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2/27/09 - Kulani-Keauhou Bird Survey & Pu'u Maka'ala NAR, Wright Road Unit

Posted Sunday 1st March 2009 at 00:50 by bkrownd
On Friday morning I helped survey transect 309 in Keauhou Ranch, which runs through former pastures across about the middle of the wedge-shaped ranch at about 5000 feet elevation. The landscape is pastures of deep grass dotted with alien rubus thickets (which they're trying to poison away) and dryopteris (native) ferns, and scattered large trees sheltering tiny pockets of common native understory plants such as pilo, 'alani, 'akala, 'oha wai, 'ohelo, kawa'u, kopiko, etc. There were even some large (~10-12') clermontia ('oha wai) trees here and there. Much of the grass at this elevation was kikuyu, which is pillow soft and good for napping - particularly refreshing when the grass is covered with dew and you're sweaty and dirty. The weather was very marginal, with gusty winds and blowing mist. It was about as bad as it could be without giving up on the counting, and would not have been adequate if there were any chance of rare birds in this area. Fortunately the blowing mist was also cool. It has actually been quite cold on the mountainsides lately.

The transect was only 2.2 km and 12 stations, and we stopped at the edge of the native forest. (the oddly named "Kilauea Forest") Typical 8 minute counts yielded 10-20 'apapane, 1-8 'amakihi, 1-6 Japanese white-eye, and 2-4 'oma'o. Total numbers of less common birds were about 5 northern cardinal, 3-5 i'iwi, 3 'io, 3 house finch, 2 'elepaio, 2 red-billed leiothrix. A mongoose also hopped on top of a fallen tree at one station, but we don't count that kind of 'goose.

On the way out we flushed a turkey, but she left her chicks in the middle of the ranch road! They were baseball sized and very downy. They peeped up a storm, except when their heads were stroked. 'tis the season for juveniles.

We were done well before noon. To make something of the afternoon I went up to Pu'u Maka'ala NAR behind Volcano Village. I decided to walk some of the fencelines I had not tried yet. The trays of rare plants that had been set out last weekend were planted by now, and I inspected them and flushed some pheasants from the area. (I suspect the pheasants break some of the seedlings after examining some of the mortality in our December plantings) On the old trail to the fenceline with the national park's 'Ola'a tract I encountered an even more rare plant - my very first 100% no-doubt-about-it stenogyne macrantha. I've been looking for one of those for over a year. That discovery made my day. The weather remained wet and windy, so I left a little early.
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