Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Rest of My Journey into Waikamoi Preserve on Maui

(Part One of this story can be found on the Birding is Fun blog by clicking here.)

Rob writes: As we continued our descent of about 700 feet to the boardwalk at Waikamoi Preserve, I was still trying to wrap my head around what we had just encountered. To see a Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill) and to get photo was far beyond all of my expectations for the day. Chuck was excited that we had seen the parrotbill and was also relieved that we had found the rarest bird in the area - the pressure of finding birds for me was gone. I laughed and told him that I was just happy to have been able to bird the property!

On the way down to the boardwalk, Chuck filled me in on what was going on on the property. The Nature Conservancy has been working hard to improve that habitat on this preserve. One of the major improvements they have made is a fence that keeps out most of the introduced mammals. Feral pigs were one of the biggest threats to the preserve because they can clear large amounts of undergrowth in a very short time period. Once the fence was built, a team of hunters was hired to come in and eliminate all of the pigs that were in the fenced area. The plan worked perfectly, and on a recent survey by the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, they found no evidence of any pigs on the preserve!

Just before we arrived at the boardwalk, Chuck suggested that we stop and wait for a few minutes to see if an 'Akohekohe (Crested Honeycreeper) would come in to a tree that was in bloom. After only about 3 minutes, two 'Akohekohe flew in and started foraging in the flowers. They flew off rather quickly but we decided to wait a few minutes to see if they would return. It didn't take long, and this time they stuck around long enough for me to get a couple of photos!

My first shot of 'Akohekohe. The lighting was very tough so it is not a great shot, but it's still a very awesome bird!

A slightly better shot of the 'Akohekohe. It is still blurry, but the lighting was much better.
After getting our fill of these two individuals, we started down the boardwalk. It is really amazing how lush the forest is along the boardwalk. There were 'Apapane singing everywhere, more 'I'iwi than I knew existed in one place, and plenty of 'Amakihi and 'Alauahio.

The Boardwalk
During our time on the boardwalk, we believe that we found at least 8 individual 'Akohekohe, but this is a conservative number and it's likely that there were even more!

One more 'Akohekohe shot.
Waikamoi was the birding highlight of my entire trip to Hawaii, and I really cannot express how amazing it is to have the chance to see birds like the Kiwikiu and 'Akohekohe that are among the rarest birds in the world. They are both listed as Critically Endangered on ICUN's Red List and face a serious threat of extinction. The most unfortunate fact is that this is not uncommon among Hawaiian birds. Would you believe that we have had bird species go extinct in the United States within the last 10 years? It's terrible but true. As one example, the Po'ouli was last seen in 2004, and it's almost certain that this species has been lost forever.

After I finish up my posts on my adventures in Hawaii, I will be writing a post about the conservation efforts that are going on in Hawaii and what you can do to help!

-Rob

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