Monday, August 23, 2010

Forgive Me Mother, I Have Sinned

Not only did I break my green birding "vows" for the year during a one week period of birding and hiking by car (Aug. 12 - 18), but I did it in Hawaii (which I reached by airline since I couldn't figure a way to cycle there). I couldn't resist the offer from family to stay with them on Maui and to use airline miles earned on a credit card. Hopefully, Mother Nature will forgive me as I continue my Big Green Big Year, now that I am back home.

One other sacrilege - if I had lived in Hawaii I would have not been a birder as likely as an avid snorkeler, watching fish, turtles and marine mammals ("fisher", "fish watcher",?). In Hawaii, the creatures in the water are a lot more fascinating to me than what is left of the land creatures (since they have been annihilated by rats, mice, pigs, mongooses, habitat loss, alien plants, grazing, avian malaria, etc.)  I love to snorkel there and swim with green turtles, watch incredibly beautiful fish like Moorish Idols, Pennantfish, tangs, and the Pinktail Triggerfish pictured here.

So, I spent 2 days on Oahu and 5 on Maui - hiking, sightseeing, birding, swimming, snorkeling, visiting with family, and photographing. Of all the sights I saw, the fish, turtles and dolphins were the highlights. The Red-tailed Tropicbird pictured was common on the east end of Oahu near Makapuu Point and it was great to see, along with the Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters there. I had mixed feelings about all the alien bird species which were so numerous everywhere on land - interesting and sometimes beautiful (like the Shama Thrush pictured), but out of place. Somehow, it was OK to see some of my bird friends from the states that had made it there on there own, such as the coot, moorhen and Black-necked Stilt. I saw no native passerines on Oahu and had to hike out of Hosmer Grove on Maui (into Waikamoi Preserve, which is not a very pristine native forest) to see Amakihi, Apapane, Iiwi and Maui Creeper. Additional sea birds showed up on the Hana side of Oahu, such as Black Noddy next to Black Sands Beach and White-tailed Tropicbird on the way there.

The birds paled in comparison to the huge groups of native coral reef fish on Maui: at Black Rock, Molokini, and Lanai. They were fantastic, but they also face threats such as coral damage, pollution, sedimentation, and out of control collecting by those who sell to aquarium owners. Some alien fish have even been introduced!

I'm still tallying up my fish species, but am glad to get back to my local birds. I have resumed my march toward 300 species for my green big year! (for more photos of my trip and other birds see .


  1. Great post! Thanks Jim! And thank you for including the environmental issues and info. That kind of thing is so important. I appreciate your diligence in getting the word out. :)

  2. I find that my vows to be a greener birder are frequently trumped by my desire to find solitude and see more birds out of town. Your post on Hawaii was nice; my husband and I went to the Big Island a few years ago and I really enjoyed the birds there, along with the fish and the general beauty around us. Despite the occasional 'slip' you may have in green birding, I have to say, you are a real inspiration to people like me, to bike more and drive less in the quest for birds. Keep up the good work!

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