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10/11/09 - Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve, South of Saddle Road 19 Mile Area

Posted Monday 12th October 2009 at 08:11 by bkrownd
Updated Monday 12th October 2009 at 08:17 by bkrownd
After a long Saturday I was pooped and slept in. There was also a very wet morning forecast, but of course it was completely dry and quite hot. It was going to be a short day out. After a lot of indecision I stopped at the lower end of Kaumana Trail, and decided I'd explore a new area in the big forest South of the trail. I spent a lot of time here early in the summer before moving on to other areas, so I also needed to collect some bird counts here for the autumn season. When I arrived one of the DOCARE officers stopped to see who I was - another person who's seen my car on the side of the road several days a week and wondered WTF I'm up to out there.

It's red bird season on the Saddle, so 'apapane were active, vocal and conspicuous everywhere. Interestingly, Japanese white-eye numbers are also way up. 'Amakihi counts were mysteriously very low - perhaps they moved to higher elevations. Average counts in the forest were 8 'apapane, 2 i'iwi, 2 'oma'o, 1 'elepaio, 3 Japanese white-eye. There were scattered 'amakihi, red-billed leiothrix and kalij pheasant. After sunset on the way back to the car I finally encountered some yellow-fronted canary in the scrub forest and kolea moving to the lava fields where they spend the night.

I did my usual entry into the forest on the main hunting trail, which was decorated with new trash since my last visit. After getting about 100 meters into the forest I had to decide whether to go upslope or downslope, because I didn't have time to make the long haul to any new territory. I started down, but quickly decided to go UP instead. There are a few rare plants above the trail, and I figured I could find a new angle on the places I covered in the past to map populations of things like haha, 'aiea, pokeberry, 'anini and opuhe. The area above the main trail gets very rugged, and though pigs have tilled it heavily there are a few areas where these things have managed to hold on. I added some 'anini to my map of their population, including a couple of the largest 'anini trees I've seen yet.

The big find of the day was two HUGE patches of pokeberry/popolo ku mai, to add to the third huge plant I found earlier and some smaller plants in a nearby bit of forest. They are the only population of this plant I've found in Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve. Today's plants were numerous and some were huge shrubs or sprawling vines, and oddly they were all growing in areas where the canopy trees had died, creating open sunlit forest floors. (the previous plants I found were all growing on fallen trees.) Pigs usually root these soft-stemmed plants out, so I'm not sure if the extra sunlight discouraged the pigs or just made the understory so unusually thick with leafy plant growth that they survived in the crowd. Anyhow, it was interesting to add so much to my understanding of their natural population. I also removed a huge smartweed/knotweed/dogtail from the pokeberry population, but it seemed to be the only one.

About 4PM when I discovered the first of the pokeberry patches it started to rain so I was conservative and called it a day at 5:30 so I could get back to the trail comfortably by the 6PM sunset. (can't effectively search for plants when it gets dark anyhow) I took a new route back to Kaumana Trail, straight across the lava field. It was easy going and quite flat, but I had to watch my step because the mossy pahoehoe is extremely slippery when wet. Almost lost it once. I was also able to look at the flora on the 1855 pahoehoe. There are a lot of native bog grasses, including oreobolus tussocks.
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