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3/14/09 - Powerline Road

Posted Sunday 15th March 2009 at 05:29 by bkrownd
Updated Sunday 15th March 2009 at 05:33 by bkrownd
Yay, Powerline Road! Saturday was the first dry clear day in a while, but unfortunately I overslept. I got to Powerline Road about 9AM. I was able to make a whole (though short) day of it, but the weather was very windy and unstable so I didn't go very far. Big dark clouds came and went all day as the wind direction swung around, until the wind died down and a heavy vog-laden grey overcast formed at about 3PM.

I did bird counts at all the usual places. 'Apapane were at normal levels, while i'iwi and 'amakihi numbers were significantly up. 'Oma'o were down. Japanese white-eye were way down. There were a couple of house finch.

I had 3 rare birds today. A single 'io was soaring over the 1881 lava field and its kipukas, using the strong winds. On my return trip through the 3 mile kipuka a single very pale Hawai'i creeper crossed the road in front of me, while an 'akiapola'au turbo-warbled in the koa above.

Today's creeper only made a very 'amakihi-like "wheeet" sound, but its somewhat higher voice alerted me that something different was around. It came very close as I imitated it. Unfortunately I only had my plant lens on the camera. I don't use my flash on the native birds, but with only the little lens this once I decided to use the flash to get an ID photo of the creeper. Ouch, that was a mistake! The little creeper was totally spooked by the flash and zoomed off with a chirp. I didn't expect that much of a reaction and felt bad afterwards. OK, no more flashing the native birds! The photo wasn't even any good, since I forgot that the flash limits the shutter speed. Dumb idea, dumb result.

Helping with the bird surveys for the last three months I've learned that the accuracy of my distance estimation isn't nearly high enough to produce useful official bird counts, and even more worryingly hasn't improved substantially since January. For my own bird counts I just count eveyrthing within roughly 75m radius, and don't estimate individual distances. I started doing something new today - I brought my laser rangefinder and after every bird counted birds I also did about 8-10 distance estimates in various directions and various distances and checked them with the rangefinder. They were even more horrible than usual, and as I expected varied quite a bit with the habitat and vegetation density. I'm going to enter the numbers on the computer and keep track of the RMS in different distance bins to see if I can improve the reliability of any of the estimates at all this year.
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