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7/2-7/5/09 - Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve, Roads R & S

Posted Tuesday 14th July 2009 at 05:06 by bkrownd
Updated Tuesday 14th July 2009 at 06:13 by bkrownd
I spent the 4-day holiday weekend expanding my exploration of the high quality native forests around Roads R and "S" along Stainback Highway. After finding numerous rare plants off of Road R in the last couple of weeks my attention is focussed on this area, and continued rainy weather would keep me off the Saddle, anyway. The rains were occasionally heavy for about an hour around noon, but on most days the afternoons were pretty dry.

7/2 - I took the trail I've called "tetraplasandra trail" through the native forest South of Stainback, hoping to go a lot further than I had before. This forest is dominated by a fairly complete canopy of tall ancient 'ohi'a trees, and has a middle canopy rich in a variety of common and uncommon native trees (including numerous tetraplasandra), and a mostly undisturbed and rich native understory (particularly rich in cyrtandras). Unfortunately I encountered several large clumps of strawberry guava along the way, and couldn't resist taking the time to pull them. When I got to the place where I stopped last time I found that the rich forest on the 'a'a ended, and I dropped down an onto old pahoehoe surface of scattered bogs, mud pits, choked with 'uluhe, and full of nasty weeds. It was very difficult to get through. I killed a few of the less common weeds, but most of them were too abundant to bother. The most interesting thing in the muddy pits were a few loulu palms.

This forest is rich in understory insects and snails, but has very few birds. Japanese white-eye are scattered. 'Oma'o are fairly evenly distributed. 'Elepaio scarce. 'Apapane are seasonal and don't seem to linger in the canopy above for long before moving on. Northern cardinal and nutmeg mannikin are occasionally in the weedy edges of disturbed areas. There was also a hwamei in the mud pit and 'uluhe area.

7/3/09 - On rainy Friday I returned to Road R, to explore a part of the weedy ash substrate area where most of the rare native plants are concentrated. (The ash deposit underlying this area is fairly thick, in contrast to most of the surfaces in the area which are thin soil built on underlying lava flows, so the ash area has a different flora with very few large trees and is thick with nasty weeds.) I quickly discovered a new colony of large prickly cyanea, but I'm still uncertain which of the two species they are. I followed a muddy ravine to the West, hoping to find more rare plants protected on the ravine walls or in the mud pits, but didn't discover anything very notable. Killed plenty of nasty weeds. Eventually the ravine became level with the surrounding area and there I found a hunter's trail carelessly hacked through the forest. I followed this North, finding a few interesting plants along the way, and then left the trail to head to the rare plant enclosure and make my exit. I checked on the rare a'e trees along the way, which are dropping their leaves. I collected waypoints for a lot of rare plants on Friday, and I'm starting to make waypoint files for all the rare plants I find so I can plot their distributions. In particular I discovered a lot of phyllostegia and touchardia.

At sunset two bats were hunting over Stainback, and on the way down two bubos (barn owls) crossed the road near Tree Planting Road.

7/4/09 - I got a very late start on Saturday. I went to Road R, and took the trail through the extremely pristine native forest West of the road. The trail eventually crosses the canopy forest and drops down off that surface onto the ash substrate of weedy mud pits. I started following the edge (base of the slope) between the upper native forest level and the lower weedy mud pit level. This turned out to be very interesting. I found a wealth of interesting plants. The ash surface has a high concentration of loulu palms, and I'd really like to figure out if the loulu population is declining or maintaining itself. I saw a few little palms, but only a very small number compared to the number of adults. I found as many phyllostegia (giant mints) Saturday as I've ever seen before. There were also a lot of touchardia, and a few little maua trees. I also chopped up hundreds of alien passiflora vines and numberous other weeds such as himalayan raspberry. As sunset approached I climbed the slope to the pristine native forest to cross back to Stainback. This proved to be much harder than I anticipated. The bit of forest I crossed was incredibly pristine in some areas. The native understory was extremely thick and tangled, and the ground was uneven and covered with old deadfall. I didn't want to damage any plants, so I was going at a snail's pace. I just made it out before dark.

Besides the huge number of rare plants I saw on Friday, the other highlight of the day was watching a hummingbird hawk-moth visit one of the flowering phyllostegia vestita vines. I've never seen or heard one of these before, and its wings were extraordinarily loud.

7/5/09 - On Sunday I returned to Road R and took the same trail to the mud pit area. This time I explored a somewhat different route that went more into the thick of the weedy core of the ash substrate area. I continued to find more interesting plants, and eventually found a different part of the same destructive hunter trail that I discovered on Friday. The hunter trail brought me back to Stainback Highway, and I explored the length of it and some side trails.

The birds in these areas throughout the day were usually scattered groups of Japanese white-eye and evenly distributed 'oma'o. Occasional northern cardinal and 'elepaio. An hour or two before sunset small numbers of 'apapane would start to arrive or pass through on their way to some roosting area. There are also a couple of 'io that are often somewhere near the end of Road R. In the alien vegetation of the tropical ash plantations and along Stainback Highway there are also house finch, nutmeg mannikin, hwamei and Japanese bush warbler.
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