Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Maui on my Mind, Part 27

Just a mile north of Kihei, lies Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. It is a coastal salt marsh covering 691 acres on both sides of Kihei Road, serving as a bird sanctuary and home to 30 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory ducks. A boardwalk allows visitor access to the area.

It is a fun place for a photographer to visit because of the unique opportunity to spot birds that you generally will not see anywhere else on Maui. For example, here is a Wandering Tattler. During the summer (in the northern hemisphere), they can be found in far-eastern Russia, Alaska, portions of the U.S. west coast and northwestern Canada. Some escape the northern winters by migrating to Hawai‘i. Ancient Hawaiians believed they were messengers because they disappeared in the winter and returned in the fall. Subadults may choose to spend their first two years in the islands rather than join their migrating elders.

According to Wikipedia, "They feed on aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and marine worms. During the breeding season, they also eat insects. While wading, they forage actively, making jerky bobbing movements."

A couple weeks ago, I shared a photo of a Pacific Golden Plover in Napili. Here is another in a more natural setting. They breed in the Arctic and migrate to Hawai‘i, Fiji, South Pacific Islands, and all the way to New Zealand. They dine on insects and crustaceans and some berries.

This handsome bird is a Hawaiian Stilt or aeʻo. Sadly, it is considered imperiled in the wild. Relative to its size, this species has among the longest legs of any bird in the world. According to Wikipedia, "The Hawaiian Stilt's feeding habitats are shallow bodies of water, providing a wide variety of fish, crabs, worms, and insects." Kealia Pond seems to be perfect for them.

Speaking of fish, this must look like a grand buffet to birds like the Hawaiian Stilt. The water is shallow, making the fish quite vulnerable.

Here, another Hawaiian Stilt — it almost looks like the pair has the fish surrounded. Dinnertime!

Here we see a Black-crowned Night Heron aka 'Auku'u. Wikipedia describes them as having "a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey, red eyes, and short yellow legs." Yes, do check out the eyes. They are found in most of the temperate and tropical world. Those living in the cooler climes do migrate to Hawai‘i as well as other tropical spots.

Black-crowned Night Herons dine on small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, small mammals, and small birds. This one looks very patient waiting for his next meal to come to him.

Here we see a pair of Hawaiian coots AKA ʻalae kea. They look a lot like the American coots that we see in Arizona (they love golf courses). The Hawaiian coots have a bit more white coloration on their faces. They are listed at "vulnerable" to extinction, largely due to loss of habitat and introduced predators such as the small Asian mongoose.

This gathering includes what appear to be three additional Hawaiian coots plus two Hawaiian ibises. The latter with their long curved beaks are considered quite rare and in danger of extinction due to habitat loss. I consider myself lucky to have seen and photographed these rare birds.

Kealia Pond is right on the ocean with water exchange that results in brackish water in the Pond. That also limits the kinds of fish and other sea creatures that can live here. But it is a beautiful habitat. BTW, the island on the horizon is Kaho‘olawe, an extinct volcanic crater. It was formerly used as a bombing range for the U.S. Military. After many years of protests, the government eventually closed it down and returned jurisdiction to the state of Hawai‘i. Today Kahoʻolawe can be used only for native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes — non-Hawaiians are not allowed to visit (anyway, they should not want to go since unexploded ordinance is still being discovered and deactivated). The ocean area around the island is a popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Today, I was also lucky to spot one of the modern replicas of ancient Hawaiian ocean-going canoes. It looks like the Mo`okiha O Pi`ilani which was built on Maui and whose launch I shared with you in 2014. If you would like to see a reminder of that event, click here for the 2014 index then scroll down to the July/August issues.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com