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10/18/09 - Pu'u Maka'ala NAR

Posted Thursday 22nd October 2009 at 04:13 by bkrownd
I'm a little late in posting Sunday's adventure summary. I was pooped out Sunday morning, and got the usual late start. The weather was dry, and it didn't really rain all day. When I got up to Army Road I decided to go down to the area between the 'aku unit and pu'u maka'ala and try to get into an area where I haven't been yet. I used to go down there a lot, following the roads and fencelines, but haven't really explored away from the roads much.

I did bird counts down to the mud pit area behind pu'u maka'ala, where the road forks and dead-ends. The birds that normally inhabit the Army Road area were very scarce. However, there were an unusually high number of nutmeg mannikins here eat maturing grass seeds in the disturbed roadside and bog areas, and 2 japanese bush warblers in the 'uluhe adjacent to the two bulldozed parking areas along Army Road Makai. There were VERY few birds after I got into the palm grass and strawberry guava infested ash-mud pit behind pu'u maka'ala, where the forest canopy is very low and thin so that the palm grass is going nuts in the understory. I spent several hours in there and heard just a handful of 'apapane and Japanese white-eye the whole time. Some of my point counts along the road had more birds, and definitely more bird diversity, than I encountered during the whole time in that weed infested area.

I didn't encounter as many rare plants as I was hoping to. Where the road dead-ends in the tall canopy forest near the edge of the 'aku unit, just before getting into the really weedy area, there is a pocket of high plant diversity. Lots of loulu palms, and I was pleased to see a small handful of rare baby palms coming up near the adults. In one small clump of rare plants I found a nice kamakahala tree (labordia hirtella), a big pilo kea (platydesma) and a small 'aiea (nothocestrum) tree. After going further the tall canopy quickly disappeared and I was in the weedy low forest of the mud/ash pit area. I hoped to cross this area for about 1.3 kilometer and hit the other dead end of Army Road, but the nasty thickets of stinging palm grass quickly dashed my hopes. I ended up taking out a few nasty weeds such as Japanese anemone, Himalayan raspberry, angiopteris evecta ferns, etc, even though it's pretty hopeless to try. I didn't see as many rare plants as I hoped - a couple more small 'aiea trees, a single small koli'i and a single baby 'aku.

Numerous rare plants I've been watching in the area have unfortunately died. The last of three endangered clermontia peleana planted in the 'aku unit has died. I always check on 4 baby 'aku outside of the fenced unit, which were still there but only one looks any bigger it did than last year. 2 large plants were eaten by pigs last year, and it's unlikely any of these little ones will live long enough to become adult and flower either. Unfortunately 3-4 juvenile 'aku plants inside the fenced unit have died recently. One just lost its leaves and died mysteriously, while the others look like they've been trampled - possibly by a pig or dog got inside the fenced unit and followed the fenceline trying to get out. (hunting dogs are frequently lost in this area) I found a spot where a large branch had fallen and half-crushed the fence, which I fixed by hand as well as I could.

It was very quiet out there all day, except for the whine of mosquitoes in my ears. No hunters and little traffic on the highway either. I got back to my car after a quiet and overcast sunset.
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