Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Save Our Seabirds! Simple steps to reducing light distraction.

Each fall, the keiki of Hawaii's native seabirds begin to fledge and fly to the ocean for the first time using the moonlight on the sea to navigate their way. These young birds are leaving the land for the first time and traveling to the ocean to find food and begin their adult lives. The light of the moon is their primary navigational tool.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus)

Unfortunately on their way to the sea, they cross lands covered with glaring lights. 

 Full moon behind Poipu Resort

These threatened and endangered birds are attracted to lights and often end up circling them until they are exhausted, and they can be injured by their fall to the ground.

Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis)

This sad story can have a happy ending, though, and you can do your part, simply by making sure that your outdoor lights point DOWN instead of up!  

Uplighting creates a large amount of unnecessary light pollution. By simply changing light fixtures so they point down or are shielded, you can make a big difference for these special endangered birds. 

Visit the Seabird Protection and Impact Reduction webpage for more information about lighting strategies, examples of light fixtures that reduce light distraction, and info about fallen seabirds.

Click here to read "Turn Off the Lights for the Birds" on the Maui News website from December 2009. Check out the section with tips for "what to do/what not to do" if you encounter a fallen bird.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Week in Nature: The last week in December - Fin whale

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the last week in December:

Fin whales pass the islands about now, en route to the warm waters of the equatorial region.  Second only in size to blue whales, fin whales average 65 feet in length and may attain swimming speeds as high as 20 miles an hour. Usually they keep to the deep sea, but occasional sightings and strandings have been reported in Hawaii. A fin whale spotted off Hale'iwa was apparently enjoying a meal of 'ōpelu.

Their passage through Hawaiian waters coincides with fin whales' peak calving and mating period, so newborns - 19 feet long at birth - are likely to be among our visitors. Mating may occur here as well. Recordings made off Ka'ena Point indicate that females swim south first, followed by males singing courting songs.

To learn more about fin whales, visit the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources' Marine Mammals page

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Forest Reserve System News

On November 19, 2009, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved new management plans for three Forest Reserves; Na Pali-Kona, Puu Ka Pele, and Molokai.
For more info about the Forest Reserve System, click here and use the navigation bar on the right side of the page.

Koa (Acacia koa)

With its inception in 1903, the Forest Reserve System represented a public-private partnership to protect and enhance important forested mauka lands for their abundance of public benefits and values.  Though this original partnership has evolved over the decades, today the tradition is carried on by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) for public Forest Reserve lands.

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 4th week in December - Koloa maoli

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

Koloa maoli
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Koloa maoli, the Hawaiian duck, (Anas wyvilliana) can now be seen making vertical flights that indicate the onset of mating. Courting pairs fly virtually straight up from ground level to an altitude of one hundred feet and chase one another in tight circles. Sometimes a second male joins the chase, trying to approach the female, but is ritually driven off. Courtship resumes on the ground, where eventually as many as ten eggs will be laid and hatched in a large, well-concealed nest. Koloa appear to mate throughout the year, but their main breeding period begins in December.

Once plentiful on most of the main islands, koloa is now an endangered species, and is fighting for survival against threats like predation by foreign animals, draining and filling of marshes, and breeding with feral and domesticated mallards.

Koloa maoli means "indigenous duck," distinguishing this native from six North American species that visit the islands in the winter. The only other native duck is a resident of Laysan, toward the northwest end of the archipelago.

To learn more about koloa maoli, visit the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy koloa fact sheet

For lessons and activities about the native Hawaiian duck, visit Malama Hawaii's koloa webpage.

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do To Reduce Marine Debris

DOFAW asks you to remember: what happens mauka can effect the health of ecosystems makai. There are so many things we can all do to help protect the unique and beautiful natural resources in Hawaii. Here are 10 ways to help reduce marine debris. This list was compiled by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

1. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Choose reusable items and fewer disposable ones. Please visit website to discover more recycling options (e.g., batteries, cans, cell pones, computers, fishing line).

2. Place all rubbish in trash cans with lids so it doesn't blow away. Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of trash as they empty into our oceans. Throw all cigarette butts and bottle caps into refuse containers!

3. Encourage your tackle shops, docks, marinas, and fishing piers to provide adequate trash cans and recycling bins for used line and other trash. Bring your oil cans, food wrappers, and ciggerette butts back to shore to throw in the rubbish can. Visit the Berkley Fishing page and the Florida Conservation website for more info about monofilament recycling programs.

4. "Paper or plastic?" Neither! Remember to use your re-usable shopping bags when you go to the store. Also remember that "Less is more." Be mindful to select products with minimal packaging.

5. Instead of continually purchasing plastic-bottled water, use water filters, water coolers, and refillable stainless steel bottles instead. Visit for more info.

Buy soft drinks and juice  in aluminum cans or glass bottles which can be redeemed and recycled, as opposed to plastic bottles, which are often "down-cycled" rather than "recycled."

7. Encourage restaurants to use biodegradable (or at least #1 and #2 recyclable plastic) take-out food containers and utensils. Better yet, bring your own!

8. Avoid over packaged merchandise and disposable products like plastic lighters, razors, cameras and other throw-away items. Visit for more info.

9. Avoid body care products that contain tiny plastic "micro-scrubbers" that wash down the drain and into our ocean.

10. Serve as an example to others. Practice 1-9 above and participate in local beach clean-ups. To learn more about marine debris in Hawaii, visit

In addition, be sure to write and speak to your elected officials and encourage them to support policies that protect our ocean, and all of our natural areas. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looking for GIS data and maps?

Visit the Hawaii Statewide GIS Program website.

What is GIS? "GIS's are computerized mapping and information systems which are capable of combining spatial (mapped) data with associated attribute information to facilitate spatial data analyses for improved decision making."

What can be done with GIS data? "Mapped data (e.g. roads, streams, schools) and their associated attribute information (e.g. road name, stream flow volume, school enrollments) are converted to a computer-compatible form. This enables users to better and more efficiently assemble, store, manipulate and display geographically-referenced information. GIS's allow efficient retrieval and analyses of these data, including the ability to overlay and combine different layers of information to perform functions such as suitability analyses, i.e. the appropriateness of a particular area to support a certain activity or land use."

Interested in learning more? Visit the Hawaii Statewide GIS Program website.

To see how GIS data is being used in a large scale project in Hawaii, check out the Hawaii State-wide Assessment of Forest Conditions, or SWARS website. SWARS is the state of Hawaii's comprehensive assessment of forest conditions, across all land ownerships and is part of a federal initiative to improve resource management and planning.

Monday, December 14, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 3rd week in December - 'opihi

What's Happening in Hawaii 
During the 3rd Week in December

Kāpeku ka leo o ke kai,
o ho'oilo ka malama.
When the voice of the sea is harsh, 
the winter months have come.

 December usually brings the year's largest surf, generated by storms in the North Pacific. Kāpeku ("harsh") describes the thunder of big surf and refers to the ancient practice of noisily splashing the water to scare fish into a net. The winter waves have a similar effect, stirring the ocean bottom to depths as great as 240 feet, dislodging a variety of creatures and washing them to shore.

On the islands' northern and western coasts, this is a particularly dangerous time to pick 'opihi (limpets) but a good time to look for sea life on the beaches. In doing so, don't ignore the sand under your feet. The turbulence of storm surf helps create the beaches by bringing ashore the remains of millions of tiny organisms. Much of the white sand of Hawai'i is composed of shells of single-celled animals (Foraminifera, a kind of protozoa), which feed on oceanic bacteria. Some, like the "paper shell" depicted above, grow as large as a quarter of an inch across.

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

Laysan Albatross Return to Kaena Point

The birds are back!
Laysan Albatross have begun to arrive at Kaena Point after being out at sea for several months.

Albatross at Kaena Point, Oahu.
Photo: C. Tucker

Birds of breeding age come back to areas, including Kaena Point, at this time of year to lay eggs and raise their young.

Female albatross with egg.
Photo: C. Tucker 

For more information about the Laysan Albatross and their habits, check out... the National Audubon Society albatross page.

To learn about some of the challenges the albatross are facing, click to read the article "Bringing Home the Trash."

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 2nd week in December - Mauna kea

What's Happening in Hawaii 
during the 2nd Week in December:

Mauna Kea
Photo by C. Tucker

The first snow comes to Mauna Kea about now, though it sometimes happens sooner. Snow may also fall on Mauna Loa and Haleakalā, but it lasts longest on Mauna Kea, whose very name means "white mountain." Poli'ahu, the goddess of snow and sister of Pele, was called  ka wahine kapa hau anu o Mauna Kea, "the woman who wears the cold snow cape of Mauna Kea."

Mauna Kea (foreground) and Mauna Loa. 
Photo by C. Tucker.

Generally ill-equipped for cold, Hawaiians stayed inside by wood fires when the weather got bitter. Naueue ka hi'u o ka i'a lewa i ke kai, says a proverb about this time of year: "The tails of the fish that move in the sea tremble." Even the fish are shivering.

Text taken from "Hawai'i: A Calendar of Natural Events" 
published by Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

Friday, December 4, 2009

Like the beach? Help clean it up on Saturday December 12!

The Friends of Kaena invite you to 
Malama Kaena...

By helping with a beach clean-up

Saturday December 12 2009

Want to help? Meet at YMCA Camp Erdman  69-385 Farrington Hwy.

Come dressed to work outside in hot weather. Don't forget sunscreen and a hat!

Afterwards, join the Friends of Kaena board members for lunch, where they'll discuss plans to further malama Kaena.

The Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi)
can often be seen at the very end of Kaena Point. 

pōhinahina (vitex rotundifolia)
is one of the first plants to colonize coastal dunes, keeping the sand from blowing away. This hardy shrub bears handsome deep blue to purple blossoms that are a favorite of lei makers and growers of Hawaiian plants.
Pōhinahina is a native plant that grows at Kaena Point.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Calling all Graphic Artists, Designers, and Students!

The 2010 Hawai’i Conservation Conference is not until August, but the logo design contest deadline is December 9th!

The Hawaii Conservation Alliance is looking for a logo to represent the conference, which takes place August 4-6, 2010 at the Hawai’i Convention Center in Honolulu, HI.

It is the largest gathering of conservation professionals in Hawai'i, expected to bring in over 1,000 participants. The winning design will be showcased on conference materials, including the conference website, signs, program booklet, and souvenirs. You will also receive a cash prize of $100 and free registration to the conference and other Conservation Week events (a value of over $300).

The 2010 conference theme is "Pacific Ecosystem Management and Restoration: Applying Traditional and Western Knowledge Systems". This theme reflects the growing trend in Hawai‘i and the Pacific region of landowners, communities, natural resource agencies, and governments working together more collaboratively and utilizing different knowledge systems to better manage and restore island ecosystems.

Logo designs must be received by Wednesday, December 9, by 5:00 p.m. The winning design will be announced December 18. For logo guidelines and instructions for submitting an entry, visit the Hawaii Conservation Alliance logo contest page.

Above: Orville Baldos' design was chosen for the 2009 Conservation Conference

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 1st week in December - Makali'i

What's Happening in Hawai'i
during the 1st Week in December (Makali'i):

According to one legend, this month takes its name from a great navigator who steered the first canoes to the islands. Maka means "eyes" and li'i is short for ali'i, so his name can be translated "Eyes of the Chief," indicating his importance and prowess at steering by the stars. The Pleiades are also called the Makali'i, perhaps because of their use in the ancient science of celestial navigation.

Ilima on Oahu.
Photo by C. Tucker.

It is said that the hero Makali'i was a great farmer as well as steersman and that his name was given to December because it is the month when he planted his crops. Tradition also says that it is the time when 'ilima (Sida fallax) withers and ko'oko'olau (Bidens spp.) blossoms. 'Ilima is a dryland plant famous today for the flowers it gives to the lei of O'ahu. In the old days, along with ko'oko'olau, it was equally valued for its many medicinal uses. A proverb says, Ola no i ka pua o ka 'ilima - "There is healing in the 'ilima blossom."

'Ilima at Mokolii on Oahu.

Drawn image and text taken from "Hawai'i: A Calendar of Natural Events" 
published by Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989