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

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