Birding the Big Island of Hawaii

(Journal from April 2015)IMG_6837-1

I don’t even know how long I’ve been awake at this point

Our last day in Hawaii – yesterday? Last night? – I woke up in a tiny cabin in the woods of Volcano National park at 5am to listen to my husband take a skype call for work (who had no idea he was in Hawaii, the perks of working from home).


I failed at going back to sleep, so we started our day early in the park, birding before driving back to Hilo for breakfast at Kens – Where he got mac nut pancakes larger than his head, and my “Three-egg omelette” looked more like a full dozen.


After a walk around Liliukolani Park to work off the coconut and lilikoi syrup, we drove the winding saddle road between Muana Kea and Muana Loa to Kona. There, we finally found two of the Nene Goose we’d been searching for since our trip began. They weren’t eating the scrubby berry bushes as the ranger station had informed us – no – like most of their more metropolitan goose brethren, they were enjoying the green on the fairway at the local country club, honking angrily at passing golf carts, and strutting royally across the well manicured lawn.



Tiny yellow saffron finches flitted about under the trees, and a waterfall trickled nearby. The only thing out of place was the small herd of sheep, bleating their way across the 16th hole.


After a final poke bowl of delicious ahi perfection at Umekes in downtown Kona, we finally left the big island at 3:30, our plane rising eye-level with  the gleaming white observatories on Muana Kea before disappearing high above.

As the lights dimmed, and darkness fell aboard the tiny A300, I thought I’d catch some z’s. The day was long, and – thanks to an antiquated pay-per-view movie screen, (complete with credit card swipe!) stuck in the back of the headrest in front of me – the flight was boring.

Unfortunately, soon after I’d decided to take a snooze, a jolt of turbulence began twisting the plane from one pole to the other. The United stewardesses gamely tried to follow through with a drink service, but it was quickly aborted, and they stumbled back to the galley with their burden. So no sleep on that flight. I spent the rest of it praying that my (legally prescribed) sleep aid would kick in.

A quick transfer in LAX – 30 minutes gate to gate – and we were off to Chicago. I was lucky enough to catch a nap on this flight, blessed with the twin benefits of smooth air and a silent companion.

After another tight transfer in ORD – we walked straight off of one plane and onto another – I was ready to finish my 30 winks, but the toddler behind me had other plans, jamming his little red shoes into my back at every opportunity. I gave him my best stink face glare, but that didn’t work – kids don’t care.

Finally we landed in Orlando at 9:45am, 14 hours after leaving Hawaii. Sadly for both of us, it was a working day, and most of the ride was spent in a skype meeting, while I was driving hell for leather to work, where I was already late.

I was deliriously tired and in need of a shower, but thankfully birds don’t care what you smell like, as long as you’re feeding them. After a quick go round, it was finally time to head home!

Except at this point, the last food we had eaten were the poke bowls in Kona, and my blood sugar had dropped to the point where I wanted to do violent things to other drivers. Torn between needing to get home for shower and sleep, and needing food to get there, I stopped at my favorite sub place, and for once, there was no line! Hallelujah!

It’s now 6:30, and I’ve passed the point where a nap would help anything. My only hope to defeat jetlag is to tough it out for the next three and a half hours, and go to sleep at a normal time. My husband has already succumb to the siren call of slumber, but I will not go so quietly. Jetlag, you will not win this one.

We saw four sunsets in Hawaii – One from the top of Mauna Kea, high above the clouds, one from the crater rim of Kilauea, busy birthing more land, and one from a dive boat off the Kohala coast, watching spinner dolphins fling themselves into the air. But nothing beats a seat on the beach, bunch of whales just messing around.

ZebraDove Whiteye

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First with a new Red-Tailed Hawk

IMG_5425-1This Red-tailed Hawk was transferred to ARC for evaluation. It has a bit of a wing drop, which makes flight difficult. We’re hoping to build strength in the wing with a bit of training and flight exercises.

Sometimes for birds that require more intensive rehabilitation, we can give them a bit of falconry training to help. Nature is a hard place, and you can’t just throw a weak bird out into the wild and hope they survive.

And birds can get stronger flying around entire fields than they can just sitting in even our largest indoor flight. Sometimes, after training, we can release a bird that otherwise wouldn’t be strong enough to live in the wild.

But these things take time, and everything starts at the same place.

For our first day, I spent some time with him on the glove. He was able to step on the scale, and get weighed, which was great, because managing the weight on a bird is probably one of the most crucial parts of falconry. And then as a reward for putting up with me, he got dinner fed to him from the glove, while we sat under the oak tree.

Flight Training at ARC

This week the rain has let up, and the weather has turned positively serene. It was a great chance to get some of our education birds out of the mews and free-flying at ARC.

Whisper, our female Barn Owl, jumped at the chance to stretch her wings.

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And Archer, our young Red-shouldered Hawk, proved that he still enjoys untying people shoelaces, even at three years old.

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While Izzy, our Red-tailed Hawk, took no time in getting back into the routine.

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One thing’s for sure – getting the chance to work with these beautiful birds, it’s my favorite thing in the world.

Sky Trials with the Florida Hawking Fraternity

Last weekend was the annual Florida Hawking Fraternity winter meet, and since I wasn’t flying a bird, I brought my camera along to the Sky Trials – an afternoon for the falcons to fly!

I also found out that I’m rubbish at taking in-flight shots, oops. Just another thing to work on. The birds were gorgeous in flight though, and they went until the sun was almost set – a perfect evening with the birds.


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