Monday 13 November 2023

Oahu - Day 1

The flight loops around Oahu and then approaches from the south. Pearl Harbour is just off to the right.

Leaving Los Angeles early morning, the flight over the Pacific to Hawaii takes around five hours or so. A big lot of nothing and the aircraft are specially certified. We landed just after 11, and as this was a domestic flight we were out and picking up our car immediately - a stonking Ford Mustang convertible. Roof down, hat on, off we go. Pacific Golden Plovers were everywhere, on every bit of short grass available. First order of business was to get Mick properly clothed, and I had previously earmarked a couple of thrift stores where I was confident we could find what was required. You will see what I mean a little further later on during these posts. I was already fully kitted out of course, this being my fourth trip, but I couldn't resist topping up the collection. A number of White Terns were seen in Honolulu itself.

With the essential shopping done we headed east along the coastal highway to the Japanese Fishing Shrine. This is an excellent spot for seawatching, as well as hosting a small colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds which are just superb birds. My trip research had also indicated that a Red-billed Tropicbird was hanging around the area, which would be a USA tick. Stopping the car at the exact spot is a little tricky, but there is a decent car park just along from the Shrine and then you can pick your way back along the crash barrier to where the Tropicbirds are. God how I love Hawaii, what a place. A turquoise ocean, verdant green slopes, sunshine and the strange croaks of these graceful birds. There were a few Brown Noddy a bit further out, and a Sooty Tern flew past but really it was all about the Tropicbirds. And sure enough, it wasn't long until a bird with distinctive black in the primaries was seen to fly out from the cliffs were stood above. Excellent! As it was the middle of the day with the sun high in the sky the photography was a little challenging, coupled with the fact that I'd been travelling for a day and a half and in any event I often take a little while to get going. Here's the best of a primarily bad bunch but you get the picture. We came away convinced that there were actually a nesting pair of Red-billed Tropicbirds as we saw birds with clearly differing amounts of black in the wing - I suspect that there was a burrow with eggs or chicks in and that they change over periodically. I should probably look that up.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbird

After a decent amount of time being wowed by these graceful birds we carried on around the coast, stopping first on the road above Makapu'u Beach. Although we didn't have scopes we could see Sooty Tern, a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, and a couple of Red-footed Booby, these latter both new birds for the trip. We continued up to Kahuku, quite a long drive but also spectacular. A good introduction to the topography of these islands, with small sandy beaches, tropical trees, and then huge forested slopes. It was great to be back. Kahuku had been chosen as a spot that seemed to hold a few birds - around the golf course and also the fish ponds a few miles up the road - we started at the Golf Course. I can't now recall all these months later what exactly what we were looking for, but this was where I saw my first Laysan Albatross. It was brief, but monstrously exciting  as well as a littel frustrating as this huge bird glided low over the vegetation and then instantly vanished. How does something that large just disappear? As before Pacific Golden Plover (hereafter PGP) were dotted all over the place but proved impossible to approach. As the golf course changed into low vegetation I noticed a wader running away from us through some low scrub. Initially I thought Whimbrel but it gradually dawned on me that I was looking at a very rare Bristle-thighed Curlew, another brand new bird. Somehow these enigmatic birds, Alaskan breeders, migrate directly across the Pacific to winter in small numbers in Hawaii, and somehow the fact that Kahuku on Oahu was the best place to see them had completely escaped me. So much for research! Other birds seen here included Common Myna, Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbul, Spotted and Zebra Doves, all Asian species that have been introduced, as well as a Red-crested Cardinal from South America. A Pheasant called from the bushes. What a place!

Pacific Golden Plover

Bristle-thighed Curlew

At the fish ponds a short distance away we found our first Hawaiian Coot, lots of Black-necked Stilt and some Black-crowed Night Heron, mostly juveniles, but there didn't seem to be a great deal going on and you can only really observe the ponds from the outside. Quite late in the day now, we crossed over to the North Shore and found our accomodation opposite the aptly named Sunset Beach. Oh yes! This is what it's about. A couple of beers were quickly purchased and we saw out the day gazing out over the Pacific.

Sunset Beach, Pupukea

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