Flew out to Maui in the Hawaiian Islands from Manchester via Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles with a three day stop over in Vegas which I suppose was an experience if nothing else. How anyone lives there in that sort of heat is beyond me 109 degrees f was more than I could tolerate.
Maui the land of the Pineapple is not exactly a birding destination if it's big lists your after. So why was I here? Well this was supposed to be a non birding holiday. A little persuasion however did allow me some birding time, thus giving me the opportunity to add Hawaii's endemic species to my life list. Well how could I pass up such an opportunity? Especially as I was unlikely to visit this beautiful Island again.
My drive from Maui airport to our hotel gave me my first bird, the abundant Indian Myna, an Introduced species from Asia. Not quite the most abundant bird, the ubiquitous Zebra or Inca Dove must take the top spot . These delightful little doves ( not much bigger than a Sparrow) can be found everywhere and very confiding they are too. Especially when feeding around the many outdoor restaurant tables.
The Hotel grounds held new birds like Java Sparrow, another of those introduced species that are now well established. Mockingbird and Cardinal were also present.
A trip up to the volcano Haleakala in search of Nene or Hawaiian Goose was spectacular and worth the trip. Even though I had missed the Nene geese by seconds I was not too worried as I had a few hours left to relocate them. The birds had been wandering about the visitors' car park taking handouts from tourists, much to the ranger's annoyance. I did manage Iwi the first of Hawaii's endemics, a bright scarlet bird with a bright red decurved bill, of the Honeycreeper family Apapene, and Maui Creeper were also endemic ticks. The road down gave me another lifer, Grey Francolin, along with another introduced species, Ring-necked Pheasant. I never relocated the Nene but a flash sighting of what could have only been a White-tailed Tropicbird was ample compensation.
Walking along th beach the following day I flushed a wader that had me scratching my head. Sandpiper size, but not one I was familiar with. My frustration subsided as I watched the bird putting down its landing gear as if to land on the lawn of a nearby hotel. I perused to find the bird feeding in an ornamental brook. Flitting from boulder to boulder, the bird turned out to be a Wandering Tattler, a bird I had only seen briefly once before when birding in Australia. The following day in the same area Black-crowned Night-Heron, both adult and juvenile gave views at arm's length.
A detour via the refuge close to Kuhului airport gave me Hawaiian Stilt and Hawaiian Coot. After we arrived back it was decided the beach at Kaanapali would be where we would spend the remainder of the day so I never bothered bringing my binoculars. Lucky for me I still had my camera as a family of Red Crested Cardinals where being fed by by both parent birds, allowing me some great photos of both adults and juvenile birds. Japanese White Eyes and House Finch were also feeding in the trees surrounding the beach.
A very windy snorkle trip out to Molokai the following day produced better views of White-tailed Tropicbird trailing our boat as we returned from the reef. What a pity it was so windy, the bird struggled against the trade wind and could barely keep up with the boat. I pondered as I viewed my record shots upon my return, thinking to myself that a calmer day would have given me the opportunity for an epic picture of this the most elegant and enigmatic of seabirds.
I do have some treasured photographs in my possession though. Two scuba dives allowed me the privilege to be photographed swimming alongside those beautiful and most gentile of creatures, the giant sized Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. It was something I will never forget and if you ever visit Maui DO IT! Its worth every penny. Eagle Rays, Sea Turtle, Octopus, White-tipped Reef Sharks ( not dangerous if left unmolested), eels, not to mention numerous fish species, all made up for the lack of bird species to be found in Maui. Now I have another hobby bug!
I'd like to use this page as an opportunity to thank all the people I have met during my international birding trips. All have helped me locate many of the target species I now have on my life list. Mostly by information on stake outs, or helping me find localized hotspots that I would never have found without their help. Also Tony Pallers for reserving my place on the Sydney Pelagic!and Paul Walbridge for the Queensland Pelagic. Thanks Tom Tarrant for the Glossy Blacks while I was in Queensland. Gary Brown for his help in Canada. Whinston Hughes for getting me to the Pawnee Grasslands Colorado, Steve Willis for his company and knowledge of the Colorado Rockies Hodaram Shirrihi for the unforgettable time in Israel. Kieth Fisher Singapore, and Bill Scott Kelly Hutton Martha Auslander for aiding me reach my 1,000 species and for being great company and Andrew Pryce for putting up with me in The Coto Donanna' Southern Spain and Israel.
Whether you're in search of those endemics or you just want to add to your life list, global birding can be rewarding albeit challenging. I think this combination is what drives myself and others to visit these bird rich countries The criteria for a successful trip is undoubtedly homework and plenty of it. Fieldguides, CD-ROM, identification videos and sound recordings have proven invaluable aids that have helped me to return with some impressive lists. We all like to find our own birds but in my experiences enlisting the help of local birders is a must. You can always make arrangements to meet up toward the end of your trip if you find some species are still eluding you. Fellow birders are only too willing to show off their country's birdlife. Remember to be courteous and grateful even if you find your knowledge may have exceeded theirs. Locally required knowledge of the latest stakeouts and even sites not published in any of the site guides will prove just how invaluable your contacts are.
Political and military sensitive areas may also be a barrier that your local guide may be able to forewarn you about. As a precaution and part of the homework ring the home office for the latest news. Diseases like Malaria can ruin a birding trip not to mention your health so take necessary precautions by getting inoculations in plenty of time. Check that country's societies and clubs. Your visit may coincide with the latest bird census and those societies may wish to enlist you as a volunteer. Take this opportunity as it may lead to meeting other birders who may be able to pass on useful information . Some of the developed countries especially in the new world may have established communication links for birders like the rare bird alert or an equivalent to birdline, these numbers can usually be found in various site guides available........all part of the homework........enjoy!!