Many of the Pacific golden plovers around here are all decked out in their summer finery, ready for the journey to their breeding grounds in Alaska.
Kiholo Bay sits midway between Kailua Kona and Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island. There are two main access points to the bay. One is via a gravel road south of the Kiholo Scenic Overlook on the main highway. This road takes you down to Kiholo State Park Reserve where there’s a campground and access to the beaches. I usually go that way, but on my last visit I wanted to try the hike from the main road.
There’s an unmarked parking area north of the scenic overlook. From there it’s about a mile to the coast, along a dirt and gravel road. This passes through scrubby trees where it’s likely goats will be encountered. They’re abundant in this area. The private property alongside the road is well marked, as is the public trail through to the beach. This trail comes out near a funky building decorated with things the tide washed in.
I headed to the right, along the beach towards Wainanali’i lagoon. There are a couple of houses along here, a palm-circled pool, and usually a canoe or two under the trees. Beyond the houses, a small bridge traverses a channel which connects the ocean to Wainanali’i fish pond. This is believed to have been built by King Kamehameha I, as part of an extensive fish collection and farming operation in the bay.
A bit farther along, a blue Kiholo Bay Fisheries Management Area sign marks where the trail forks. To the right, inland, it follows the old King’s Trail to Keawaiki. To the left, it hugs the shoreline heading north alongside Wainanali’i lagoon (top photo). The trail is loosely marked with white coral and/or cairns, but it’s not vital to follow them. I stick to the shoreline.
The lagoon is the remnant of a much larger fishpond, which was around 2 miles across and protected by a 20-foot wide lava rock wall. Much of it was destroyed by a lava flow from Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Today, the lagoon is a prime area for seeing green turtles. They haul out on a rocky island marking the mouth of the lagoon and on the spit that separates it from the ocean. This is where they rest so it’s important not to get too close and disturb them. I also usually see turtles in the water. They putter along the edge in blue-green water, which can give them a wavy appearance. Small fish are abundant here and are often seen.
Once at the head of the lagoon I watched humpback whales splashing and slapping offshore. It’s possible to walk down the spit (not disturbing the turtles), and if it’s calm you can wade or swim across the lagoon entrance back to the trail. Following the coast northwards will take you to Keawaiki, but I retraced my steps until I got back to where I first reached the coast. Then I carried on along the beach.
The waves were rolling in, good news for surfers. The beach here is sandy and vegetation borders it. If the tide’s in a bit of paddling is required. On the other side of this, some private houses border the beach including the Bali House and a sprawling, yellow structure.
Farther along, behind the beach, is Keanalele waterhole, also known as Queen’s Bath. This is a collapsed lava tube, filled with a mix of freshwater and saltwater, where it’s possible to take a dip in the manor of Hawaiian royalty of yesteryear. The parking area for Kiholo State Park Reserve, back in the trees, is followed by the Loretta Lynn house and the campground.
Here, along with several places along the walk, a fair number of birds can be seen including black-crowned night herons, wandering tattlers, Pacific golden plovers, yellow-billed cardinals, and northern mockingbirds.
The southern end of the park is marked by Waia’elepi anchialine pool. Anchialine pools form in volcanic rock and are connected underground to the ocean. The water is brackish, but the pools can be home to a wide variety of species. I saw goats drinking here as well as a variety of birds and insects flying about.
From there, I headed back to the car on the gravel road which parallels the coast and connects to the trail I came down on. My walk was about 5 or 6 miles, but I took more than 4 hours to cover that distance since I do tend to stop a lot!
This Pacific golden plover is all dressed up with somewhere to go, and that somewhere is the Arctic. These birds overwinter in Hawaii, and elsewhere, before heading north to their summer nesting grounds. But before they go, they lose their usual pale front for this snappy look. Not quite top hat and tails, but awfully close.
Posted in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Top.’ See more responses here.
Kohanaiki Beach Park, north of Kailua Kona, is a favorite spot for surfers. But at the south end of the park, the focus switches to history.
There’s a hālau, Ka Hale Waʽa, which is used for teaching Hawaiian crafts and culture. There’s a garden which grows the same kind of plants brought over by the first Polynesian settlers. And there’s a Hawaiian star compass, a 17-foot diameter recreation showing how the Polynesians used to navigate the vast open spaces of the Pacific Ocean.
The top photo show shows the compass. The middle photo shows a plaque, which explains the basics of how it works, using the points of the compass, the sun, nighttime celestial bodies and the ocean swells. I won’t go into detail here, but more information can be found here, here, and here. Below, the setting of the compass, with a Pacific golden plover walking on it. I like this shot because the plover is said to be the reason Polynesians discovered Hawaii. Each year, plovers summer in Alaska and then fly south as far as New Zealand. It is said that the Polynesians noted this small bird’s annual journey back and forth and figured there must be land somewhere to the north, so they set out in their canoes to find it.
Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Round.’ See more offerings here.
This Pacific golden plover seemed unimpressed by the surfers going back and forth in the bay behind it. Instead, it focused on tidying its plumage and making sure everything was in order.
This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Autumn,’ (more responses here) which poses a bit of a challenge. In Hawaii, we don’t have leaves turning color or a certain crispness in the air. But what we do have at this time of year is migratory birds coming to the islands.
One of the more impressive of these travelers is the Pacific golden plover. These birds spend the summer, their breeding season, in the Arctic tundra from western Alaska to northern Asia. At the end of the season they make an epic migration south to places as far away as Australia, Southeast Asia, and northeast Africa.
Hawaii is a stopover on their way to Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific islands, but some of the birds spend their winters in Hawaii. This is a non-stop journey of more than 2,500 miles and takes the birds three to four days. How they do this is not fully understood. There are no landmarks or stopping points en route and no room for errors in navigation. But year after year, Pacific golden plovers return precisely to the same sites. Not only that, but new born plovers are able to make the journey independently despite never having flown the route before.
Then there’s the small matter of how this little bird fuels itself for such a long flight. There’s a fine balance between the amount of fuel it must carry and the need to fly fast. But even if it gets this right, the fact is an individual plover still wouldn’t be able to go that far. The secret lies in the birds flying in a V-formation which saves enough energy for the birds to make the whole distance with a little bit to spare to cover adverse conditions. It’s a remarkably precise balance which the birds manage successfully year after year.
This plover was foraging (successfully in the top photo) in tide pools along the Kona coast.
For more information about the Pacific golden plover’s migration to Hawaii, go to https://phys.org/news/2011-06-plovers-tracked-pacific.html.
A while ago I did a week’s worth of posts in response to a WordPress photo challenge on the theme of ‘evanescent.’ I thought I’d take a similar approach to this week’s theme, ‘transient,’ which is basically a synonym of evanescent.
Migrating birds are transient, in that they spend time in one area where they breed before moving to regular wintering grounds. The Pacific golden-plover is one such bird. After wintering in Hawaii, these birds fly north to spend May, June, and July at breeding grounds in the Arctic. Not only that, but this is one bird that dresses for the occasion! Normally, a mostly brown bird with flecks of yellow (as seen here), its summer plumage takes on this splendid black and white frontage.