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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Birding Kaua'i

Ooo, was out early 'nuff today, in search of Hawaiian birds. I didn't plan very well, so my day was hit & miss, but happily, my 'good old fashioned DUMB luck' held up as it usually does for those of us born in the Chinese Year-of-the-Rabbit.

For starters I visited the Nawiliwilli Harbor area and the Menehune Fish Ponds. The 'Alekoko fish ponds are where in ancient times, Hawaiian royalty kept fresh water fish which were an important source of protein. I couldn't believe it, but there were zero birds visible while I was there. Oh well!

View of the beautiful Menehune Fish Pond taken from the overhead viewing platform

I visited the grounds of the Marriot Hotel, which amazingly, had quite a few species romping around its spacious golf course and grounds.

Saw dozens of Nene getting in their 9 holes on the golf course

A striking White-breasted Shama was unexpected

and it didn't seem to enjoy the tropical breezes quite as much as I did
 One of the biggest surprises though was the Hawaiian Gallinule, which I've frequently searched for on the Big Island of Hawaii without finding, so seeing many of them on Kaua'i was a thrill. They are visually identical to the Gallinules on the mainland, but the powers that be declare them to be a unique species in their own right. Who am I to argue?

The Hawaiian Gallinules had fantastic waxy looking red shields on their noggins
Showing off a colorful head
How's this for a perky birdie? A Red-crested Cardinal
Noisy and bold, Common Myna, which seem to be everywhere in Hawaii
Java Rice Sparrows - cheeky little things
Sweet little Zebra Dove
On my iPhone GPS, the Marriot grounds show as a wildlife refuge, which is strange, but I guess if the birds are there, why not declare it a wildlife refuge and ensure the bird's safety. The birds obviously don't care if someone plays through their territory, so why should we? There were roads that didn't really look like you could drive through them, but you could, so being lazy, I did. I even drove to the farthest reaches of Kalapaki road, from which I could see the lighthouse.

 Late in the day I headed north on the island and had a huge stroke of luck. I was crossing a little bridge on Kuhio Highway, and I spotted some dark polka dots on the river - Hawaiian Coots!  Another species that is considered seperate from it's identicle cousins on the mainland. I tried to get to where I could photograph them on foot, but the the shrubbery by the bridge was too thick to traverse. So, I got my not-to-good shots by driving onto the bridge and haulting... happily I managed to get my shots during a total lull in traffic.

Another bolt of luck happened after I reached the northernmost bits of the island you can reach by car. I meant to hike the Kilalau Trail, which traverses up mountain for a view of the ocean and any pelagic species that might fly by. I had my flashlight, as the best time to bird the trail is around sunset and I didn't want to get stranded after dark. I had a little backpack and I reached the trailhead...

The trail looked like a bit of an ankle masher to me
And lost my nerve!  The trail was composed of rocks and tree roots, in an evil conspiracy of breaking my fat ankles. Uh... maybe next time.

So, somewhat disappointed, I got back in the car, heading off. I was driving past a beautiful little Taro Root plantation.

Taro Root Plantation
I happened to look over at the right second, and what did I see? HURRAH!

Koloa! The Hawaiian Duck I'd been looking for.
Talk about your dumb luck!

Do not need luck to see chickens on Kaua'i - they're everywhere on the island

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