Saturday, August 31, 2013

Black Oystercatcher Bonanza

It has been a very good week for Black Oystercatchers in my life.

Monday I attended a meeting that holds promise to have the data that Elise Elliot-Smith, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, has been accumulating for nearly ten years included in the Sea Bird Colony database. Black Oystercatchers are not really seabirds, of course. They are shorebirds. But they nest on the same offshore rocks and rocky shorelines where seabirds nest and so have been counted on seabird colony counts. But they don't really fit anywhere, thus the data that all we volunteers have been collecting for Elise has been in a sort of limbo without a permanent home. It is particularly in danger now that funding has been cut for Elise's work with BLOY. The project has become a volunteer project... and will be until new funding can be secured. And that will be tough in these times. Elise is volunteering her off-work time to keep the project going.

And so, with the possibility that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service may give our data a permanent home, it was with more of a sense of purpose than I've had lately that I checked on the remaining viable BLOY nests in my jurisdiction. And, for once, the news was all good. BLOY don't have a great record of successful nesting. Last year only one of the nests I watched produced fledglings. We need long term studies... with easily accessible data... to know if this bird, designated a bird of special concern because of  few worldwide numbers, is holding its own or not.

One of my most difficult nests to monitor is at Cape Kiwanda. The BLOY build their scrape of a nest on Haystack Rock, a mile offshore.

Haystack Rock as close as we can get to it from the end of the Cape

 This year they made life even more difficult by hiding their nest behind a rock wall. We had to watch through a scope for hours on end for the one moment when a tiny (at that distance) black bird with a red bill flew in and landed atop the rock wall and then disappeared behind it, signifying an incubation exchange. But then for several weeks, after the eggs should have hatched, we saw nothing. I had about decided the nest had failed.

The nest ledge with the pesky rock wall as seen with my camera at full zoom.

This past Wednesday, Johnny and I climbed the dune to look down on the tidal flats where BLOY and their fledglings, when they have any, feed...

and found the missing birds! Two adults and two fledglings! Hooray! You can tell the fledglings from the adults by their shorter bills that are not yet entirely red.

These two photos were taken by Johnny through the scope. Adult on the left; fledgling on the right.

I took photos of the family with my new camera and its long zoom on the tidal flats (photos at beginning of this blog) and (below) after they had flown to a tidal area at the end of the cape when scared off the flats by an approaching fisherman.

Here are one adult and one juvenile. Juveniles do not yet have the bright red eyes of the adults.

I know of only one other nest that I monitor with the possibility of success this year. That is one of the three nests at Road's End near Lincoln City. This year that pair lost their chicks soon after hatching... but renested and produced a second brood. I knew they were feeding chicks because I could see the adults bringing food and disappearing behind a rock wall. (These offshore rocks are full of rock walls to hide chicks from potential predators... and my eyes.)

This week those chicks should have been one month old, but, in spite of weekly visits, I had yet to see them. Yesterday, Friday, two friends and I climbed The Thumb where we can look down on all three nest rocks. Here is our view with the big rock in the middle that has the still active nesting pair.

 Adults were hanging out at the nest site but not feeding... at first. However, we sat and waited and our wait was rewarded when one adult flew out to forage and brought back food... a sure sign that at least one chick had survived. And soon we saw that chick. Later, two chicks were in sight at the same time. These chicks are much harder to detect than fledglings because they are still downy gray with very little color to their quite short bills. Gray chicks against gray rocks at a considerable distance from the viewer need to move to be seen.

A cropped version of the above photo is below: two adults on either side with two chicks in the middle dip.

The youngsters have survived a month. Here's hoping they make it another two or three weeks to fledging.

 Julie and Nancy were all smiles after seeing the chicks, in spite of fog moving in behind them.

Below are my intrepid friends descending The Thumb... and gazing out at the view from the foot... as the intermittent fog cleared again.

It was a very good day, with good friends, ending a very good week.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Johnny's Hawaiian Adventure, Part Five

Johnny's photos on his last full day started with, what else?, a hike. From what I could tell by the photos, just hiking to a beach each day was quite a trip. From the condo, they climbed down to the first beach on a steep paved path. That was the Bali Hai beach where they snorkeled and watched sunsets over Bali Hai (the movie's Bali Hai). (Actually called Pu'u Poa Beach). But to get to the second beach (Hideaways Beach), where they also snorkeled, they had to go first almost to the Pu'u Poa beach and then climb up stairs to get to the other side of the cliff, where they took a steep, rough trail down to the Hideaways beach. Confused? So was I.

Here they are here walking down stairs (Jessica hidden in the lead) to get back to the condo from the second (Hideaways) beach. They had climbed up from the second beach, around the cliff, and now are going back down to the first beach (Pu'u Poa) and then they will go up to the condo. Whew.

I think they are climbing back up from being down on the second beach (Pu'u Poa), with Jessica almost out of sight in the lead again, Sarah and Ian following, Kevin and Johnny trailing and not in the photo.

And then came the real hike for the day: the Kuila Ridge Trail.
This was taken on their way to the Kuila Ridge Trail, looking down at the Wailua River that they kayaked the day before. The dots on the water are kayaks, Johnny tells me.

Opeka'a Falls seen on the way to the trail

Eucalyptus trees
Some tree from Africa that Johnny didn't know the name of that was introduced and is taking over. Kevin thinks they may be Monkey Pod trees.

Vines totally covering trees. Johnny thinks Sleeping Beauty's castle is under that mound in the middle.

As if hiking, snorkeling and swimming (no photos of those), kayaking, tubing, and hula dancing were not enough, they took Johnny to play miniature golf on his last full day there. Here is a giant snail next to a golf ball, the only photo he took on the golf course.

Johnny tried to get bird photos for me, but seldom succeeded.
Red-crested Cardinals, another introduced species, were common, he says.

Of course, there was food. Here are some fruits they bought.

Johnny's flight home left about noon (their time, which is three hours earlier than ours), but Kevin wanted to take him snorkeling one more time. So that's what Johnny did Thursday morning, before his plane flight home. Then, after flying to Honolulu, he left paradise for Portland... and caught up to, on the way, yet another beautiful sunset.

 Thanks to losing three hours in transit, Johnny landed in Portland about ten thirty our time and drove in the driveway at one in the morning, Friday, Aug. 24.
                                                                        Aloha! Welcome home!

Johnny's Hawaiian Adventure, Part Four

On Monday, the day after the hike to Hanakapi'ai Falls, Jessica's sister Sarah arrived to join the party. That night, they all went to the Hawaii Alive Hula Show, where Johnny and several others from the audience went up on stage to dance the hula. Jessica took a video. I tried to take photos of her video off her facebook page with my new camera (yes! I have a new camera! It arrived yesterday!) but they didn't turn out (not the camera's fault... taking photos of a computer screen does not lead to quality shots). But these will show you, at least, that he really was up on stage dancing the hula.

On Tuesday, they spent the day kayaking the slow moving Wailua River for 2 1/2 miles with two hikes along the way in the Wailua River State Park.

Sarah and Jessica were in one kayak, Johnny and Ian in another, while Kevin had the single

Ian at one of the kayak stops

On the trail to Secret Falls

Secret Falls, with other tourists, so maybe not so secret

Sarah at the foot of Secret Falls

A massive vine on the hike back to kayaks. It looks like a snake!

Johnny thought this was the gnarliest tree he had ever seen.

Banana flower!

Can you see the tiny bananas at the base of this flower?

The Fern Grotto was on another hike from kayaking another branch of the Wailua River
The following day was Johnny's last full day in Kauai, so they stuffed in everything they could before he left. What more could there be?? Stay tuned for Part Five.

Johnny's Hawaiian Adventure, Part Three

Kevin has been wanting his dad to come to Kauai with them to hike this rugged-in-places four miles in and four miles out trail to Hanakapi'ia Falls. The first twelve minutes got them to this viewpoint.

Looking through the tropical rain forest to the beach below
It was two miles up and over the cliff to get down to the beach, then two miles up to the waterfall.

This is the stream that comes from the waterfall that is their goal

Giant bamboo along the trail

The path was inlaid with little black marbles that turned out to be seeds of, Johnny  thinks, Candlenut Palms (Kevin added a clarification: Those black nuts are usually called Kukui Nuts here on the island. The Kukui Nut tree is the state tree of Hawaii. Leis made of them were traditionally worn by royalty, and are now often given to men upon arriving to the island (women usually get a flower lei made of plumeria and/or orchids).

The round black seeds up closer
Here is the waterfall they were heading for.

A Cattle Egret by the stream. Introduced to Hawaii, they are now plentiful.

Once they arrived at Hanakapi'ai Falls,  Kevin and Johnny traded photo taking with another couple of tourists

Kevin, swimming in the pool below the falls

Back at the beach on their way home

Kevin climbing the black cliffs at that beach

That evening, as they did most every evening, they all hiked down to "their" beach to watch sunset over the ocean. (Kevin clarified my confusion over which beaches they hiked up and down to: The walk down from the condo to the beach is just downhill. We only hike back up to the top, then back down again, to go to "Hideaways" beach.)

Below are Jessica, Ian and Kevin, plus others, all photographing the beautiful sunset over Bali Hai. The end of another spectacular day in paradise.