Tag Archives: Weather

Great frigatebirds on the wing

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

When Terri posts the Sunday Stills challenge themes for the month ahead, I usually check out what’s coming up. That way I can see what photos I have that fit the themes, or come up with ideas for what I could shoot.

When June’s themes were posted, my first thought for this one was of flying. Since the earliest of times, people have looked to the skies, watched birds, and envied their freedom of flight. Of the various birds I see here, the great frigatebird most epitomizes that freedom. These large birds cover great distances, gliding effortlessly across the sky, rarely flapping their wings but using the wind to maximum advantage.

I picked a couple of photos from my archives, expecting to use them since I hand’t seen any frigatebirds for many weeks. But a couple of days later, I saw one, though I didn’t get any good photos. That’s the other thing about these birds: they seem to have a knack for sneaking up on me, so that I usually notice them disappearing into the distance.

Over the next week or two, I saw a few more birds in similar situations. Then, one day, as I neared the coast below Upolu Airport, I saw a frigatebird flying into a strong wind. By the time I had my camera ready, it was again getting smaller. Still, I took photos and as I did so I saw a second bird, then a third. They continued heading east and I carried on down to the coast.

I hadn’t been there more than a couple of minutes when one of the birds shot by in front of me. It was pointing east, but heading north of west riding the stiff northeast trades that were blowing. A second followed, then a third, and a fourth that I hadn’t seen before. I expected them to quickly disappear on the wind, but once over the water, they regrouped and held their position, circling and gliding up and down. Then I noticed them edging back into and across the wind, heading my way. Slowly they came closer, still appearing to make little effort.

Eventually, the four of them passed directly overhead, the lowest maybe 20 feet above me. Almost immediately they turned and slipped back they way they came, only this time they kept going, gliding sideways in the general direction of Maui. I watched until I couldn’t see them anymore. The whole episode probably lasted no more than 15 minutes, but it seemed to last much longer.

I’m not much of a poetry buff, but these birds made me think of the opening lines of a poem called High Flight, written in 1941 by John Gillespie Magee Jr. when he was 19 and a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed in England. They read:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.

Fishing at sunrise and sunset

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Rise/Set.’ See more offerings here.

I decided to go with sunrise and sunset photos taken from more or less the same spot on Kawaihae harborside. Above, a man fishes from the end of the harbor breakwater around sunrise. Below, a fisherman seated on the shoreline at sunset, with the breakwater across the harbor in the background.

Boiling Pots

Boiling Pots is part of Hilo’s Wailuku River State Park. In this photo, the pots can just be made out through the tree in the center. It looks serene here, but it’s a dangerous spot. The river is prone to flash floods and when it’s roaring, the water in the pots looks like it’s boiling, hence the name. People have been sucked under and trapped in hidden caves and lava tubes. There are lots of warning signs, but many people still think they know better. Not all of them are right.

Powerline Trail

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

Last week, I revisited the Powerline Trail off of Saddle Road. This trail, when combined with the Pu’u O’o Trail, makes a good long loop hike. I like hiking the Pu’u O’o Trail because it passes through several kipukas (patches of old forest that have been spared by lava flows) and those kipukas have lots of birds living in them.

The Powerline Trail is a bit less interesting. There are fewer kipukas and it’s a long, exposed hike in a straight line across the lava. The reason for this can be found in the name. It follows an old 4-wheel drive road that serviced a power line that ran across the lava fields. The line is gone, but the sawn-off stumps of power poles can be seen alongside the trail (to the right of the trail in the top photo, to the left in the bottom photo).

One advantage the Powerline Trail has over the Pu’u O’o Trail can be seen in the bottom photo. This was near the end of my hike in the mid-afternoon as clouds closed in. It’s not unusual for this part of the saddle to be shrouded in thick fog and, if you happen to be out hiking in those conditions, the straight and clear Powerline Trail is much easier to follow than the Pu’u O’o Trail which, crossing the lava fields, can be hard to follow when you can’t see the cairns that mark its route.

The trail, of course, isn’t perfectly straight (though I suspect the power line was). It bumps around lava upwellings and collapsed tubes. But most of the time, one just needs to look up to see, straight ahead in the distance, the faint pale thread of the trail topping a hill or emerging from a dip in the landscape.

Alien cloud

This vary strange looking cloud formation appeared one day atop the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It hung around there for a long time before suddenly disappearing into space. No, not really. Instead, the lower level clouds continued to build and eventually obscured the view of the alien cloud. All very mysterious.

Puna Coast Trail: Apua Point

This is the third and final part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here, part 2 here).

The last part of the trail before ʻĀpua Point crosses over the only stretch of ʻaʻā lava on the trail which, as can be seen in the photo at top right, is markedly more rough and jagged than pahoehoe lava. This ʻaʻā is part of a 1969 flow from the same eruption at Mana Ulu that produced the pahoehoe lava that most of the trail passes over. The Mauna Ulu eruption lasted from 1969 to 1974.

ʻĀpua Point is like a little oasis in a bleak landscape. Flows from the Mauna Ulu eruption reached the ocean on either side of the point, but the point itself was spared. The top photo is a panoramic view of the coast, stitched together (not well) from two photos, to show the view from ʻĀpua Point’s outhouse – actually a composting toilet. This toilet also represents the sum total of the facilities for anyone thinking of camping there.

ʻĀpua Point itself is a rocky coastline jutting into the ocean. But behind this wall of rock, a sandier area hosts fields of naupaka, sea purslane, and other plant life, as seen in the photo at bottom right. Also in the background of this photo, a passing shower runs along Hōlei Pali. As I mentioned in part one of this description, the trail can be hot, wet, and windy, but for my hike, I saw moderate breezes, some overcast skies, and just a few spritzing showers.

Swimming in the ocean along this coast is very dangerous because of high surf and strong currents. But at ʻĀpua Point there are shallow pools, suitable for soaking, that are protected from the surf by a border of rocks. There are also a few small sandy beaches such as the ones in the photo below.

Besides the composting toilet, there is one other structure on ʻĀpua Point. It’s a small shed with an open covered area beside it, surrounded by naupaka and a few palm trees. This covered area represents pretty much the only shade to be found on the entire hike. The shed is used by the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project, which monitors and protects endangered hawksbill turtles which use this area for nesting. I believe the nesting season runs from May to September, so I might have to return sometime after that.

And speaking of returning, from here it was time to turn around and hike the 6.6 miles back to the car. The hike took me about 3 hours each way with, of course, numerous stops for photography and just to enjoy the views.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: Along the coast

This is the second part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here).

As the trail reaches the coast, it passes over an older flow that has a fair amount of vegetation on it. The bottom right photo shows the trail cutting through a swathe of naupaka, sourbush, and assorted grasses.

This area was, despite the threat of volcanic activity, well occupied by early Hawaiian people. Along the trail are several reminders of that including the structures below. The photo, below middle, shows the amazing abilities of plants to grow in even the most daunting locations. The roots are somewhere deep in the lava, from which the trunk of this noni snakes upward. The large, nobbly fruit can be seen on this plant. This fruit, when ripe, has a pungent aroma which supposedly smells like vomit!

The bottom photo shows an area of rocks and black sand on the coast, backed by an extensive field of naupaka. Beyond that, the trail passes close to a pair of sea arches seen in the top photo and the one at top right. This is a rugged coastline and, when the weather is rough, huge waves can crash up and over the lava. It’s also an unstable coast with rocks and sections of cliff liable to tumble into the ocean.

In the background of the top and bottom photos are the palm trees of ʻĀpua Point, which will be the focus of the third and final post about this trail, tomorrow.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.