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2/22/09 - Powerline Road

Posted Monday 23rd February 2009 at 07:41 by bkrownd
Updated Tuesday 24th February 2009 at 00:19 by bkrownd
I finally got back out on Powerline Road after weeks of unstable weather. Dawn was clear, but the cloud bank was climbing up the Saddle as I headed out, so I went straight for the big kipuka west of Powerline Road to get there before the fog. The morning was partly cloudy and cold, and the afternoon was calm with fog and drizzle. I started back at 3:45, and left well before "sunset". I could have stayed in the kipuka longer, but crossing the slick lava fields isn't too safe if it's wet and dark.

In the big kipuka I was paying attention to the ferns, and there was indeed a very good variety compared to other Saddle locations. The understory of this kipuka is totally wrecked by resident pigs and sheep, but the tiny spores of ferns disperse widely and they grow fast. I scared up one pig a couple times, and heard sheep further up in the kipuka.

The cyanea shipmanii have started forming flower buds. Some of them look fairly advanced, but my photos from last year indicate they'll bloom around mid-late May.

The primary reason I headed to the big kipuka is to practice hearing and counting the endangered birds, which are all reliable here. Counting birds in the big kipuka is pretty difficult, due to the very tall canopy. Canopy species such as 'apapane and 'akepa are usually out of sight, and distant enough that it's difficult to distinguish the number of individuals by ear. The numbers of gregarious 'apapane rose and fell as groups moved around. I'iwi are especially numerous here, and seemed very active today. A couple of green-grey juveniles were around, and one begging quite a bit. 'Amakihi prefer not to be under canopy, and were about consistently small numbers. Sparse 'oma'o. Japanese white-eye and red-billed leiothrix here and there, and a few pheasants. All the usual stuff.

I had several sightings of 3 of the 4 endangered birds. 'Io twice, but probably the same bird. Two or more 'akepa moving around and two or more Hawai'i creeper. I had to strain to filter the creeper's chuckle out from the similar staccato sounds that the 'apapane make. Unfortunately one of the photos shows that one of the creepers has lost an eye. :( I never heard any 'akiapola'au.

If you have the eBird notable sightings tool enabled in iGoogle you can select "Hawai'i" and see the exact places where I found them. Be sure to switch the map to satelllite imagery.

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