Learning patience while birding in Maui

The fog couldn’t make up its mind as it hovered Haleakalā National Park intermittently. It was there and then it wasn’t and it was frustrating me to no end. So we sat there on the trail, damp from the mist, hearing all the birds, but not seeing a thing.

When the air filled with the foggy mist the flowers in the trees would open up and let out their fragrance bringing in the birds we came to see. But then I couldn’t get a good shot, even with my 300mm lens—the birds were just blurs of color, as if I had just had my eyes dilated. Too much fog. But then the fog would lift and the colors of the leaves would change from a dull green to a bright vibrant green, but then no birds.

For Pete’s sake. Can’t I have both: Opened flowers to attract the birds and good light?

Patience, I reminded myself. This is what birding is all about. Steve, my husband is patient. I’m not even close.

The fog that kept things a little difficult

We were at Haleakalā National Park to see some lifers. In order to do that we had to be at a high elevation—above the mosquito line. One of the major contributing factors in the extinction of many of Hawaii’s birds (over 75% of Hawaii’s endemics are extinct) is Avian Malaria, which is carried by introduced birds (such as the Japanese White Eye). Because native species did not have a natural resistance against Avian Malaria, they were wiped out, especially where mosquitos occur. Other contributing factors have been deforestation and the introduction of predators (ferrel cats, ferrel dogs, mongoose, rats). At about 4000 ft. elevation you won’t find mosquitos, and so that’s why we were battling the fog at Hosmer Grove at around 7,000 feet in Haleakalā National Park. We only had one day because we were scuba diving the rest of our time in Maui and once you dive you have to wait 24 hours before you can climb elevations at that height.

Waiting. Waiting. Camera in hand and ready to go.

The air was filled with the scent of eucalyptus. Birds were singing and we could hear that they were moving around, but we couldn’t see them. Frustrating. This is common in birding and it’s what makes it so intoxicating and addicting. If it were so simple I don’t believe it would draw so many hard core followers. It’s a game of chase even though we’re really only voyeurs. Yet we always feel successful when the bird finally appears, as if we did something special to make the bird’s entire existence possible. In this case–when you’re looking in an area where there are so many extinct endemics—you can’t help but feel over the moon when you see a lifer.

Earlier in the day we had no trouble spotting the Nēnē. There was a pair hanging out at the Park Headquarter’s Visitor Center. This native Hawaiian bird was reintroduced to the island of Maui by the Boy Scouts of America in 1962. It is still threatened by introduced predators such as mongoose and rats, and remains identified as endangered, which is why you’ll see them tagged.

A pair of Nēnē

A pair of Nēnē


Not so easy in Hosmer Grove. I was in Hawaii, wearing multiple layers and polar fleece gloves and feeling a little chilled. I was losing patience.

And then it happened. We caught some birds who were probably just as frustrated with the temperamental fog and decided to just go for it when we had some decent light.

Japanese White Eye

Japanese White Eye

The 'I'Iwi gives us a great view of him.

The ‘I’Iwi with his orange bill gives us a great view of him.

The Apanane looks like the 'I'Iwi but has a black bill.

The ‘Apanane looks like the ‘I’Iwi but has a black bill.

Here’s our list of birds we saw in Maui. Some at Haleakalā National Park (HNP) and others elsewhere on the island of Maui. Lifers are in bold.

  • Nene
  • Chukar (heard) (HNP)
  • Ring-necked Pheasant (HNP)
  • Maui Amakini (HNP: Hosmer Grove)
  • Maui ‘Alauahio (HNP: Hosmer Grove)
  • ‘Apapane (HNP: Hosmer Grove)
  • ‘I’iwi (HNP: Hosmer Grove)
  • Japanese White-eye (HNP: Hosmer Grove)
  • Spotted Dove
  • Rock Dove
  • Zebra Dove
  • Common Myna
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-crested Cardinal
  • House Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Java Sparrow
  • Nutmeg Munia
  • Hawaiian Petrel or U’au We saw this from our dive boat between Maui and Lana’i

I also spotted this other endangered species:

Soon to be extinct, I'm sure.

Soon to be extinct, I’m sure.

Tell me, I don’t really look impatient in this photo, do I?

Learning patience while birding at Hosmer Grove

Learning patience while birding at Hosmer Grove