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Common Myna

 

Java Finch

 

'Io or Hawaiian Hawk

 

 

Mongoose

Gecko

 

Green Sea Turtle

 

Spinner Dolphin

 

Humpback Breach

 

Female Black Witch Moth

 

 

 

Wildlife Right Outside the Front Door

 

Birds

The Common Myna or Indian Myna is fearless and can be quite noisy at times. It is not unusual for it to occasionally perch on the railings on the lanai. This large starling from India was introduced to Hawaii in 1865 and now is considered to be basically endemic. It is an intelligent brown bird with a yellow bill and shows white on its wings when it flies. They lay pretty blue eggs.

 

The Zebra Doves are a bit smaller brown birds that are around every day and can be spotted walking around the yard but normally do not come up to the lanai for a visit as the Mynas do. The larger spotted dove is less common but is seen from time to time.

 

Another common bird is the Java Finch\Sparrow which has white cheeks and a bright orange-red bill. They remind me of a tiny version of a Puffin.

 

The 'Io or Hawaiian Hawk is endemic to Hawaii but only found on the Big Island. We've seen it flying through the Ironwood trees across the street from our home. We were told that at one point there was a pair nesting in the trees.

 

In October of 2012 I was treated to a White-tailed Tropicbird flying low just off the lava cliffs.

The Nene (Hawaiian Goose) is the world’s rarest goose and is found only in Hawaii. We have seen them across the street hanging out on the cliffs as well as on the higher cliffs about a half mile north of the house. You will find them in different areas of the Island. They are a protected species so please do not disturb them. In 1952 the population was but 30 but luckily it has been making a comeback. In 2014 and for the first time in centuries a nesting pair have been spotted on Oahu about 40 miles from Honolulu - bringing that Island's population from zero to five.

Finally there are small colorful red birds and yellow birds that we have yet to identify.

 

Frogs and Toads
What you hear starting around sunset are the frogs and toads. Hawaii has no native frogs or toads – all are introduced and doing quite well. There are three kinds of frogs that come out at night and you should try to listen for them. Their population goes up and down depending on the amount of rain. The most recent introduced species, called the Coqui, is from the Caribbean, is very small and the noise they make is very similar to their name: a two (sometimes three) syllable squeak (koh-kwee or koh-kwee-kwee).

The second most common frog is the Hawaiian Cane toad, known elsewhere as the bufo toad, is more melodic (tonal) and is heard every night. They can be as big as your fist or larger and it's not uncommon to see them hopping through the yard in the daytime. Sometimes they hang out in the overflow tube from the catchment tank on the north edge of the property. I've seen them sitting there as the water washes over them. Be aware that  these toads have toxic glands that ooze when they feel threatened so don't pick them up. Wash your hands and your children's hands thoroughly if you come in contact with them.

Every once in a while you will hear a third frog I call the Jackhammer because it sounds like someone using a jackhammer in the far, far distance. These guys migrate from swimming pool to swimming pool of the homes along the coast.

Mongoose
Hawaii has no squirrels but we do have the sleek very quick manakuke, the Indian mongoose, which can grow to 2 feet in length, including the tail. Occasionally you will see them scurrying through the yard but it is more likely you will see them crossing the road while you are touring the island. They were introduced to Hawaii to control the rat population on the sugar cane plantations but that did not work quite as well as desired as rats run around at night and the mongoose during the day.

Geckos and Black Salamander
The beautiful small green geckos (called Gold Dust Day Gecko) with varying amounts of orange speckles and patterns are our friends as they eat many of the insect pests that would like to live in our home. One of the benefits of the introduced frogs and geckos is that they help control the insect population. That said we try not to leave the doors open so as to keep the geckos and bugs outside.

In greater population but much harder to spot are the small black salamander-like creatures found in the lawn. About the only time I see these guys is when I’m mowing the yard as they panic and scurry out of the way.

Marine animals
In the ocean the most common wildlife you will see are humpback whales (November – April), spinner dolphins, and sea turtles.

The green sea turtles are here year around and can be spotted close to shore. They are named not for the color of their shell (usually a patterned brown) but for the color of their skin. These guys are big - up to 700 pounds - and very gentle. You will find the turtles in many places in Hawaii. They are almost always at Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo. I have also seen them napping at the bottom of the Kapoho tide pools. It is usually quite a surprise to discover one while snorkeling. Keep in mind they are a threatened species and should not be bothered or touched. Another threatened turtle species is the hawksbill but there are much fewer of those.

The spinner dolphin often can be found in near-shore pods of a dozen or more. When they are jumping “spinning” out of the water it can really be quite a sight. The dolphins come into the bays to sleep from 10am-2pm or so. They circle slowly on the bottom and occasionally coming to the surface to breathe. This makes them a target for human eco-tours. If you choose to go on a tour please be aware that the dolphins, especially the young ones, need their rest so they can survive the night. You can read more on this sight http://dolphinart.tripod.com/save.htm.

The bottlenose dolphin is commonly seen on boat tours and can also be seen off our shores swimming in pods of 2-15. If you decide to swim with the dolphins and kiss one these are the dolphins you will be with. If you decide to take an eco tour you might consider calling ahead to be sure you are visiting the bottlenose dolphins and not interfering with the spinners.

The humpback whale is the most common whale with peak viewing from mid December through March (see below for whale watching tips) though in 2012 the first arrived in October. Other whales found in the waters off Hawaii are the fin, minke, Bryde's, blue, North Pacific right whales, and sperm. You may not see any of those but the pilot and false killer whales are spotted on boat tours.

Very rare is the Hawaiian Monk seal. It is one of the most endangered animals in the world and most commonly found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. If you see a monk seal you will be quite lucky indeed. There is a museum in Hilo about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – Mokupapapa Discovery Center. It’s a must visit for any nature lover. Though currently closed it is scheduled to reopen in June 2013.

Whale watching tips

Bring your binoculars! Our neighborhood is good for whale watching beginning in November and running into April with the peak from mid December to the end of March. But in truth there are whales year around just not as many. In April 2011 house guests said they saw a mother and calf come up so close they heard the spouts.

 

For viewing, you can start by walking across the street to the lava cliffs. If you walk or drive to the left about half a mile the lava cliffs are even higher and afford a somewhat better view of the bay. During our trips we have seen numerous spouts, tails and even a couple breaches across the street. Whales have been spotted from the lanai. The best viewing time is in the late afternoon with the sun behind you. In late March 2013 at sunset my wife and I were sitting on the cliffs across the street when we watched a whale and her calf performing multiple breaches for 15 minutes - it was quite spectacular.

Once, we saw a whale slap the water 18 consecutive times with its tail. We had no idea what was going but later we learned this was called “tail lobbing”. Much of the behavior of Humpback whales remains a mystery, and tail lobbing is no exception. It’s apparent it has to do with communication but no one is sure if it is telling the sharks “stay away” or something else. But for sure the sound can be heard a long distance under water. It is really something to witness.

Our understanding is that the humpback whales you see in the far distance are the big males keeping an eye out and scaring away the sharks from the young.

 

Black Witch Moth

Look under the eaves during the day and you may see the large Black Witch Moth. It can be up to 6 inches in width and is not native to Hawaii. They are harmless and act like a bat when they fly. The female, pictured on the left can be identified by a white stripe that the male lacks.

 

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