Tag Archives: Francolins

A new route up Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a

A view of PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii
Williwilli flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a is a cinder cone on the slopes of Hualalai volcano. The name means “many-furrowed hill,” and it’s a place I like to walk at least once a year, but it had been a while since I was up there. Usually, I go there in the spring when Jacarandas and other flowers are blooming. I also try to go in the early morning, since the area tends to cloud up during the day and the wonderful views become obscured.

A couple of weeks ago I made a late decision to do the hike again since the weather looked unusually good. I got there around 2pm and it will come as no surprise that I spent the first 15 minutes of the hike taking photos of Williwilli flowers on a tree about 20 feet from where I parked! (More of those in a few days.)

Silk oak flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

The trail follows an old road up the hill past Silk Oak trees, at the tail end of their flowering and sporting a deep red hue I hadn’t seen before. Turn around, and there are good views of Maui to be had. The old road peters out near an old blockhouse, now lacking doors and windows, which offers shelter to livestock on the ranch here. Off to one side is an old quarry, which cuts into the side of the hill. Usually there are goats in this area, but I didn’t see any on this day. Farther up is what’s left of Tamaki Corral, which dates back around 100 years.

Not far after the corral, the trail climbs steeply toward the top. This was where I found a change in the trail. Whereas before the trail was an out-and-back up a steep slope to the top, now a loop has been created. I took this new option to the top where, on this remarkably clear late afternoon, I had great views of Maui, Kohala Mountain, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai. A new sign at the top welcomes hikers to the nearly 4,000 foot summit, and there’s a survey marker at the top riddled with holes, not from gunfire, but to let the wind blow through. There are also a couple of benches where one can sit a while enjoying the views (weather permitting). The hike is steep in places, but not difficult, though not everyone makes it back alive!

I followed the old trail back down and ran into several sheep, which have the run of the land up here, as the sun dipped behind the ridge.

One other difference I noticed with this afternoon hike was the proliferation of birds. There were large numbers of finches, mostly Saffron Finches flitting about, preparing to roost for the evening. Yellow-fronted Canaries were all over the tree tobacco flowers. I also saw, and heard, several Erckel’s Francolins doing their usual fine job of blending in with the vegetation.

And as I walked back down the hill towards my car, the late afternoon sun still shone, illuminating grasses alongside the trail.

Grasses on PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Posted for Jo’s Monday Walk. See more walks here.

Black Francolin

A Black Francolin in Hawaii
A Black Francolin in Hawaii

There are three kinds of francolins that can be found in Hawaii. In the 10 years I’ve lived here I’ve seen and photographed lots of Gray Francolins, the most common and loudest of the bunch. I’ve also got several photos of Erckel’s Francolins, which are noticeably larger than the other two. But though I’ve seen a fair number of Black Francolins, which have distinctive markings, I’ve never got a photo of one before.

It’s not that they’re rare – I see them fairly regularly – but I only ever seem to see them while I’m driving. By the time I stop the car, grab the camera, and get out, the francolin is long gone.

But last week, while I was at work, I looked out of the window and saw this bird ambling across what passes for a lawn here. I snagged my camera, ran outside and started taking photos. In the top one, the bird is about to leave the open area and head into scrubby grassland. It gave me the eye at a couple of points, and then headed away and out of sight. And, yes, the brown stalks are grass. This area gets very little rainfall, and it’s been exceptionally dry here as well.

A Black Francolin in Hawaii

Four Grey Francolins

Two adult grey francolins with two chicks in Hawaii

There are four Grey Francolins in this photo. Two are obvious, and a third fairly clear, but I didn’t notice the fourth until I was processing the photo and looking closely at it.

I first saw this batch of francolins driving home from work. They were in the road and I stopped while the adults ran off. I was about to start moving again when I noticed a tiny lump in the road ahead. A small rock? A lump of dirt? Turned out it was a baby francolin, about three inches high. My pause allowed it to rejoin it’s parents and, tiny legs or not, that sucker could run!

All kinds of backyard birds

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Backyard Birding.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

Almost all the birds I see in the backyard are fairly common, but no less interesting for that.

Dawn chorus

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.

Gray francolin and chick

A gray francolin and it’s chick blend in well with the scrubby grassland they inhabit. Life is hard for the chicks of any bird on the island. Mongooses and rats are an ever-present menace as are cats, such as the one on the left, eyeing a potential meal.

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/.

Bold gray francolin

Gray Francolin

Gray Francolin headGray francolins are a favorite bird of mine, not for their loud and raucous call, especially early in the morning, but for their goofy behavior.

They blend in very well in dry, grassy surroundings. I often encounter them when one or more loses it’s nerve and shoots out from cover, which leaves me as startled as the francolin. Sometimes they’ll fly out, but more frequently they take off running. When this happens alongside a fence the bird will run along, pausing occasionally to probe for an escape route, with me calling after it, ‘You can fly you know.’ If it doesn’t find a hole in the fence it will eventually take off, but it’s as if they’ve all been told they can only take off 20 times in their lifetime.

The gray francolin in these photos neither ran nor flew. It stood its ground quite boldly, making sure to keep a sharp eye on me as I edged past trying not to alarm it. When I’d done so it wandered off through the grass looking quite pleased that it hadn’t used one of its 20 airborne escapes.