Ferns growing in lava

Ferns are one of the first plants to establish a foothold in lava flows. These ferns are on the northeast slope of Mauna Loa with Mauna Kea in the background.

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Erckel’s francolin

Erckel's Francolin

Erckel's Francolin closeThere are three kinds of francolin in Hawaii, the grey francolin, black francolin, and Erckel’s francolin. All are introduced game birds. Of the three, the Erckel’s francolin is the largest. It’s native to North Africa and was brought to Hawaii in 1957. It’s distinguished, not just by its size, but by its bold markings and chestnut crown.

This one was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Mongoose on the rocks

Mongoose on the rocks

A small Asian mongoose suns itself on rocks along the shoreline. The mongoose can be found in most places on the island with the exception of the higher elevations.

Footstool palm

Footstool Palm

The footstool palm (Livistona rotundifolia) is a native of South-east Asia. This one was heavy with berries.

Abstracts: Lights on the water

abstracts-lights on the ocean

When I went out to see the last lunar eclipse, I noticed these lights bobbing in the ocean just off the coast. My guess is that they belonged to people spear fishing, or possibly in kayaks or a small boat. Regardless, I liked the abstract patterns the lights made.

abstracts-lights on the water

Three volcanoes at dawn

Three volcanoes

Three of the Big Island’s volcanoes – from left, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai – seen as daylight suffuses the sky.

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

Humpback whale tail slaps

Humpback tail slap

Humpback whale tail slapThis week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Climate Change.’ (See more responses here.) Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes climate change a relevant topic. Our weather is affected, our wildlife is impacted, our food supplies could be disrupted. But I’ve chosen to picture something obvious and current – humpback whales.

I posted (here) about the decline in the number of humpbacks coming to Hawaii to breed and calve, an estimated drop of 50- to 80-percent over the last four years. I expect that decline to extend to this year’s numbers.

I’ve lived here for seven whale seasons and the drop in numbers from the first couple of years to now is visible and obvious. January through March are supposed to be the height of whale season, but the number of whales here is dropping. I spend a lot of time in the island’s prime whale viewing area and already they are few and far between.

Each year, NOAA conducts a whale count on the last Saturday of January, February, and March. Last year, at the count site I attended, we saw no whales in March – none. This was unprecedented. I wouldn’t be surprised if this month’s count repeats that result and I certainly don’t expect them to see more than two or three whales.

A conference in Honolulu last fall attributed the drop in the number of whales visiting Hawaii to warmer waters in Alaska affecting the whales’ food supply. Those waters are warming because of climate change. So what will happen? Well, my belief is that people make money off activities that cause climate change and the best/only way to change that is to make those activities less profitable or to make it more profitable to be engaged in activities that combat climate change. An alternative is to have people become less geared to making obscene amounts of money, but that, I think, is wishful thinking indeed.

In these photos, a humpback whale slaps its tail, one of several common humpback activities that are monitored during the NOAA whale counts.

Humpback tail slaps

A mackerel scad school draws attention

Mackerel Scad shoal

Mackerel Scad shoal over coralMackerel scad are schooling fish, the kind that make ‘bait balls’ which end up being decimated by large predators. They’re members of the jack family, not that this does them much good. Some of those large predators are other members of the jack family such as greater amberjacks and almaco jacks.

I came across this school not far from shore. There were probably two or three hundred fish in the school and it was fun watching them twirl and circle in harmony. They encircled me, went past and I popped out the other side. It was then I noticed they weren’t alone. One the other side of the school, a medium-sized great barracuda cruised around.

The barracuda came toward me to take a look, but I was clearly less interesting than the scad and it moved away again. The barracuda can be seen in the bottom photo. See if you can spot it.

Mackerel Scad shoal and a great barracuda