was supposed to be about 2 Ĺ hours, but took us more than 3 hours I think, not counting our stop.† Speed limits were 25 to 55 mph, with a lot of 40 or 45 mph stretches, and I didnít feel like taking chances with the local police, so we just putted along at the speed limt or a little over.
The only stop we made was at Manuka State Park.† It was a convenient place to use the rest room, and there were supposed to be birds there.† I didnít see the species I especially wanted to see there, but I did add Northern Cardinal to my trip list, and I saw an introduced species that I had wanted to see, one for my year list, RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX.† I saw one last year on Oahu, but today I saw the second and third ones in my life.† I even got some pictures.† The images are ďsoftĒ, as opposed to sharp, as I was hand-holding the camera in low light, but they do show the colors of these attractive little birds.
We got to our house in Volcano at about 5:30.† We moved in our stuff and each had a modified Mai Tai to celebrate our safe arrival.† It is almost 7:30 now, and soon we will have our Costco rotisserie chicken and Costco Caesar salad.† Our house here is great, maybe more about that in a future report.† We are at 4000 feet of elevation, and it is now 63 degrees outside.† I sat out on the porch a little while ago, and finally got cool, after a week of being hot all the time.
So, now Iím at 487 species for the year, of which 113 are lifers.† I have 40 species for the trip.† Tomorrow the actual Big Island birding will start.
Monday, November 5
Last night I went outside, and the stars were absolutely incredible.† I walked down the road a bit, to cut out all the light from the two neighbors we can see from our house, and the sky was just stunning.† In addition to the amazing stars, there was an orange plume to the south from Halemaumau Crater, where there is a lava lake.† It was a wondrous experience, standing there and observing the sky.
It cooled down nicely at night, and we used the propane fireplace in our living room to warm the house up a bit before we went to bed.† When I got up this morning, it was 46 degrees outside and 56 in my room.† I slept very well, though, and I used the electric blanket on the bed by the morning.†† I used an electric blanket as a teenager, but I donít think I had used one for over 45 years until last night.
Today I added two species to my year list before breakfast.† I went out for a little walk and picked up KALIJ PHEASANT, an introduced species from China.† They were more skittish than I had expected, based on what I had read, so I didnít get any useable pictures.†† I got some later, and Iíll show one later in this report.
I also saw some birds flying overhead, and to my surprise, they were APAPANE, a native bird I definitely had wanted to see.† I only saw them flying, but later in the day I saw a couple more when perched.† I have one picture, which I got later.† Here is a mediocre picture of an Apapane from underneath, taken near the park visitor center.
So, with two year birds under my belt, I saw a little flock of birds that seemed like something new, still before breakfast.† They were very yellow, and I got some pictures of them.† Here is the only one that came out any good.
It took me a while, but I finally realized they were actually Yellow-fronted Canaries, which I had seen in Kapiolani Park in Honolulu.† I hadnít expected to see them here, so they had me stumped for a while.
We had our brekkie (eggs, turkey sausage, some cheese, and some Greek yogurt for me), and hit the road by about nine oíclock.† We went into Volcanoes National Park and stopped at the visitor center.† Thatís where I got the Apapane picture above.† It was nice to find out what the latest volcano action was and which roads were closed in the park.
Next we went on to the Jaggar Museum, which is perched on the rim of Kilauea Crater.† Here is a picture of it.
Kilauea Crater is huge, and has been there for at least 100 years, probably a lot longer, but there are other craters within it.† The newest one is called Halemaumau Crater, which had a big event in 2008.† That event resulted in the road around the Kilauea Crater being closed for half of its length, and there has been a lava lake in Halemaumau Crater since then.† It rises and falls, and right now, the lava is actually higher than it has been before, I think.† That is what caused the orange glow that I saw last night from out in front of our house.† It is probably only 4 or 5 miles from here, if that much.† Here is a picture of Halemaumau Crater, taken from the Jaggar Museum, which is perched just above it.† I understand the view at night is great.
Here is a picture of Bruse at the Jaggar Museum.
After that, we drove down to the ocean.† The Jaggar museum is at about 4000 feet elevation, so it was a long drive, down, down, and down.† Here is a picture of the coastline, where the lava has flowed into the sea and there are cliffs.
I was looking for a particular bird there, and I saw it almost at once, the BLACK NODDY, a member of the tern family.† I wasnít able to get a picture of one flying, but here is a picture of some of them roosting in one of the caves shown in the last picture.
I know, not very inspiring, but a birder takes what he can get.† It was a new bird for my year list, so I was pleased.
A little farther on, the road ended, because the lava had flowed over it some years ago.† Bruse walked out to the place where the lava wiped out the paved road, but it was half a mile, and I declined to make the walk in the sun.† While he walked, I took this picture of the Holei Sea Arch on the edge of the lava.
it was getting to be time for lunch by then, so we headed back to our great little cottage (I have to get some pictures of the cottage, maybe tomorrow).† On the way, Bruse suddenly called out that there was a goose at the side of the road.† I hadnít seen it, but I turned around, and there were actually two NENE, also called Hawaiian Goose, which is the state bird of Hawaii.† Here are a couple of pictures of them.
Nene is pronounced Nayí- nay, and the plural is the same as the singular.
We had some nice Havarti cheese and some nice pepper turkey breast, both from Costco, for our lunch, along with a Coke Zero each, and headed out to look for more birds.
Our first afternoon stop was Kipuka Puaulu, also called Bird Park.† A kipuka is an area of trees that was left isolated in an earlier lava flow.† Birds tend to gather in that area, since all around it is mostly lava and small shrubs and grasses.† There is a one mile nature trail at Bird Park, but it turned out that it goes uphill fairly steeply halfway, and then comes back down.† We walked about a third of the way around (uphill), and then gave up and turned back.† It is at an elevation of about 5000 feet, and it was a little warm, so I ran out of gas fairly quickly.
There were a number of Kalif Pheasants around there, and they were a lot tamer than the ones I had seen in the morning near our cottage.† Here is a picture of a male.
They are a little bigger than a chicken.† The females are brown with less red around the eye and without the topknot.† I didnít get a good picture of female today, maybe I will get one later.
We didnít see much in the forest there at Bird Park, which is completely consistent with my experience of forests.† We did hear one bird repeatedly singing, though, and I located it, high in a tree.† It was one I was looking for, an OMAO.† Here is a poor picture from underneath against a bright sky.
Before we left the kipuka, I walked up the other side of the loop trail a little way, and I played the song of a species I had wanted to see here.† What do you know, a nice little HAWAII AMAKIHI flew in, and I added it to my year list.† No picture, though.† It didnít seem like we were seeing very many birds, but I just kept adding species to my year list.
Here is a picture of Kipuka Puaulu, just to show the type of habitat.† This is the edge of the kipuka,
From Kipuka Puaulu we moved on up the road to Kipuka Ki.† The road had gotten narrower, but it was still two lanes, with a center stripe.† At Kipuka Ki, I played the song of another little Hawaii endemic (endemic means it isnít found anywhere else in the world), and I got a reaction.† There ended up being three HAWAII ELEPAIO in the area.† I even got a picture of one of them.† It is quite ďsoftĒ, due to the low light, but I am pleased to have it.
From there, we drove on up the Mauna Loa strip road to the trailhead to Mauna Loa, which was 8 miles on a single lane road.† Fortunately, we didnít meet another vehicle in either direction, which I appreciated.† Up at the trailhead, I tried for Iiwi, a bird I really want to see on this trip, but we had no luck.† I did get good views of another Hawaii Amakihi, but the pictures are too poor to show.
By that time it was almost 5 PM, and I was thinking about a Mai Tai or two.† On our way down I had one more species, though, a couple of ERCKELíS FRANCOLINS.† They were on a curve along the road, but I stopped and took some pictures, while Bruse got increasingly nervous about how we were blocking the road on the curve.† Here is the best I could do of one of the Erckelís Francolins:
It was drizzling by the time we got ďhomeĒ, and now it sounds like a little rain out there.† Our water here in the cottage is gathered from the roof, and it is really delicious, so rain is a good thing.† I guess there wonít be any star watching tonight, though.† Iím glad I got out there last night when it was clear.
So, although it seemed like the birds were pretty few and far between today, I did manage to rack up 8 species for my year list, which is huge at this point.† Iím going to be hard pressed to add any more here in the Volcano area, unless Iím willing to drive up that one lane road again, to the higher elevation where Iiwi live.† I really want to see one, though, so we will see..
I am now at 495 species for the year, of which 113 are lifers.† I have 48 species for the trip now.† What a life!
Tuesday, November 6
It rained overnight and was still dripping when we got up this morning.† On the other hand, because of the cloud cover, the outside low was ten degrees warmer than the night before, at 56 degrees.† Inside, it was seven degrees warmer than the morning before, at 63.
Soon the rain ended, though, and by 8:30, it was sunny outside.† We got out of here about 9 today, and we headed back up the Mauna Loa strip road to look for 4 potential species that I still needed.
Our first stop was Kipuka Puaulu, Bird Park.† I got this picture of a male Northern Cardinal soon after we got there.
Not a bird I needed, but it is always good to see birds.
I played the songs of a couple of potential birds, both of them rather unlikely I thought.† After ten or fifteen minutes, we got a response.† My cell phone recording got a couple of birds singing loudly near us.† This particular species is known as a ďskulkerĒ, meaning that they hide in the undergrowth and are much easier to hear than to see.† That was certainly our experience today.† We heard at least two of them, on both sides of the trail, and we looked and looked.† It must have been at least ten or fifteen minutes before I walked into the woods a little distance and finally got a good look at a CHINESE HWAMEI.† I had only seen this species once before, last year on Kaui, and that was a very short look through a lot of vegetation.† I even managed to get a couple of halfway decent pictures today.
In both of those pictures, you can see that the bird is singing away.† They sing very loudly.† They were cage birds that escaped in about 1900 and established themselves in the wild.† I hadnít expected to be able to see one on this trip, so it was very satisfying to actually be able to get a couple of recognizable pictures.
I got a picture of a female Kalij Pheasant, too, while at Bird Park.
We continued up the Mauna Loa strip road, and stopped from time to time to look for another bird that I really wanted to see.† One of the landmarks along that one-lane road is the Ke Amoku lava flow.† Here is a picture of the lava flow, with the Halemaumau Crater in the distance (the white emissions in the middle of the picture in the distance).
Hereís a picture of Bruse taking a picture of the lava flow.
At that same stop I saw the species we had driven up the road to try to see Ė an IIWI.† I only had a brief look, and I didnít get a picture, sorry to say.† I like this species so much, and I was so glad to see one today, that Iím going to insert a picture of an Iiwi that I took last year on Maui.† I love the color and the curved bill.
It was really satisfying to see one today.† I still might see one again later in the trip, on the Saddle Road, so I may still get a picture this year.
We continued up to the end of the Mauna Loa strip road and looked around the trailhead area there, but didnít see anything interesting.† It was getting to be lunch time by then, so we drove back down the road.† We stopped at Kipuka Ki so I could look for Japanese Bush-warbler again, but had no luck.† It is a pretty uncommon bird and hard to see, but I had seen all the easy ones already.† After that stop, we found a picnic table near Bird Park and had our humble lunch.† Today it was sliced turkey breast rolled up with Havarti cheese, with some carrots and sugar snap peas.
After eating, I played the Japanese Bush-warbler song again, not really expecting it to get me anything.† To our great surprise, a couple of birds appeared right overhead.† For some reason I donít understand at all, the bush-warbler song seems to have attracted a couple of HAWAIIAN HAWKS.† We had really great looks at them as they flew right over us, quite low.† I had left my camera in the car, but one of them came back over a little later, and I managed to get this distant picture of it, high above us.
I was thrilled to get the hawk.† I might see them on the Saddle Road later, and I hope I do, but it was great to see one today, and a nice surprise, especially since I got a picture, too.
So, with three species under my belt for the day, we drove through the little village of Volcano.† It was interesting.† Volcano has two or three restaurants, a number of B&Bís, a couple of general stores, several art galleries, and two places to buy gasoline.† It is only about 4 or 5 miles from our cottage, but it is obviously much wetter there Ė it was much more lush and green.† You do cross a crest on the road to get there, and obviously that makes a difference in the rainfall.
Next we went back into the National Park and drove to the edge of the caldera, so I could look for tropicbirds.† Here is a picture of the edge of the caldera where there are a lot of steam vents.
When there is steam coming out of the ground all around you, it makes you realize that this is still a very active volcanic area.† I looked several places for tropicbirds, which are seen flying over the caldera sometimes, but never saw one.
We stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube despite the three tour buses that were there.† The buses were just pulling out, fortunately.† There was lots of bird action there, with singing and calling birds all around.† I saw Hawaii Amakihi several times, as well as Japanese White-eyes, but most of the birds were Apapane.† I tried for pictures, but the closest I got to a decent one is this one of the rear end of an Apapane.
When I started to click the shutter, the bird was showing itself well, but then it turned away.† I think the picture is a good example of the difficulties in getting bird pictures.† We hope to go back to the Thurston Lava Tube tomorrow morning early, before so many tourists have descended on it, and maybe Iíll get a better picture then.
So, that was the end of our birding today.† We returned to our cottage for Mai Tais and election coverage.† I had predicted that they would call the election for Obama at 5 PM our time, but I had forgotten that Daylight Savings Time had ended on the mainland on Saturday night this last weekend, so it was actually 6 PM when the polls closed on the west coast.† Even so, it wasnít until about 6:15 until it was called for Obama.† I havenít seen or heard any Washington State results yet; Iíll have to look it up online when I finish this.
So, I got three more birds today for my year list, much to my surprise.† I had not really expected any more today.† That puts me at 498 for the year, so 500 is now in the bag.† I was not expecting to get that many, for sure, a couple of weeks ago.† I have done much better than I had expected on this trip, seeing 51 species so far.† Of my 498 for the year, 113 are lifers.
I have almost nothing to look for tomorrow or the next day, in terms of new species, so I expect it will be at least a couple of days before there is another report.† We have two more nights here in the Volcano area.
Wednesday, November 7
My rule is to write a report on each day that I see a new species for my year list, but rules are made to be broken, you know.† No new birds today, but here is a short report of our adventures today, with some pictures.
It was clear last night, so the stars were again absolutely spectacular.† I spent fifteen minutes or so just looking up the sky and marveling.† By walking a short distance down our road, in either direction, it is possible to get away from all lights, which makes the star gazing wonderful.
It was clear and sunny again this morning, which meant the temperatures in the cottage were down in the 50ís again.† The propane fireplace took the chill off quickly, though, and my electric blanket kept me warm through the night.† I took a shower and had some brekkie, and while Bruse took care of some email things, I went back up to Bird Park, to look for Japanese Bush-warbler.† No luck, but it was lovely out there, and I did see a few birds.† I saw a couple of the Red-billed Leiothrix and a couple of Hawaii Elepaio.† Some of the Kalij Pheasants were high up in trees, foraging on something up there.† That looked kind of strange.† There were five Nene on the golf course that we drive past, this morning, as well as a couple of pairs of them along the road to Bird Park.† I saw a couple of Erckelís Francolins as well.† I didnít really expect to see Japanese Bush-warbler Ė I only have it at a 10% probability in my spreadsheet.† The point for me was Ė I gave it a go again.
So, I picked up Bruse at our cottage at about 9:30 and we headed out.† Our first stop was at the steam vents on the edge of the Kilauea crater so I could look for White-tailed Tropicbird.† No luck again, although I did see a bird through my scope, flying in the crater.† It was the right size and shape for a tropicbird, but it looked light brown, rather than white, like a tropicbird.† I canít figure out what it was, so Iím not counting it as anything.† I watched it for a few seconds, but then I lost it and couldnít find it again.† Here is a picture of the Old Rambler, looking for the tropicbird.
From there, we went around to the Thurston Lava Tube.† Yesterday afternoon there had been lots of birds in the trees around there.† This morning there were again lots of birds, making constant calls.† They were up in the flowering Ohia tree canopy, so it was hard to see them.† I tried for pictures, but never got anything worth showing.† Bruse and I walked through the lava tube.† I donít generally do tourist stuff like that on my birding trips, but this trip is a combo sightseeing/birding trip.† Here is the entrance to the lava tube.
It was a couple of hundred yards long Iíd estimate.† Here is a picture of Bruse coming through it.
We hung around that area for quite a while, enjoying the birdsong and trying for pictures.† The temperature was pleasant and there was a nice bench to sit on.† Tour buses pulled in from time to time and disgorged their passengers, and there were independent tourists as well, of course.† I normally donít like to be in crowds of tourists, but it was pleasant observing them this morning, while talking with Bruse and listening to and looking at the birds in the canopy.† Almost all the birds were Apapane, which are bright red with black wings and white under the tail.† Itís nice that one of the native Hawaiian species is flourishing here.
We may have visited one or two other places in that area, but then we came back here to have our lunch.† We have a great front porch with comfortable wicker rocking chairs, and it was very nice to sit out there and eat our ham and turkey rollups made with Havarti cheese, with some sugar snap peas and some baby carrots for me as well.† And Coke Zero, rather than Diet Coke, which I prefer.
After lunch we went back into the park.† It is really great to have a place to stay that is only a couple of miles from the entrance to the park.† We stopped at several craters and other places of interest along the Chain of Craters Road.† At one of them, there were a couple of Nene.† One was taking a bath in a puddle.† Here is the other one.
Note the bands on the legs.† They are an endangered species, only found in the Hawaiian Islands, and they are all banded as soon as they can catch the young ones.† I think I read that there are less than 1000 in existence.† We have seen them a number of times, almost always in pairs.
At that same stop, we took a short walk to a ďriftĒ, which was a deep crack where the ground had shifted in an eruption.† Here is a picture of Bruse in the middle of the lava flow.
Here is a close-up of some chunks of lava.† Note the holes in it.† It is very light weight, but very hard rock.
In the picture of Bruse on the lava flow, you can see trees that have grown on the lava.† There were bushes and trees in various sizes.† Here is a new bush trying to get started.† Will it make it?† Odds are probably against it, but one can hope.† I call the picture ďnew lifeĒ.
Those little stalks are probably about an inch and a half high, or maybe as much as two inches.
We found we were out of cell phone range by then, and Bruse was waiting for a call back or an email from a friend that lives about 35 miles from here.† We headed back to the main park area, and went one last time to the steam vent lookout, so I could try for White-tailed Tropicbird one last time.† I missed the bird, but Bruse did get his call back, and now he is off to visit his friend, while I have an evening alone with my computer, my Canadian whiskey, and our comfy cottage.
Here is a picture of Hale Mahina, our cottage.
It is only 5 years old, it is very well constructed and very comfortable, and it is also very nicely decorated, with lots of nice artwork on the walls.† Here is a picture of the living room area.
We watched the election returns there last night, and the propane fireplace is very nice when the chill sets in for the evening.† It has a blower in it, and it blows nice warm air out into the living area.
Here is the kitchen/dining area.† The kitchen is very well equipped, with everything we need and a lot more.
In addition to this living area, there are two bedrooms with queen size beds, and two full bathrooms.† There is also a deck off the master bedroom, with more chairs and a small table.† All this is only $125 a night, which seems very reasonable to me.† As I already said, the location is great.† There is wi-fi internet access and a phone, too.
So, that is my report for today.† I had 14 species on my list to look for here in the Volcano area, and I saw 12 of them, which is outstanding.† As I mentioned, the Japanese Bush-warbler was always an unlikely one, so missing that one is not surprising.† I had White-tailed Tropicbird at 50%, and I missed that, but Chinese Hwamei was only 10% and I got that one.† All in all, I am doing extremely well so far on the trip.† I only have ten more species to even look for on the Big Island now.† I expect to see four of those, although that is not guaranteed, of course.† I have chances for the other six, ranging from 10% to 50%.† If I see four more species here, I will be satisfied, and anything more than that will be frosting on the cake.
So, thatís my not-so-short-after-all, broken rule report for today.† It sure is a funny old life.
Thursday, November 8
To my surprise, I have a report today Ė a legitimate one.
We were up and out of our Volcano house by 10:30, which is the official check-out time.† We stopped on our way into Hilo to visit a friend of Bruseís, then proceeded to Safeway, where we restocked our provisions.
We found a nice waterfront park in Hilo where we had our humble lunch Ė turkey and ham rollups with the good Costco Havarti cheese.† I had some carrots and sugar snap peas as well, and we each had a Coke Zero.† As we were finishing lunch, I was surprised to see a YELLOW-BILLED CARDINAL (lifer).† I had expected to see them here on the Big Island, but I didnít know they lived in Hilo, so I wasnít expecting one today.† Here is a mediocre picture.† Iíll try for a better picture later.
There were also a couple of Saffron Finches there in the park, and I got this picture.
Here is downtown Hilo, across the bay.† This was our view at lunch.
There were a couple of Pacific Golden-Plovers in the park near us, and I got this picture that I like.
There were also Ruddy Turnstones (no pictures) and this Wandering Tattler.
Next we drove through downtown Hilo to our new digs on the north side of town.† We have a one-bedroom apartment that is built onto the end of a house, where our landlords live.† Bruse has to sleep in the living room on a futon, but I have my own bedroom.† There is a great deck on the front, with a great view.† Here is the outside of our new place:
Here is the view looking north from the deck:
You probably canít see them in that picture, but there are surfers down there in the waves, and we can watch them from our deck with binoculars.† We are perched right on the cliff over the ocean.† Here is a picture looking south from the deck.† You can see the wall of our living room on the right side of the picture, two feet from the edge of the cliff.
The sound of the surf is constant, and once darkness fell, there is also the sound of hundreds of frogs.† Here is our living room area.
And here is the kitchen area and front entry.
Here is my bedroom, perched on the edge of the cliff.
Some people who have stayed here have complained of the sound of the surf, and the owners have provided ear plugs, if that is a problem.† I think I am going to like the sound, but we will see.
It was only about 3 oíclock by the time we were all moved in, so we headed out to Akaka Falls, to the north of here.† It was a pleasant drive, and we took the 0.4 mile walk around the loop to see both Akaka Falls and the less impressive Kahuna Falls.† There were dozens of steps, first going down, then coming back up, so I took it easy.† The exercise didnít really bother me, but it is very humid over here (we had had a big rain shower in the morning), and warm enough that the sweat popped out on me.† It is 76 in our living room now, with everything open to the outside, which is pleasant, but any exercise in that temperature and this humidity makes me sweat immediately.† Here is Akaka Falls.
You might be able to detect a bit of haziness near the top of that last picture and the one before.† It seems to be due to some fogging of an interior lens on my camera.† I cleaned the front lens, but the haziness continued.† Iím sure it is due to the humidity here.† I hope the camera adapts and the moisture inside evaporates.
So, after that, we drove back to our new home, taking the 4 mile scenic route detour at one point.† We had Mai Tais on the deck, and then I processed my pictures and Iím writing this.† Tomorrow we plan to drive over the Saddle Road to the leeward side of the island, and then around the north end of the island back here to Hilo.† I hope to see a bird or two along the route, but we will see.† It will also be scenic and interesting, which is the main reason we are doing it.† Itíll be about five hours of driving time, I think, and with stops for birding, it will be a full day.
So, with the Yellow-billed Cardinal today, Iím now at 499 species for the year, of which 114 of them have been lifers.† I have 52 species for the trip so far.
Friday, November 9
Today was our day for driving over the Saddle Road, which runs across the island between a couple of volcanic peaks to the Kona area on the leeward (west) side of the island.† It used to be a poor road, and its reputation has continued, although we found today that it is a great road now, probably the best road I have driven on in Hawaii.† The road goes up and up and up out of Hilo, reaching a crest of over 7000 feet elevation, I think.
We were out of here by about 9 and we gassed up the car as we left town.† It was cloudy and rainy, and soon we were in the clouds, so it was foggy as well.
The first birding site I wanted to stop at was at mile 21 on the road, and it is called Kipuka 21.† A kipuka is a stand of trees in the middle of a lava flow, where the lava went around the trees and left them standing.† It was drizzling too much to bird there, but we stopped and looked at the area.† The next stop, the trailhead for the Puu Oo Trail, was at about milepost 23, and it was still too drizzly to get out.† That is at about 6000 feet elevation, I think.† The third place I wanted to bird at is Puu Huluhulu, and the drizzle had stopped by then, but it was windy and it was still too fogged in to make the half mile hike to the top of the hill there.† We plan to drive to Kona on Sunday, and I expect we will go over the Saddle Road again.† Maybe the weather will be more amenable to birding then.† It isnít likely I would add any new birds up there anyway, since I did so well in the Volcano area, but the birding sites are supposed to be good for the native birds, and I could always use better pictures of some species.† There are actually a couple of species I could conceivably see up there, although they are pretty uncommon.
Our first real stop was at Mauna Kea State Park.† It is on the dry (leeward) side of the island, and things were very dry indeed.† I think they have had something of a drought on the leeward side of the island this year and maybe last year too.† Here is a picture of Mauna Kea State Park, with Mauna Kea in the background.
I didnít see any interesting birds in that dry habitat.
We proceeded on down the Saddle Road on the Kona side.† I stopped two or three places to look for Sky Lark.† I played the song on my phone, and I definitely heard them on both sides of the road.† I also saw some birds flying, but not close enough to be sure they were Sky Larks, so I didnít count them.† Iíll try again later on the trip, for sure.† Sky Lark is a European bird and isnít found in the continental US, so it would be one for my year list.† I saw them last year on Maui.
When we finally got down to the Kona-Waimea road, I soon stopped to consult my books and notes about a species that is seen in that area.† As I was looking at my paperwork, Bruse called out that there was a flock of birds crossing the road in front of us.† I got my binoculars on them through the windshield, and I concluded that they were the very species I was looking for there, CHESTNUT-BELLIED SANDGROUSE (lifer).† I wished I had gotten a better and closer look, but I was convinced that that was what they were.† We drove on, and within another five minutes, another flock flew right in front of us, over the road.† They were definitely the sandgrouse, but it took me a few seconds to find a place I could pull off the busy road and get out and look for them.† They were gone, but a third flock then flew over, closer than either of the first two.† I had great looks at them.† Each flock was about 8 to 12 birds.† They are supposed to be kind of hard to see, and I had them in my spreadsheet at only a 30% chance of seeing them on the trip.† I guess we were just very lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but seeing three flocks of them within ten minutes seems remarkable to me.† We spent another 15 or 20 minutes in the area, hoping to see them again, so I could try for a picture, but didnít see any more.† Iíll probably look again in a couple of days, when Iím staying on the Kona side.
So, we went through the town of Waimea and headed back around the north end of the island toward Hilo, which is in the middle of the island on the east (windward) side.† When we got to the windward coast, we detoured about 8 miles north to a view point that looks out over the Waipio Valley.† Access to the valley is by 4WD vehicle only, or by walking down the steep road.† Here is a picture of the lookout point from where we parked our car.
Here is a picture of the valley from the actual lookout.
Looking up the valley, you can see taro farms (taro is a starchy root vegetable that was a traditional staple of the Hawaiian diet).† Poi is made from taro.† Here is a picture of some taro patches.
We ate our humble lunch there at the view point.† Ham and turkey rollups with various kinds of cheese, and I had some broccoli and some carrots as well.† Coke Zero all around too, of course.
So, then we headed down the coast toward home.† We took a little detour when we saw a sign for Kalopa State Park.† It was only 3 miles off the highway, up the hill to an elevation of about 2000 feet.† It was very pretty and very peaceful.† We walked around and enjoyed the beauty and peace.† We heard a bird calling and realized it was a Hawaiian Hawk, but we never could get a glimpse of it.† There was camping there, which is unusual here in the islands.† There arenít very many places to camp.† On our way back to the highway, we actually saw another Hawaiian Hawk circling above us.
We continued on down the coast after that, and we got home about 3:30, I think.† We sat out on the porch and watched the surfers, and after a while I came in and processed my pictures from the day, while Bruse walked down to the beach that is just north of here, at the bottom of the cliff.† He said it is a beautiful beach, and I might walk down there tomorrow.
Our hosts here have provided lots of great amenities, as well as a great place to stay.† For example, Iím currently enjoying the bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay that they provided, and tomorrow we plan to drink the bottle of red wine.† There are macadamia nuts and some great fruit (papaya with brekkie), as well as milk, juice, and English muffins.† Jam and peanut butter for the muffins, of course.† One of the non-food amenities is this very attractive bouquet of tropical flowers:
I sat out on the porch a lot this afternoon and evening, in between processing pictures and writing this report.† Here is a picture of the surfers down at the local beach.
There were about 40 of them most of the time, although I counted 60 at one point, just before it started to get dark.† They were out there at dawn, and when the last one came in, it was pretty much dark.
We havenít yet discussed what we will do tomorrow.† I donít expect any new birds, so I donít expect to be writing a report tomorrow.† On Sunday we will drive over the Saddle Road again, and maybe the weather will be good enough to take some pictures to share.† Bruse has a plane flight home on Sunday afternoon, and I plan to stay in the Kona area for another three nights before I head for home.
So, the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse today was species number 500 for me for the year.† A great bird to have for number 500!† And, it was a lifer, too, which is nice.† I am now at 500 for the year, of which 115 have been lifers.† I saw some wild turkeys today on the Kona side of the Saddle Road, for my trip list, so that is at 54 now.
What a life!
Saturday, November 10
This is another bogus report, without a new year bird.† I have some pictures to show, though, so Iím writing anyway.
We were up and out of here by about 9 this morning, I think, maybe a little after.† Bruse had arranged to meet his friend, Arthur, who lives near Hilo, and I planned to go up on the Saddle Road again, to see if the weather was more amenable today than it was yesterday.† After dropping Bruse off in Hilo, I first stopped at Rainbow Falls, a popular tourist stop.† The falls were pathetic Ė there was only a trickle of water coming over the falls.† There were three tour buses and several tour vans there, though, and tourists were all over the place.† I took some pictures, but the volume of water was so low that Iím not even going to show one.
After that, I drove on up the Saddle Road.† I was afraid that it would be raining up there, like it was yesterday, but my luck held.† The clouds were low, but it wasnít raining when I got to my first destination, at about milepost 23 Ė the Puu Oo Trail trailhead.† Here is a picture of that:
The trail starts out across a lava flow, but soon enters an area of trees.† There were a lot of bird sounds, but it was hard to actually see any birds.† Here are some pictures of the trail.
At that point, the trail left one batch of trees and went across some grass on lava, to another batch of trees.
Most of the trees were Ohia trees, and they were in flower for the most part.† Here is a picture of one in flower.
Several of the native birds like to forage among the Ohia blossoms.† Here is a close-up of an Ohia blossom.
When I came to the second batch of trees, about a mile into the hike, I played my Iiwi songs on my cell phone.† A couple of Iiwi responded, both by calling back and by flying in fairly close.† I worked at it, and I got three pictures Iíll share, since this bird is one of my favorites.† This first one is blurry, due to motion blur, I think, but it shows the whole bird in profile.
This one is better.
And this one is my favorite.† I like the composition and the blue sky in the background.
So, that was one of my primary goals for the day, to get some Iiwi pictures.† I saw lots of Apapane, but never got a picture.† There were also several Hawaii Amakihi.† Other birds seen were Japanese White-eye and Yellow-fronted Canary in a large flock.† I heard a lot of Omao, but never saw one.
Here is a picture of Mauna Kea with some clouds around it, from the Puu Oo Trail.
It was kind of chilly when I got there, but when the sun came out, it was very pleasant.† I would guess it was in the 60ís.† The elevation there is about 6000 feet.
I spent about two hours on that trail, covering about two miles total, I think, out and back.† When I finished there, I went back down the road to Kipuka 21, another grove of trees in the middle of a lava flow.† The kipuka is fenced, but they plan to open the trail inside the fence eventually, when they have the money.† I watched from outside the fence, and I saw Hawaii Amakihi, Apapane, and Japanese White-eyes, but nothing else.† I spent about a half hour there.† Here is a picture of Kipuka 21.
It was lunch time by then, so I parked along the road and walked up a little unpaved road and found a rock to sit on while I ate my humble lunch, consisting of ham and turkey rollups with some vegetables, and a Coke Zero, of course.
The Saddle Road has a real reputation, because it was a poor road for many years.† It was only recently that rental cars were allowed to drive on it, and many people still think that it is forbidden to drive on, by the rental car companies.† In actual fact, the road has been hugely improved, and it is the best road I have driven on in Hawaii.†† It is about 50 miles long, and about 30 miles of it in the middle is very wide three lane road, with wide shoulders and a 55 mph speed limit.† Here is a picture of that part of the road.
I find it interesting how its old reputation lives on.† Bruseís friend Arthur, who lives here on the island. thought it was still a poor road that rental companies wouldnít let you drive on.
By that time the clouds had cleared pretty much, and I got this picture of Mauna Kea without clouds around it.
You canít really see them in that picture unless you know just where to look, but there are a couple of observatories on the top of Mauna Kea.† They are at an elevation of over 13.000 feet.† Here is a close-up of the two observatories.† Can you see them in the last picture?
After that, I drove on down into Hilo.† I was hoping to see Red-billed Cardinal again, to get a better picture than I got the other day.† After first stopping at a couple of places to the east of Hilo, past the airport along the coast, I walked around the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens for while, sitting from time to time, and enjoying the beautiful surroundings.† I got this picture of a Common Myna.
I liked this great tree in the gardens.
At the edge of the water of Hilo Bay, there were a number of Ruddy Turnstones.† Here is a picture of some of them.
I had already seen them on the mainland, and I had already added them to my Hawaii list while I was on Oahu.
I never saw a Red-billed Cardinal, but I did get a couple of pictures of Nutmeg Mannikins, another bird I had seen on Oahu.
When I left there, I drove around Waiakea Pond, in the middle of Hilo.† Supposedly there are migrant ducks that show up there in the winter, but all I saw were mallards and various ďpark ducksĒ, meaning domestic ducks and hybrids.† I did see some Canada Geese there, for my trip list.† I suppose they are resident, and not migrants, but I donít really know.† I see on eBird that Cackling Goose is reported from that pond, so I suppose that is what they were, rather than Canada Geese.† Cackling Goose is a recent split from Canada Goose as a separate species Ė they used to be considered a subspecies.† Iíll call them Cackling Geese, I guess, for my Hawaii list and my trip list.
I came on back to our little apartment on the cliff, had a shower, sat out on the porch and enjoyed the afternoon, processed my pictures, and eventually wrote this bogus report.† Bruse got back from his day with his friend at about 5 oíclock.† Now we have had our humble dinner and the bottle of very nice California red wine that our hosts left for us.† Tomorrow we will drive over the Saddle Road again, and Bruse has a flight home to Honolulu about 5:30 PM.† I have a place booked near Kona for my last three days here.† I have 3 or 4 more species for my year list that I consider possible, and weíll see how I can do.
Sunday, November 11
Before I get into today, here are a couple of pictures from last evening.† There had been a cruise ship tied up in Hilo that we could see from our apartment on the cliff, and yesterday evening it sailed.† Here is a view of it from our deck.
I canít imagine being packed in with so many people in such close quarters, but Iím sure the passengers were loving it.† Here is a picture of the back end (okay, stern) of the ship:
When I got up this morning about 7:30, Bruse was gone.† He had walked down to our local beach and he went swimming.† I wish I had gotten down to the beach, but I never made the time to do that.† He said it is a beautiful beach.† Thatís the beach that the surfers we could see from our deck were using.† There is no sign at all on the highway, so I guess it is a beach for locals.† Parking for it is along our street, and then you have to walk down steps to the beach.† There are nice facilities, Bruse said.† A river comes into the ocean there, and there is a nice lagoon for swimming, as well as the surfing offshore.
So, we got on the road about 10, I think.† Bruse had a plane reservation to fly back to Honolulu from Kona at 5:38 this evening, so we drove over the Saddle Road together.† We didnít have any clouds or rain today, so Bruse got to see the Saddle Road, as he had wanted to do.† Coming down the Kona side, we stopped near where I had stopped a couple of days ago, to look for a bird I needed still.† I heard them singing on both sides of the road, and after about ten minutes, one flew over and gave me good views.† I had scored SKY LARK, one for my year list.† It didnít stick around or land on a post, so no pictures.
Soon after that, we saw a group of four Wild Turkeys by the road.† I got this picture of one of them.
When we got to this side, we turned north to Waimea.† We saw a little group of 4 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse flying over the road, near the same place where we had seen them two days ago.† From Waimea, we went west, down to the coast.† Waimea is at an elevation of 2500 feet, so it was a lot of downhill driving to get there.
We stopped at Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park, and it turned out that right next door to it was a monument to the historic home of King Kamehameha, which was located there, and Bruse enjoyed the cultural displays.† I used the rest rooms, which I enjoyed.† To each his own.† At the park itself, we had our humble lunch.† Yes, turkey and ham rollups, still again.† My diet for the last two weeks is the most monotypic diet I have ever eaten for so long.† Even I am getting tired of it.† I saw Saffron Finches and Red-billed Cardinals there, but not the two possible birds I needed that are reported from there.
From there we moved south along the coast, to Mauna Kea Resort.† It is very fancy, and they had a guard shack with a gate.† I said we wanted to see what the place looked like, and we were given permission to drive to the lobby area.† There is a beautiful golf course, of course, and lots of condos and homes.† At the end of the road was the hotel/resort itself.† I had seen signs to parking for the public beach access, so I followed those.† When they put in a big development like this, they are obligated by law to provide some public access to the beach.† I was curious about that, so I followed the signs.† There was another security person by the road there, and she told us that to go to the public access parking, you had to have a permit, which is issued at the front gate, on a first come, first served basis.† I asked if there was any parking available, and she said no, it was all full.† Iíd like to know how many places they had to provide.† It was Sunday, though, so maybe on a week day you could actually access the beach there, if you got there early enough.† We turned around and got out of Dodge.† Iím sure it is a beautiful resort, with lovely 15 dollar Mai Tais around the pools or at the bar, but it just isnít my kind of place.
A little farther south we drove down to the community of Puako Beach.† No resorts there, but a lot of very expensive houses along the ocean, with less expensive ones across the street from those, and maybe one or two streets back.† There was one general store there, but no other commercial establishments that we saw.† We had to retrace our path to get out of there, back to the main highway.
Next we went in to another huge development, called Waikoloa.† It is all private land, the sign tells you.† There are resort hotels, golf courses, condos, and even a couple of decent sized shopping malls.† They had a Macyís and a Starbucks, along with a lot of other places to spend your money.† Still not my kind of place, though.
By then it was getting late, so we found our way to my humble lodgings for the next three nights, so Bruse could see it.† I had told them I wouldnít arrive until about 5, and when I got there at 3, it turned out that the previous guests had made a mistake in their planning and hadnít gotten out until after 2.† As a result, the room wasnít cleaned yet.† I called the landlady and she came right over.† I was able to put my cold stuff into the fridge, and Bruse got to see the place, and then we left.† I needed to go to Safeway to stock up, and Bruse came along with me.† After Safeway, I took him to the airport and returned here to Bearís Place guest house.
The building is very interesting.† It is only five years old, and it was built as a guest house.† There are four units, two upstairs and two downstairs.† I paid a bit extra to be upstairs in the corner unit that has a full kitchen.† The other three have ďkitchenettesĒ, which means a little fridge and microwave, with some utensils and dishes, I think.† I have a great deck that overlooks the ocean, although the ocean is about five miles away.† Iím at an elevation of over 1500 feet, north of Kona, so it is much cooler up here.† The place is very nice, and Iíll be very comfortable here, Iím sure.
So, with the addition of Sky Lark today, Iím at 501 for the year, of which 115 are lifers.† I have 56 for my trip list.† I only have four species to look for here, and I donít really have any great places to go to look for them.† Iím not sure where Iíll go for the next two days.† I guess Iíll just ramble around, visiting two or three places that could have one or more of the birds I need here.† The trip is winding down, and now Iím alone, after two weeks of being with Bruse almost every day.† He mentioned that I talk to myself, and indeed, I do.† Now I will be more conscious of that as I travel alone.
Life rolls on, and what a life it is.
Monday, November 12
I was alone here in my four unit guest house last night (the owner lives nearby), and it was very quiet.† I slept well and was up at about 7.† I got out of here about 9 or so, and I headed north toward Waimea.
I stopped two or three places to look for birds.† At one of them, I saw this feral goat.† Later in the day I saw two or three more of them.
I think the feral pigs do a lot more damage than the goats, digging up the land, but the goats are hunted, too, to hold down the population.† At that same stop, I got this picture of a couple of Yellow-fronted Canaries.
They were part of a flock of about a dozen or so.† My destination was the Big Island Country Club, where three of the species I need have been reported.† I had wondered what their security would be like, as golf courses usually donít care for non-golfers hanging around.† There was no one at the guard shack, though, so I drove on in.† Almost at once, I saw some birds, and I parked the car on the side of the road and got out.
There were Nutmeg Mannikins and a couple of Yellow-billed Cardinals, but not any of the species I was looking for.† I saw a couple of large flocks of little birds on the grass, at a bit of a distance, so I got out my scope and set it up.† They were mostly Nutmeg Mannikins and Saffron Finches, but I scanned them in case my target finch species was among them.† I had never seen this particular target species, and some of the birds looked different.† Later I decided they were immature Nutmeg Mannikins that hadnít yet gotten the characteristic markings on the breast and stomach that the adults have.† At the time, I wasnít sure, though, so I took some pictures at a distance.† While doing that, I also got a brief look at a male Red Avadavat, a species I had seen on Oahu and hadnít expected to see here.† I also saw my first Erckelís Francolin and got some distant pictures.† There are three species of francolin here, and I need the other two, Gray Francolin and Black Francolin.† All three have been reported to be at the Big Island Country Club, but Erckelís Francolin is far more common than either of the other two.† In fact, I ended up seeing 35 or 40 Erckelís Francolins in the two and a half hours I was there, but I never saw either of the other two species.† At one point, at the driving range, there were 25 Erckelís Francolins on the range at the same time.
While at that spot near the entrance, I got this picture of Hole 17, which must be their signature hole.† It is an island par 3 hole, in a beautiful setting.† That means you have to hit the ball over the water and stop it on the green.† Not a good hole for me, thatís for sure.
Thatís the tee area, in the middle of the picture. †(What do you think, Ted?† Does that get your juices flowing?)
So, finally I dragged myself away from that spot and moved on toward the clubhouse, which was actually a very temporary looking tent structure with a couple of trailer-like units next to it.† Before I went far, though, there was a spot to pull off the road and there was a little puddle in an unpaved section of side road in front of me.† I used my car as a blind, and watched a lot of birds coming to the water.† Here is a picture of three Saffron Finches having a bath, while some Nutmeg Mannikins look on.
I finally did see my target finch species there, AFRICAN SILVERBILL (lifer).† Here is a picture of one of the three I saw.† It is the bird in the center, with the light colored breast and the dark wing edges and tail.
Here is a picture of four different species at the water at the same time Ė Nutmeg Mannikin, Saffron Finch, African Silverbill, and one House Finch.
That was a very productive spot, but I moved on eventually, and stopped to take some pictures of Erckelís Francolin and Nene, right next to the road.† Here are two close pictures of Erckelís Francolin.
I also got this picture of a couple of Nene there.
I drove on to the clubhouse area finally.† The driving range was there, and I got out and set up my scope.† Thatís where I saw the 25 Erckelís Francolins.† There were also Nene and Wild Turkeys, not to mention the Pacific Golden-Plovers you see anywhere there is any expanse of grass.† I saw a couple of Hawaiian Coots in the distance, too.† There were also some birds in the grass that I didnít recognize at first.† It turned out they were Sky Larks, the bird I had worked hard to get on the Saddle Road earlier and had only gotten flight views.† Today I got good views of them on the ground.† Here are a couple of pictures.
I like that last picture because the Sky Lark has a crest it can raise when it wants to, and it is raised in that picture.
I used their rest room and eventually started back out.† I stopped again at the place with the puddle, and the birds were still coming in there.† I got more pictures including the picture of the silverbill I showed earlier.† I also saw a second male Red Avadavat there, and I got a pretty good picture of it, considering the distance, which was about 25 feet.
Right after I got that picture, a maintenance-type guy pulled up in a four wheel buggy and asked me to leave.† He said it was because of ďliability issuesĒ, but actually, he more or less admitted that I wasnít playing golf and I wasnít paying them anything, and so he asked me to leave.† I had been there for about two and a half hours by then, and I would have left in a few minutes anyway.† He was nice about it, and I had done everything there I wanted to do, but it never feels good to be rousted out of a place.† As I pulled out, he was using a weed whacker to trim the grass, which is why I say he appeared to be a maintenance-type guy.† Iím just glad he didnít see me earlier.† I had seen a number of birding reports from that golf club, so I wondered if they welcomed birders, but I guess it depends on who happens to see you.
So, it was about noon by then, and I headed back south.† I passed right by my humble abode, but I had my lunch with me, and I chose to head for a park to the south, rather than stop and eat at ďhomeĒ.† The first ďparkĒ I had seen on Google Maps, on my phone, was a cemetery, so I went on.†
As I pulled out of the cemetery, I got this picture of coffee growing.† The whole hillside above Kona is filled with little coffee farms.† There were signs along the road offering to buy ďcherryĒ, which I assume is ripe coffee beans.
Finally I got to Harold H. Higashihara Park, which turned out to be perfect for my needs.† I ate in the shade at a table, used the rest room, and as I was getting ready to leave, I saw a few birds.† I finally got a picture of a Yellow-billed Cardinal that I like.
After that, I moved on to my afternoon destination.† I was heading for a coffee farm where Lavender Waxbills, a small finch, have been reported.† I found the farm, with the help of the Google Map I had printed out at home, and my cell phone, and I spent at least a half hour, and probably 45 minutes walking around, but didnít see the bird.† It was perfect habitat for them, but they are an uncommon bird, so it wasnít a surprise that I missed them.† There were Java Sparrows and Saffron Finches, though.† I got this picture of a Saffron Finch in a poinsettia bush that I like because of the colors.
From another angle, I got this close up of the bird.
I talked to a guy there at the farm, and he said he had Lavender Waxbills in his yard in the early morning sometimes, and he lived just up the hill.† He did say they werenít very common, though.† It was interesting to run into someone who knew what a Lavender Waxbill was.† I donít think I will go back down to that area, which is about 35 or 40 minutes south of here, so Lavender Waxbill is probably now impossible for me on this trip.† That leaves me with the two francolins, Gray Francolin and Black Francolin.† I only have one place to go where they have been reported, and I guess I will try that tomorrow, but I donít expect success.† They just arenít that common or that easy to see.
So, I got home about 4 oíclock, and I had a shower to cool down.† Tonight I plan to have turkey meatballs and stir fry veggies (heated in the microwave, since I donít do stir fry) for my dinner.† Tomorrow is my last day here, and Iíll try for the two francolins, but I donít expect to see anything new tomorrow.† Iím now at 502 for my year list, of which 116 are lifers.† I have 57 species on this trip.† It has been a much more successful trip than I expected, in terms of birds, and it has also been a lot of fun.† It was different to be traveling with Bruse, since I usually am alone on my birding adventures.† 502 is an excellent number for my year, and maybe I will add one or two more after I get home, but it wonít be more than that.† Next year I plan to go to Australia again, and I hope to exceed my total for this year, adding together my Aussie numbers and my US numbers.† I should be able to do that, without any special US trips.† We will see.
Tuesday, November 13
Oh no, here he is again!† I wonít say if this is a ďtrueĒ report (meaning that I saw a bird today for my year list) or a bogus one.† Read on to find out.
I was up and out of here at about 9 oíclock again, and I headed down to the coast.† My first stop was at Kaloko Fishpond, which is part of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.† There are two fishponds, a nice new visitor center in the middle of some lava beds, and some trails.† It is located just south of the airport on the coast.
The road in to Kaloko Fishpond is unpaved and was a bit rough in spots, but I managed not to scrape the bottom of my car by driving slowly and carefully.† I saw a new bird for my trip list on the way in, Northern Mockingbird.† Hereís a picture.
There was a fairly nice waterless rest room and some picnic tables at the beach.† There were a couple of Black-necked Stilts there, and here is a picture of one of them.
There were fish jumping in the pond, and fairly good sized ones, over a foot long.† I saw a female Northern Pintail, a species of duck, flying around overhead while there.† Another species for my trip list.† Here is a picture of the pond.
There is a wall made of lava stone that separates the fishpond from the ocean.† On the ocean side, I got this picture of Ruddy Turnstone that I like because it shows the colors and feather detail well.
A Wandering Tattler flew in, too.
The road to that part of the park crosses a restored segment of the Mamalahoa Trail.† That trail used to run all around the island, more or less, I gather, and was used in the olden days by the native Hawaiians.† Here is a picture of the trail.† I guess there is about a one mile section that has been restored.
I guess it is about four feet wide, so it would have been suitable for walking or running, but not for vehicles, which I suppose the native Hawaiians didnít have anyway.
After a stop at the visitor center, I moved on the southern part of the park.† Access is through a marina, and it is about a half mile walk to Aimakapa Fishpond.† Here is a picture of the beach part of that walk.
I could have gotten there from the visitor center, but the walk is 0.1 mile farther, and half of it is out in the sun, while the route I took was in the trees and shady.† I saw a couple of little sandpipers called Sanderlings along that beach.
At the pond, I got this picture of a Hawaiian Coot.
Here is a picture of the Aimakapa Fishpond, with Mauna Loa in the background.† It looked cloudy all day today up on the slopes of the mountain, and I suspect it rained all day up there, maybe off and on.
There were some ducks across the water, but I hadnít lugged my scope out there, and all I could identify for sure was a Northern Shoveler for my trip list.† On my way back to my car, I saw a ranger and I asked about the francolin species I was looking for today there.† He said it was quite possible I would see one, so I spent 20 minutes or more out in the sun, playing the call of the bird, not even knowing if they would be responsive to the call.† I never saw anything, but I got overheated and sweaty.† By the time I got back to my car, my left heel was hurting a lot.† I donít know if I have mentioned it here, but I think I have plantar fasciitis in that foot, and my heel has been bothering me for the whole trip.† Walking on it seems to aggravate it.† I did get this picture of doves, which I like because it shows the size difference between what I call the ďlarge dovesĒ (Spotted Dove) and the ďlittle dovesĒ (Zebra Doves).† Zebra Dove is probably the most common bird species in the islands, and Spotted Dove is right up there, too.
It was getting on for lunch time by then, so I headed north.† I was still looking for my francolin species, but I needed to eat my humble lunch, too.† I stopped at Kukio Bay Resort and got a ďbeach passĒ.† I had seen my landlady this morning, and she told me about the beach pass system.† When they put in the fancy resorts, they had to provide access to the beach for the public.† Each development has a number of parking places dedicated to public parking.† It seems to usually be located at the edge of the development, which means you have to walk two or three hundred yards to get to the actual beach from the parking area.† The paths are nicely paved, though, and they have nice rest rooms and shower areas.† I was hoping to maybe see a francolin on the drive to the parking area, but I didnít.
I took my lunch and walked the paved path to the beach.† The beaches are really beautiful, with black lava and white sand, along with the blue water and the greens of grass and other plantings.† As I reached the beach at Kukio Bay, I saw a bird scurry across the sand out in front of me.† Surely that was my bird, wasnít it?† I asked a young woman who was coming toward me if she had seen where that bird went, and she asked me ďthe francolin?Ē† Eureka!† I was just looking for a place to eat my lunch and I found my bird?† I decided the bird must have gone into a particular bunch of vegetation, so I found a place to sit on a rock where I could watch that vegetation while I ate.† I had this nice view while I ate:
While I was eating, I never saw anything come out of those bushes, but suddenly I noticed a bird making its way over the lava, about 20 feet away from me, seeming to be trying to get around me.† It was my GRAY FRANCOLIN, bigger than life!† I hurriedly got some pictures, as it joined up with three others that were a little smaller Ė presumably a family that had gotten separated when I showed up.† Here are a couple of pictures:
Donít ask me why they call them ďgrayĒ.† I would call them orange or golden or something, not gray.
So, I was one happy birding fool.† I had my year bird, when I wasnít really expecting to see one today.† I wandered around that beautiful beach, taking some pictures.† Here are a couple of pictures of Kukio Bay and the beach there.
I saw another Gray Francolin across the sand while I was there, too, bringing my total to five birds there.† On my way back to my car, I took this picture of an oceanfront unit of the resort.
I think that structure is all one unit, and I donít know if it is rented by the night or if it is owned by someone as a vacation home.† Here is a look into the living room.
I wonder what an oceanfront unit at Kukio Bay sells for or rents for.† The people who own it or rent it sure have a different experience of life than I have.
Back at the parking lot I spotted still another Gray Francolin.† No one was around, so I played my call of the bird, just to see if I got any response.† Sure enough, the bird came out of the bushes and looked around for a minute or so, so now I know that they will respond to their call if they are around.
I had my bird for the day, but I had plenty of time, so I decided to check out the Four Seasons Resort, which is on the other side of Kukio Bay.† I got my beach pass at their guard shack and found my way to the parking lot for the general public.† The Kukio Bay Resort had about 25 parking places for the public, but the Four Season had about 50, and some of them were even in the shade.
I walked the nice path to the beach, and it went through an area where they had preserved a little wetland area.† There were a couple of stilts there, and I got this picture of a Black-crowned Night-Heron.
I also finally got a picture of one of the Yellow-billed Cardinals that I like.† It is kind of an odd pose, but I like it because it is different.
Along the path to the beach there at the Four Seasons they also had a nice cultural display.† I hope the sign in the corner is readable, to explain what it is.
When I got to the beach, there were a couple of Gray Francolins right on the beach itself!† I thought I was going to have such a problem seeing the bird, and I ended up seeing 8 of them today.† This picture of one of them on the beach is interesting, I think.† In it, you can see that the barring on the breast actually forms circles around the bird.
Here is the same bird from the side:
I sat at a picnic table there for a few minutes, and I noticed some sea turtles down the beach.† I moved on down and got this picture of a Green Sea Turtle.
That was the smallest of the three on the beach.† It was maybe 18 inches from front to back of the shell.† I got this picture of one in the water, too.
Here is a picture of that Four Seasons beach.
I again sat at a table in the shade and enjoyed the beach for a while, then I moved on out.† I had one more place I wanted to go.† While driving back south on the highway, I stopped and got this picture of a feral billy goat, standing on top of a pile of lava.
You canít really tell in that picture, but he is very well hung, not that I would notice something as indelicate as that.† There were several goats around, but a tourist with a camera approached them and they moved off, right after I got my picture.
I stopped at a store and got a bottle of wine for tonight, as I was out of booze.† Then I drove up a road that runs up the hill from this town where Iím staying.† It goes up and up and up, for several miles.† I was sort of hoping to see the last possible bird left for my year list, Black Francolin.† There were wide grassy edges to the road, and a Black Francolin could possibly be foraging there.† Not likely, but maybe.† I did see several Kalij Pheasants, like I saw in the Volcano area, but no francolins.† I hadnít realized that the Kalij Pheasant lived over on this part of the island.† I might drive up there again tomorrow morning, or I might drive back up the highway to the north, looking for a Black Francolin who happens to be next to the road.† It is possible, although not likely.† Morning is supposed to be better for them.
So, I got ďhomeĒ about 3:45, and started processing my pictures and writing this report.† Tomorrow I head for home.† It has been a very successful trip, in every way.† I ended up seeing 61 species on the trip.† 42 of those were for my year list.† I had only expected about 35 for my year list, so that is excellent.† Iím at 503 for the year now, and 116 of those have been lifers.† There may be one or two more reports when I get home, but there isnít much more to add this year.† It has been a great project for me this year.† Thanks to all of you who have traveled along with me.
Wednesday, November 14
One last little note.† I was up and out of here by just after 8 this morning, in search of my missing francolin.† I drove north along the Belt Road, stopping from time to time to play the call on my phone.† After about an hour, I had stopped at least a half dozen times, and hadnít had a sniff.† I decided to turn back and put in 20 minutes searching up the road that goes up the hill from the town Iím staying in.† I kept my eyes open on the way back, of course, since it is said that most times when this species is seen, it is beside the road.† I tried to go a little slow, although there was a lot of traffic this morning.† When a car came up behind me, I found a pullout and pulled over to let it pass.
I saw Erckelís Francolins in two places, near the Big Island Country Club, but not my target species.† As I came down the hill south of the country club, suddenly there were three birds by the side of the road.† I didnít get a good look at two of them, but I think they were Erckelís Francolins.† The third bird froze as I went by, and it was standing in a little open spot, only a few feet off the road.† I was slowing down and I got a really good look at it.† It was noticeably smaller than an Erckelís Francolin, it was brown (much like a Gray Francolin), but it had a really obvious orange patch on the back of its neck.† I said to myself, ďOmigod!† Thatís it!Ē† A lovely female BLACK FRANCOLIN (lifer).† My book doesnít have a picture of a female, but it does describe it, and that is exactly what I saw.† I probably only saw it for 2 or 3 seconds, as I couldnít stop there on the curve, but I saw it very well from less than 15 feet away.† I pulled over as soon as I could and went back.† As I approached the spot on foot, two francolins flushed and flew away.† I think they must have been the Erckelís.† I played my call, but got no response and didnít see anything.† I would have loved to have gotten a picture or had a longer look, but I had my bird, against all odds.
I drove back to my humble digs with joy in my heart.† What a finish to a fabulous trip!
So, my revised total for the trip is now 62 species.† 43 of those were for my year list, which now stands at 504, of which 117 have been lifers, thanks to the Black Francolin this morning.† Now I need to finish packing up, make some lunch to take on the plane, and head for Costco to gas up on the way to the airport.† Iím heading for home now.
What a life!
Tuesday, November 20
I added another bird today, so hereís a report.† Before I get into today, though, I want to cover a couple of days from last week.
I got home from Hawaii on Wednesday night last week, and the weather forecast said that Thursday was going to be sunny, but then we were in for rain for the next week after that.† While I was in Hawaii, I saw a number of posts to Tweeters, the Washington State birding mailing list, about Ancient Murrelets being seen every day at the Edmonds pier.† That is a bird I needed, and Edmonds is only about a 25 minute drive northwest of my house, on Puget Sound.† So, since the weather was good on Thursday morning, I headed up to Edmonds at about 11 AM.
A short aside here, for those who have followed my struggles with my not-inconsiderable weight.† I returned from the Hawaii trip at about 271 pounds, right where I had been when I left.† Normally, I gain weight on my trips and then lose it again in between them, but I have managed to hold even on my last two trips. †I did this by avoiding almost all carbohydrates (except from vegetables) and trying to hold down the calories.† Iím pleased to have found a regimen I can stick to when I travel.† My high point was 352 pounds, in April 2009, and Iím pleased that I have been able to maintain myself between about 260 and 280 for almost two years now.† Back to the birding report now.
There were Surf Scoters near the pier on Thursday morning, as usual, and I got this picture of a male.† Talk about a goofy bill!
There were also several Red-necked Grebes around.† They were a bit farther out, so my picture of them isnít as good as that of the scoter.
While searching the water and the air for my target species, I saw a couple of Bonaparteís Gulls.† They are a small gull, and in the summer they have a black head.† Here is a picture of a couple of them coming in for a landing on the water.
Hereís another picture of one flying.† You can see the wing and head markings that identify it as a Bonaparteís Gull in winter plumage.
Here is a picture of a Bonaparteís Gull sitting in the water.
I also got this picture of a flying Mew Gull, another small gull, larger than the Bonaparteís, but smaller than most gulls.† Again, you can see all the field marks well.† Compare it to the flying Bonaparteís Gull above.
With gulls, you look at things like size, color of the bill and legs, and the patterns in the wings.† This gull has white trailing edges to the wings, with dark tips at the ends of the wings, and with white spots on the ends of the wings, in the black parts.† It also has a light colored yellowish bill and pinkish legs.† Mew Gull.
There were some Rhinoceros Auklets around, too, but mostly they were too far out for pictures.† Here is the best I was able to do.
The orangish bill, the overall shape, and the lighter colored (but not white) front are the field marks I looked for to confirm the ID.† At longer distances, backlit, they just appear black, but the size and shape are still giveaways.
There was another birder there, more experienced than I am, and he was looking for the same target bird I was looking for.† After 45 minutes or so, he exclaimed that he had them!† He was looking at two Ancient Murrelets, he said, and he ticked off the points of identification.† By the time I could get my scope pointed where he was looking, they were underwater, looking for fish.† They can stay down for a long time (minutes, if they want to), and they can swim a long distance and come up far away, again, if they want to.† These two came up near the same place fairly quickly, though, and I picked them up in my scope.† Unfortunately, they were facing away from me, and I couldnít see the field marks on their heads that I needed to see in order to identify them.† They then proceeded to fly off across the sound, with their backs to me, so I still couldnít see what I needed to see.† I watched them fly out of sight, and I decided I hadnít seen them well enough to count them.† So close, and yet so far.
I got this picture of some female or juvenile Surf Scoters that day, too, and the one in the middle at the bottom seems quite different.† There is a lot more white on its head and neck.† I suppose it is just individual variation, but I kept the picture in case there is some significance to it.
It looks almost like a winter-plumaged Ruddy Duck, but I guess it is just an odd Surf Scoter.
Before I left, another birder with a scope showed up, and he said he is there at least twice a day.† He had seen my target birds that morning, and he said that mornings were better for seeing them.† So, the next morning, Friday, I made an attempt to get up there as early as I could.† It turned out that as early as I could was about 9:20.† When I got there Friday, there were four birders already there, including the guy who had said to be there early.† They told me I was ten minutes too late, that a couple of Ancient Murrelets had been hanging around fairly close in for half and hour, but had left about ten minutes earlier.† Bummer.
The rest of them soon left, but I hung around for another hour or so, looking but not finding.† I got this picture of a Horned Grebe that I like, though.
Their breeding plumage is quite different, and this is the winter camouflage for the species.† It is interesting to see the water beaded up on its back in that picture.† This bird was repeatedly diving, but it looks fairly dry, due to the oil on the feathers.
I also got this picture of a Pelagic Cormorant.† Most of the cormorants there this last week have been Double-crested Cormorants, but this was one of the few Pelagics.
So, that was strike two, on Friday.† Over the weekend, the weather was nasty, and yesterday was even worse.† When it is windy, there are waves, and that makes it hard to see the birds on the water if they are very far out, as they bob up and down in the waves.† Even worse is rain, of course, and we had both wind and rain all weekend.† Yesterday we had 2.5 inches of rain here in our yard, so it was not a day for birding.
This morning we were between storms, and according to the weather forecast, I might have a short window of opportunity to look for birds at Edmonds again.† This time I managed to get there by about 9:35, and it was threatening, but not raining and it wasnít windy.† The tide was higher than I had ever seen it there. †Later when I mentioned it to another birder, he said he had grown up in Edmonds, and he had never seen it so high either.† It was probably a combination of an extreme high tide and a storm surge pushing water in to Puget Sound from the ocean.† I took this picture of the ferry coming into the landing.† Normally, cars drive down a ramp to get on the ferry, but today they had to drive up the ramp, because the tide was so high.
The white ramp you see in that picture is the passenger ramp, and the auto ramp is below it.
Anyway, when I got there this morning, there were again four birders already there, including the guy I had seen a couple of times before.† They said it had been slow and they hadnít seen anything interesting.† I joined them, and within ten minutes, the experienced guy called out that he had some flying alcids (a family of sea birds) in his scope.† He described where they were, and I managed to pick them in my own scope.† I had good looks at them for quite a while as they flew south.† He identified them, and at my request, he called out the points of identification that he used to identify them with.† I could see all those marks, and I recorded ANCIENT MURRELET (lifer).† Success!† The third time was the charm.† I doubt I would have even seen the birds flying south, let alone been able to identify them by myself, but with the help of the other birders, I had my lifer.
The rest of them left soon after that, but I stayed on.† I got this picture of a fairly distant Pigeon Guillemot in winter plumage.† In the summer it would have been all black, with white wing patches.
Later in the winter, the gray on the head and the neck would also be almost white, I think.† Here is a picture of that same bird, showing its wings.
Heís a chubby little guy, isnít he?
A little later I noticed a feeding frenzy going on, with gulls and cormorants.† It was fairly far out, but I was able to see it fairly well with my scope.† I had read that alcids are often attracted to feeding frenzies, because they indicate a school of small fish near the surface.† So, I watched it, and after a few minutes, I managed to pick out a couple more Ancient Murrelets.† This time I could see the markings well, and I had good long looks at them, in between their dives.† Finally they quit diving and rested on the surface for a while.† After getting excellent looks at them, I decided to see what Iíd get if I took some pictures.† They were much too far away to get anything decent, but I was curious.† Here is a picture of three birds.† The one closest to the camera is a gull, and the one to the right is a Rhinocerous Auklet.† The smaller one on the left is one of the Ancient Murrelets.
I include the picture because it gives a good size comparison.† The Rhinoceros Auklet is 15 inches long, and the Ancient Murrelet is only 10 inches long.† The murrelet also sits much lower in the water than the auklet.† Through my scope, I could see the markings on the murrelet clearly, which is how I identified it, although to a real expert, I suspect the size and shape would be enough to say ďmurreletĒ.† There are two murrelets that are common here, though, and I think you would have to see the markings to know which one this is.
By that time, I had been there about 45 minutes, and the rain drops started to fall.† I headed for home, full of my success.
So, that brings me to 505 species for the year, of which 118 have been lifers.† An excellent year indeed, considering that I havenít been on any pelagic (ocean going) trips and I havenít been east of the Mississippi this year.† I doubt that Iíll get any more this year now, unless a rarity shows up and I chase it and see it.
One last note.† Yesterday I updated my life lists for the various countries I have birded in (US, Australia, and Britain), and my overall life list now stands at 1095 species.† Lots of birders have seen a lot more than that, of course, but for a dilettante birder who took it up in his retirement, I feel like Iím doing okay.