Maui – Haleakala
Meg and friend were on Maui for a week. The first half was spent on the road to Hana, and the second half was spent on Haleakala.
Meg’s friend was excited about watching sunrise/sunset at the summit of the extinct volcano, and Meg was excited about birdwatching in Hosmer Grove near where they camped in the park.
As we watched the sun setting, clouds were passing over the mountain around us.
View from summit before the sun set
View from summit as sun was setting
Observatories after sun had set
In Hawaii, most of the birds that you see in lower elevations are invasive. Almost all of the endemic birds, in particular those that live in woodland or grassland habitats, have been forced to live at higher elevations due to human development and mosquito-borne pathogens. Thus, Hosmer Grove (about 7000 ft elevation) was a very exciting opportunity to see otherwise elusive birds.
Perhaps one of the most famous birds is the Hawaiian Honeycreeper, or ‘I’iwi. The grove was bursting with them, though they flit around too fast to get crisp pictures. I have quite a few pictures of red bird butts.
‘I’iwi (tongue Tuesday?)
Of course there were plenty of invasive birds in residence as well. One I had not seen before is the Chinese hwamei. It is quite loud, and was foraging for food in leaf debris.
Chinese hwamei aka melodious laughing thrush
Because we camped inside the park, we decided to spend a day hiking into the crater. It is a very rocky hike with many switchbacks so that you don’t drop in elevation too quickly. It is possible to camp inside the crater, but we decided it would probably be too cold. Throughout the hike we were alternately in the blinding sun or inside clouds. Often you couldn’t see anything besides opaque whiteness. I did not take my good camera on the hike, instead taking a waterproof point-and-shoot.
Our first glimpse of the crater a mile or so into the hike.
Once we got down into the crater we decided to follow the trail a mile or so further and have lunch. It was alternately grasslands and lava fields, and you could hear lots of birds but we didn’t see any. The clouds continued to roll over us.
Hiking back up in clouds
Haleakala is rich in habitats that are found nowhere else on earth. I would have liked to hike a little further into the crater to see the grove of silverswords. Silverswords are endangered plants endemic to Hawaii and are found at high elevations. Oh well, guess I’ll have to go back some day to hike some more and photograph some more birds.