2009 Year Report (September-December)

2009 September Waikamoi Preserve Surveys

From September 8th until the 18th, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project had a special research project in the Nature Conservancy's Waikamoi Preserve. Since June, the team had been preparing for the study through site visits, creating transects, and organizing maps and the project purpose.

But the bulk of the work, the data collection, was done during these 10 days. It began when four volunteers for the project arrived the weekend before: Andrew Keaveney, Thomas Jahasz, Pat Fitzgerald, and Brooks Rownd. These lucky four would spend the next 10 days in the cloud forest of Haleakalā searching and counting the native forest birds that live there.

These are some of their reflections on the experience... 

"We had a wonderful two weeks in Waikamoi and Haleakalā N.P., with pleasantly varied weather that was occasionally wet but never too bad for us to search for the rare native birds. I got a proper send off from Waikamoi on the final day of the survey, which was cool and a little misty, and quite peaceful since we were monitoring small areas instead of walking a full transect. There were a pair of ʻĀkohekohe moving around my area all morning, one of which occasionally came down close to peer at me from the edges of the alani trees. On the way out, just after we called it quits, I ran across a trio of parrotbills, including a juvenile who cautiously inspected me from nearby branches for a good 10 minutes. The adults were busy working and singing up in the nearby trees. The little guy eventually joined one of the adults to beg for a bit, and then they finally moved along. Perhaps when we return in the future the curious ʻĀkohekohe and the little parrotbill will look down at us again and remember us as the big funny-looking creatures who came to visit Waikamoi the previous year."

-Brooks Rownd

"Seeking a greater understanding of the constraints to conservation in an insular setting, I came to Maui to work with the Maui parrotbill and crested honeycreeper in their natural habitat. Once within their high elevation cloud forest habitat, I came to realize their precarious existence between the treeless summit of Haleakala and the avian malaria line below. The narrow band of forest that exists around the upper reaches of the volcano is all that provides shelter for these rare birds in a rapidly changing world. The concept of what is natural and pristine comes into a new focus with these birds; an ecosystem we have profoundly altered cannot be expected to maintain treasured species like the Maui parrotbill without innovative, responsive management techniques. Working closely with these species has provided me with a unique opportunity of a foresight into the future where management of species and their ecosystems will be the norm and not the exception."

-Thomas Juhasz 

"I was always curious what a 'Hawaiian' forest looks like. When I finally got to see it, it somehow wasn't what I pictured! The mosses, ferns and other plants that draped the gnarly treed hills were more plentiful than many other similar sites I've visited in the world. It's no wonder it was so hard to see (and photograph!) the birds. After two weeks of walking up and down those hills I can conclude one thing. The Maui Parrotbill is not a common bird and it WILL need our help to survive farther into the future. I wish there were more 'volunteer' opportunities like this for biologists wanting to expand their knowledge and skills. I learned far more than I could write down and just sitting and walking amongst this forest for hours on end was an experience that will last me a lifetime."

-Andy Keaveney

Over the course of 10 days, our Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project staff and volunteers found parrotbill that will be included in a new genetic and bird banding efforts. The data we collected will help estimate the numbers of endangered Maui parrotbill and 'Akohekohe living in one of the only patches of mesic koa-ʻōhiʻa forest where these rare birds still survive. It seemed the ʻĀkohekohe was doing well, as it was whistling everywhere we went.

MFBRP enjoyed working with these volunteers and we appreciate all of their hard work. We are now in the process of analyzing all of the data that they collected and will be able to compare this data to data that we collect at our other study site, Hanawi Natural Area Reserve. It will be interesting to see the local differences in bird populations.

Thanks again to our volunteers and we hope they enjoyed this special experience in the forest.


2009 November/December Volunteer Banding Trips 

During the winter of 2009 and 2010, we had two volunteer groups come to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project to assist with forest bird banding efforts. These volunteers were selected from a pool of applicants based on their previous banding expertise and skills. The groups had about 10 days in each of our field sites, HR3 and Frisbee Meadows, to experience the native Maui rainforest and its birds.

The first group of volunteers included Adam Beeler, Laura Glenister, Jennifer Lowry, and Peter Motyka. These experienced banders traveled from various regions to learn about the native birds of Maui. Over the course of this month spent banding, they were able to set up more than 60 nets at each site. Five new Maui Parrotbill were caught and banded, including one called the 'Christmas' female who had managed to sneak away from mist nets over the past couple of years. Even an ʻĀkohekohe was caught, a bird that spends much of its time in the canopy of the forest and is not easily lured into lower nets.

The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project is extremely grateful for the generous donation of time that each of these volunteers has given us. They allowed us to accomplish more fieldwork than would ever have been manageable with only our staff.

The experience of the rainforest and of holding birds that are rarely seen to the world surely changed the lives of these four amazing workers.

Here are some of their thoughts:

"The opportunity to work with some of the most unique birds in the world was amazing. I learned new skills and techniques through the collaboration with fellow experienced banders. The discovery of Maui during the off-time made for an adventurous time to remember. It was a great experience!"

-Jennifer Lowry

"I hold many fond memories of my time at Hanawi. I remember the sounds of the rainforest; the strange song of the 'Apapane. I remember the breathtaking views of the beaches far below, all seeming a world away. I remember lying in the cosy dorm at HR3, listening to the rain pound the corrugated rooftop. I remember every night being pleasantly exhausted by the day"s muddy hike. I remember seeing the 'I'iwi for the first time - it's long curved red bill a textbook example of adaptive radiation. I remember the incredible sensation of being above a thick blanket of clouds at Frisbee Meadows. I remember wishing I had my camera when we caught the only ʻĀkohekohe. I remember the rainbows and the sunsets. I remember the inquisitive yellow Creepers perching in the branches close by. I remember good friendships. I remember not wanting to leave.

Most of all I remember finding the first Parrotbill in the mist net and it really hitting home that this little bird could follow other native rainforest birds into extinction without our help. I remember feeling lucky to be one of a privileged few to work in such a remote and unique place as Hanawi, with such special birds. I really hope the Maui Parrotbill will not be just a memory one day."

-Laura Glenister

"Oh sweet Hanawi. My first motivation to volunteer with MFBRP was to experience the real and true natural essence of Hawai'i, something beyond what you can get in Waikiki. I found it in Hanawi Natural Area Reserve. The terrain, the habitat, and the birds were all so new to me and they were stunning. To be up there working with the fabulous staff and crew of MFBRP was great on so many levels. Some of the most valuable ideas I brought home from this experience deal with conservation of the birds and their habitat, not just of these wonderful Hawaiian natives, but also of wildlife everywhere. The perilous list of threats vs. the passion and persistence of everyone working to counteract those threats have inspired me to work harder myself and to convince others that these forests and these birds are worth working for."

-Peter Motyka

"The thing that I will always remember about my experience in Hanawi is the contrast I saw between two worlds. The first world of modern civilization, with all the marks that the Earth bears from humanity's advancement and spread, was immediately felt. Car dealerships, strip malls, and adjacent pasturelands all made Maui seem like it was part and whole with the continental United States at my first glance. However, every time I watched the sun rise over Hanawi from Frisbee Meadows and saw the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean surrounding Maui below me, I got a real sense of how extraordinary this place was. Having worked in the rainforests of Belize and Costa Rica, my first impression of Hanawi was how different and unique it was from other forests. The strange homogeneity of plant life and suspicious paucity of animal activity were at first startling. Approaching a mist net wondering with a special worry if the bird I caught is a native species or foreign was a feeling that I will probably have very few times in my life. Sadly, the surprise and disappointment of seeing an animal that surely should not be in that environment will become all too common, I fear. It is just another reality of the anthropogenic world. Hanawi is special, and with the biodiversity of the entire Hawai'i archipelago is under siege, it is a place that needs it's warriors. I am honored to have been a part of that effort."

-Adam Beeler

In the 18 days of banding, this team was able to capture and process more birds than the core staff of 2008, who processed 6 new MAPA in 19 days. MFBRP was very happy about the success of these trips; many thanks go to our hardworking volunteers. We can now follow the breeding habits of these 5 new MAPA and learn more about this rare species.