Birds of the Pihea Trail

A couple of weeks back, I went to Koke’e State Park on the island of Kaua’i to check out the native plants and animals. Just to have a little fun with it, I’ll describe what I saw as if I was John Q. Paparrazo, tabloid photographer extraordinaire.

One neat thing about Koke’e for me is the convenience. I currently live on O’ahu and many trails start in the lowlands where the environment is highly degraded.  Depending on the trail, it can take half an hour or so of hiking through stands of invasive plants before you really start seeing a lot of native flora. At Koke’e, you can just drive up to the native forests. Anyway, on with the show!

Kaua’i ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sclateri) are not shy birds. They are definitely not afraid of the camera. Sometimes, they can even be coaxed closer. “The camera loves you!” Think of any of today’s starlets, Lindsey, Paris, Brittney… ‘Elepaio are as close to attention hogs as you can get in Koke’e.

‘Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) act a little different for us bird paparazzi. They flit about without care for the intrepid cameraman, hardly staying still long enough to capture a decent shot. They are on their own schedule, not yours. This is like a hurried shot in People magazine of Jennifer Gardner picking up her kids. You can almost smell the disdain from the ‘Apapane as you take your money shots from the bushes.

Speaking of money shots, let me break kayfabe for a bit. I was given a tip that along the Pihea trail, there was a Koli’i (Trematolobelia kauaiensis) in full inflorescence! Now, in a later post I will get into some of my interest in Hawaiian Lobeliads, but one of the things that I would love to see once is a Koli’i in full bloom. The reason being is that they are monocarpic, Koli’i live for maybe 5-10 years before blooming once then dying. And what a spectacular show! The plant’s flowers are in long racemes: 6-8 horizontal branches radiate out from a central point, each with dozens of flowers.

So I am hiking along, about to turn down some stairs, when I come across the Koli’i… in full glory! It took my breath anyway. See for yourself:

Awesome, no? The best part was a little further on, there was another little grove of Koli’i in bloom when I came across this:

Kaua’i ‘Amakihi (Hemignathus kauaiensis) are still quite easy to see along the Pihea trail. I was pretty surprised and pleased to get this shot. It’s like any of those shots on TMZ of your favorite celebrity scarfing down a hot dog at Pink’s. And just like that famous hot dog stand, if you wait long enough around Koli’i, you’ll never know who will turn up.

Those 3 birds are probably the most common native forest birds on Kaua’i. I saw and heard them numerous times while hiking around Koke’e. I did hear an ‘I’iwi (Vestaria coccinea) once. I was walking along listening to all the ‘Apapane calling (probably with their agents) when I heard a call that was, for a lack of a better word, more gurgly than the rest. I spotted the bird briefly, the wings seemed blacker and the rump was all red, no white underneath like an ‘Apapane. I’m pretty sure it was an ‘I’iwi, but before I could take a decent picture, it flew off.

I know this sounds like a report straight out of the tabloids so here is a picture:

The ‘I’iwi is right there, behind that nondescript ape-man. It’s on the grassy knoll.

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