Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Wonderful Day on the Pu'u O'o Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii

We had a beautiful day to visit one  of our favorite places on the Big Island, Pu'u O'o Trail up on Saddle Rd. Saddle Rd. intersects the two big volcanos, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and is the main road between the east and west sides of the island. 

The trail visits several kipukas, which are "islands" of old-growth forests of ohia & koa trees that were spared between lava flows. The trail crosses many of these  islands of life as it snakes through rough 'a'a lava from old volcano activity from Mauna Loa, looming above. The kipukas along the Pu'u O'o Trail are host to several species of rare and endangered endemic birds.  The elevation is above 5,800 feet, well above the avian mosquito zone so dangerous to local birds. We usually have the trail all to ourselves.

More bird species are vulnerable to extinction in Hawaii than anywhere else in the United States. Before the arrival of humans, the Hawaiian Islands supported 113 bird species unique in the world, including flightless geese, ibis, rails and 59 species of Hawaiian honeycreepers. Today, due to avian malaria, avian pox, loss of habitat and introduced predators, the remaining bird species are  on the brink of extinction.

Since the arrival of humans, 71 bird species have become extinct and 31 more are federally listed as threatened or endangered. Of these, 10 have not been see in as long as 40 years and may be extinct. Humans have introduced many bird species from other parts of the world: 43% of 157 species are not native. 

Ohia tree blossoms provide nourishment for many of the birds and can tell it had just rained before we arrived

Not too far in on the trail we were treated to the male Hawaii Amakihi...He tends to be more yellow than his greener female counterpart.
...feeding in an Ohia tree...
Along with a female Hawaii Amakihi
As we crossed a large section of lava flow we ran into a group of Yellow-fronted Canaries feeding on the grass seed...
The Yellow-fronted Canary  was introduced by humans and is thriving

We visited one of our favorite Koa Tree kipukas and....Bob heard a very different call...he went to investigate and there was a baby Akiapolaau being fed by its father!!! The Akiapolaau is a small endangered Hawaiian Honeycreeper endemic to the island of Hawaii. It occurs in wet and dry forests between 4,500 to 6,000 feet.  It forages for insects that live in the bark of native tree species and is dependent upon the koa tree. The population is thought to number around 1,200 individuals and continues to be threatened by avian diseases, introduced predators and habitat degradation. 

Adult male and juvenile Akiapolauu- the male is yellow and the juvenile is light olive green

This male Hawaii Elepaio was keeping an eye on us from nearby...the Hawaii Elepaio is considered a monarch flycatcher; personally, it reminds more of a wren. It is native to the island of Hawaii and only occurs in native forests above 2,000 feet. 

Flowering endemic flora

We saw lots of trees full of berries....more food:-)

The Omao or Hawaiian Thrush love the berries, such as seen in the photo above. They have a wonderful distinctive call that could be heard through out the forest.

More Ohia blossoms...

Our eye caught this I'iwi diving from one Ohia tree branch to another! The I'iwi feeds primarily on nectar but enjoys insects and spiders as well:-)

The World is Full of Beauty & Wonder,

Turtle & Hawk

Thursday, November 12, 2015

October Visit to Marin County

We headed to Marin to see family prior to putting our fifth-wheel in storage for a few months. The fall weather was beautiful, and we had the opportunity to visit some of our favorite places in Marin.

Our first day started with an opportunity to see a very rare visitor from distant lands! We get rare bird alerts via email from the local birding network. They reported that a Dusky Warbler had recently been banded near Redwood Creek across the road from Muir Beach. This is a rare bird from Asia!

First thing Monday morning we headed to the reported spot.  We showed up at 7:15 a.m. and immediately ran into a handful of birders that had seen the Dusky Warbler on previous mornings. They were able to share the locations that the warbler had been seen in the past few days. Luckily for us, the Dusky Warbler has a very loud call note that made it easy to track down. Also, it was the only bird that was active at that time in the was still a little chilly.  This bird was very camera shy- darting from coyote bush to coyote bush.  These are not the greatest photos but this was one skulky little warbler- we were lucky it had such a loud call note and we had a handful of great views. We wish this little bird luck in getting back on track :- )

You can see the light eyebrow....
There were a few Warbling Vireos hanging out around the Dusky Warbler that made things a little confusing at times. The Vireos are not nearly as secretive as the Dusky Warbler.
This Song Sparrow was pretending to be camera shy as well...
Fox Sparrows have a very similar call to that of the Dusky Warbler...luckily the Fox Sparrows were not up and calling until later in the morning

A beautiful early morning at Whitehouse Pool in Pt Reyes

Spider webs greeted us around every corner.....each one more beautiful and unique:-)

Song Sparrows everywhere

Fox Sparrow
This American Robin was greeting the day with its cheerful song
It had been awhile since we had seen Chestnut-backed Chickadees

Golden-crowned Sparrow
The Wrentits were there to greet us with their distinctive song:-)

A Pair of California Towhees; it seems like I usually see California Towhees in pairs versus the Spotted and Green-tailed Towhees seem to be seen alone and appear much more secretive
Bunny Rabbit (technical term)
We love Pt Reyes National Seashore....we were so lucky to have a few gorgeous clear days.

We had wonderful views of Tricolored Blackbirds....their cocked tail is one of the characteristics that helps to differentiate them from Red-winged Blackbirds. They are also typically found in large groups in cow pens...

Bob spotted this Barn Owl in the field munching....
After being absent for over 150 years, Elephant Seals have returned to the shores of Pt Reyes. The current populations range from 1,500 to 2,000 seals! What a wonderful thing!!
We spotted a number of loons out on the water but were not sure whether they were Red-throated or Pacific Loons.

We think the bird below is a Red-throated Loon

This is either a Red-throated or Pacific Loon in non-breeding plumage...any thoughts?

This is a Common Loon in transition plumage - from breeding to non-breeding
Red-breasted Nuthatch
This Common Raven landed in the tree right above our heads. It had a meal in its bill and we could hear it crunching away above us- poor little guy !

All done...
Orange-crowned Warbler
Wandering Tattler

Bob spotted this Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk (leucistic means albino)...we could not figure out what it was until it got up to fly...

White-crowned Sparrow
Brown Pelican & Ring-billed Gull
Elegant Terns have such little attitudes!
Elegant Tern, Double-crested Cormorant & Brown Pelican
Black Turnstones
Double-crested Cormorant
Female Belted Kingfisher
Song Sparrow
10 Mile Beach
A banded Red-tailed Hawk
And here is its band...

Peregrine Falcon
A Fox Sparrow digging in the dirt, looking for a snack

Stinson Beach
We have participated in counting the Snowy Plovers on Stinson Beach for the past 5 years. We were looking to see if we could find the group of Snowy Plovers that we usually have on the beach to find any birds with bling (otherwise known as bands).....they were tucked in their depressions in the sand...
All of a sudden they started to move.....
This is a new bird for us.. we send in the band configurations and count totals to Pt Reyes Bird Observatory and they  send back a history of where and when the bird was banded! This year we had record numbers of Snowy Plovers on the beach.
Not everyone has bling...they are so darn cute!

Rodeo Lagoon- another rare bird alert right around the corner...
We received another rare bird alert ... there was a White Wagtail in Rodeo Lagoon!
Wagtails are birds of open areas and have the habit of wagging their tails while walking. In North America, this birds occurs as a breeding species only in northwestern Alaska. So this guy ended up off the beaten path for migration. They winter in southwestern China, Philippines, & Singapore.
Killdeer and White Wagtail

This how it got its name...Wagtail
Then this coyote appeared and no more wagtail....birders relocated later, alive and well in another part of the lagoon:-)
Coyote on the look out....

Las Galinas Waste Water Treatment Plant
We were greeted by a group of Bushtits...
Male Lesser Goldfinch
Female Lesser Goldfinch
Eared Grebe
This is the first Great-tailed Grackle we have seen in Marin...
Mute Swans are not endemic to North America but are doing very well here...we saw approximately 8-10 swans on our walk

Savannah Sparrow
We spotted one Greater White-fronted Goose
Western Meadowlark
Female Northern Pintail
Male Northern Pintail
Male Northern Shoveler coming into breeding plumage

Hamilton Wetlands

What a success story....transformation of an old Air Force base into incredible wetlands!
Birds, birds, birds....shorebirds...mostly Dunlins and Sanderlings.

Long-billed Curlews

Abbott's Lagoon

This Black Phoebe was feeding by skimming the surface on the lagoon
Bonaparte's Gull

Great Blue Heron
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrows are everywhere on the trail to the ocean, singing their little hearts out:-)

The World is Full of Beauty & Wonder,

Turtle & Hawk