I recently spent 10 days in Hawaii, 3 days on Oahu and a week on Kauai. While the trip was not primarily a birding trip, I did a reasonable (my wife would say unreasonable) amount of birding on both islands. What follows is my experiences during this 10 day period.
Oahu was pretty much what I expected. Lots of people, lots of introduced birds, good scenery, some good birds. I visited Waikiki once, as all tourists should do once, and as it is the easiest place to see COMMON FAIRY TERN. I went to Kapiolani Park, as suggested by Pratt, and actually had to work fairly hard for the tern. While searching for the tern, I found most of the common introduced birds of Oahu: SPOTTED DOVE, ZEBRA DOVE, COMMON MYNA, RED-CRESTED CARDINAL, JAVA SPARROW, YELLOW-FRONTED CANARY (the only time and place I saw this one), RED-VENTED BULBUL, JAPANESE WHITE-EYE. I finally saw a flying FAIRY TERN, but not a great look. Eventually, I saw a lot of FAIRY TERNS, as almost every time I went into Honolulu I saw them.
I spent a total of about 8 hours seawatching from Koko Head, spread over 2 evenings and one morning. I saw thousands of SOOTY TERNS, hundreds of WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATERS, lots of RED-FOOTED BOOBIES, a few BROWN BOOBIES, a few BROWN NODDIES, a couple of BLACK NOODIES, a few SOOTY SHEARWATERS, a few COMMON FAIRY TERNS, one LAYSAN ALBATROSS, and on the 3rd day, finally a couple of GRAY-BACKED TERNS. I never could find a CHRISTMAS SHEARWATER. At Manana Island, I watched 2 RED-TAILED TROPICBIRDS displaying over the island, amongst the abundant SOOTY TERNS.
I went into the hills above Honolulu along the Mt Tantalus road, and found my first COMMON AMIKIHI, along with WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA, RED-WHISKERED BULBUL, and COMMON WAXBILL. That same morning, I went over to Kaneohe, where I managed to find an ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL among the many COMMON WAXBILLS. According to Pratt, this is the best place to find them, and it was the only place that I found them.
Another morning, I hiked the first part of the Aeia Ridge Trail. After getting out of the introduced plants, this trail had reasonable numbers of COMMON AMIKIHI and APAPANE, along with JAPANESE BUSH-WARBLERS. I saw HWAMEI (MELODIOUS LAUGHINGTHRUSH) in the introduced plants near the start of the trail.
One afternoon I drove over to the Amorient Aquafarms. It looks as though they might be out of business, as only a couple of ponds had any water. I still managed to find KOLOA, HAWAIIAN COOT, BLACK-NECKED STILT, RUDDY TURNSTONE, SANDERLING, and WANDERING TATTLER.
Left Oahu with 16 lifers, 6 of them introduced birds, one short of 2000.
I found Kauai very depressing. I think that this is because of the disappearance of several of the species that had survived for so long in the Alakai Swamp area. None of Kauai's native birds went extinct until the early 70's, but they are really on a downward slide now. AKIALOA was last seen in 1969, KAUAI OO was last seen in the late 80's, OU is all but gone, as is KAMAO, and NUKUPUU remains as rare as ever. According to Pratt, as recently as the mid-70's you could expect to get some of the rarer birds, and even into the early 80's had a reasonable chance of finding a couple. Looking at the habitat, and knowing that there is nothing that can be done to save these birds at this point I found very depressing. It colored my stay on Kauai considerably, as I would look at things and see how badly changed they were. Mankind still doesn't know how to live in harmony with nature.
Birdwise, I explored 4 areas, Kokee, Makahuena Pt., Kiluea Pt., and the Huleia NWR. I'll take them in reverse order. I hiked the road that goes along the side of Huleia NWR looking for GREATER NECKLACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH. I saw most of the common introduced birds of Kauai, including the not very common JAPANESE BUSH-WARBLER, before I finally saw a couple of GREATER NECKLACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH. I found them way back in along the path that extends off the end of the road listed in Pratt. Pratt states that it is a dirt road, but apparently since the hurricane, it has become strictly a path.
Another place that was severely affected by the hurricane was Kiluea Pt. The birds are still there, but your access isn't as good as it used to be. All that you can do is walk to the lighthouse and back. This does get you several good birds. I had about 15 RED-TAILED TROPICBIRDS, along with one WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD, all at eye level, some as close as 50 feet. There were a couple of GREAT FRIGATEBIRDS floating along the edges of the cliff, and many RED-FOOTED BOOBYS nesting on the other side of a small inlet. There were only a couple of LAYSAN ALBATROSSES that we visible from the end of the point, looking back under the Casuarinas. One did cruise by overhead about 50 feet away! I also managed to find about 5 WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATERS that were visible under the vegetation along the path. Also saw 3 Sea Turtles.
Makahuena Point along the south shore of Kauai near Poipu was a superb seawatching spot. The access is changing from that described in Pratt. The cinder block buildings that he describes were being torn down while I was there and are doubtlessly gone by now. I assume that some sort of construction will start there soon. I parked at the next resort past this, and walked to the point. Sorry, I don't remember the name, but there weren't any menacing signs about parking there, unlike some of the other spots that I saw. I spent 2 hours one evening and 1.5 hours the next evening, ending at dusk both nights. Between the 2 nights, I saw 500+ WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER, 200+ NEWELL'S SHEARWATER, 80+ HAWAIIAN PETREL, 3 SOOTY SHEARWATER, 1 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, 1 SOOTY TERN, and 1 BULWER'S PETREL. A scope is necessary, but many of these birds were quite close, including HAWAIIAN PETRELS, allowing excellent study. The weather when I was there was brisk trade winds, 20-25 knots.
The place I spent the most time was the Kokee area. I was unable to get into the Alakai itself, as the access requires a 4-wheel drive to get to the start of the trail, and I didn't have one. I wasn't too concerned, as the information I had (Pratt and several trip reports) indicated that I should be able to get the common birds, and maybe even SMALL KAUAI THRUSH. Things appear to have changed :-(. I spent about 17 hours hiking in the area. I did the Pihea Trail, Alakai Swamp Trail, and Kawakoi Stream Trail, the first 2 trails 3 times. The effects of the hurricane are still obvious, as the ridges are essentially stripped of tall trees. I hiked to the area that was supposed to be the best for AKIKIKI (Kauai Creeper) along the Alakai Swamp Trail 3 times with no luck at all. I hiked into the Kawakoi Stream Trail also looking for this bird, also with no luck. This bird is mentioned in Pratt as declining and more difficult than it used to be. I CONCUR! Needless to say, the Thrush was also not in its previous spot either. I did however find the other birds without too much difficulty, although I didn't find much except APAPANE near the lookouts. APAPANE are abundant throughout the Kokee area. I saw them essentially everywhere. KAUAI AMIKIHI were reasonably common, and I even found a couple near the lookouts. ANIANIAU were also reasonably common, particularly once I learned the song. IIWI were more localized, but I saw several each day when I hiked the Pihea Ridge Trail. WHAT A BIRD!! ELEPAIO were fairly common and widespread, and quite noisy, particularly the two fledglings I found. The least common, but still not too difficult bird that I saw was the AKEKEE. I saw them all three days, but I had to hike quite a ways back into the wetter areas. The best place that I found for them was along the "staircase" of the Alakai Swamp Trail as it descends to the upper part of the Kawakoi Stream. I also saw ERKEL'S FRANCOLIN along the road to Kokee on two days, and WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD along the walls of just about every canyon I saw.
Other birds of possible interest were a couple of ROSE-RINGED PARAKEETS in the Hanapepe Valley, and several BLACK NODDIES at Kee Beach. At Hanalei NWR on the north side I saw KOLOA, HAWAIIAN COOT, (HAWAIIAN) BLACK-NECKED STILT, and (HAWAIIAN) COMMON MOORHEN.
Final Totals, 61 species, 26 lifers, of which 8 were introduced birds.
An interesting place to visit and bird, with a strong message of just how much we (mankind) can destroy a place.
Return to trip reports.