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9/30/09 - Ka'ohe GMA, Mauka Kea

Posted Thursday 1st October 2009 at 06:36 by bkrownd
Updated Thursday 1st October 2009 at 06:45 by bkrownd
It was extremely wet on the windward side this morning, so even though I was running late I made the long haul to the far side of the Saddle to dessicated leeward side of Mauna Kea. It is autumn already, which means I need to start practicing for the palila survey in January/February. I got a good workout today, seeing pretty much everything I expect at Ka'ohe GMA in abundance - even silverbills and hwamei. (Japanese bush warbler were missing, though)

In sharp contrast to my counts this week at Halepohaku (9250 ft), I did not hear or see a single 'apapane all day at Ka'ohe GMA (6000-7400ft). Near the sandalwood exclosure at Pu'u La'au some of the mamane were flowering a little, but there weren't any flowers most of the way up. It's possible some 'apapane were above the cabin area, but I didn't have time to go up there.

When I count at Ka'ohe GMA I head up through the grass and scrub areas to the solid forest and start at the first grove of 'akoko trees, just below the 'ahumoa turn-off. That's about 1/3 of the (4km as the palila flies) way up through Ka'ohe GMA from Saddle Road to Pu'u La'au. The first 'akoko grove is a good area, and often has a few of the lower elevation birds like the silverbills and hwamei. I have about 9 regular point count locations from there to the cabin at Pu'u La'au. I give them informal names I can remember like 'akoko, R-15, FB-4, sandalwood, rag, FB-5, palila gulch, sandalwood exclosure, cabin. Elsewhere in the area I have point count locations but haven't visited most enough over the years to give them special names. The official bird survey has added transects and other names to my mental map, like Little Australia, Sunken Jeep Road, Fallen Gate Road, Skyline Drive. I have not yet picked up some of the inside joke ones like Pu'u Banko.

Anyhow, it was a hot sunny day. That usually depresses the bird activity, but it was actually quite active all day. I had medium numbers of 'amakihi, spread around pretty consistently. Red-billed leiothrix were off the scale for some reason. The hwamei near 'ahumoa were particularly vocal today. Plenty of silverbills down low, and a big influx of house finch at sunset. Around FB-5 there were big flocks of yellow-fronted canary. Game birds were very numerous and active. Most of the other regular birds were around in respectable numbers. I didn't run into palila until palila gulch, which is fairly high. I think I had 2 on the way up, perhaps one at the sandalwood exclosure, and 2 at the same area the way down which probably included the same bird I heard initially. 3-4 unique birds for the whole loop, which is similar to my last visit. I think I saw a distant pueo hunting in the area near sunset.

An unusual today was that I encountered what appeared to be several mixed-species groups. Mostly white-eye, 'amakihi and red-billed leiothrix close together, but occasionally there also were nearby groups of house finch and yellow-fronted canary that may have also been participating in their own way.

On the way back down I did an additional count in the more open area where more solid forest transitions to open forest and scrub. There were an unusual number of house finch and silverbill, which seemed to be gathering at that place and time, but also plenty of red-billed leiothrix and 'amakihi there with them, and a few white-eye and yellow-fronted canary. On the way up in the sunny morning this area was fairly quiet, and I'm usually motoring through it to get up to the shade ASAP.
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