Tag Archives: Hawaiian Monk Seals

A marked monk seal pup

I posted here about seeing the monk seal Hiwahiwa on the coast below Upolu. In that post I noted that Hiwahiwa, the only monk seal pup born around the Big Island in 2020, had no tags or markings of any kind.

Some time after that sighting I saw this monk seal in the same general area. Since the seal was on the small size I figured it could be Hiwahiwa, but it didn’t move so I couldn’t even be sure if it was male or female. I reported the sighting to Ke Kai Ola, which tracks monk seals, and got the response that it probably was Hiwahiwa. They noted the line circling his body in front of the flippers and, while they can’t say with certainty how he got the scar, it’s believed he got entangled in some fishing line.

So now I have a way of identifying him and, of course, haven’t seen him since. The scar doesn’t seem to have bothered him and, like most monk seals, he looks quite contented while resting. The markings on him are where he’s been splashed by waves, the darker skin being wet and smooth.

Posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.

Monk seal dreaming

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Dreams.’ See more responses here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out walking along the coast and saw a monk seal I didn’t recognize. As I usually do when I see monks seals, I took photos in an attempt to identify it. Many Hawaiian monk seals have numbered red tags in one or both tail flippers. Some have been bleached with an identifying mark, though this lasts no more than a year as it will disappear when the seal has its annual molt. Some have scars of one kind or another that help with identification. This seal had none of those things.

Its most distinctive feature, apart from being a bit on the small side, was that it was restless. As soon as I saw it twitching and rolling and flexing its flippers I thought it looked like the seal was having a dream of some kind. It finally rolled over completely, in the process opening its eyes and noticing me, up on the cliff, taking photos. No matter. The seal ended up on its belly and found a good spot to rest its chin and drift back into slumber and that rather good dream it had been enjoying.

I sent some of my photos off to Lauren, the Response and Operation Coordinator at Ke Kai Ola, who keeps track of the whereabouts of monk seals around the Big Island. She said the seal was most likely Hiwahiwa (meaning a person or thing greatly beloved). He was the only monk seal pup born on the island this year, back in April. Because of the Covid virus, the shorelines were closed at that time, so access was very limited. This also meant that the pup didn’t get tagged, which explained his lack of identifying marks.

I haven’t seen him since, but a week later I saw another seal I didn’t recognize. That one turned out to be Hiwahiwa’s mother so maybe they bumped into each other again somewhere along the coast.

For more information about Ke Kai Ola and Hawaiian monk seals, go to www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii.

Also posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

Molted monk seal

A couple of days ago, I saw this monk seal resting on the shore below Upolu Airport. It turned out to be RA20, the same seal I saw there back in May (bottom photo). In the interim, she had obviously molted and looked very shiny and clean. Pre-molt monks seals look quite ratty and green, particularly around the flippers and head. After a molt, they look sleek and silvery as this one does.

Monk seals molt about once a year and it is a process that can take 10 days or so. During this time the seal will generally remain on the beach or rocks where it has hauled out.

Monk seal resting

When I first saw this monk seal on the North Kohala coast a couple of days ago, I thought it was IO5. He’s the seal I see most often in this part of the island. But as I got closer, I saw this one was a female. I took photos, including some of the red ID tag. I wasn’t sure if, at that distance, I’d be able to read it, but luckily I could make out ‘A2’ in a couple of photos. There was space after the ‘2’ as if a number had rubbed off, so I wondered if this was RA20, the monk seal who raised pups on a Kona beach in 2018 (here and here) and 2019 (here and here).

I sent the photos to the Big Island Hawaiian monk seal response network, which tracks the movements and welfare of the monk seals. They confirmed this was RA20 and was the first sighting of her since she was released from Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital after suffering from a bacterial infection. The hospital’s veterinarians think RA20 recently lost a pregnancy and that the infection may have caused, or resulted from, the loss.

The good news is that she certainly appeared healthy and in good shape when I saw her.

For more information about Hawaiian monk seals and Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital, go to www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii.

Upolu

I call this spot Fran Point since that’s the name on the cross in this photo. Here, a rainbow arches over the coast and the surf rolling in.
An endangered Hawaiian monk seal rests in a tide pool along the rocky shoreline.
A monarch butterfly on a tasselflower.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Favorite Place.’ See more offerings here.

I could think of several places on the Big Island that would fall into the category of favorite place. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Palila Forest Discovery Trail, the ocean – all these are places I return to. But the coast at Upolu is where I go for exercise and to enjoy the ever-changing scene there.

This stretch of coast features scenic high cliffs interspersed with lower areas where tide pools nestle among the rocks. Often, there’s a great view of Maui across the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel. In those waters I look for humpback whales, turtles, monk seals, and once, even a passing shark. Up in the air I might see anything from plovers to noddys to great frigatebirds. On land, there’s an assortment of birds, bugs and butterflies to be seen, as well as horses, cattle, and the occasional wild pig.

Sometimes, it’s hot and dry, but usually there’s a decent breeze, occasionally strong enough to make me lean into it while blown dirt sandblasts my legs. Sometimes, I get caught in the rain, but when I do, I’m usually dry again by the time I get back to my truck.

I’ve lived here seven years now and I never tire of going down there and looping around the fenced airstrip, wondering what I’ll see.

A bristle-thighed curlew strides along the edge of the airstrip at Upolu.
A humpback whale cruises no more than 50 feet offshore. This was one of a pair that I saw just this past week. I suspect they were a male and female, with the male interested in mating before heading north to Alaska. Not only was this as close as I’ve seen whales, but it was the first time, from land, that I’ve heard a whale do anything other than blowing. In this case, the pursuing whale made a deep, two-toned mooing sound as it went by.

Favorite photos from the early days

My first decent pueo photo taken on Old Saddle Road. I noticed it on the post as I drove by, then stopped, got out, and started taking photos. The bird watched me with that intent stare that they have. (Original post here.)

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Oldie-but-Goodie or Favorite Photo.’ (See more responses here.)
This seemed like a good opportunity to run a few of my favorite photos from the first year of this blog.

Hawaiian monk seals are solitary creatures, but these two spent some weeks in each others company. On the left is the female and on the right is IO5, the male I see most often up here in Kohala. (Original post here.)
A rusty millipede casts a giant shadow.
I saw this rusty millipede crossing a dirt road in the late afternoon and liked its giant shadow. This photo ran on the BBC website here. (Original post here.)
A new born calf is cleaned by his mother.
A cow cleaning her very new calf. Another photo that ran on the BBC website here. (Original post here.)
A pair of zebra doves perch on a mock orange branch
A couple of zebra doves enjoying the late afternoon sun together. (Original post here.)
Breakfast strikes back
A personal favorite, this green anole snagged a Chinese rose beetle, but the beetle did not give up. Instead, it got itself onto the anole’s nose before escaping. The anole did not look thrilled at having this incident photographed. (Original post here.)
Finally, a photo from a hike along the coast. Colorful tide pools, blue ocean, white sand – I spent a long time traversing this stretch. (Original post here.)

Monk seal pup update

A few weeks back, I posted (here) about a new monk seal pup that had recently been born on the Big Island. I’m happy to report that the mother and pup both continue to do well.

The pup is now about six weeks old and is much closer in size to his mother than he was in the previous post. It’s likely that his mother, RA20, will soon leave him to fend for himself. She has lost a lot of weight and is also looking quite green on her head and flippers, so she will head out to feed and then to molt.

The pup’s sister, Manu’iwa, has been a regular visitor to the area, but the mother is very protective and drives her away. Once the mother leaves, it’s likely that the two siblings will spend some time together in the area. Eventually, the new pup will head out on his own and make his own way.

Manu’iwa has had a very good first year, which is often a very testing time for a new monk seal. Hopefully, the new pup will be equally successful and be another step toward boosting the endangered monk seal population to more sustainable levels.

I’m posting this in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge on the theme of ‘Posing.’ (More responses here.) The top photo in particular could easily have the caption, ‘That’s my boy.’

Monk seal and pup

Last February, I posted about a new monk seal pup being born on the island (here and here). I’m happy to report that the pup, Manu’iwa, continues to do well. Now, her mother, RA20, has returned to the same site and given birth to a new pup.

The new pup is just over two weeks old and so far the signs are good. The pup is nursing well and the mother is being very careful around it. When Manu’iwa showed up to see her new sibling, the day after it was born, RA20 quickly put a stop to the meeting. Monk seal mothers are very protective of their pups.

Mother and pup will likely spend about six weeks in the area before RA20 leaves the pup to fend for itself. During that time, she will lose weight while the pup gains and they will be a lot closer in size than they area currently.

These photos were taken in the early afternoon when the pair were resting and not much was going on. Morning is the best time to see them being active.