On Monday, December 11th I took the first flight out of Honolulu to Lihue to assist the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project.
From Lihue myself and six additional volunteers were scheduled to access the remote Halepa’akai and Mohihi camp by a helicopter from Lihue around 8am. (I had no idea how privileged I was with the helicopter ride in until I hiked out!…more on that later…) While waiting I met up with my fellow colleagues and enjoyed several incidental Western Meadowlarks at the airport.
I already knew one of KFBRP volunteers, Megan. She works full time for Pacific Rim Conservation on their seabird translocation projects in Oahu and Kauai. (I work part-time for them on their Oahu Elepaio Recovery Project and volunteer with their albatross translocation in Oahu). Unfortunately Megan and I didn’t get to work together on this project since we ended up at different camp sites but I was happy to hear that all of the Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels fledged successfully in 2017 with the Nihoku Project.
The rest of the crew I met at the airport were graduate students, (Marty, Bret, Mya, Erin, Karen, and Eirlys) from Dr. Hart’s Lab at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo Campus, who had turned all of their assignments in early for this exciting experience.
Maria also met us at the airport. I had met her before but hadn’t actually had much of an opportunity to speak with her or work with her before. She was the KFBRP staff and PhD student put in charge of all the volunteers sent to the Halepa’akai camp.
Once fitted with my flight suit and helmet I boarded the last of 3 helicopter rides into the Alakai Wilderness Preserve. Megan, Eirlys, and I tightly packed all of our gear in the small compartment under the helicopter before carefully climbing in and buckling up. The views were incredible! We flew clear over Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon while continuing on through the jagged peaks of Kauai’s gorgeous mountains to land safely at the Halepa’akai camp.
After quickly settling in at Halepa’akai we met with another volunteer, Mark, who works full time for National Audubon, (and didn’t have the luxury of being flown in). We then immediately started setting up to band birds.
I will go into more detail on bird banding later if you’re not familiar with it. There’s no need to elaborate on it right now since we didn’t catch one single bird that day, even though we had absolutely perfect conditions! The good news is I enjoyed amazing views of all of the remaining native birds (Kauai Elepaio, Kauai Amakihi, Anianiau, Iiwi, Akikiki, Akekee, Puaiohi, and Apapane) within in the first 4 hours at camp!