I was at the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea, when I looked up and saw this Hawai’i amakihi, a native honeycreeper. When I got home, I was happy to find that one of my photos had caught the bird in mid hop, from one branch to another.
This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Awakening.’ See more offerings here.
Around here, awakening is usually courtesy of the dawn chorus. That occurs when the birds themselves awaken and announce to the world that they made it through the night. Pretty much every bird species that lives within earshot takes part, but there are some standouts.
Roosters (above) are the traditional greeter of the new day and that’s true here, though it has to be noted that they’re equally likely to sound off at any time of the day or night. This neighborhood used to be rooster-free for several years. Then one wandered in from across the road and now there are several in the vicinity. One in particular keeps trying to make my yard part of its territory. I am resolved to prevent this.
Gray francolins (right) are smaller than roosters but might be even louder. Their call has a little wind up before soaring to full screech. It gets people’s attention at any time of day, but at 5:30 in the morning it’s more effective than mainlining caffeine.
The northern cardinal (below) is a smaller bird still but, from its typically high perch, its variety of powerfully-sung songs tend to ride over everything. But rest assured, the other birds contribute, from the red-billed leiothrix, to Japanese white-eyes, to an assortment of finches, they make sure that I’m up to greet the sunrise, whether I want to or not.
I saw this I’iwi (Drepanis coccinea) on a trail off of Saddle Road, between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. These bright red birds are native Hawaiian honeycreepers and in the old days, the feathers of the birds were collected to make cloaks for Hawaiian royalty.
The curved bill is suited for feeding on native lobelias, but a decline in those plants has seen the I’iwi adapt to feeding on other native plants including ʻōhiʻa lehua, māmane, and ohelo.
While the numbers of I’iwi are still fairly good, particularly on the Big Island and Maui, they have suffered, like other birds, from loss of habitat. In addition, They are susceptible to avian malaria, spread by mosquitoes. Consequently, I’iwi are doing better at higher elevations, such as where this photo was taken at around 6,000 feet.
Recently, I walked around the Palila Forest Discovery Trail on the slopes of Mauna Kea without seeing any palilas. The mamane seeds that they feed on were either dry and brown or just starting to form, so a return in a few weeks might bring more luck. But there were other birds flitting around, usually easier to hear than see, especially in some areas where the tangle of branches make it hard to see anything.
This endemic Hawaii Amakihi was one of them, but then it landed on part of a branch where I happened to have a clear view. I snapped two photos before it once more vanished. I like how this photo makes it looks like the bird is settled in for the long term rather than the momentary landing and take off that actually occurred.
A red-billed leiothrix perched on a branch in a kipuka on the Pu’u O’o trail off Saddle Road. A kipuka is an area of land that has been surrounded by a lava flow. Kipukas often contain older trees and other plants that are a haven for native and non-native birds and other creatures.
This leiothrix had an exceptionally red bill because it was carrying a bit of ripe thimbleberry, presumably to young birds in a nest nearby.
I’ve made a couple of recent visits to the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, on the slopes of Mauna Kea, in search of palilas, an endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper. On one of those visits I was lucky enough to see this bird.
I wrote here about the first time I saw palilas, in late 2017. Those birds were feeding on immature mamane seed pods, one of their main foods. But the bird in this photo has what I think is a naio flower in its grip. The fruits and flowers of naio, otherwise known as false sandalwood, are the other main foods of the palila.