Albatross Day! Mick and I were up nice and early and on the road west towards Ka'ena Point. Coffee at Haleiwa, and then out along the Farrington Highway to the very end where you can leave the car in a reasonably sized car park. Clouds were scudding along at some speed, brisk winds, but overall it felt like a good day to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It is a long walk west out to the Point along a rough track, plan on about an hour, especially as you will undoubedtly stop to look at birds. Whilst there are loads of Zebra Dove, African
|The track out to Ka'ena Point. The Albatross colony is at the far end once the cliffs run out.|
Silverbill and Waxbill along the track, make sure to scan the cliffs to your left and listen out for Erckel's Spurfowl and Grey Francolin. In common with most birds on Hawaii, both are introductions, but they are no less pleasant for that, and as they are naturalised they do count as a valid ABA species.
I estimate we saw our first Laysan Albatross about half way along, single birds cruising along the cliffs. Magnificent, utterly magnificent. Little did we know. To enter the reserve at the Point you need to go through an anti-rodent gate. Once inside you walk along roped off paths between low vegetation. It's like the Farnes, but significantly more mega and the 'Terns' have six feet wingspans. My goodness, what a place. Without a shadow of a doubt one of my all time top birding experiences. In mid April there are already some sizeable chicks - huge brown balls of fluff considerably less sleek than their parents. We witnessed lots of dancing, displaying, bill-clattering ceremonies, but it is in the air that these birds are at their most splendid. Effortless gliding low over the ground, held aloft by what seem like impossibly slender wings, but complete masters of their craft. I've rarely had as much fun behind the camera.
At some point during our visit we were amazed to see a much darker Albatross with sooty dark brown plumage, surely a Black-footed Albatross. I had only very recently become aware that this species had been seen sporadically at this site, so to actually be there when one was present seemed impossibly good luck. It got even more surreal when we realised that there were two, and one was ringed so we were able to give the ranger the code when we saw her in her truck later on. One of the birds did actually land from time to time, and seemed to be interacting with some of the Laysan Albatross, seeming particularly interested in chicks. Needless to say we spent a lot of time here, periodically getting soaked as cold squalls came in from the west, but these soon passed and the constant trade winds then dried us and our gear out again.
As early afternoon approached, and without any food and having run out of water (typical genius planning!) we reluctantly started the long trek back to the car. We spent the afternoon back at Kahuku Aqua Ponds and along the North Shore but I think our minds remained at Ka'ena as we didn't really see anything else noteworthy. Back to the beach for sunset and, as before, dinner from one of the several food trucks that are permanently stationed at Pupukea. All are excellent if rather expensive, but there are seats to sit out and eat on as you look at the sea and you don't begrudge it for the experience. It's just a great place.
|A sight for sore eyes, the incomparable Mr Southcott sporting his new attire!|