At 7000 feet on the slopes of Haleakala, it’s easy to forget the tropical heat at beach level. It’s cold and windy up here, so much so that we’ve had to drag out the winter jackets we wore to the airport in Victoria during the snowstorm. I could use my toque too (stocking cap for American readers). A few hardy campers take down their tiny tents and pack up. Europeans. Wearing shorts! Crikey!
Eucalypts – Hosmer Grove
Happily, no noisy campers hike the trail through the eucalyptus forest. Nice to hear the wind soughing and the birds singing. Shaggy gum trees, the Eucalypts, exude a volatile resin, a perfume, and the air is scented with it. And the breeze carries another fragrance too – sandalwood. There is a single remaining Sandalwood tree here somewhere. We see movement in the canopy and strain for a glimpse of birdlife but, aside from a single flash of red, nothing. The trail isn’t long, half a mile at most. An overlook at the edge of a deep, brushy ravine is more productive. Finally, a bird shows itself – a House Finch, with a yellow face rather than the scarlet of lower elevations. It’s the first time I’ve seen this phase although I think it’s a fairly common variation on the theme. Left alone, introduced birds would, in time I suppose, evolve into new species – Maui’s versions of Darwin’s Finches perhaps.
The forest protects us from the wind, which is welcome, and the view is good. Another flash of red on the other side of the cut. I’m going to be limited to distance shots I reckon, not great with my hand-held camera – a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 with a converter.
I hear what I think are I’Iwi – a series of duck-like mini-quacks. For a few minutes, nothing, and then a blur of red in amongst the vermilion flowers of an ‘Ohi’a bush on the other side of a forested ravine, an endemic forest bird a last — my first I’Iwi. Other birds too – a bright green Amakihi, an olive-green Maui Creeper – nectar feeders like the I’Iwi. A half a dozen crimson and black Apanane flit about the bushy slopes too fast to photograph this morning. I like the name – Apanane – also a kind of honey creeper.
‘Ohi’a Lehua flower
I’Iwi – nectar gathering