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10/22/09 - Powerline Road (1 Viewer)

The passing storms have brought clear dry weather to our end of the island chain. Although I have a lot on my exploration agenda I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity to go out on Powerline Road, and perhaps get into the more distant kipukas. I got up a little earlier than usual, and managed to get up there at 7AM - still about 2 hours later than I'd really like, but much better than my average arrival time. The weather was clear after dawn, but fog and blowing mist rolled in when I arrived at the 3 mile kipuka about 10AM. However, at 11AM the fog cleared for good and I high-tailed it a mile down the 1881 lava field to the kipuka that I spent much of May exploring. Because of the unusually wet summer weather this is the first time I've been able to return.

While crossing the 1881 lava field several times today I looked at the hundreds of molds of trees that were enveloped by the lava, and the charred and sun-bleached remains of the larger trunks, and I wondered about the large amount of kipuka ahiu that may have been lost when it was dissected by the 1881 pahoehoe. Could more of its rare flora have survived to this day if the 1881 flow had not happened? (however, the smooth 1881 lava sure makes getting around the kipukas fast and easy)

In May I was carefully criss-crossing the lower kipuka, trying to find rare plants. This time I wanted to cover more ground and get down to see the lower end, and then turn North and cut across a couple more of the lower kipukas before returning. Interestingly, just as I passed the point in the kipuka where I had turned around in May I started to encounter some 'anini trees. I once thought of these as rare, but I've been finding more and more colonies of 'anini around 5000 foot elevation on the Saddle and below Kulani on Stainback Highway. I eventually found 'anini in small pockets on both the North and South sides of the kipuka. The lower kipuka ahiu fragment is horribly torn up by pigs. Unfortunately most of the new area I covered today was hopelessly wrecked, and I have little hope of finding any rare plants in the central part of the kipuka. :(

Unfortunately I also found a couple of infestations of the dreaded giant Himalayan raspberry (The Devil's Cane), and I didn't have my machete to deal with them! ARRRGH! It is a serious disappointment to find these in kipuka ahiu. (it was also a shock to find a strawberry guava in the upper part of kipuka ahiu last weekend, but I ripped up that little bastard easily)

As time started running low I picked up speed and made my way North across the 1881 lava to the new silversword kipuka. This extremely boggy and muddy kipuka is even more wrecked by pigs than kipuka ahiu. I need to explore its lower reaches some day, which could be more promising. I snaked my way through the bogs, trying to notice all the bog grasses I could. There are a couple of rare varieties of native bog grass I need to figure out some day. I should really just take photos of them all some day and put them up in my PBASE galleries as a bog grass collection/study.

Eventually I popped into the new silversword bog near the exclosures, which they used to call "the pig hunter's bog" for a very good reason. The unfenced areas are a sad pig wallow. The tiny old silversword planting exclosure is neglected now - the plantings weren't doing well there, as they think it may have been too wet. I took a quick look inside and could only see two silverswords from the same point where I thought I could see about 6 two years ago. :( The new exclosure is much larger, and as I followed the fenceline I could see dozens of new plantings. :) I hope they also start outplanting some of the other bog plants, such as the native plantagos.

From the new exclosure I followed the planters trail through the kipuka and the scrub forest back to the 1855 lava field, and on up to Powerline Road. The scrub forest trail is far more annoying than just walking up the lava field, but I needed the short cut. I arrived at Powerline Road just 10 minutes after sunset - somehow I usually manage to just beat the darkness.

On the way out in the morning I did all the usual bird point counts. Red birds are still abundant. The concentrations of 'apapane have moved around from where they were last weekend, but there are still oodles of red birds. Japanese white-eye have increased along with them, but usually only 3-5 per count. 'Amakihi counts are still very low. As with last weekend, I couldn't confirm any endangered birds in the kipuka ahiu area today. (mildly surprised by that) The lower end of the lower kipuka ahiu fragment may not be good for them, and I didn't expect much from the new silversword kipuka anyhow. Lots of 'elepaio and 'oma'o, though.

These reports are a bit wordy without some visual reference. Due to the super secret nature of the areas I visit I usually don't include a map of where I go, but today I decided to post one. North is up, Powerline Road is along the left/West, kipuka ahiu fragments are in the bottom half, and the new silversword kipuka is in the upper right. (The original silversword bog is somewhere in the image, as well) There's a couple hundred feet of elevation drop from West to East - the central area is a fairly flat area of the Saddle. It drops faster at the edges. I left Powerline Road down at the lower left and travelled down the 1881 lava to where the waypoints start. From the pig hunter's bog I made a bee-line back to Powerline Road to the rock quarry area near the upper right.


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