Our albatross girls

I must have compiled half a dozen or more posts since my last of December 28. Unfortunately, they were all composed in my head, either while driving around the island (plenty of time for contemplation at a maximum of 50mph), or during one of my frequent bouts of insomnia (which I attribute to age, not location!) So, apologies for the extended absence and, obscenely belatedly, Happy New Year…or, rather less belatedly, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

One of the most frequent topics for my mental musings is our local population of laysan albatross. I briefly mentioned some weeks ago that they were/are back on Kauai.

Nov 2012: returning albatrosses find their mates

Nov 2012: returning albatrosses find their mates

They started returning mid- November. Once one appears, it seems they all stream in. After courting and mating, all the nesting pairs concentrate on incubating their (single) egg and raising their chick.

Each parent takes it in turn to fly all the way back to Alaska to feed (yes, seriously, a round-trip of roughly 6,000 miles), while the other is dedicated to sitting full-time on the egg. They swap every two or three weeks until the egg is hatched, then more frequently as the chick grows, often covering the round-trip in only four or five days. Not surprisingly, the nesting bird is too hungry to hang about for long once its mate returns to relieve it.

So, during this incubation stage, the neighborhood goes a little quiet for a while.

IMG_5386However, the activity level picks up considerably early in the new year, when the non-nesters start appearing.

"If I stand really still, perhaps they won't notice me."

“If I stand really still, perhaps they won’t notice me.”

Non-nesters include those adults who for one reason or another do not have a partner this year, as well as the three to seven year old juveniles who are not yet old enough to mate, some of whom have returned to the island for the first time since they fledged (they usually spend the first three years at sea).

Each chick is banded before it leaves the nest; Kīlauea Point and Princeville chicks are given a ‘KP’ prefix. Last year, KP338 and KP643 nested on the border between our home and our neighbor. I learned a little about this pair at that time, but, since we only visited our new ‘vacation’ home for a week or two in February 2012 and again that April, we didn’t see the whole process through all the stages. However, we did find out that they are both females.

We were surprised to discover that female pairs are quite common. It’s not known why this happens, but they are definitely as dedicated as their male/female counterparts in incubating the egg. When both females lay an egg, one of the eggs has to be removed, as they only have the resources to incubate and raise one chick. Of course, the chances of them having a fertilized egg are somewhat limited…but not impossible, since there’s sometimes a randy male hanging around the neighborhood ready to jump their bones when they first return to the area!

Sadly, last year’s egg was not fertile. In some cases, an adoptive egg can be given to an all-female pairing. A program was instigated some years ago to replace infertile eggs with proven fertile eggs from pairs nesting on PMRF (Pacific Missile Range Facility) land. The idea was to reduce the PMRF colony of laysan albatross to avoid collisions with aircraft by relocating the eggs prior to hatching, since an albatross will typically return to the area where it hatched.

Initially, adoptive eggs were relocated to the KPNWR (Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge) only, but it was later extended to those birds nesting on private lands (such as Princeville).

This wasn’t an option for our pair last year as, for some reason known only to herself, 643 decided to move two doors down to lay and incubate her own egg, while 338 was left alone at the original nest site. Without two adults to incubate an egg, there’s no hope of success, since, as I already mentioned, they must take it in turns to leave the nest to feed.

KP338 and KP643 (with 643's egg)

KP338 and KP643 (with 643′s egg) at the top of the slope

This season, the same pair returned, and this time ended up with their nest just a few feet from our garage, on the edge of the driveway. Not that that was their original intention! They started off tucked behind a sago palm and a bird of paradise plant, at the top of a small slope.

643 laid her egg first, on December 4, and left 338 to incubate it.

KP338 followed her egg after it rolled down the slope

KP338 followed her egg after it rolled down the slope

338 laid her own egg the following day, slightly to one side … unfortunately, it was closer to the slope and at some point during the day, presumably while 338 was shuffling around and beginning to pull some grass around her to form a nest, the egg rolled down the slope.

KP338 on the eventual nest site, admiring her reflection in the car!

KP338 on the eventual nest site, admiring her reflection in the car!

At least, 338 had the sense to follow her egg and sit on it! (An albatross will often ignore an egg that has accidentally rolled out of the nest, and will stubbornly remain on the nest while the egg goes cold – not the sharpest tool in the box!)

On the positive side, since 338 was by now nesting some distance from the sago palm, it was easy to remove 643′s egg without causing 338 any grief.

To avoid disturbance, the ideal is to keep at least 15 feet away from nesting birds but, given their location, that’s simply not feasible for us, or at least for the car, this year. Thankfully, neither 338 nor 643 seem too bothered by our comings and goings (though, of course, we don’t open the passenger door right next to them). At the risk of imposing human characteristics on these beautiful creatures, our pair do now seem to recognize our voices and appear quite comfortable on their accidental nesting site.

We had hoped that their infertile egg would be replaced with a PMRF egg, but sadly this year the State has decided not to extend the adoption permit to private lands. :( So, for now, our pair continue to incubate their egg, with no hope of hatching a chick. At some stage either the egg will break or the pair will simply give up hope and abandon the nest. They have been particularly faithful to each other and to their nest this time, despite the egg relocating itself, so we’re hoping they will have another go next year.

This chick (less than a week old) was hatched on a neighbor's front yard

This chick (less than a week old in the photo) was hatched on a neighbor’s front yard

Meanwhile, the happier news is that we now have 18 chicks in Princeville.

We’re enjoying watching the little balls of gray fluff grow, day by day, in our neighborhood.

Once again, I highly recommend Cathy’s blog, My Albatross Diary, as an excellent and entertaining source for more detailed updates on our Princeville chicks, an insight into albatross parenting, and many more great photos and videos.

A typically atypical week at the Refuge

I do thoroughly enjoy my volunteer sessions at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (KPNWR). The less informed might imagine it a somewhat repetitive, uneventful role: hang at ‘the Point’, chat with visitors, explain about our seabirds, talk story about the lighthouse history and restoration, occasionally politely ask someone not to eat, drink, smoke (or whatever else they’re doing that they’re not allowed to do at the refuge), watch for birds, dolphins, and whales…

However, the routine is never quite routine. Take last week, for instance:

The annual bird count:

IMG_4784The annual Christmas bird count is held across the States. Our contribution was to walk around Kīlauea Point on Sunday morning (Dec 16), counting any birds (not just seabirds) that we saw or heard.

IMG_4774As you might imagine, birds being birds, this is not a precise, scientific process!

In the case of the nēnē, it’s not so difficult. Many of them tend to hang out in pairs at this time of year, grazing in a few open areas, and it’s easy to read their band codes without disturbing them, with the help of binoculars.

On the other hand, the Japanese White-eyes and the Kōlea aren’t so cooperative; they don’t stay still for long and aren’t banded, so there’s no way of knowing if we’ve counted the same bird twice (or 10 times)!

IMG_2319Then there’s the colony of red-footed boobies that roost on Crater Hill. Try counting hundreds of distant white dots on a hillside as they constantly take to the air, swoop and land again. In this case, we learned the accepted method was for each individual to pick a small area and count, say, 25 birds, then estimate the number of similar sized areas across the entire hillside and multiply the two. Finally, we took an average of all the counts. Our individual counts ranged roughly from 800 to 1000 birds, so I was relieved we weren’t expected to count every one!

Even though not precise, the annual bird count is a useful, long-established, exercise that indicates trends in bird populations. It’s a regular event on the refuge’s calendar that provides an enjoyable morning for volunteers to get together with rangers and other experts to cover parts of the refuge that we otherwise don’t frequent. You might think about finding a bird count near you next year!

The great escape:

img4813-copyThe following Wednesday, on an extremely windy afternoon, a visitor’s baseball cap was whisked off his head and settled on top of a high bank of naupaka. The cap had significant sentimental value, having belonged to a deceased relative, so the poor chap was desperate to retrieve it.

We made several attempts to hook the cap on the end of a very long pole (what a pity I was too involved in the whole process to think about snapping a photo), but neither the wind nor the cap would cooperate and it finally dropped further into the deep shrubbery, out of reach.  So we called in the cavalry, one of our rangers eventually clambered to the rescue, and man and cap were happily reunited!

IMG_4817

The gosling photoshoot:

Proud nēnē parents and their brood of four newly-hatched goslings were one of the main attractions last week.

They emerged from their nest under the naupaka and gradually worked their way along the west edge of the refuge behind the protective fence, nibbling at the grass.

IMG_4834A number of visitors went to extraordinary lengths to capture a photo of these tiny youngsters at the closest possible range!

Smoke without fire:

IMG_4824At the northern-most tip of Kīlauea Point is the islet of Moku’ae’ae, and on the east side of the islet is a fork in the rock with a hidden lava tube that occasionally spouts a plume of sea spray high into the air. This event is neither frequent nor regular; it depends on the swells hitting the cleft at precisely the right angle and height.

Unlike the more famous Spouting Horn near Po’ipū, we can go many days without seeing this spout, but we were treated to repeated displays last Thursday.

Every day is different – different conversations with visitors, different weather conditions, different sea swells, different number of bird and whale sightings – so I’m looking forward to many more entertaining, illuminating and unexpected events at the refuge in the new year!

Returning roosters at Kilauea Point

…and, by roosters, I do not mean the omnipresent Kauai chicken!

At the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (KPNWR) the Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks (‘Wedgies’) are getting close to fledging. The oldest of the visible chicks will probably be gone within the next couple of weeks. Which means the adults will no longer return to feed them. Adults and fledglings will all (individually) fly south to the Gulf of Panama for their winter vacation.

So, Steve and I headed out to the overlook at Kilauea Point just before sunset one evening last week, hoping to catch a glimpse of the adult Wedgies returning to their burrows and their chicks dotted around the Point.

If they did, we missed them! However, while we were waiting, we were treated to the marvelous sights and sounds of the Red-footed Boobies returning to their roosts.

The adults have bright red feet (I guess their name gave that away, didn’t it!), and also a very blue bill – a bizarrely beautiful color scheme.

These boobies stay with us year-round, and the evening ritual is evidently a popular sight, as we were joined by a number of visitors while we were there.

Our next ornithological treat will be the return of the Laysan Albatross from their Summer break in Alaska which should be any day now! During the three-month break between last seasons fledglings in July and the anticipated adult arrivals, I’ve been enjoying some local albatross stories and photos posted by Bob Waid, a neighbor and fellow volunteer at KPNWR.

Fledging Wedgies

I’ve been cataloging the progress of our Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks over the past three months (mostly the same one near the lighthouse building), as it is the most accessible, having been laid and hatched above ground instead of in a more typical burrow).

I’ve snapped at least one photo a week since it was a couple of weeks old.

I’ve watched it grow from a tiny ball of almost white cotton wool, through various stages of grey fluff and the appearance of its flight feathers.

It has morphed into an adult as I’ve watched. Its chest is now whiter, with only patches of the grey chick-fluff remaining, and it is far more active, though still not moving more than a yard or two from its nest.

One day soon, I’ll arrive for my afternoon volunteer stint, to find an empty nest. I’ll be disappointed not to see the chick, or to share it with visitors, but delighted to know it’s fledged safely and is on its way down south.

Celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week: A Retrospective

Last Sunday (Oct 14) was just the first day of a fun, eventful, and informative National Wildlife Refuge Week.

KauaiThe USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) rangers organized several guided hikes for the public to see parts of the Kaua’i wildlife refuge lands that are very rarely open to anyone outside the Service.

The groups were limited, with reservations required, and the places were all filled very quickly. So the rangers also provided additional guided hikes for the volunteers. Lucky us! :)

For the first of the two hikes, last Tuesday, my friend Alice and I planned to carpool ‘down south’ to join a kayak/hike group on the latter hike portion of their Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) tour.

Newell's shearwater at Lydgate ParkFortunately, Alice (thank you so much, Alice!) had learned that the Save Our Shearwaters team, with the help of a class from a local school, were planning to release a number of Newell’s shearwaters. Typically, at this time of year, these are injured or disorientated fledglings that have been rescued and nursed back to health.

Local school children helped release the shearwatersSo, we left Princeville early and headed to Lydgate Park on the East shore, arriving just in time to see the last of seven birds that day sitting on the release platform and surveying its surroundings (we would have been a tad-plus-a-smidgeon earlier, but yours truly remembered she’d forgotten her hiking shoes, which resulted in a 10+ minute round-trip delay – sorry, Alice).

Less than a couple of minutes after our arrival, we witnessed Newell’s shearwater #7 spread its wings, take off and confidently head out to sea – what a cool sight!

Lydgate ParkLydgate Park itself is also pretty cool. There’s a huge great maze-like structure, several stories high, that’s been built for kids (small and not-so!) with numerous decorative plaques dotted throughout the walkways.

Lydgate Park

So, of course we had to check that out before heading to the meeting point at Nawiliwili small boat harbor (with just a minor detour to Costco for a restock of alcohol as requested by ‘him indoors’)! ;)

Hule'ia NWR

The hike took us through the wetland area that was once a network of Hawaiian taro fields, but is now maintained for the endangered wetland birds, as well as to preserve the Hawaiian cultural history.

Mike Mitchell, Deputy Project Leader at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, ‘talked story’ as we wandered through the refuge, pointing out native and invasive plants and detailing the effort that was required to restore the wetlands after many years of disuse, as well as the ongoing maintenance.

Hule'ia NWRThe refuge is tucked away inland to the west of Nawiliwili Harbor and the Menehune Fishpond, with the Hule’ia river bordering the refuge to the south.

It was a wonderfully serene, quiet area, with the only outside noise coming from an occasional and distant helicopter…oh, and one microlight (which Alice told me she’d once experienced, which made me rather envious).

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, I was back at the lighthouse for my regular volunteer sessions. Although many of the visitors were unaware that it was NWR week when they first arrived, there were plenty of large posters and additional information for them to learn about all the refuges throughout Kaua’i, Hawai’i, and the other States.

Crater HillOn Friday afternoon, we were treated to a final volunteer-only hike to Crater Hill, part of the Kilauea NWR that includes Kīlauea Point, with its lighthouse, then spreads to the east along the coast.

We saw the colony of red-footed boobies from a completely different angle than we usually observe from the lighthouse, and were able to get much closer to them.

Juvenile red-footed boobieWe sat for ages on the hill, watching the adults and juveniles soar around us, and learning fascinating details about our Kaua’i seabirds from Beth Flint, FWS SeaBird Biologist. Boy! She was a wealth of knowledge, and so entertaining with it! She’s based in O’ahu, but I do hope she’ll return to us for future hikes.

Then we wandered across the cliff top, with fabulous views along the coastline, as well as across Kilauea.

We saw wedge-tailed shearwater chicks nestled in their cliffside burrows, loads of red-footed boobies, white tailed tropic birds, and great frigatebirds, including a large group of males (surprisingly, since at the lighthouse we see predominantly females and very few males) soaring around the cliffs.

Oh, and we were thrilled to spot a stingray, way down below us in the ocean close to shore. I snapped a photo of that too, but you wouldn’t thank me for subjecting you to it…it just looks like a small black dot; still, I know that dot’s a stingray!

Stingray, honest it is!…On second thoughts…

…you see, like I said…just a black dot!

After the hike, I helped Sheri, one of the rangers, set up for the free movie night that the USFWS had organized for the entire community at the old Kīlauea Theatre (now home to the Calvary Chapel). I grabbed a tasty pannini (to go) from Kīlauea Bakery (love love love their website!), and then enjoyed the show with the rest of the crowd.

The first of two movies was a recent short documentary called ‘Endangered Hawaii’, narrated by Richard Chamberlain and highlighting the plight of Hawaii’s endangered birds, including many species that are sadly already extinct. It was particularly interesting for me to see several familiar faces from the USFWS who were interviewed for the documentary, with many shots of Kaua’i including the refuges we visited earlier in the week. If you’re interested in the demise, but more importantly in supporting the protection, of these species, please purchase and encourage others to enjoy the DVD.

The feature film was ‘Oceans’; a Disneynature film released in 2010 (enjoy some spectacular clips in this trailer on YouTube). This movie was narrated by Pierce Brosnan. The narration was a tad slow-moving at times, but the underwater cinematography was truly remarkable, and left me utterly bewildered as to how they were able to capture many of the shots (that is, when I even remembered that a camera was there)!

Well, that’s another week of my life gone – kaput! Still, it was certainly interesting and thought-provoking, and one that left me with many impressions and fabulous memories, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much at the speed of its passing!

Celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week

KPNWR entranceOctober 14-20 is National Wildlife Refuge Week in the U.S and, to celebrate the first day, Kilauea Point NWR held another fee-free day on Sunday.

For anyone reading this who is local, there are many other interesting events planned for the week, including hikes to areas that are rarely open to the public. Check out the activities here.

The Refuge has kindly organized separate sessions, for volunteers only, for us to enjoy two of the guided hikes (Hule’ia to the south of the island, and Crater Hill which overlooks Kilauea Point). I haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore either, so I’m very much looking forward to both, on Tuesday and Friday.

Puddles the Mascot

Similar to the recently Nene Awareness Day, Sunday provided plenty of activities for the young-in-age and young-at-heart, as well as another appearance by Puddles the NWR Mascot.

Rumor has it that the rangers draw straws to determine the poor s*d who has to endure that costume in the Hawaiian heat! ;)

Wedgie chick

The oldest of our (visible) Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks made a special effort to welcome the visitors by venturing out from the comfort of its nest behind a tree.

He (or she) is changing daily now, losing its grey fluff-ball appearance and gaining its flight (wing and tail) feathers, ready for fledging around mid-late November.

It was a beautifully sunny day at the Point, which encouraged a good number of visitors early in the day. After the recent lack of rain and trade winds, we had had a welcome dump of rain overnight, which freshened the ground and the atmosphere.

View from Kilauea Point

The sea was once again a pristine turquoise in the bay, and a pod of spinner dolphin made an appearance, to the delight of the crowd!


Saturday’s free-for-all at the Refuge

Free admission to the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, that is!

KPNWR

KPNWR entranceIn case it escaped your notice(!), last Saturday was National Public Lands Day (NPLD), as so eloquently proclaimed by our President. In recognition of the occasion, the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge offered a fee-free day.

While kids age 15 or under have free admission every day, our fee-free days are a big deal for all the bigger kids, no age limit.

Nene - Hawaiian State BirdNPLD also coincided with our Nēnē Awareness Day. So, this was an opportunity to showcase our State Bird, the nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) , and educate and entertain our visitors with relevant information and activities.

The rangers did a great job of preparing for the event.

Nene walkOne of my favorite features was the Nēnē Walk. (OK, it doesn’t look quite so great in my photo, what with the fencing and poop, and the fact you can’t read the cards…perhaps you had to be there!)

As visitors wandered from the entrance along the pathway to the lighthouse, the rangers had laid a number of nēnē cards, each with a snippet of information. For example, I was shocked to discover that in 1949 the nēnē population was down to a mere 30! Today? Somewhere around 2,500! They are still endangered, but it’s a remarkable success story so far. [For those friends in California, the nēnē is not the same as the pesky canada goose. The nēnē is protected and revered, as opposed to being regarded as a noisy, messy pest!]

Matt, Forestry and WildilfeMatt, from the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife was on-site to provide nēnē banding information. Kids were ‘banded’ in the same way…well, not quite…they were given a temporary paper band around their wrist, rather than a permanent plastic band around their ankle; still, like the nēnē, girls were banded on the left wrist, and boys on the right.

The ‘tattoo’ station was also very popular, and not just with the children. Many adults proudly displayed their temporary tattoos to me as they left.

Save our ShearwatersVolunteers also manned an exhibit highlighting the Save our Shearwaters campaign. On Kauai, there is particular concern at this time of year for the Newell’s shearwater fledglings who are often disorientated by lights, particularly bright lights pointing upwards. The wedge-tailed shearwaters fledge a little later, in November. With increased awareness of the plight of these endangered seabirds, and to avoid violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), night-time roadworks and other floodlight activities cease each year between September 15 and December 15.

Another reason for celebration on Saturday, was the $25,000 check that Kīlauea Point Natural History Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received from Hampton Hotels, as part of their Save-A-Landmark program. The donation will be used for the ongoing Kīlauea Lighthouse Restoration.

The Kīlauea Lighthouse is the 60th site to be acknowledged by the company since Save-A-Landmark was launched in 2000, and was selected in 2011 for the award through a national voting campaign in which Hawai‘i residents and lighthouse supporters from around the world cast more than 25,000 votes on its behalf. A pretty impressive feat by such a tiny state!

Kilauea LighthouseThe lighthouse is in full renovation mode at the moment, with its body covered for lead-based paint removal and installation of new windows (the original openings having been bricked up in the 1930′s). The plan is to have it completed, and returned to its original splendor, prior to its centennial celebration on May 1, 2013 (which coincidentally is my brother’s birthday…think about it, bro, that could be quite a birthday party for you!)

* Thanks to US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the nēnē photo, and Kīlauea Point Natural History Association (KPNHA) for many of the details above. ‘Like’ them on Facebook to keep track of future activities.

2012 Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show

Volunteering at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (here’s a previous post if you missed it), is already opening all sorts of unexpected and enjoyable opportunities to me, in addition to simply chatting with and informing visitors at Kilauea Point.

Last week I was at the Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show in Lihue. It’s a two-day science and technology fair, where businesses/groups explain to kids (from 4th, 6th, and 8th grades) how they use technology in their day-to-day work. This year KPNWR were one of five groups invited to participate – the others being the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Kauai Utility Cooperatie (KIUC), Hawaiian Telecom, and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) which manages the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The kids were split up into groups and were shuttled between the five stations for a mere 10 minute presentation at each.

Myself and another volunteer were there with a Ranger (Sheri), ostensibly to talk about the various technologies that help us at the Refuge, but at the same time to enthuse them about conservation, and maybe light a fire in them that might lead to a future career, or at least foster another caring volunteer.

The kids were tremendous. They came to us in groups of anything from 10 to 25 or more, and had to deal with a great deal of noise and chaos around them, as we were all in a large conference hall. They sat on the floor and were (mostly) fascinated to listen to Sheri, as she explained how the birds were here long before us, and talked of the responsibility we have to safeguard them. We fielded a remarkable number of thoughtful questions from genuinely interested minds.

Sheri’s pitch was guaranteed to peak their interest. Many of these kids go hunting with their dads, and have some familiarity with, for example, the remote scout cameras that we use to keep track of birds and also their predators. So, she pointed out a camera that was ‘watching’ them from the moment they arrived.

Garmin GPSThe idea of using technology as a form of ‘spying’ appealed to that age group. ;) So their eyes opened even wider as we demo’d the ‘burrow-cam’ (a car mechanic’s flexible inspection camera), as well as the handheld GPS gizmo that rangers use to record the position of the remote cameras.

One of the most successful visual aids was the brief video clip we had set up on a continuous loop in the center of our display table. Recorded by an infra-red remote camera, it captured a cat scaring a Nene (Hawaiian goose) from its nest and attempting to grab an egg.

That story had a happy ending: after repeated attempts, the cat was unsuccessful, the Nene returned, and the chick eventually hatched. Since we had the GPS location of that specific camera, the rangers were able to trap the cat a few days later; it was neutered by the Kauai Humane Society and relocated.

On the lookout for mongooses and other invasive species on Kauai

I previously mentioned that I’m now volunteering at the KPNWR (Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge).

I thoroughly enjoy working being there. I’m learning so much from the rangers, and have such fun conveying all that I learn to the visitors.

One of the privileges of being a volunteer is that we get to attend the monthly meeting…a couple of hours on a Friday morning.

The first half of the agenda is an established sequence of updates, to keep us all up-to-date with what’s going on at the refuge, including a biological report…whatever’s happening depending on the time of year (currently, the wedge-tailed shearwaters have hatched a few weeks ago and are growing, and the Newell Shearwaters are approaching their fledging season); followed by, among others, an update from the KPNHA (Kilauea Point Natural History Association) which runs the Visitor’s Center.

After those various reports, for the second half of the meeting we’re treated to a “Featured Nature Nugget” speaker. Today, three members of KISC (Kauai Invasive Species Committee) joined us, to discuss the invasive species on Kauai and how to recognize them. Tiffani Keanini fascinated us with her talk and samples.

MongooseOur main interest was the mongoose (a truly vicious looking b*stard), since we’ve been hearing of several sightings and a couple of captures in recent months, and they would be a particular threat to our ground nesting birds and hatchlings if they were to establish a colony on this island.

However, we also learned of several plants that threaten the environment in a number of ways.

Ivy Gourd

The Ivy Gourd is the vine standing on the far right behind the speaker. Its flower and seed pod are shown in the slide.

For example, Pampas Grass (well known to my California friends) is a big no-no here. Apparently, some well-meaning but naïve homeowners have tried to plant them in their yards. However, I’m now on the case … looking for any further PG occurrences.

Other examples were the Ivy Gourd (“regarded as very invasive and on the Hawaii State Noxious Weed List”), plus another vicious, but teeny critter, the Little Fire Ant, which was inadvertently transported from South America and made its way to the North Shore of Kauai via a landscaping company working on an individual homeowner’s yard in the area.

A good reminder for me was how seeds can be spread inadvertently by hikers. KISC pleaded with us to brush off our boots whenever we’ve been for a hike, to avoid spreading the seeds of one species (particularly an invasive species) from one part of the island to another (which reminded me of a trip to the Galapagos Islands with a good friend back in 2002, when we diligently washed off our boots, snorkel equipment, etc., whenever we left one island to go to another).

Gotta love the KISC guys who provided us all with free boot brushes, as well as key rings and fridge magnets, to try to spread the word.

Heads up, any keen hikers who comes to visit us! From now on you will definitely be subjected to the boot brush!