I decided to spend an afternoon with the birds at Kawai‘ele on Kauai. Kawai‘ele is a waterbird and native plant sanctuary on the western side of the island. It is a quiet and unassuming place.
A good deal of the birds at Kawai‘ele are endemic to Hawaii. Birds such as the Hawaiian Stilt and Hawaiian Goose (nēnē) can be seen. The sanctuary is located near the ocean, so a number of migrating birds make a stop-over at Kawai‘ele. A number of birds introduced to Kauai, also visit the sanctuary. It is estimated 88 species of birds visit Kawai‘ele.
The sanctuary is part of the larger Mānā Plains Forest Reserve. The area was at one time forest, and wetlands. In the early 1900’s the area was converted to agricultural land. While not technically a wetland, the sanctuary was the first restoration process of its kind for the State of Hawaii. It is overseen by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The sanctuary is 35 acres in size. In early 2021, plans were announced to increase the size sanctuary another 100 acres. Note: Enlargement does not appear to have been started in any form.
The parking lot (unimproved) holds about 1/2 dozen vehicles. There are kiosks with background information spread around the sanctuary. The plants on the grounds are identified by small description signs. The sanctuary’s parking lot is located 7.7 miles west of Waimea on the ocean side of Highway 50.
Hawaiian (Black Winged) Stilt
On this afternoon I was able to capture the Hawaiian (Black Winged) Stilt on its glidepath to a water landing
Transplanted Locals Hang Out at the Sanctuary – As Well
There were all kinds of birds visiting Kawai‘ele as the afternoon progressed.
A pair of Scaly Breasted Munia spent some time checking out the scenery. Known as the Nutmeg Mannikin until a formal name change in 2014, the Scaly Breasted Munia was introduced to Kauai in 1866 from Asia.
One of my favorite transplants to the island, the Red-Crested Cardinal, paid a visit. However it appeared to want to visit incognito. Originally from South America, particularly Brazil, the Red-Crested Cardinal was introduced to Kauai in 1930.
Nēnē Enters the House
Suddenly, all of the quiet and tranquility of Kawai‘ele evaporates into thin air. A flock of Hawaiian Geese (nēnē) come out of the west and descend upon the sanctuary honking out to the world their entrance.
The nēnē is the State Bird of Hawaii. It is endemic to the Hawaiian islands. With only 3,862 in existence, the nēnē is the rarest goose in the world. The nēnē was estimated to have a population of 25,000 in the late 1700’s, Hunting and predators introduced to the island reduced the population to 30 birds in 1952.
An effort to save the bird was spearheaded at a nature reserve in England. The nēnē has responded well to breeding in captivity. More on the nēnē can be found [here].
More on Kawai‘ele can be found [here].
*** Jeff’s Thoughts and Other Worthless ***
Kauai has a bounty of gems such as Kawai‘ele. I love finding and visiting these places. I am fortunate they can be part of my regular day. I do not take them for granted.
The images presented above are copyright © Jeffrey H. Lubeck and MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.
I used two camera’s and two lens’ to capture the images on this photo-shoot.
(2) Nikon Z9 35MM Mirrorless Camera
1 Nikon 400-560 MM f 2.8 Prime Lens
1 Nikon 800 MM f6.3 Prime Lens
I configured both camera to operate with manually adjusted setting as follows:
Color Temperature: 5000
Shutter Speed 1/4000
High heat and sun directly overhead is the enemy of camera gear – especially long lens’. The temperature was 85 degrees during the shoot – bad! As it was later in the day, the sun was down bearing down directly on the gear – better, but not great. I kept the equipment in shade as much as possible.