Allen Hale of Buteo Books spent a week on Oahu visiting family, but he managed to squeeze in some birdwatching as well. Here’s his report:
by Allen Hale
Of all the major islands of Hawaii, Oahu has the fewest endemic species, not surprising given the human population of nearly one million. But introduced species abound and seabirds nest in vast numbers on nearby small islands and in a few protected areas. As a bookseller, I was inclined to take more than one field guide and carried Pratt, et al’s Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific and an older edition of Hawaii’s Birds published by the Hawaii Audubon Society. I also took a copy of Soehren’s Birdwatcher’s Guide to Hawaii and Hawaii Audubon’s Hidden Treasures of Oahu.
On previous visits, I had visited Ka’ena Point for nesting seabirds and Kapi’olani Park to see nesting White Terns, but on this visit I wanted to search for endemic species in patches of original forest. Soehren’s book was invaluable in providing details on all the best birdwatching sites on the island. On the first full day on Oahu, we walked the ‘Aiea Loop Trail on a ridge above Pearl Harbor. I had fleeting looks at the ‘Amakihi and an immature ‘Elepaio was most cooperative giving me ample time to study it carefully. The two most striking introduced species were the White-rumped Shama (wonderful songster) and Red-billed Leothrix, a chattering family group at hand.
My nephew, a resident of Honolulu, knew of a native forest restoration project and led us up a muddy and steep trail off Tantalus Drive to a utility road on top of the ridge which we followed to its end. From there another trail led us to the Mano Cliff Native Reforestation Project and within minutes of scanning the red flowers of an Ohia tree, an ‘Apapane appeared. A downpour soon ensued, but neither the trail nor the rain dampened my enthusiasm for having seen this surviving Hawaiian honeycreeper.
I do recommend taking the latest edition of Hawaii’s Birds (7th edition, 2014) as the avifauna of the islands is constantly changing. I much prefer the plates in the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific to the photos in Hawaii’s Birds, but the latter booklet works once you become accustomed to the format. For the independent birder, Soehren’s Birdwatcher’s Guide to Hawaii is essential. Back home, I wanted to learn more about the birds I’d seen and found Berger’s Hawaiian Birdlife an excellent source for detailed information on the birds of the islands, both endemic and introduced. Two editions were published, both now out of print (used copies available from Buteo Books).
Allen Hale is owner emeritus of Buteo Books, semi-retired to allow more time for birdwatching.