Tag Archives: Palila Forest Discovery Trail

Signs: Heavy water

This sign guards what is presumably Hawaii’s heavy water plant, though why such a plant would be halfway up the side of Mauna Kea is a mystery. Or perhaps the sign is just a warning that it would not be a good idea to pick up the large water tank behind the sign. Either way, the sign made me smile.

Hawaii Amakihi

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.

Hualalai and clouds

Hualalai and clouds

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in my life looking up at clouds, often as they poured water in my direction, so it’s nice to look down on them once in a while. Airplanes are probably the most common place to enjoy this view, but here on the Big Island, the upper reaches of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa also offer this perspective.

In this case, the clouds were low enough that, when I was visiting the Palila Forest Discovery Trail at around 7,000 feet, the clouds blanketed the landscape below. Here, Hualalai pokes through the cloud layer in the late afternoon.

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

Palila feeding


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.

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

Civilian Conservation Corps Cabin on Mauna Kea

CCC Cabin and water tank Mauna Kea

This Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Cabin is one of seven that were built around Mauna Kea in the 1930s. The CCC was a public work relief program to create jobs during the Great Depression. It focused on the conservation of resources on government-owned lands.

The seven cabins on Mauna Kea were used by crews working on the construction of sheep-proof fencing. The goal was to remove sheep from parts of Mauna Kea in order to protect the high-elevation dry forest which was rapidly being destroyed.

This cabin is just above the Palila Forest Discovery Trail on the southwest slopes of Mauna Kea.

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

CCC Cabin Mauna Kea

Hawaii ‘elepaio

Hawaii Elepaio

Hawaii Elepaio on a branchOn the first decent day after a long spell of grey, wet weather, I headed up to the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, just off Saddle Road on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea. I figured that even if the weather let me down, it’s a drive that I enjoy, so it would be OK regardless.

However, the closer I got to my destination, the less promising it looked. When I got to the junction, where a 4-mile dirt road leads to the trailhead, I almost turned around since it seemed unlikely there would be anything to see. The mountain looked shrouded in cloud, but since it’s only a 15-minute drive and the road didn’t look too muddy or washed out, I thought I’d give it a go.

When I pulled into the deserted parking area, the sky was grey, the air was damp, but it wasn’t actively raining and the visibility was OK, so I set out on the mile-long loop trail. As usual, I could hear a fair number of birds. It’s just spotting them that’s the trick there. But there are a couple of places on the trail that seem to get a lot of action and this day was no exception, including my first photos of a Hawaii ‘elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sandwichensis).

Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii Island each have their own species of the endemic ‘elepaio, which is a member of the flycatcher family. The Big Island version is more boldly marked than the other two and this one obligingly set down in a mamane tree not too far away, affording me a decent view and the opportunity to take photos.

One tidbit that I found interesting about the bird is that when ‘elepaio were seen to frequent a given koa tree, this was a sign to canoe makers that the tree was likely insect infested and unsuitable for making a canoe.

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

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge ‘Unlikely.’

Palila Forest Discovery Trail

Palila on a branch

Palila with mamane seedI haven’t ever been a real birder, but since moving to Hawaii I’ve been more drawn to them. Because of this interest, one of my favorite places to visit on the Big Island is the Palila Forest Discovery Trail. Opened in July, 2016, this one mile loop trail passes through Mauna Kea’s unique, high-elevation dry forest.

The endangered palila (above and left, eating a mamane seed), which I posted about previously here, is the signature bird to be seen there, but there are many other kinds of birds, both native and introduced, in the area. In addition, the trail has a good variety of other wildlife from bugs to wild pigs. To top it off, the views towards Mauna Loa (below) and Maui are wonderful.

Finally, the drive to the trail goes along Old Saddle Road, which is a fun drive and a place where I often see pueos, the native Hawaiian owl, as well as wild turkeys and other birds and wildlife. All in all, a trip I never tire of making.

The Palila Forest Discovery Trail is featured on the Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Trail, a selection of sites that offer birding opportunities on the Big Island. For more information about Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Trail, go to hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/.

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

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge, ‘Favorite place’.

View of Mauna Loa from Palila trail