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Friday, December 23, 2005

Mele Kalikimaka!

I just got back from vacation earlier this week. My first trip to Hawaii. Friends, Jeannie & Ron
were staying in Kona time share and had a second bedroom. They asked if I might want to join them there.

'Um... let me think that over.... HELL YES!'

It was a big decision on my part because although the company was pleasant and the room was free, the flight wasn't and I hadn't planned on going anywhere. And too,the trip was only 8 days, 2 of which were largely spent flying or sitting in airports, but what the hell. When opportunity knocks, yatta, yatta, yatta.

Yes, this is paradise!
We had a good time. Hawaii met with most of my expectation - it was hot, humid some of the time, but cool and breezy most of the time. My favourite even was a morning spent snorkling and exploring coastal sea caves, blow holes and other Hawaiian lava island specialities. The reefs and fish were totally the stuff of dreams - Moorish Idols, Parrot fish, Tangs, Angel fish and others. I once got to snorkle in the Dry Tortugas but the reef there was neither as large or populated by so many varied species of fishies.

Each day we took our coffee on the patio then ventured out. We toured the weekly flea market in Kona and in Hilo and visited the Place of Refuge which friends of mine recommended. Pu'what's it was hot and humid the morning we were there so our visit was brief but fun. There as a big-arse Hawaiian turtle lounging on the beach and a flock of Yellow-billed Cardinals bouncing around the little waterways between the lava-stone walls.

We enjoyed - more or less - a death march to Green Sand Beach. Ok, it wasn't exactly a death march, but the Hawai'i tour book described the hike as flat and grassy, but the reality was undulating and rocky-as-hell. Jeannie and I didn't get all the way to the beach, but Ron did and I have the pictures to prove it!

Another day we explored Volcano National Park which was reminisant of Yellowstone, having steam rising out of the ground which is more unnerving than you would imagine. Jeannie and I refused to hike over the 100 degree lava to view the stuff pouring into the ocean, opting for a helicopter trip out of Hilo airport instead. Wise choice! we took a helecopter ride over a live volcano, waterfalls and the place where the lava meets the sea. The lava heats the ocean water to 140 degrees which brought to mind the lines from Alice in Wonderland's The Walrus and the Carpenter. '... and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings'. Now I know the answers - the sea is boiling hot because of the lava and the pigs are there because of the freakin' introduction of exotics to the islands, that's why! It sure is nice being smart enough to know everything.

Our View from the Helicopter into the gapping maw of the volcano

Most days Jeannie, Ron and I traveled together, but on the last two days I got a rental car so I could go off birding, an activity they just don't get (and who does?). I drove back to Volcano National Park where I tried my hand at photographing Apapane with humble results. I couldn't quite piece together which rain forest birds were connected to which song in the cacophany of chirping, but I did quickly figure out that the Apapane's have a loud flap, reminisant of budgies, so I could pick them out pretty quickly from the din of song. I wish I had planned the trip better so I could have met up with a Hawaiian birder who could led me to more native birds. Oh well! At least I saw a few.

Also on my own I visited the remaining 2 Federal Parks, neither of which have names I am capable of remembering. Both parks are historic sites with ruins of monuments built by Hawaiian kings - cool!

This vacation was not one of my 'All Birds, All the Time' trips. Normally I travel within the continental U.S. of A. with birding as the main goal. But what the heck, happily there were loads of birds for me to stare at on the 'Big Island'. I'm listing the birds here because the only thing more fun than seeing birds is ticking them off, doesn't mean pissing them off, but in Brit-speak means checking them off a list.

The Endemics and Migrant occuring birdies:

  1. Hawaiian Hawk
  2. Apapane
  3. Pacific Golden Plover
  4. Wandering Tattler
  5. Spotted Sandpiper
  6. Black-crowned Night Heron
  7. White-tailed Tropic Bird
  8. Ruddy Turnstone
Hurrah! A native bird, the Apapane
The naughty imported exotic birdies:
  1. Common Mynah
  2. Zebra Dove
  3. Spotted Dove
  4. Japanese White-eye
  5. Yellow-billed Cardinal
  6. Java Rice Finch
  7. Saffron Finch
  8. Yellow-fronted Canary
  9. Wild Turkey
  10. Northern Cardinal
  11. Rock Pigeon

How shocking it was to visit an ocean with NO gulls. The introduced mongooses eat up the bird eggs so native birds are harder to find than they ought to be.

Mammals, Reptiles, and the rest of the lot.
  1. Hawaiian Hoary Bats
  2. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
  3. Gold Dust Gecko (non-native)
  4. Mourning Gecko
  5. Anole (non-native)

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