Monday, July 23, 2012

Shoot Me Monday

Waikiki Beach, O'ahu
At the end of June we spent two nights in Honolulu before coming back to the mainland.  This was the view from our hotel, not bad, huh?  The birds weren't bad either. 

Cattle Egret
Yellow-fronted Canary, Kapi'olani Park
Common Waxbill, Kapi'olani Park
I found my target bird, White Tern, from our balcony.  I waited on the beach for one to come close enough for a decent photograph.  I must have looked pretty funny as I stood on the beach with my back to the ocean looking up at the sky with my camera ready.  Oh well, it wasn't the first time.

White "Fairy" Tern (Manu-o-Ku)
In the next shot you can see the fish in its bill and its large black eyes.

White "Fairy" Tern (Manu-o-Ku)
The state of Hawai'i lists them as threatened.  In 2005, there were an estimated 250 breeding pairs on O'ahu.  Interestingly, they breed not in the remote parts of the island, but right in the urban center of Honolulu.  Because of this, the city of Honolulu has adopted the White Tern as its official bird.  I'm told they do not build a traditional nest, but lay the egg and incubate it on a tree branch.  Knowing this, it's hard for me to believe that the Honolulu population has the highest fledgling success rate of any population.  The largest populations in 2005 were on Midway (7,500 pairs) and Nihoa (5,000 pairs), both uninhabited by humans.

Diamond Head seen from Kapi'olani Park

Monday, July 16, 2012

Shoot Me Monday

One evening Gaby and I decided to check out Queen's Bath in Princeville, Kaua'i.  It's a natural, large tide pool carved into the lava shelf on the north shore.  Apparently it was a royal bathing place.

Queen's Bath
It was a steep path down to the water, a little difficult with flip-flops.  I almost didn't take my camera.  Thank goodness I did because as we were making our way down, there was a White-rumped Shama bathing in a pool of water (fitting right?).  It then perched on a branch and began to shake and preen its feathers.

White-rumped Shama
It was amazing to see!  Another non-birding couple even stopped to watch.  It didn't mind that we were relatively close to it.  A few days prior, I had played hide-and-seek with another White-rumped Shama and never got a decent photo.  This was the most memorable bird behavior I witnessed  on our trip.

Another great moment here was when we saw a couple sea turtles feeding on kelp at the edge of the water.  So cool!

Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
waterfall along Queen's Bath path

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birding Around Princeville, Kaua'i

I didn't have to go very far from where we were staying in Princeville to see some great birds.  I was so excited about all the new birds I was seeing that Gaby said it was like I was in Disneyland.  Ha, so true. 

But before I get to the birds, I promised I would tell about all the chickens on Kaua'i.  They were everywhere!  The first ones I saw were in the parking lot of the rental car place.  They are loud too.  The roosters make noise at any hour of the day.  Apparently there have always been chickens running loose on the island.  Then in 1992 Hurricane Iniki destroyed some chicken farms and hundreds of chickens escaped.  It doesn't help that its only predators are cats, dogs, and cars.  So why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to Kaua'i.  But seriously, there is a species of bird called Red Junglefowl that look virtually identical to the feral chickens.  They can be found in more remote areas and undisturbed forests.

Princeville chickens
Here are some other birds I saw around the neighborhood.

Java Sparrow
Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye (juvenile)
Chestnut Munia
Chestnut Munia
Great Frigatebird
White-tailed Tropicbird
Red-crested Cardinal
Hawaiian Goose (Nene)
I also saw this cool spider, not sure what kind it is, cane?

 I also visited Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge to check out the taro fields.

Black-necked Stilt
Common Gallinule
baby Common Gallinule

Most surprising was a Snow Goose among the Nene, very rare in June.

Snow Goose and Nene

Hanalei Lookout

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shoot Me Monday

On our last day in Kaua'i, Gaby and I decided to check out the Pihea Trail along the Na'Pali Coast.  This was my only chance to try and see some forest birds.  The weather up there was perfect, a cool 68 degrees, 20 degrees cooler than down below.  Amazingly, it barely rained while we were up there.

The trail runs along the ridge and had the most stunning view I've ever seen.

Kalalau Canyon on the Na'Pali Coast
This photo can't begin to do it justice.  We had already seen this canyon on a boat tour, but that didn't stop my jaw from dropping.  Looking out over this view was an incredible experience.  It made me forget about the birds for a minute, really.  While snapping a few dozen photos, I saw some distant White-tailed Tropicbirds circling in the canyon.  We continued on our hike and I couldn't help but notice how quiet the birds were.  Maybe because it was after noon?  The trail was getting more muddy and the people that passed us had mud everywhere.

I heard Japanese Bush-Warblers nearby, but never got a visual.  To me, it sounded like they were saying, "It... wasn't me!"  As I scanned the side of the ridge I spotted a red bird in the distance.  I was excited to see it was a honeycreeper, an 'Apapane!

I learned they are the most abundant species of Hawaiian honeycreeper.  It was feeding on red lehua flowers, its primary food source.  They are found in forests where this 'ohi'a plant grows and above where mosquitoes thrive.  Mosquitoes have severely impacted the populations of Hawaiian forest birds because they transmit avian malaria and avian pox to native birds.  However, a new study suggests that these birds may be developing immunity to these diseases.

As we continued on the hike I saw a distant immature 'I'iwi, my target bird.  It was not the brilliant red color of an adult bird and it managed to stay out of photo range, but it was still exciting.  It was the only one I saw on the trip. 

We managed to hike past the junction with the Alakai Swamp Trail, but stopped when it got too muddy.  I had hoped to see more honeycreepers, but that just means I'll have to go back someday.

On our way down, we checked out the view of Waimea Canyon.
Waimea Canyon
By the time we got to Koke'e State Park, we were pretty tired.  The only other birds I saw here were mynas and wild chickens, aka Red Junglefowl.

Red Junglefowl
Hopefully the next time I visit, all the native forest birds will still be there.         

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Welcome to Honolulu!

I finally got around to sorting through over 800 images of birds from my trip to Hawai'i.  So I thought I'd start off by sharing the birds I saw during our brief layover at Honolulu International Airport.  I purchased The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific a month before my trip and spent hours thumbing through it to learn the new birds.  Now it was time to put my studying to the test. 

Only the necessities: Starbuck's sandwich, lava-filtered water, bins, pen, notepad
The first birds I saw while eating lunch were Cattle Egrets flying overhead.  Then Gaby spotted a couple Zebra Doves milling about.  I was hoping to see White Terns here, but I only saw the egrets.  So we went out to a courtyard to see what was around.  Right away I noticed a Common Myna like this one singing up on the wall.  It would be the first of many I would see.

Common Myna
Some doves and cardinals were hanging out on the grass.

Zebra Dove
Spotted Dove
Red-crested Cardinal
Japanese White-eye
These five birds would turn out to be the most common ones I would see on Oahu and Kaua'i, not counting chickens (more on that later).  Then I spotted some birds I would only see on Oahu.

Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul (my only one of the trip)
What an awesome way to start off the trip- seven lifers in about an hour!  Stay tuned, I have many more birds to share.