Tag Archives: Birds

Ocean, sky, clouds, and noddys

Yesterday, I was processing photos I’d taken over the past few days. When I saw this one, I thought, ‘I could have used that on Sunday,’ when responding to the Sunday Stills challenge theme of ‘Sky’ (more responses here), and Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective’ (more responses here).

Usually, when I’m in the water, my focus is on spotting fish. But I also look around with my head above water and, one morning, I saw this flock of Hawaiian noddys wheeling back and forth over the ocean. Just after I took this photo, they flew directly overhead before gliding away to the south.

Northern mockingbird

The northern mockingbird arrived in Hawaii in 1928 and is quite common now. It is most easily seen when it perches at the top of a tree and sings, as in the photo to the left. Later, this one descended into the heart of a kiawe tree where it looked out from the tangle of branches and thorns.

Stampede

When I’m out walking I often pass fields of cattle. In general they either stare dolefully or run off when I look at them. Recently though, I was walking alongside one field and, at my appearance, the cattle ran to one side of the field, formed a group and then thundered down the hill toward me. When they got close, they did a U-turn and shot back up the hill.

Next day they did the same thing, but this time instead of the U-turn they stopped just across the hedge from me and stared. All the running about had stirred up the cattle egrets that invariably accompany them and that’s when I took this photo. I particularly like the devilish horns of the one animal peering out from the crowd.

I moved on and the cattle followed. We repeated this a couple of times before they decided they’d had enough.

On the third day, my appearance provoked only dull stares. Obviously the thrill of my presence had gone.

Palila

This week’s posts are on the theme of the WordPress photo challenge, ‘Tour Guide.’

A myriad of unique species evolved on these isolated islands. Many have disappeared, victims of other species introduced willfully or accidentally, decimated by new-to-them diseases, or simply displaced by the relentless encroachment of humans.

Of those that still survive, many are under great threat. However, there are success stories. Nēnē, the state bird, have come back from almost nothing and are doing well. Some ‘amakihi appear to have developed resistance to avian malaria, and ‘alalā, the Hawaiian crow, have recently been reintroduced into the wild in small numbers in an attempt to reestablish a wild population.

The palila is another endemic species that is rebounding with a little help. It is the only one of 16 finch-billed honeycreepers still in existence. It used to live on the islands of O’ahu, Kaua’i and Hawai’i. Today it exists only on Hawai’i, the Big Island. Even here, it’s habitat, which once covered the māmane forests of Mauna Kea, Hualali and Mauna Loa, has been reduced to a small area on the southwestern slopes of Mauna Kea.

The palila is a specialist feeder and this is one of the reasons it’s in trouble. It feeds mostly on immature seeds of the māmane, but māmanes have been badly affected by agricultural expansion and by grazing by wild sheep and goats.

The Palila Forest Discovery Trail is an area that has been fenced off and is protected from these threats. I’d been up there several times (four-wheel drive required) but had never caught so much as a glimpse of a palila. One of the reasons for their elusiveness is that palilas follow their food. Māmane flowers at different times depending on the elevation, so palila move up and down the hillside as the flowers bloom and the seeds reach the state they prefer.

Last time I was up there, however, my luck changed. I was taking photos of a moth when something flashed by just above me. I looked round and sitting on a nearby branch was a palila (I’m not a birder, but they’re quite distinctive.).

I quickly snapped a few photos, desperate to get some kind of record of this elusive bird before it disappeared. I needn’t have worried. It seemed unconcerned by my presence and was soon joined by several others. What was most striking was their feeding habit. A palila would pluck a green seed pod and take it to another branch. Once it was settled, the reason for its it stocky bill became apparent. It absolutely hammered at the pod, pinning it to the branch and banging away with its beak to access the seeds. The image of a workman smashing concrete with a pneumatic drill popped into my mind.

For half an hour or so I got to watch them at work. They seemed much like other birds I see — lively, healthy, a thriving group. But looking around, it was a sobering thought to realize I could see all their habitat, containing all that is left of an entire species.

For more information about palila and the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/restoremaunakea/palila-forest-discovery-trail/.

For more information about birding on the Big Island, go to http://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/.

Birds bathing in a pond at Place of Refuge

Birds bathing

Birds bathing in a pond at Place of RefugeBirds bathing in a pond at Place of Refuge

Two Japanese white-eyes and a yellow-billed cardinal take a dip in one of the ponds at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, also known as Place of Refuge. The ponds are very popular with birds and it’s a good spot to sit and watch them for a while.

For more information about Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm.

Birds bathing in a pond at Place of Refuge

Zebra doves grooming

Another post based on the theme of this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, which is ‘Silence.’

Silence is probably the last thing anyone would associate with zebra doves. They’re seen everywhere and their continuous calls are one of the staples of the morning chorus.

Outside the house though is a mock orange, which has a branch that catches the late afternoon sun. Zebra doves like to sit on this branch and bask in the sunshine. Sometimes there’s just one, sometimes a pair, sometimes a family.

These two took the opportunity to engage in a little grooming while they were there, the one helping take care of those hard-to-reach places for the other. And the whole time, nary a peep out of either of them, which is the way all of them are, in this spot, at that time of day. It’s quite a contrast from their morning calls.