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9/27/08 - Kahuku, HVNP

Posted Monday 29th September 2008 at 05:50 by bkrownd
Updated Monday 29th September 2008 at 05:53 by bkrownd
For this National Public Lands Day...uh, I think that's it...I did a tour of a 'kipuka' gulch in the new Kahuku Ranch section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 'Kipuka' in the sense of a pocket of remnant (mostly) native forest amid a sea of pasture and cattle, instead of lava. It was a tour, since they only allowed us to work cutting nasty ginger for 10 minutes! I guess it was only supposed to be a demo. We had to pass all the other weeds up...it was very hard to keep from pulling weeds right and left. In a 3-day weekend I could clean out that entire valley. Why wait? ...ARE YOU LISTENING HVNP????

OK, anyhow, I had hoped that this might be one of the spots in Kahuku where the cyanea stictophylla survived, because that's one of the last two cyanea I need for my gallery. Unfortunately this wasn't a cyanea spot. However, there were a couple other bits of botanical interest. Most of the native flora in the valley was wiped out, with just a small number of native species remaining, and ginger and christmas berry were taking over. However, there was one cyrtandra species growing in large numbers of impressive trees, up to 8 feet tall. Even more important was a single touchardia (olona) plant mass (the ranger said it was all one individual) with dozens of huge stems up to 10 feet tall and huge leaves! In fact, most of the plants were unusually large compared to their counterparts in wet forest and higher elevation areas that I usually explore. The mamaki in particular were actual trees(!) here, instead of the shrub form usually encountered. The combination of temperature, sun and moisture must be ideal in that location to grow these giant plants, and my concept of their size scale was completely redefined for several species.

Birds... The most notable bird here was yellow-fronted canary. They were loud and numerous in a way I've never encountered before. The ubiquitous Japanese white-eye could not be missed. Red-billed leiothrix could be heard in the valley in small numbers - no doubt attracted to the numerous huge fruiting kawa'u trees. I'm sure there were house finch, but I didn't notice them. Natives were represented by 'apapane (many) and 'amakihi (few), and there was one 'io heard not far across the pasture.

That was my only activity for the day. I was pooped out and didn't leave the house until noon. I did stop in the Ka'u Desert along the way to look for interesting plants, but only 15 minutes. I found just a single ho'awa tree to photo in that span.
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