Oahu Part 8 – Final Chapter

On our last morning on Oahu, just hours before our plane was to take off, we dared to squeeze in one more hike. Tomas’s legs had healed enough to walk normally and I couldn’t resist another chance for seabirds.

Makapu`u Point Hike on the southeastern point of the island is rumored to have amazing sunrises and good odds of birds from nearby nesting sites. We’d bailed twice before due to large crowds and traffic from another commercial film shoot.

But this morning we arrived so early I thought we might have trouble getting in. It was two hours before the park officially opened and the parking lot is gated. I had read controversy about people parking on roadsides as well as car break-ins and possible police citations. There is (legit) high demand for early entry since often the sun rises well before 7am.

We noticed a police car parked up the road so we figured either the rental car would be well protected or we’d get ticketed. We got out and entered the park under the moonlight and no one approached us. Step 1. complete. Feeling like we got away with something we continued along the path. Not long after, more rebellious souls casually joined along the trail in the dark. Hiking is totally normal.

The views were beautiful and the sunrise lovely.

Even prettier was the view on the opposite side of the lookout.

That’s Moku Manu, or “Bird Islandacross the water. We looked down below and were graced with views of Red-footed and Brown Boobies flying along the water surface.

Friends

They flew in mesmerizing formations over the water, a truly beautiful show.

I wasn’t entirely thrilled with my photos; leave it to Tomas to take the best booby picture.

Yesss. A ranger had mentioned if you get to the point early and are patient enough you might pick out a Masked Booby, but we didn’t on this morning. We were lucky to see more Humpback Whales breaching in the distance though. A nice consolation.

Then droves of tourists approached on the trail, and (to my horror) blasted music on small crappy speakers. The magic was over. We were running out of time and I was coming to terms with the fact I wasn’t going to see every bird species on the island hard as I tried. Shocker.

I missed out on White-tailed Tropicbirds and Shearwaters, and I even missed the mascot of Hawaii Audubon Society, the cute little forest dwelling ‘Elepaio.

Doesn’t count

I ended the trip with a total of 44 bird total species (+1 for the “Hawaiian Duck“). 9 migrants including 2 uncommon – Cackling Goose and White-faced Ibis, 6 indigenous species, 24 introduced species, and 5 endemics: Hawaiian Gallinule, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Stilt, and the ‘Apapane, and ‘Amakihi.

Minor unfinished business and a great excuse to return to paradise. This trip was so fun. I’ll never forget the first foggy steps off the plane, the Great Frigatebird at Kona Brewery, my first Pacific Golden-Plover

Watching flying crabs at sunset (A’ama or Lightfoot Crabs!)

That crazy-eyed Mongoose at Diamond Head

Cattle Egrets chasing lawn mowers for insects

The unreal scenery

And of course the albatross that completely stole my heart

I have much to be grateful for. It was all worth it and the Makapu’u Hike was no different. We made it back to the car and on our way without incident.

And we enjoyed the last birds along the way.

Red-vented Bulbul

Red-crested Cardinal (for once I was okay with a backlit bird)

Spotted Dove

It was still early, but much brighter and we soaked up the sun’s warmth enjoying our last views before making the long journey home. And I’m glad we savored those moments because as it turns out we flew home to a major snowstorm in Portland…but more about that later.

Cheers to many more tropical adventures! And thanks for reading.

Mahalo,

Audrey

Oahu Part 7 – Forest Endemics

When thinking about Hawaii, beaches probably first come to mind. But the forests have a few special gems to offer as well. During our time I made a point to look for endemic forest birds. Because how often does that opportunity come around? I had a limited amount of time and I aimed to make the most of it.

Luckily, many hikes are only about a 20-30 min drive from Honolulu. So late one afternoon while Tomas napped after the marathon, I went to ‘Aiea Loop Trail.

Hawaii’s forests are no joke. The trees are tall and thick. And birds are experts at hiding under the top leaves. It was reminiscent of searching for warblers in the spring.

Prior to the trip I studied the Hawaiian Audubon Society’s Guide to Birding the Hawaiian Islands so I had some idea of where to look. Basically you have to get to higher elevation ridges.

Habitat loss in lower elevations and avian malaria carried by introduced mosquitoes are the major threats to these birds (there were no mosquitos on Hawaii before Europeans arrived!). As well as wild pigs that create wallows for mosquitoes. And mongoose, rats and cats that feed on eggs and adult birds. It’s a wonder there are any left.

Face of an endemic-killer

And they are not easy to find. I realized I wouldn’t have time to do the entire 4 mile loop before dark, and I had unwittingly parked about a mile from the official trailhead parking lot, but I covered as much ground as I could.

I found Red-whiskered Bulbul and Scaly-breasted Munia.

And this heavy billed, long-notched tail, still yet to be identified bird, Munia? Mannikin? Mania?

Eh?

It was challenging. I heard many birds, but couldn’t catch sight of them until finally just before sundown as I was leaving and the light was fading I captured a glimpse of my first endemic Hawaiian Honeycreeper, the ‘Apapane!

‘Apapane (left), Japanese White-Eye (right)

I watched this one sing and forage along the Koa tree leaves until the light was gone. Hawaiian honeycreepers have the coolest specialized beaks ever. Additional honeycreeper info here.

Figure 1: Hawaiian honeycreepers in peril. Extant species are in color; extinct and possibly extinct species are in grayscale. Five of the extant species shown (alauahio, Kauai amakihi, Oahu amakihi, anianiau, and iiwi) are IUCN-listed species that are unrecognized by the ESA. Numbers in parentheses specify how many species appear similar to the illustration. Note that akikiki is extant. Paintings and labels © H. Douglas Pratt, revised from Pratt (2005, Plate 7), used by permission.

Paintings and labels © H. Douglas Pratt

Walking back to the car, listening to the (mostly introduced) dusk bird chorus, for the first time I realized how different the native birdsong chorus would have been before people populated the islands and changed everything. Before I felt too sad about it I remembered the Albatross. My new happy place, and evidence of hope that we can fix this. Or at least make steps towards something better.

Another morning, after kona coffee and before the ukulele tour, I squeezed in another quick forest trip. This time we took a local’s advice to visit Waʻahila Ridge State Recreation Area.

Dreaming of endemics in Cook Pine trees

In the pines we found a few lovely non-natives like the White-rumped Shama.

Japanese White-eye.

And I literally slipped in the mud when I saw this Red-billed Leiothrix.

It doesn’t even look real, but this species was introduced from China in 1918.

After searching for a while I finally heard a trill I’d hoped for:

The Oahu ‘Amakihi! To me it sounds similar to a Yellow Warbler, minus the ascent. It is a “flat trill” or as someone mentioned, like the sound of a sewing machine (do people still get that reference?). I heard many ‘Amakihi singing before I finally spotted one way high up in the pines.

Cleverly disguised as a pine cone. I was lucky enough to see two more ‘Amakihi.

Not the greatest looks, but I was still pleased.

It was a side of Hawaii I’d never seen before.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey