Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Hawai'i. What's not to like?

I recently attempted one of my boldest (stupidest - Ed.) travel marathons - Kaua'i for a long weekend. When you say it like that it sounds daft, and of course on many/all levels it is completely idiotic. Why travel 7,000 miles only to stay for such a short time? Well, because I knew I would really really enjoy it. And I did. A lot. And with the exception of work, I don't put any effort into things I don't enjoy a great deal. It's certainly true that getting to Hawai'i requires quite a lot of effort - a lot of sitting still mostly, which for me actually is an effort. Naturally I got myself there in almost the least efficient manner possible, going via Dublin to Washington where I spent a very nice evening with my Aunt and Uncle. The following morning I flew to Los Angeles, and there enjoyed a day on the beach photographing various waders and birding some wetlands. Only later that evening did I finally start off across the Pacific, a dull flight if ever there was one, arriving in Lihue at about 8pm. I picked up my car - an indulgent Mustang convertible - and by 9pm was safely installed in my bungalow next to the ocean, fully two days after I had first left home.

Yours truly at Wailua

I didn't do much really. The first day was a huge hike into the native forests above 3000ft to look for endemic Honeycreepers which was only moderately successful due to somewhat trying weather (ie birding in a cloud at 5200ft), but I also made time to chill out, including a fantastic swim in the surf out on the west side as the sun set, with Red-footed Boobies flying around and futher offshore a huge passage of Shearwaters. I cooked my dinner on the beach and then spent a great deal of that evening lying in a hammock drinking cold beer and looking at the stars, the depth and breadth of which are totally epic in Hawai'i, even more so when you come from London. The next day I cleaned up on all the non-Honeycreeper endemics, went sea-watching and enjoyed brilliant views of two species of Tropicbirds, ate superb spicy fish tacos and bought myself a silly shirt. And then I came home in one hit and went straight to work.

A sturdy hammock that I got into easily but later struggled to get out of elegantly.

Silly? Probably. Worth it? Emphatically. I had a brilliant time, enjoyed every second of it. I might even go again, that's how good it was. The whole island smelled of nectar, of tropical vines and flowers - a constant sweet breeze. It was warm, and in the lowlands at least, wonderfully sunny. There were birds everywhere, albeit a rather strange mix of global species, and I went to sleep with the sound of crashing waves. I got woken up by the progeny of Red Junglefowl, and Cattle Egrets and PGPs stalked my lawn whilst White-rumped Shamas flicked in the trees above. I'll do a full trip report in due course, albeit that there wasn't a great deal of birding. Hawaiian Coot and Hawaiian Duck deserve special mention of course, fascinating birds that I went out of my way to chalk up, and I've finally seen a Nene that isn't a pet. 

In other news there is lots more to come in what has so far been a bit of a productive month for writing things down and hitting publish. Family holidays to Budapest, Vienna and a cheese run to Bordeaux all deserve a mention, there are multiple botanical updates, I'm not sure I've finished with NY waders yet. And of course the birding on Wanstead Flats where I allegedly live is rather good at the moment. Ortolan? I mean, really? And I was here! 

The Pihea Vista. Selective clearance of vegetation to open up views not necessary.

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