The first birthday I had after Tom and I had been dating, he took me on a very romantic trip to the San Juan Islands. It was wonderful: we stayed at a historic B&B near Friday Harbor, and went sea kayaking. I felt I had to top it for his birthday. So, I decided to take him to Hawaii for a few days. He had never been to Hawaii, and I had never been as an adult, so this was going to be very romantic.
Of course, I then noticed a little guidebook on birdfinding in Hawaii. That was intriguing. I found all these cool spots to go to look for birds, but they were spread across all four major islands! Hmm...
I decided to plan the trip around Maui and the Big Island, and stop at Pearl Harbor on the way back. (Tom loves all things military.) Later on, though, I began to read the book further, and decided that even though Tom didn't want to see Kauai, there were several great potential birds there...
We arrived in Mauai, and as should be no surprise by now, the first bird I saw was a... Common Mynah ! We drove down to our condo in Kihei, booked a snorkeling tour for the next afternoon, and I was already pouring over the map of Haleakala, plotting to squeeze in a birding trip for the next morning.
We got up pretty early (Tom was so tolerant), and headed up to the volcano. We drove all the way up to the summit without seeing much of anything (except for a spectacular view), and found a sign indicating that this was where Hawaiian Petrels nest. Unfortunately, this wasn't breeding season.
On the drive down, we did spot some Chukars and a Ring-necked Pheasant. At Hosmer Grove, near the park entrance, we took a little walk around the loop trail by the parking lot, and I was finally rewarded with five lifebirds: Common Amakihis, Apapanes, a few Maui Creepers, a Japanese White-eye , and an I'iwi, posing perfectly in a flowering tree opposite a viewing platform. That bird was so red, it was almost blinding!
In the afternoon, we met up with a boat tour to go snorkeling at Molokini. On the way out, we kept passing Humpback Whales, left and right! At most places, this would have been a "whale-watching tour". Here, "whale-watching" was just sitting somewhere, looking at the ocean!
When we got to the atoll, I was a bit apprehensive about swimming in admittedly shark-infested waters. But, remembering the lessons learned in Australia , I decided to plunge right in. It was unbelievable: There were fish of every color: yellow, red, blue, green,... The shark was a Pacific Reef-Shark, hardly a threat to anyone. There was even a sea turtle swimming around the coral!
The next day, I decided to investigate Kanaha Pond, a little wetlands area by the airport. This was home to the Hawaiian Stilt . I'm not sure what the status of this species is now (if it is a species, or sub-species of the Black-necked Stilt), but it was a bird unique to Hawaii, and I was interested to see it.
We found the ponds very easily, and it didn't take long at all to find the birds: they were flying around and calling loudly, so we noticed them even before we got to the observation area. We also noticed some Pacific Golden Plovers, Lesser Scaup, Hawaiian Coots, and a Black-crowned Night Heron lurking in the reeds! My first thought was that some of these birds were migrants... How incredible that they could have flown all this way, over open ocean, and how lucky they were that there was land, much less a wetlands, here at all!
I had designed this trip partially to find as many birds as possible, and that meant we would have to leave Maui after only three magical days, and fly to our next destination: Kona.
The Big Island
We arrived in Kona the following afternoon, and picked up our rental car. We were then informed that we could not take the car up Saddle Creek Road. This was disappointing, since I was hoping to drive up there to try and find Palilas and Akiapola'aus, two Big Island endemics. It probably was for the best, though, since the following day would be Tom's birthday, and he would not be too happy to drive for hours on a gravel road to look at a couple of green "tweety birds" (as he called them). He would be much happier on the beach.
Then we arrived at the hotel, and took a look at the beach: It was around ten square feet of white sand, surrounded by black lava. Tom agreed to take a drive with me instead.
We decided to go to Volcanoes National Park, and (hopefully) look at the lava flows. It was a great drive. Every so often, we would stop a view point, and look at the whales spouting in the distance. I even spotted a Hawaiian Hawk circling overhead. We also stopped at a Kealakekua Historical Park, which was a beautiful oceanside park, and a sacred site to the native Hawaiian people. I saw a Saffron Finch there, as well as a Wandering Tattler sitting on the black lava beach.
After a long drive, we finally arrived at the park, and discovered... the road was closed. It was covered with lava! Well, that figured.
We took a brief hike in the scrubby uplands, and I did see a few Amakihis, but as we were driving home, I suddenly I got sick. I was flat on my back for the remainder of the drive! Still, I insisted that we go out to dinner for Tom's birthday. A word of caution: it's not a great idea to have a Margarita when you're sick and dehydrated. I ended up singing and playing "We Will Rock You" on the rental car's automatic locks.