A “Big Day” to start off our “Big Year”

Since Ross and I are going on a pretty epic birding trip over the course of the next year we decided that January 1, 2015 would be pretty appropriate for a Big Day (AKA we set out to find as many different species of birds in one day as we could.) I’ve never done a big day before so this was new to me. (Really birding in general is all new to me. Who knew finding as many birds in one day as you could was something that people did?!?)

We left our house around 5AM and headed to Ka’ena Point. Waking up at 4:45AM was not fun, especially after staying up late to ring in the New Year the night before, but it was SO worth it to be there for sunrise. We hiked out in the dark so that our first bird of the year could be Laysan Albatross. Since birding also includes birds you can identify by song (a skill that still alludes me), Ross was hoping not to hear any birds calling along the walk out in the dark. Unfortunately he pretty much stepped on a Gray Francolin making that his first bird of the year, but the first bird we saw TOGETHER was the Laysan Albatross. SUCCESS!

The biggest highlight of the day however, was that Ross, myself and Kurt Pohlman found a Mew Gull while we were at Honouliuli Marsh! This is a pretty big deal because a living Mew Gull has never been seen in the Hawaiian Islands before!! The only other sighting of this particular bird was a dead one on Kure Atoll in 1963. So we were pretty happy about finding a second state record!


Mew Gull chilling in the marsh

Our course for the day looked something like this:

  1. Ka’ena Point for sunrise and Laysan Albatross
  2. Then to a marsh in Honouliuli in the Ewa area. Where obviously we spent a little longer here than initially planned since we had just found a rare bird!
  3. Then we hopped over to Pouhala Marsh,  also in the Ewa area
  4. Tantalus Drive (aka Round Top Drive) was next. It was also a success because we had some Hawaiian endemics in this area (Apapane and O’ahu Amakihi.) Too bad we were low on time or else it would have been nice to spend more time looking out over Diamond Head, downtown Honolulu and Punchbowl Crater.
  5. Kapiolani Park
  6. We then went to Hawaii Loa to look for Oahu Elepai’o, but with no success. Though those houses up there sure are something!
  7. We then drove over to the Marine Corps base and checked for new species there. We picked up some seabirds by scanning near the Red-footed Booby colony (Great Frigeratebird, Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Masked Booby).
  8. We ended the day in Kaneohe near our house in search for an Orange-cheeked Waxbill, but no luck.

Despite missing a few birds, the day was a huge success! Here’s a few photos from the day:


Ross and Kurt walking around Ka’ena point


Some Albatross nesting


This white tern brought back a small fish and a squid for dinner. Cute right?!

We thought it would only be appropriate to start off our “Big Year” with a “Big Day” and it definitely was. Our total species count for the day was 53 species, which we agreed was pretty good considering we did not do the most efficient course possible and that we were a part of finding the first live Mew Gull seen in the Hawaiian Islands!

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