Thursday, August 27, 2009

Native Species of the Week: Black-crowned Night Heron; 'Auku'u

English Name: Black-Crowned Night Heron 
Hawaiian Name: 'Auku'u 
Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax 

The Black-crowned Night Heron is native and indigenous to Hawai'i, meaning that it is also found elsewhere in the world.

'Auku'u on the Ala wai canal
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr
 This bird is easily recognized it by it's size (at a length of 22-26 inches, it's fairly big) as well as by it's posture and location. They are often seen hunched down on the edge of a water source looking for prey.

'Auku'u looking for prey in the Ala wai canal.
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr

Those who live near town in Honolulu can see them often along the Ala wai canal near Ala Moana beach park. These herons leave feeding areas near dusk to fly back to nest colonies high in trees. Sometimes, several nests can occupy a single tree.

'Auku'u in the Ala wai at dusk.
Photo: C. Tucker

Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" page to hear a recording of the harsh squawk made by the Black-Crowned Night Heron. While you're there, check out the profiles for other Hawaiian birds!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 4th week in August - Alula

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 4th week in August:

Alula, or Brighamia insignis, is blossoming now on windward sea cliffs of Kaua'i and Moloka'i. Formerly found also on Maui and Ni'ihau, this rare and endangered native lobelia has made some remarkable adaptations to survive in its dry, windy, and salty environment.

In times of drought, alula lives on water it has stored in its thick stem and grows smaller leaves than usual, thereby reducing loss of moisture. its roots grow horizontally to provide footing in the thin soil and crevasses of cliff faces, and its base is rounded, enabling it to sway a little with the stiffest gusts of wind.

Owing to these adaptations, alula is a hardy and long-lived plant, with individuals reaching heights of more than twelve feet. Unfortunately, it now faces threats for which the centuries of evolution have not prepared it, including predation by goats, competition from foreign plants, and removal by admiring humans.

Brighamia insignis is one of the plants being monitored and protected by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, or PEP.

To find out more about Brighamia insignis, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy fact sheet.

For more info, check out the National Tropical Botanical Garden fact sheet.

Also see the alula webpage.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 3rd week in August

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 3rd week in August:

Schools of small akule, known alternatively as halalū or hahalalū, come into sheltered bays and harbors at this time of year. This fish is also known as Bigeye scad.

When word of their presence gets out, people with bamboo poles crowd beaches and piers day and night, landing shining blue halalū one after another. On Oahu, prime spots for this delicious fish are Poka'ī Bay, Hale'iwa Bay, and Honolulu Harbor.
Juveniles of several other fish also move close to shore in large numbers at this season. Swarms of 'oama, young of the weke (yellowstripe goatfish), appear in sandy shallows and rival halalū for the attention of pole fishermen. Throw nets are in use, too, as shadowy grey schools of moili'i - immanture moi, or threadfin - turn up along beaches and in protected coves.

*Disclaimer: Although some of this information is still relevant, it was written and published in 1989. If you are interested in more information about current fisheries and practices, please visit the Division of Aquatic Resources webpage.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Native Species of the Week: Hawaiian monk seal

What's that in the tidepool? A fish? A shark?

It's an endangered Hawaiian monk seal!

These monk seals were spotted at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve on the island of Oahu. Hawaiian monk seals are native to Hawaii, and they are endemic, meaning they are found no place else in the world. This is their only home.

Monk seals love to relax and recharge in the tidepools, and can often be seen here, at the Western-most point of Oahu.

Monk seals used to live throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, and along with the Hawaiian Bat, is one of only two native mammals that live in the islands.

The Hawaiian name for monk seal is 'īlio-holo-i-ka-uaua, and translates into English roughly as "dog running in the toughness," which probably refers both to it's doglike face and it's awkward way of moving on land.

To learn more about monk seals, visit the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center page.

Other animals you may see at Kaena include Laysan Albatross and Humpback whales
, depending on the season.

If you visit Kaena Point, make sure to respect all posted signs within the Natural Area Reserve, and be prepared! (See below for guidelines)

Keep an eye out for the monk seals, but make sure to observe them from a distance. Bring your binoculars and zoom-lens camera, and you'll be able to watch these endangered animals play and lounge in the shallows.
Some guidelines for visiting this amazing place:
- Be prepared! Bring lots of water. It is usually hot and sunny in this area.
- Wear comfortable clothes, hiking or walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
- The hike is 2.5 miles long, and can take up to 3 hours, depending on your pace.
- Be aware of the big waves and strong currents along the coast, and stay away from the water unless you are familiar with these hazardous conditions.

Kaena Point is a favorite spot on Oahu for Endangered Hawaiian monk seals, you can help their home be a pleasant place for them and for visitors:
- Leave your pets at home; dogs can disturb or even kill ground-nesting birds.
- Stay on the trails and avoid disturbing the birds.
- Prevent fires and carry out all your rubbish.
- Lend a hand and pick up litter on the ground.
- Leave all living things as you found them.

For more info about Kaena Point, visit The Kaena Point NAR info page

Click here to watch "Restoring A Sanctuary," a movie about restoration at Kaena Point.

Click here to learn more about the Kaena Point Ecosystem Restoration Project

All photos: B. Gagne

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recovery Youth Conservation Corps: An experience of a lifetime...

The Hawaii Recovery Youth Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications for positions with several agencies and organizations involved in conservation. (The deadline for this program has passed. Stay tuned for more job and internship opportunities!)

Here are just some of the opportunities that participants could experience:

Learn GIS data collection and archiving techniques...

Assist a Rare Plant Horticulturalist in propagating, outplanting and monitoring native plants, including rare, threatened or endangered species...

Educate visitors at Oahu's beautiful and scenic Kaena Point...

Help protect the best of what’s left of Hawaii’s unique biology, geology and cultural sites in Maui Nui...

Go on 4-day camp trips to the summits of the Ko'olau Mountains for surveys, outplanting, weed removal, fence construction, and monitoring...

Work with students, teachers, families, and community groups to help increase awareness of our native species and the threats they face...

Monitor Hawksbill turtles on the Big Island of Hawai'i...

...and get paid to do it!

 For more information about the programs that will be hosting AmeriCorps Members and the job duties, see the RYCC website.

It's definitely an experience you'll remember for a lifetime!

45 positions are available in the conservation field and must be filled by September 23rd. Want to Apply? Please submit your typed, completed application to by August 31st. The program is 42 weeks long. (The deadline for this opportunity has passed.)

Applicants must be over 18 years of age, and be a U.S. Citizen with a high school diploma or equivalent. No previous experience is necessary.

Click here to download the Recovery YCC application

Benefits include: a living stipend, health care, loan forbearance, and a child care stipend. An Education Award of $4,750 for current or future school loans is awarded upon successful completion of service.

For more info about the Recovery YCC benefits and living stipend, click here.

*The application deadline for the 2009-2010 RYCC program has passed.* Stay tuned for more internship and volunteer opportunities!

Honu photo: National Park Service
All other photos: DOFAW

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 2009 Hawaii Conservation Conference has gone digital!

Even if you attended the 17th annual Hawaii Conservation Conference, you're sure to have missed some of the sessions, speakers and presentations that occurred during the week of July 27-30, 2009.

Now is your chance to experience those talks and presentations ONLINE!

A big Mahalo to Ron Cannerella; Aaron Lowe and their volunteer production team who worked their technical magic to capture over 84 sessions and speakers during the conference.

Visit the site to watch all of these digitized presentations.They are also available as podcasts in the itunes store.

Also, be sure to visit the Hawaii Conservation Alliance where you can watch the talks courtesy of the organization that coordinates the conference every year!

If you're not convinced yet, keep in mind that there are two talks by Dr. Stephen Schneider, "the distinguished climate change scientist and winner (along with four generations of fellow authors on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. (Co-winner former Vice President Al Gore got most of the publicity.)" -from Hawaii Energy Options blog

You don't want to miss this!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 2nd week in August

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 2nd week in August:

The first kōlea are arriving in the islands now, completing their flight of 3000 miles or more from their breeding grounds in Siberia and Alaska.

Clocked at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, kōlea make the trip non-stop and theoretically could fly twice as far as they do. Adults come first, leaving young birds to fatten up another month before the long flight to winter quarters. 

Kōlea molt from brown to nearly black before the return in April, but in any season, their plumage is flecked with the gold feathers that earned them the name golden plover.

Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr

Its beauty and behavior have made the kōlea one of the islands' most closely watched birds. In Hawaiian sayings, it appears as a metaphor for independence, wanderlust, mystery, transience, and ingratitude. In legends, it serves as a messenger of the gods.

Plovers were netted for food, but killing them wastefully was not tolerated. A story tells of kōlea pecking to death a man who caught more than he needed.
lea on Oahu leave for their breeding grounds on April 25th, plus or minus only a couple of days! Scientists have discovered that this is one of the most precise internal calendars in the animal kingdom.

Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr

Text and illustration taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"  
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

Native Species of the Week - 'Ohai

This beautiful flower belongs to Sesbania tomentosa, or 'Ohai, is a native coastal plant from southwestern Oahu.

Photo: DOFAW

This species appears in several color varieties from yellow to red, and is considered to be a rare plant species in Hawaii.

Photo: DOFAW

You can see 'Ohai along the trail at Kaena Point on Oahu.

Photo: DOFAW

If you visit Kaena Point, make sure you follow the posted instructions and warnings. Staying on the trail helps protect the habitat for these and other rare and special plants!

To learn more about this special plant, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy webpage.

Also, check out the Hawaii Ecosystems At Risk (HEAR) page about Sesbania tomentosa.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Waianae "Sunset on the Beach" event

On Saturday August 8th 2009, DOFAW outreach staff teamed up with the Honolulu Fire Department for the Waianae Sunset on the Beach event. 

Keiki learning about fire safety. 

Kids and adults answered questions about fire safety to earn prizes like temporary tattoo's, frisbees, pencils, stickers and other fun goodies!

The fire department brought a big yellow fire truck and had a fun "fire fighting activity" for kids.

A big Mahalo to the Honolulu Fire Department for teaming up with DOFAW to share fire safety information with the community.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Native Species of the Week - ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a; Hawaiian Hoary Bat

Hawaiian name: ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a
English name: Hawaiian Hoary Bat
Scientific name: Lasiurus cinereus semotus

Photo: DOFAW

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is Hawaii's only native terrestrial mammal. It is one of only two native mammals in the entire island chain (the Hawaiian monk seal is the other).

It is an endangered species, and is endemic at the subspecies level, meaning the bat that lives here lives nowhere else in the world.

The bat is brown and gray, and has a wingspan of about 1/3 of a meter, or about 1 foot. This bat has a lot in common with other bat species, but since very little is known about this particular mammal, much more research needs to be done.For example, not very much is known about the habitat requirements or population status of the Hawaiian Hoary Bat. 

" ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a feed on a variety of native and non-native night-flying insects, including moths, beetles, crickets, mosquitoes, and termites; and similar to other insectivorous bats, prey is located using echolocation." -From the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy webpage.

To find out more about the ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a; the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, visit the fact sheet on the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy webpage.

This Week in Nature: The 1st week in August

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 1st week in August:

"Aia a pohā ka leo o ka 'a'o,
kāpule ke momona o ka 'ua'u i ka puapua.

When the 'a'o birds' voices are distinctly heard,
the 'ua'u birds are fat even to the very tails."

The raucous cry of the 'a'o, Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis newelli), is heard before dawn and after dusk in the late summer and early fall. It is nesting season for both the 'a'o and the 'ua'u, or dark-rumped petrel, seabirds that spend the day foraging at sea for squid and fish.

The clearest indication of their nesting is the cry of the 'a'o, which sounds like a cross between a crow's caw and the braying of a donkey. In the old days, this odd noise was a cue that the breeding colonies were full of plump 'ua'u chicks. Hawaiians hunted and ate both old and young 'ua'u, netting adults as they returned to nests at sunset.

Human and animal predation have endangered both species. 'A'o now breed only on inaccessible ridges of Kaua'i and Hawai'i, while 'ua'u nest mostly on Haleakalā. Thir extinction would crete serious problems for fishermen, who historically have depended on them to locate feeding schools of aku.

For more information about Newell's Shearwater, visit the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy 'a'o webpage.

Also visit the Newell's Shearwater page.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989