Frequently, guests who come to Kauai want to know where they can find the Hawaiian green sea turtle which has the Hawaiian name of “Honu.” Whether viewing from a cliff, snorkeling at certain beaches, or walking on the sand, there is a good chance you will come across one at some point during your stay on the Garden Island.
The Hawaiian green sea turtle is one of the oldest living animals in the world and Hawaii is one of the only places on earth where divers and swimmers have the unique experience of viewing them in the wild. To the Hawaiian people, sea turtles or “Honu” are sacred creatures and should be respected. They embody patience, wisdom, endurance, good luck and long life.
Fortunately for the species, Hawaiian green sea turtles are fully protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Therefore, feeding or touching turtles in any way, including shining a light on them, is considered a disturbance and is illegal. Federal penalties include jail time and fines up to $15,000 for each offense.
Most summers our friends from San Diego visit the island and bring their drone along. This summer Honu Point was open for a few nights so we spent the late afternoon together swimming in the pool and watching the sunset. During these times Dave shot several drone videos of the property.
If you have been a guest at Honu Point, these just might make you want to book another stay. If you are scheduled to come within the next year, here’s a taste of where you will be. Enjoy!
We knew it was going to happen soon because this precious Laysan albatross chick was sooooooo ready. Pela (born January 30th, 2019) had been fed by both mom (Dora) and dad (Larry) last week so her tummy was plenty full.
I woke up to a gorgeous morning on Kauai with a walk on Hanalei Bay calling out to me. Just down the road from Princeville, I was slowed for a few minutes by the flag people stopping traffic on the hill where they are reinforcing the road. I found the first parking lot full at 8:00 but the second virtually empty. There were a handful of people on the sand and a few novice surfers waiting for the summer “surf” to arrive. Plenty of boats were anchored in the bay with kayaks and paddle boards floating by. The water was crystal clear. It was a pretty idyllic scene, so I thought I would share a few photos with you.
Two of the seventeen albatross chicks born in Princeville have taken flight. All of these chicks were born the end of January and have stayed close to their nests until now. Mom and Dad have been bringing them sustenance for months. Now it is time for each of them to head out to sea to find their own food thousands of miles away.
Pela (Hawaiian for “soar”), the chick I was lucky enough to name, is still in the cul-de-sac just at the foot of Honu Point’s driveway. He/she, like the others, has much of her body covered in flight feathers but still maintains the baby fluff around her head and chest. It is not her best look.
It has been a month since I reported on Pela, “my” Laysan albatross chick in Princeville, Kauai. He/she is now ten weeks old and growing like crazy. I will not know his/her gender for awhile so until then I am choosing the “she” pronoun. When she gets closer to fledging (first flight), the Biologists will tag her and pluck a feather to be analyzed. At that point we will know her gender.
Pela is on her third nest. She started in the nest her parents lovingly built prior to laying the egg from which she emerged. Several weeks later she moved to a spot next to the fire hydrant and built her own nest (see photos here). Now she is a few feet away at the base of a tree. Much better for photographs!
Yesterday I was gardening at Honu Point, our vacation rental next to Pela’s nest, and I heard the very distinctive sound of albatross communing with one another. So, I dropped my tool (any excuse for a rest) and headed in the direction of the noise, camera in hand. In the yard of a nearby neighbor I found two albatross beak to beak, both with tags on their left leg. I happen to know that Dora, Pela’s mom, has her tag on her left leg so I assumed she was one of the pair. But, who was the other adult bird? Larry, Pela’s dad, has his tag on the right leg. Oh dear.
Of course he/she is “my” albatross chick because, after all, he/she was born on my birthday and I was lucky enough to get to name her. Pela means “soar” in Hawaiian and that is what he/she will do in about four months from now. With in any luck, the fledge will take place off the bluff of Honu Point.
Recently I uploaded two videos of Pela with Larry, his/her dad. The first shows Pela, at five weeks old, greedily asking for some food. Not this time. Lesson: patience is a virtue. Best with volume.
One week later, Pela fares a bit better. This week’s lesson: everything in moderation. Again, don’t miss the communication between these two. Turn up your volume.
I’ve written thirteen blog posts about the Laysan Albatross at our Honu Point Vacation Rental on Kauai, but, by far, this is the one I am most excited about. I have always appreciated these graceful creatures but it was while building our vacation rental that I fell in love with them. Being on the property on a daily basis and watching them soar overhead was magical. Hearing and seeing the mating dances of young birds and eyeing nesting couples snuggling along Kaweonui Road made them even more endearing to me.
Each year I have been jealous when neighbors up and down the street are given the “right” to name a new chick because of it being born on their property. Our bluff property is not safe enough for nests and fledglings wait until they are six months old to waddle down our driveway ready for their first flight.
This year one pair, Larry and Dora, returned and scouted the area for the perfect spot to nest. They eventually decided on the interior of the cul-de-sac at the foot of our driveway. This was my chance! Because the property is not private I asked (okay, begged) our resident albatross historian, Cathy, if I might have the honor of naming this chick. She agreed!
Spending lots of time on Google translator and waiting not so patiently, I searched for the perfect name. An egg was laid and about a month later “my” precious chick started pipping its egg in order to meet his/her surrounding world.
You know how excited I get when the Laysan albatross arrive back on Kaweonui Road in Princeville. For the last couple of weeks partners who have not seen each other for months are reuniting and it is a happy scene.
There is lots of preening and affection happening up and down the street. The couples are deciding on the perfect spot for their nest and then starting its construction. Females are laying their eggs (one per bird) while the males take one last period at sea before having the first, long sit on the egg. From that point on, the two partners take turns on the egg while the other flies a thousand miles for food.
Meet Dora. She arrived first this year and patiently waited until Larry showed up. Together they decided to nest in the cul-de-sac at the foot of Honu Point’s driveway. I captured this short video of Dora as she started to build a nest around herself just one day before she laid her egg (one of the landscapers witnessed the event).
Larry is at sea for a few days. When he takes over Dora will be off to find food. If this egg is fertile we can expect a chick the fourth week of January. In the meantime Dora seems pretty content.
It is always fun to be walking along a Kauai beach and discover a Hawaiian monk seal sunning on the sand. Residents are very protective of Hawaii’s state mammal because they are one of the only two remaining monk seal species on Earth and their habitat is limited to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the main Hawaiian Islands, especially Kauai, Oahu and Molokai.
The Hawaiian monk seal is the only seal native to Hawaii, and, along with the Hawaiian hoary bat, is one of only two mammals endemic to the islands. They are on the endangered species list with a total population of approximately 1,400. The bad news is that the larger population that inhabits the northwest islands is declining. The good news is that over recent years the number of pups born in the Hawaiian chain has slightly increased.
Hawaiian monk seals spend most of their time at sea foraging in deeper water outside of shallow lagoon reefs. They hunt fish, lobster, octopus and squid in deep water coral beds. Tiger sharks, great white sharks and Galapagos sharks are their predators. To rest and breed they move onto the sand and volcanic rock. This is when we humans get the chance to observe them.
Sandy beaches are also used for pupping. Females reach maturity at age four and bear one pup a year. Births occur between March and June. Mother monk seals are dedicated to their pups and remain with them for the first five or six weeks of their lives. The pups nurse but the mothers don’t eat anything during this time consequently losing hundreds of pounds. Once the pup is weened, the mother deserts the pup, leaving it on its own, and returns to the sea to forage for the first time since the pup’s arrival. Following is a video reflecting just how protective a mother monk seal can be when confronted by an intruder.