Category Archives: May 2020

Alien cloud

This vary strange looking cloud formation appeared one day atop the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It hung around there for a long time before suddenly disappearing into space. No, not really. Instead, the lower level clouds continued to build and eventually obscured the view of the alien cloud. All very mysterious.

Silk oak flowers

Silk oaks (Grevillea robusta) come from Australia’s east coast, but are well established here. Rather too well actually. They’re fast growers and can outcompete native species, in particular ohia trees. In some places, silk oaks will have their trunks ringed to kill the tree in order to give those native species a better chance of survival.

At this time of year, silk oaks are blooming and their orange flowers put on a brilliant display. They look like giant toothbrushes, or rather groups of flowers look like that, for the toothbrushes are made up of many individual flowers. The flowers themselves are popular with birds, bees and other insects, but both the flowers and wood can cause allergic reactions so have to be handled with caution.

Watching from the shadows

I was taking photos of birds in the yard – northern cardinals, Japanese white-eyes, and saffron finches – when I noticed that I wasn’t the only one watching them intently. A neighbor’s black cat was following their every move, until it realized that it wasn’t the only one doing that. Then it turned its stare on me.

Long-tailed blue butterfly

The long-tailed blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus) is believed to have been accidentally introduced to Hawaii in the 1880s. Accidental or not, it wasn’t a good thing. Its common name, bean butterfly, gives a clue as to the problem. It damages a wide variety of bean and pea plants, both domestic and commercial.

These photos were taken on the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The plant is Vigna marina or beach pea, an indigenous plant that grows well in the harsh, exposed coastal area that the trail passes through.

Ring-necked ducks and lesser scaup

I saw a little group of ducks on a small reservoir near Hapuna. Most are ring-necked ducks, the bird on the right in the top photo being a male, and the two birds on the left below, being females. The odd one out is the bird on the left in the top photo and on the right below. That’s a female lesser scaup.

According to my bird book, a small number of lesser scaups migrate to Hawaii every year, but ring-necked ducks are considered uncommon visitors.

Thanks to for help with the identification of the female lesser scaup.