By John Clarkson, Brian Fletcher, Richard Thomas and Sarah Thomas
Itinerary and site info (all dates in November)
Friday 14th November JC, RT and ST flew London to Honolulu via Los Angeles, where Western and California Gulls and Black Phoebe were seen during a stopover in the airport. Met BF in Honolulu (who had arrived from Sydney). Flight time London to LA 11 hours. Five hours LA to Honolulu.
Saturday 15th Birding around hotel before flight to Maui. Visited Hosmer Grove in Haleakala National Park for our first endemics: I'iwi, Apapane, Hawaii Amakihi and Maui Alauahio, then to Kanaha Ponds before dark at 6 pm for Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot, Ring-billed Gull and Wandering Tattler.
Sunday 16th Returned to Hosmer Grove to await free afternoon guided walk to Waikomoi Preserve boardwalk. These take place on the third Sunday of each month and must be booked no more than one week in advance by calling the National Park Service on (808) 572-4400. Very few flowering trees, so no sign of Akohekohe, but very lucky to get excellent views of a Maui Parrotbill. Private visits to the boardwalk can be arranged but are expensive; USD100 per person entrance fee payable by non-refundable advance cheque to TNC, plus professional bird guide's fee, which depends on group size but is up to USD100 per person. Best guide is said to be Renate [email@example.com]. After the walk went to Haleakala Crater at 10,000 ft in the hope of finding a lingering Hawaiian Petrel but failed.
Monday 17th Followeddirections in Pratt's "Enjoying Birds in Hawaii" site guide to Waikomoi Flume, an alternative site for Akohekohe (note there is a new reservoir you have to skirt around not mentioned in Pratt's otherwise spot-on directions). Unfortunately Flume trail boarded up with "Keep out - Trail under construction" signs on it. Excellent numbers of Common Honeycreepers near the entrance, but no sign of Akohekohe.
Tuesday 18th Early morning flight to Kauai where picked up a Hertz '4WD'.. Drove to Hanalei for Hawaiian Duck (and Moorhen, Stilt and Coot, plus vagrant White-faced Ibis seen), then to Kilauea Point for nesting Laysan Albatross, Red-footed Booby and Wedge-tailed Shearwater plus two tropicbirds. Sea watching produced views of a Hump-backed Whale fin slapping. Drove to Kokee Park and our pre-booked cabin (these are excellent value self-catering accommodation, close to the birding area. They are popular, so make sure you book in advance on (808) 335-6061).
Wednesday 19th Drove the poorly signposted 'Camp 10' road to the end. Early part of the road in poor condition; wet and slippery. Just as well our vehicle did have high ground clearance, as this was essential. Long walk in the rain along the Kolea Stream trail where failed to locate Puaihoi or Akikiki but saw Kauai Amakihi, Anianiau, Akekee and Kauai Elepaio.
Thursday 20th Drove (tarmac road) as close to Puu o Kila lookout as possible - the road is closed and you have to walk the last mile or so to the start of the Pihea Trail from where it is 4 miles to the intersection with the Alakai Swamp Trail. Spent all day in this area on the boardwalks, especially the section along the Alakai Swamp trail east to the stream crossing. No sign of Puaiohi or Akikiki, but plenty of rats, mice, and introduced species.
Friday 21st Returned '4WD' then flew to Hilo on Hawaii (Big) Island, where picked up a 4WD from Harpers - the only hire company that allows you to drive the dreaded Saddle Road. [There is a $5,000 non-waiverable excess on their 4WD vehicles and the agreement says you are not allowed to take them off tarmac, except for the short section to the top of Mauna Kea!]. Stayed at the excellent value and very hospitable Wild Ginger Inn where our host even got up early next day to provide breakfast at 6 am. The new owners were most interested in why we were on the island and are investigating the possibilities of helping guests to go on birding tours. www.wildgingerinn.com/, (808) 935-5556 or (800) 882-1887. Good, cheap food nearby at Ken's House of Pancakes.
Saturday 22nd Drove the Saddle Road - and found it to be a tarmaced dual carriageway with a slow ascent and gentle curves. It is inexplicable why any rental company would ban their vehicles using it - a drive to your local shops would be far more challenging. Turned off onto the Mauna Kea summit road then onto the well-maintained Keanakolu dirt road, which leads to the Hakalau Forest Wildlife Refuge. Public access is allowed into the upper, Maulua Tract, on weekends and public holidays. You need to book a week in advance on (808) 933-6915 and to get the combination to a locked gate. The road beyond the gate needs a high clearance vehicle, but it is not far (ca. 2 miles) and could easily be walked. Maulua Tract has all the birds except Akepa. This species is common in the lower Pua Akala Tract, but to visit there, you have to go on an organised birding tour. The best of these is said to be through Hawaii Trails & Tours: (808) 331 8505. Alternatively, you can be lucky like us. Akepa are sometimes seen in the kitpuas alongside (mile 21) or 1.5 miles along the trail off to the west at mile 22 of the Saddle Road. Quickly saw Omao, Hawaii Elepaio, Hawaiian Hawk (Io), Nene, Hawaiian Creeper and Akiapola'au at Maulua Tract. Returning to the Saddle Road, we were very lucky to find a pair of Akepa.
Sunday 23rd Braved the Saddle Road again and drove to Puu Laau Dry Forest Reserve at the 43.3 mile mark. Turn right past the hunters check-in station, then right again to the Ahu Moa cinder cone. Stop by the gamebird watering unit. Palila and Mauna Kea Elepaio both easy. Went sightseeing to the top of Mauna Kea, 13,796 ft. Returned 4WD to Harpers as no need for it and got an ordinary car. Sightseeing in Volcano NP. Saw Black Noddy off Chain of Craters Road.
Monday 24th Drove to Manuka State Park in the south-west for Volcano Elepaio, which was found easily about 300 yards along the walking trail. Sea watching at South Point produced nothing of interest. Back to Hilo via Black Sands where Hawaiian Green Turtles rest on the beach. More sightseeing at Volcano NP, then visited Loko Waka and Waiakea Ponds in Hilo for a few duck trip ticks.
Tuesday 25th Flew to Ohau and drove to James Campbell Reserve. Walked through golf course to dunes for Bristle-thighed Curlew. A sea watch off Kailua produced Glaucous-winged Gull. Back to Waikiki where Aqua Marina Hotel good value at $50 for a double room with kitchenette.
Wednesday 26th Kuliouou Valley Trail for Oahu Elepaio. Single bird seen at the trailhead after about an hour's wait. This site is thick with mosquitoes. Drove to start of Aiea Ridge Trail and quickly saw Oahu Amakihi, although walked rest of the trail anyway. Tried to book a pelagic on a sport fishing boat but nothing doing because of Thanksgiving Day.
Thursday 27th Drove to south side of Kaena Point and walked to end for Laysan Albatross colony and a sea watch. Though slow, Black-footed Albatross, Juan Fernandez Petrel and Pomarine Skua all seen.
Friday 28th Local sea watching before eight-hour flight to Chicago and another eight hours to London. Weather A variety of climatic conditions can be experienced here, from freezing on Mauna Kea to hot and muggy on the beaches to prolonged heavy rain in the forests, particularly of Kauai. Effective wet weather gear is essential and an umbrella useful.
Cost Flight from London to Honolulu £488. Pre-booked inter-island flights £180. Car hire from $60-$140 per day depending on vehicle type. Accommodation variable but expect to pay at least $50 per day for a double room. Food; self-catering supplies at normal supermarket prices, and restaurants from $35 - $85 for 4. Total cost about £1,300 each.
Black-footed AlbatrossDiomedea nigripes 1 past Kaena Pt, Oahu 27th.
Laysan AlbatrossDiomedea immutabilis About 15 at each of the nesting colonies at Kilauea Pt, Kauai and Kaena Pt, Oahu.
Juan Fernandez PetrelPterodroma externa 1 past Kaena Pt, Oahu 27th.
Wedge-tailed ShearwaterPuffinus pacificus 1 distant past Kilauea Pt, Kauai on 18th and a few fully fledged nestlings present.
Red-tailed TropicbirdPhaethon rubricauda 2 past Kilauea Pt, Kauai on 18th.
White-tailed TropicbirdPhaethon lepturus Kauai: small numbers Kilauea Pt, 18th. 1 from Kolea Stream Trail 19th, 1 below Kokee Lodge 20th, Hawaii: 2 near Black Sands, 24th.
Red-footed BoobySula sula Large nesting colonies at Kilauea Pt, Kauai and Kanahoe Marine Base, Oahu. Small numbers on all sea watches.
Brown BoobySula leucogaster A few on the island off Kilauea Pt, Kauai 18th and small numbers on all sea watches.
Great FrigatebirdFregata minor Small numbers Kilauea Pt, Kauai 18th and 2-4 were noted daily on Ohau.
Black-crowned Night-heronNycticorax nycticorax Small numbers widespread e.g. Oahu: Keehi Lagoon, 15th, 2 James Campbell NWR, 25th and 1 in a storm drain in Waikiki, 26th. Maui: Kanaha Ponds, 15th. Hawaii: Hilo ponds 24th.