|I'iwe feeding on Ohi'a luhia blossoms|
I’m not a birder and have never spent time around any of them, but when I got an opportunity this weekend to go on a guided hike in the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea I jumped at it. This tour is specifically for viewing some of the rarest plants and animal species on earth, but especially oriented for spotting rare and endangered birds of Hawaii. The Hakalau tour is provided by Hawaii Forest & Trail and is a long (12 hr) day from start to finish that includes 2 ½ hrs of driving one way, over 11 miles of off road meandering into the forest reserve, and roughly 4 miles of hiking with about 650 ft of elevation gain.
|Birders being birders|
The hiking included about 650 ft of elevation gain down and back along both 4-wheel drive trails and forest paths. On the drive in we spotted numerous birds including, chukar, erckel's francolin, kalij pheasant, ring-neck pheasant, wild turkey, gambel's quail, common myna, house sparrow, skylark, and Pacific golden plovers. My seat in the vehicle didn't allow me to get photographs of any of these unfortunately, but I see most all of them on a regular basis anyway. My treat would be the rare forest birds that we almost never get to see.
|Nene and Goslings|
They didn't seem to mind us being there at all. But maybe they knew we weren't legally allowed to get any closer than 25 ft of them!
The goslings in the photo above are still wearing their down coats.
One of the little guys I found on my own and identified once the limited set of photos were reviewed was this little Japanese White-eye. He's not a native species in Hawaii, but was introduced here at some point.
|Hakalau Forest Diner|
From what we saw on the floor the Nene enjoy this eatery on a frequent basis as well. :) We left nothing behind... everything packed in gets packed back out.
I did manage to capture one other native bird during a break in the weather. The little guy at the left is an "Apapane about to take flight after feeding in an Ohi'a tree. From a distance the 'Apapane look very similar to the I'iwe above, but they have a much shorter dark beak with less hook, and they're more red than orange.
We did not see a Hawaii hawk (I'o), or an an owl (Pueo) on our trip. Both do frequent the area but have been hard to find recenly
As impressive as the bird life is the forest itself is equally stunning. This entire area is still recovering from years of cattle grazing. It is now completely fenced to prevent cattle or wild pig intrusion and is intensively studied. Efforts to replant the koa tree and other species are ongoing to provide additional habitat and food for the critters who live here.
|Biodiversity is Everywhere|
- Get a good quality rain hood for your camera body and lens! There's no point in carrying gear around all day if you can't use it!
- Forget the tripod if you won't be shooting from a blind. That's dead weight too. A monopod will be lighter and might work just as well.
- Birds will come to you if you stand or sit quietly and wait. Chasing them is useless effort.
- Put everything in your backpack in Ziplock bags! They'll get soaked otherwise. This means Everything!
- Bring your own raingear, layer your clothing, and wear waterproof hiking boots if you have them. Rainforests are wet places. And at almost 7,000 ft above sea level sometimes cold too.
- A good quality walking or hiking stick is invaluable!
- And have fun regardless of the conditions because it's all part of the experience. If you're miserable odds are everyone else is too.
|'Apapani, singing a goodbye song|