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10/3/09 - North of Saddle Road 19 Mile Area

Posted Sunday 4th October 2009 at 07:59 by bkrownd
Autumn monsoons have come early. It has been increasingly rainy since I returned from Maui. Today's forecast was particularly bad, but it was actually fairly nice. It wasn't raining when I left Hilo, and when I got up to the Saddle it was only blowing drizzle. I decided to attempt to explore more of the big forest North of the Saddle Road's 19 mile marker area. The morning only had light sprinkles, and by noon the weather turned partly cloudy and remained dry all afternoon.

I was able to do plenty of bird counts. The i'iwi were especially numerous and active, hooting loudly and chasing each other and the 'apapane up in the canopy. As the weather cleared up and evening approached 'apapane numbers increased dramatically. By sunset there were hundreds of 'apapane flying overhead to the North, creating a constant background whir of 'apapane wings above. 'Amakihi numbers were a bit low. Other birds were present as expected.

I followed the main trail North until I got to the young 'aiea tree. At that point a large group of hunters came through going the opposite way - about 7 very young guys and 7 dogs. I was surprised to see anyone out that far on such a wet morning. After I encountered them I headed straight West off the trail to search new habitat I've never been in before. I quickly got into some hairy vegetation, open tall 'ohi'a canopy with thick scrub forest underneath, tangled with 'ohelo, pukiawe, ferns and 'uluhe. Not very diverse stuff, but I stuck with it for a while just in case.

After getting about 400 meters off the main trail I ran into a wall of scrub and decided that I had gone far enough since I was further West than I had ever previously been here. I started directly South. I quickly dropped down onto an older surface with hapu'u dominated understory under slightly thicker canopy. This was good forest to search for rare plants, so I started checking all the pits and gullies. I didn't find much that was exciting other than some 'anini and 'aiea trees to add to my plant maps.

Eventually I decided it was time to head back. Unfortunately I miscalculated a bit, and quickly found myself running out of light under the canopy. I was unable to see under the fern layer, slipping on everything and getting my feet into holes. The distance back to the trail started to look longer on my GPS, and my glasses were fogging and covered with sweat. Finally I decided to climb out of the forest and onto the lava field where the light was much better and the humidity lower. I zig-zagged back to the main trail through the thick scrub on the wobbly 'a'a lava and occasionally wondered if it was the wrong decision, but I eventually got back to the trail with light to spare and reached my car by dark.

By sunset the hour or so overflight of hordes of 'apapane was finished, and the kolea responded by flying in the opposite direction, down from the ranch pastures to stay overnight on the Saddle lava fields.
Total Comments 1


lemurkat's Avatar
I loved our visit to Hawaii last year. Saw a lot of 'apapane and an 'amakihi, but no I'iwi - or at least none that I recognised. We stayed up in Volcano Village and the 'apapane played in our trees in the morning. Hawaii is one country where the birds and native fauna have suffered worse than in my country, New Zealand.
Posted Sunday 26th September 2010 at 08:09 by lemurkat lemurkat is offline
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