Category Archives: June 2018

Rosy wolfsnail

Rosy Wolfsnail

The rosy wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea) is a voracious predator. It devours other snails and slugs, and because of this trait, it was introduced into Hawaii in 1955 to control the numbers of invasive African land snails. Unfortunately, the African land snail grows to a very large size and, when it gets that big, the rosy wolfsnail wants nothing to do with it.

Instead, the rosy wolfsnail took a liking to the much smaller indigenous snails and proceeded to wreak havoc on their numbers. It’s now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of the top 100 worst invasive alien species in the world.

Spathoglottis orchid

Spathoglottis orchid

Spathoglottis orchid flowersThis spathoglottis orchid is probably spathoglottis picata, though it could be spathoglottis kimballiana. This one was at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which lists the kimballiana but not the picata in their plant database. However, that database doesn’t list all their plants, so it’s not conclusive. The closest images I found online looked more like the spathoglottis picata.

Bottom line is that it’s a beautiful flower whatever its exact name (but I’m always open to help in getting the correct identification for plants or anything else on the blog).

For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to htbg.com.

Your tax dollars at rest

Sikorsky CH 53E Super Stallion helicopter at Upolu Airport

I was out on one of my usual coast walks when I heard the thrumming of engines. I looked up to see a pair of military helicopters heading west. I see a lot of helicopters on my walks, sometimes military ones, but more often those on tours.

I kept walking but, as they sometimes do, the helicopters turned and came in to land at Upolu Airport. This wasn’t unusual. Military aircraft often land at the lightly used airstrip. I’d have carried on, but the two aircraft had come to rest a little way above where I was walking. All I could see of them was their rotors turning, though I could hear plenty; helicopters are loud.

Anyway, I thought the situation had some photographic potential so I edged toward the airport fence and took some shots – not too interesting as it turned out. Still, I knew that when military craft touch down here, they only tend to stick around for a few minutes before taking off again. I thought these large helicopters rising above the vegetation might be interesting, so I waited, punishing my ears in the process.

Five minutes passed, then 10. I started to get antsy. What were they up to? I waited another five minutes or so and then I saw one of the crewmen through a gap in the vegetation, walking on the runway from the second helicopter to the first. Now it was possible he was returning to his aircraft prior to takeoff and I just hadn’t noticed him going the other way, but I figured if the crew were wandering around on foot, chances were that nothing was going to happen any time soon. I put away my camera and started walking again.

At this point in the story, one might expect that both helicopters to take of and collide in a flash of flame, or a UFO comes down and lands between them, but no. I walked a bit and turned around in time to see the rotors on the second helicopter turning slower and slower on their way to stopping. Something was wrong.

I kept going and several minutes later there was a surge in noise and the first helicopter rose up, made a sharp curve through the air, and headed off toward Oahu. I didn’t get a photo of this in part because I was looking directly into the sun and in part because it was halfway to Honolulu before I reacted.

Instead, I finished my walk and saw that the second helicopter was still sitting forlornly at the far end of the runway (something of a hazard for anyone else wanting to land there). So I drove my truck down the road and parked opposite the helicopter. I didn’t see anyone in it, but the doors were open and I didn’t think it had been abandoned. I was tempted to yell across asking if they needed a gallon of gas, but restrained myself, aware that such a craft was probably bristling with machine guns. Instead, I took these photos and left.

Later that evening, not long after dark, I heard that thrumming again and next day the runway was empty so I assume that whatever had gone wrong had been fixed.

The helicopter is a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion operated by the U.S. Marine Corps who have a base at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu. It’s used for heavy-lift transport and I think it was a couple of these craft that were stationed in Hilo recently in case people needed to be evacuated from the region threatened by the current lava flow in Puna.

Sikorsky CH 53E Super Stallion helicopter

 

What a day for a day octopus

Day Octopus

Day Octopus on the moveThe trick to spotting an octopus is to see it in motion. I’ve seen one or two when they’ve been stationary, but only by accident, watching something else and realizing that there was something slightly odd about that ‘rock’ next to it.

When I do see an octopus, one of the first things I tend to notice is the siphon and the outdated facial recognition software that is my brain thinks, ‘that’s an eye.’ Except it isn’t.

In the top photo, the eyes of this day octopus can be seen at the highest point of the view. The siphon, orange on the outside and white inside, is below and a little to the right. The siphon, also known as the funnel or hyponome, is used for respiration, waste disposal, and discharging ink. It’s also used for locomotion. Water is taken in through the aperture around the siphon and then expelled out of the siphon, propelling the octopus in the opposite direction.

The bottom photo shows the octopus changing its coloration. They can change their color and texture to blend in with their surroundings. The photo on the right shows the octopus saying ‘I’ve had enough of this. Arrivederci.’

Day Octopus on a rock

Large orange sulphur butterflies mating

Large Orange Sulphur Butterflies mating

While on a hike south of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, I saw this pair of large orange sulphur butterflies. They were flying around, joined together, before settling on this seed pod. I assume they were mating, though this discrete view is the only one I had of them.

To see what was going on on the other side would have involved thrashing around in some nasty-looking brush. This would have added to the usual assortment of lacerations that I seem to acquire on a daily basis, and would undoubtedly have caused the butterflies to take to the air again. So I let them be.

Northern pintails

A pair of northern pintails take a dip in a puddle at Upolu Airport. Northern pintails migrate to Hawaii in the winter, in large numbers in former times, but fewer these days.

These are both drakes just starting to molt out of eclipse or juvenile plumage. Alas, they didn’t stick around the area long enough for me to see them in their splendid adult plumage.

Thanks to posters on birdforum.net for the identification and information.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Tourist.’ See more responses here.

Signs: Green Sand Beach

Near the end of a hike to Papakōlea Beach, better known as Green Sand Beach, there’s this old sign. I think it reads, ‘Welcome to Mahana Bay green sand beach. Please do not take the sand. There is only so much and if everybody that came here takes it, well! soon there will be none. Thank you.’

What I liked was that the only parts that could reasonably be read were, ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank you.’ The rest I had to decipher with the help of Photoshop when I got home.