Sunday, August 5, 2018

Birding Maui

Aloha from Hawaii! This US state is an international destination for so many people. While this wasn't a birding trek per say, we did a lot of birding while at our destinations.  So I studied my birds like crazy before our trip. 

Common Waxbills on Oahu
It was my first time to the islands and I didn't know what to expect.  I had read that the "exotics" had taken over this US state because their endemic birds had gone/are/or will be extinct in just a decade or two. I have heard some ABA birders call this place "a bunch of bull$#%^ birding". I roll my eyes at their responses. I understand what they are saying, but I don't like it. I will write about this in next week's post. For now, I was just happy to be free with my camera and explore.  Trinidad has an incredible abundance of flora and fauna, mostly ALL native to the island, BUT I had to be aware of my surroundings there. It's amazing how the birding has a different feel for each place I visit. Here in Hawaii, it was some of the most relaxing birding I've done in a long while. 

Red-vented Bulbul
Once we arrived at the Honolulu airport on Oahu, our "work" began!  As the unofficial birder tradition requires, we, the birders of the world, must rush to the windows and see if we can spot our first "new" bird for the country or state.  So, while waiting for our transfer flight to Maui, I walked out into the open mall of the airport and discovered TWO parks where we could sit down outside!!!!  The hour we waited to fly to Maui was spent observing 5 new bird species right outside our terminal!

Zebra Dove
Everything was perfect.  Micheal did a great job planning our vacation.  I worked around his scheduled events and together, we had a really nice time.  For those of you heading there, let me give you some tips.  We arrived at the Maui airport and picked up our rental quickly.  Then, we went to the Costco, which is also right there, and did some grocery shopping for our two week stay on the island to save money going out to eat everyday.  AND it should be noted that gas IS the cheapest at Costco.  For example, most gas stations charged around 4.50 to 5.00 dollars per gallon.  At Costco, it was 3.25. So be prepared to get in line with everyone else on Maui and wait for that "cheap" gas.  You'll save $$$!

My office
The island is covered with Japanese White-eyes and Common Mynas.  Be prepared to see a lot of chickens and possibly a "pure" Red Junglefowl!

Japanese White-eye
A vacation wouldn't be complete without a traditional Hawaiian luau.  Micheal surprised me with a front row ticket to the stage.  It was a beautiful night along the ocean as we ate tradional food, like poi, and watched some amazing performances.  

In between everything, there were more exotic birds. The two of us would ask each other which part of the island we liked more.  There are SO many different habitats that it was hard to pick just one.  But overall, I liked the highland country where it was cool and misty.  On our way to Haleakala National Park, I fell in love with the grasslands.  Then again, I also loved West Maui along the beach. Or wait!  Maybe I liked the road to Hana more!  Yes, the names of the birds and places will have you puzzled as you try to twist your tongue around these foreign sounding words. 

We'd walk random paths and see random things.  I liked it.  Everything was VERY relaxed on this island.  The traffic wasn't an issue and the people were very kind.  

The mighty Isis rises from the ocean waves
If you ever felt that Cattle Egrets were hard to observe up close, don't worry......they are EVERYWHERE on this island and usually, just a few feet away from where you are standing. 

Cattle Egret
We went to the Nakalele blowhole on West Maui.  Be careful as people have died in this location.  We observed lots of tourists making poor decisions during our treks around the island.  

I laugh now wondering if I'd ever get to see a Common Myna in Hawaii.  I don't laugh anymore because this is an invasive bird.  But I couldn't hate the bird for being there.  They were introduced by people who were not educated and not aware of the fragile ecosystem of the islands.  This bird is only surviving like the human rats that cover this world.  It is as common as a Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, Grackle, or American Crow. They are VERY smart birds.  I watched them maneuver around the unaware tourists who left their food unattended.  I got the sense that they are as smart or smarter than a jay, raven or gull.  I saw intelligence in their eyes like when I observe a raven or parrot looking at me. 

the very Common Myna
Hawaii is perfection in so many people's eyes.  And from the tourist point of view, it was.  I loved it.  I feel guilty for liking it so much.  This island was taken over by Polynesians, then Europeans and then the US.  It is a mix of EVERYONE.  Today, the atmosphere is inviting to all. When I put on my birder cap, you will see how my views change over the course of my three week write . I talked to people and did interviews with the nature conservancy and Hawaii Audubon Society about the endemic bird situation on the islands.  There are two fronts I'll tackle.  One is the sea bird population.  And the other will focus on the endemic honeycreepers that are found on the various islands.  I'll give you some tips about planning your birding treks there. 

On a personal note, it has been a year since my Grandma passed.  On this night at the luau, I thought about her and how much she would have loved this event.  This very iconic show is as cheesy as it is cool.  It reminded me of the movie Dirty Dancing where all the rich people got together and did rich people things. NOTE: I am not rich. I budget and don't have kids:) That last part of that sentence is the important one to note:) It reminded me of the stories my parents and grandparents used to tell me.  It's what people THINK Hawaii should be. And so it is for them.

 Micheal joked and said this was the Hawaiian version of William Shatner.  This guy was as cheesy as you can imagine, but somehow it was all fun.  I felt like I traced the footsteps of my Grandparents and partook in something that happened back in the 1950's.  They served us drinks the whole night and it was the most relaxing thing ever. I let the birder go for that evening and enjoyed the meal, the dances, the ocean breezes and spending important time with Micheal.  I think it's a great way to cap off your final evening in Hawaii.

Fire dancers!
And we can't forget those dancers!  Wow!  It was hot!  Literally, being up front next to the stage of these fire dancers!

In the background, the Common Mynas were watching and waiting for an opportunity to sneak some of the food. Some succeeded.  

Here's my birder take on my first trip to the islands.  Like a surfer, it takes practice to understand how the birding world flows.  In Trinidad, I conquered the birds.  On Maui, I "failed" my first time and within reason.  I picked up all of the birds except TWO very rare ones.  It's not really a failure but I don't like dipping on endemics in isolated areas.  It means I'll have to go back to Maui for only one day to pick up these very endangered birds which pains me. There's not enough time in this life to retrace footsteps. The next time I go, they may be extinct. They are well protected as they should be.  It was out of my control so I did the best I could.

Grey Francolin, one of the more challenging birds to approach
Most of the time, I find my birds alone or with friends.  But with Hawaiian birding, you can't do this alone, you need to work with several agencies to accomplish your goals.  And like the surfer below, I stumbled. 

But I will not stumble again on my next trip back.  I will be better prepared. Over the next 3 weeks, I'll break down what I saw in great detail.  Hawaii may be paradise for humans, but for its endemic birds, the story is a dark and complicated one. 

"Mahalo" for following Las Aventuras.  Until next week my friends!


  1. Loved this post and thanks so much for sharing. Myna's are terrible thieves as I discovered after spending most of my life in Southern Africa! I am prety sure we will never get yo Hawaii so I will enjoy following you on your trip. Cheers Diane

    1. Thanks Diane! This bird WAS everywhere at every habitat. They are very invasive. And it was a bit scary.

  2. Hello, beautiful photos from Maui! I love the surfers, neat action shots. Pretty variety of birds. Great post, thanks for sharing your trip!

  3. A wonderful introduction! I feel as you do, I do not agree with purging/hating birds just because they were introduced by humans. It might well be the saving of the Hawaiian endemics will be accomplished in a land far away from Hawaii. And we must ask ourselves is there really an endemic species, only since humans began to find fossils do we know what really used to be here. I'M SO looking forward to your next Finds!

  4. So enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing the amazing photos. What a location :) I look forward to reading more.

  5. Amazing birds, and amazing shots of things on the Island. I used to have a friend who went every year, and always caught Don Ho's performance. He knew her by name, and often called her up on the stage!:-) I imagine he's gone by now. We sure hope to go in a year or two to celebrate our 50th anniv. How sweet of you to think of your Grandma and that she would have enjoyed being there.


Thanks for stopping by!