[Tweeters] re: Kauai birding advice

kelsberg at u.washington.edu kelsberg at u.washington.edu
Wed Aug 25 12:55:31 PDT 2010

To see native honeycreepers in Kauai requires hiking in the Alakai "Swamp". The trails are a bit muddy and uneven, so I'd recommend shoes with good traction, reasonable physical fitness, and a sense of humor (we've always fallen on our bottoms a few times). We usually see i'iwi, apapane, elepaio, anianiau, sometimes akikiki, and amakihi. We've tried for puaiohi (being re-introduced) but have only been able to hear them. If you go to the Visitors Center in the park at the top of Waimea Canyon you can get trail maps. We've only had an ordinary rental car so we've entered the Pihea Trail from the Pu'u'o Kila Lookout. A great spot for birds is near the intersection of the Pihea and Alakai Swamp trails. It is nice to hike to the Kilohana Lookout if the day is clear - fascinating dwarfed trees and lots of birds, and easy walking on a boardwalk (of course you need to clamber down the Pihea Trail to get to the start). The Kawaikoi Stream Trail is also gorgeous and birdy. (With a bet!
ter car you can drive down the slippery muddy Mohihi/Camp 10 roads and get further into the swamp, whihc can bring you closer to other trailheads so you won't have to slip and slide along the Pihea.)
Along the road into the park there are Erckels francolins, the white-tailed tropic birds soaring in the canyon, the Hawaian Moa (endemic chicken) and pheasants, etc.

If your fiance isn't a birder, the views from the Pihea trail are spectacular - green cliffs overlooking the Kalalau Valley.

Other great spots: the Kilauea Point Lighthouse juts into the sea and you just drive there. Great views of red-tailed tropic birds, Laysan albatross, frigate birds, nene, wedge-tailed shearwater chicks at the right season, brown and red-footed boobies.

Not too far from there are the taro fields at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge - park on the left just before the bridge and walk across it and left along the little road - lots of Hawaiian gallinules, Hawaiian coots and Koloa (native mallard-like ducks), plus black-crowned night herons. Easy walking along an asphalt roadway and very lush and beautiful.

We had nice views of Hawaiian Stilt at the salt ponds, near Salt Pond State Park, which is also a great park/beach for swimming, protected by an oval of reef.

You'll see lots of introduced birds everywhere: Brazilian cardinal and Japanese white eye, various finches. Pacific Golden Plover are around during migration (from the arctic).

Further afield, ditches along the missile base have more waterbirds.

I would advise getting a map and one of either "Hawaii Birds" or "The birds of Kauai" guidebooks, which have nice pictures and some advice about birding sites too. The first book is a bit harder to use since it lists birds on other islands too. Both are paperback, cheap, and readily available.

Gary Kelsberg, Seattle

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