Posts Tagged ‘Hawaiian monk seals’

Kauai “Where’s Waldo” Brain Plasticity Adventure

February 17, 2018

Still in KauaI!

View of North Coast from Sea Lodge Beach

I have so many Kauai nature photos to share, with no cohesive story, thought I’d do a ‘Where’s Waldo’ activity of sorts – combine my “find the critter” photos into a 10-minute brain exercise, if you will … think, brain plasticity!

I will identify where I took each photo – say, for example, in planning your next trip to Kauai, you want to avoid spiders, or something…

Like this spider I spotted on the trail to Larsen’s Beach:

Find the spider

Do you see it? It’s directly above center in the photo. Zoom in for a closer look… I know you want to:

Common Kauai garden spider

Beautiful! How many spiders in this web above our heads? Zoom in on the web and count them:

How many spiders in this photo?

You’re not that curious, you say? Ready for the answer? ……………………………………………………….

Eight.

(You seriously don’t want to be the first person in the morning breaking trail.)

Walking toward our car now, at the trailhead to Larsen’s Beach. Whoa! A big honking snail!

Find the snail

Crossing the road. Oh no! I took a video:

About as much action as you will capture from a snail…

David rescued it:

One hunk of a snail

Put it on Stephanie’s shoulder

‘Aloha’

Not shy, but surely soon dead had we not moved it to the grass…

Find the lizard:

In Stephanie and Victor’s garden

Now find the lizard, on our hike to Sleeping Giant:

Hint: upper left quadrant

Don’t make yourself cross-eyed. The sun is shining on her head and she is looking right at you. Same lizard is a bit easier to find in this photo:

See its head sticking out?

She’s just above the center of the photo.

Find the ‘Sleeping Giant’:

Sleeping Giant – ‘shhhhhh!’ don’t wake him!

That whole mountain, Nounou Mountain, is Sleeping Giant- Local legend has it that a giant who attended a party given in his honor feasted so much that he laid down for a nap and never awoke. Follow his head, on the left, over his chest, to his feet on the right.

Sleeping Giant’s Head:

Hike to the head of Sleeping Giant

Sleeping Giant, near Kapaa, is one of the most popular hikes on Kauai. Here’s a fun, informational link about Sleeping Giant. It’s 4-mile hike (and 1000-ft elevation gain) from the trailhead to the top of his head and back. Once you are on top you can hike from the hair on his head to his ‘chinny-chin-chin.’ Here we are on top – can you find the two other hikers on top in this photo?

Easy to see one hiker, where’s the second one?

Quite difficult to find the second hiker. Here – I’ll zoom in!

‘On top of the world, Ma!’

Back down to the beach now – Aliomanu Beach. Among the ‘rocks’ ahead, which one is a monk seal?

There’s a Monk Seal?

Hard to guess. Not so hard when you practically step on it. It’s the shape furthest up on the bank. Sunning himself… Here – I took a video, brace yourself for the action:

Just enough action to prove the shape isn’t a rock

Speaking of rocks, find Eric:

Hike to Hissing Dragon – where’s Eric?

Find the horse on the trail ahead of us:

What horse?

We were hiking the Mahogany Plantation Trail. The trailhead is right at the Kileua Farmer’s Market. It is flat and beautiful. There were several horses grazing and signs that read “Do not touch the horses” – which seemed like a set-up because this horse would not move out of our way, until David swatted it on the butt.

Here’s more photos of the Mahogany Plantation hike:

Find the bird in Stephanie and Victor’s back garden:

Find the bird

‘You’re giving me a headache!” you say. Okay this one’s difficult. Hint: It’s perched underneath the bushiest blossom on the flower that’s furthest left. (Read that aloud five times for extra brain boosting.)

This one’s a bit fun: How many chicks in this video? (taken at the top of the “ANGER US CONDITIONS” trail to Anini Beach in Princeville):

I don’t know either. They really don’t want you to count them. 5?…6?

Find the way around the mud:

There isn’t a way.

But we’re on a great hike – the Kuilau Ridge trail near Wailua – a 2 1/2 mile hike through the rain forest, only muddy in places. Here’s a couple of photos I took near the summit:

Kuilau Ridge Trail

Lastly, what’s wrong with this picture?

Two highly-paid consultants

We all piled in the car in a big hurry to shop at the Waipu Farmer’s Market, near Hanalei – had to get there – quick! with the mob, when it opened. Not sure what David’s excuse is with his shorts, but Victor did put his sandals on in a hurry.

Finally, dear reader, here’s a beach video for you. To help you decompress after all that brain exercise:

A walk on Kahili Beach. Yeah, that’s better…

Who friggin’ needs brain plasticity exercises anyway?

Larsen’s Beach, Kauai

February 24, 2017

Today is Friday, February 24, 2017. I just stepped out our front door and snapped this photo.

Ugh

Ugh

Southeast Idaho weather forecast calls for, uh, basically, February going out like a lion and March coming in like a lion. We’re not even getting above freezing during the day for at least a week. Never mind night-time temperatures.

No matter. How about we head back to Larsen’s beach in Kauai! My previous blog left off with the magnificent Albatross nesting on a bluff above the shoreline along Larsen’s Beach.

We’ve parked the car at the end of Koolau Road, a dirt road, and have reached the trailhead to the beach:

Deadly unseen currents have killed how many?

Deadly unseen currents have killed how many?

Okay, okay we won’t go swimming! Larsen’s beach is a remote and undeveloped north shore beach. So remote, that a section of it is a nude beach. One link I read said “if you are interested in sunbathing nude on Kauai, Larsen’s would be your first choice, followed by Secret Beach.” You know, FYI, if you happen to be a ‘naturist’ and find yourself in Kauai.

I took this photo of the view of the beach from the trailhead.

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And here is a panoramic youtube video of Larsen’s beach you might enjoy, as if you were standing near the trailhead right now, taking in the view and sounds of the ocean. (You’re totally there at this moment, right? How could you not be?)

Our destination is to make it about two miles to the arch that sits on an outcrop of lava rock. You hike about 1/3 mile down a steep path through a brushy landscape to get to the beach. A bit further and you run into naturist sunbathing monk seals. To be honest here, at this juncture I had lost my flair for taking photos, on account of Eric now had an iPhone and he was even more maniacal about getting “just the right photo” then I ever was. So, for example, whereas I stood back a bit from the seals, Eric went right up to one, and startled it, and it spit at him just as you would expect from a Llama or angry redneck or something. So here’s my photo:

Monk seal spits at Eric

Monk seal spits at Eric

Eric also beat me to the punch of advertising our Kauai trip by posting his photos on Facebook, the very day he took them. Here is his photo of the monk seal (I jacked it off his FB page), which is outstandingly more fabulous than mine

Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species

Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species

And then, HIS photos of the sea turtles we encountered just a few feet further along the beach:

Eric's photo of sea turtles

Eric’s photo of sea turtles

Aha, but, I’m the one who captured the video – a live action video of sea turtles on the beach. Granted they move slightly faster on land than say, snails, so maybe the idea of watching a 54-second ‘action’ video of beached sea turtles is not your idea of how you’d choose to spend precious remaining time in your life that you’ll never get back. But hey, just trust me on this one: (Eat your heart out, Eric)

When we made it to the arch of course Eric and I were both in a frenzy trying to capture the best view of the waves crashing up along the rocks at the best moment. Here’s my photo, a pretty darned good photo in my opinion:

Pretty darned good photo of waves cresting around the arch

Pretty darned good photo of waves cresting around the arch

But Eric had to one-up me by climbing down on the rocks, dragging David along, to zero in for a closer photo:

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No, but even that’s not good enough. Here in this video you see him directing David, “Let’s move over there for a closer, more direct view”

Eric gets the purr-fect photo of the arch

Eric gets the purr-fect photo of the arch

Yeah, well how about taking a video of me right now chewing the cuticle off the circumference of my middle fingernail. Look behind you, Eric! One rogue wave could come crashing up and carry you off to join the sea turtles, which, by the way, contrary to what you might see in a movie, a turtle isn’t going to rescue you from drowning and transport you safely back to shore on its back.

Eric is heading back across the lower rocks now… with the arch in the background

Here’s a couple of photos I took of the north shore coastline as we begin our hike back…

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Plus one extra photo of these two macho dudes, David and Eric, whom, I’m grateful to report, survived Eric’s quest to capture the world’s most infinitely awesome photo of the arch along Larsen’s Beach.

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However, when all was said and done, it was David who proved himself the most macho.

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The Day of the Layson Albatross

February 16, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017 – our third full day in Kauai. It’s cloudy and blustery today.

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We’re hanging out at Steph and Vic’s house contemplating plans for the day, when we hear a racket outside on the golf course. Albatross!

There’s three of them. One is waddling alone near the back patio

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While two more are engaged in an elaborate synchronized mating dance. I capture some of it on video:

The pair carried on for several more minutes. What a treat it was to witness! According to this link, Albatross courtship is unique among seabirds, both in its complexity and its duration. Males and females engage in a coordinated dance, facing each other, and what you are witnessing in my video is bill “clappering” (in which the bill is quickly opened and closed repeatedly); “sky calling” (in which the bird lifts its bill to the sky, uttering a call like the “moo” of a cow); and fanning the wings while prancing in place. These displays are performed in repeating cycles for up to an hour each, numerous times per day. This behavior allows potential mates to evaluate each others’ suitability as long-term partners.

Albatrosses appear to bond for life. After the initial courtship phase is over, the elaborate courtship rituals are much reduced or abandoned altogether in subsequent years. Researchers believe that this mating dance functions more in choosing a mate than in the long term maintenance of the pair bond.

Here is a youtube video with a closer view of the mating dance taken on Kauai on Valentine’s Day, 2015. Hmmmm. Considering the 50+ percent divorce rate in America, (higher for second and third marriages), maybe we should mimic the mating ritual of Albatrosses. Instead of lavishing our heart’s desire with valentines, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and expensive dinners on Valentine’s day, we should engage each other in a face to face mating dance involving synchronized hoots, flings, grabs and bends, claps, slapping our teeth, strutting, and skyward calls in hour-long sessions, repeated throughout the day. You know, to test our compatibility with a new love interest. Plus, think of the added bonus of counting each step on our fit bits!

I Googled “Albatrosses on Kauai’ and came across this very interesting blog by Cathy Granholm, “My Albatross Diary” , documenting current news about the Layson Albatrosses in Princeville, Kauai. Cathy lives in Princeville from November to July. She has had an albatross nest in her yard for three years in a row. She monitors the Laysan albatross nests in yards and on golf courses throughout the community of Princeville. Her last blog was published on Jan 2, 2017, featuring Kirwan, the most photographed Albatross in Princeville. I wonder if my photo of the solitary albatross is Kirwan?

On the afternoon of that same day, Eric, David and I decided to take our favorite north shore Island hike, to Larsen’s Beach, home of a large nesting area for Albatross. The nesting area sits atop a rock cliff and is off limits to humans. We saw many Albatross flying overhead and I caught several photos. Whereas Albatross waddle and look clumsy when they walk, they are magnificently graceful sea birds when they fly. Here’s some of my photos of Albatross in flight:

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Of course, Larsen’s beach is also a napping spot for endangered monk seals and sunbathing sea turtles. We met both of these magnificent species on the beach as well. I have photos. And action videos. (Of napping monk seals?) You betcha. And of sunbathing sea turtles. Here, I’ll give you a teaser:

Okay, well, not a lot of action there. And the sea turtles will have to wait. Somehow their introduction here would pale against the captivating life-force of the Layson Albatross.

Ka’aka’aniu (Larsen’s) Beach

February 20, 2016

Say it with me, “Ka-ah-ka-ah-nee-oo” Beach.

Okay, “Larsen’s Beach.”

Geez. You’re still in Kauai? Isn’t this like, your 8th blog about your dumb January 2016 trip?

Yep.

We’re about at the end of our trip, though, I promise. (Sigh)

If you’ve read all 35 of my previous Kauai blogs covering our past five January trips to Kauai, then you might recall one of our favorite beaches, Larsen’s Beach. (Sure, Jody.) I blogged about our first visit to Larsen’s Beach two years ago. And again last year.

David, Eric and I returned to Larsen’s Beach this year, too, on Friday, January 15.

Larsen’s Beach is full of surprises. First of all, it’s a surprise to realize how hard it is to find Larsen’s Beach. Located in a secluded area on Kauai’s northeastern shore, it’s accessible only by dirt road. From Princeville you travel south on Kuhio Highway and just after mile marker 20 you hang a left onto Ko’olau Road. Travel on Ko’olau Road for about a mile and the road forks. Take the left fork onto a dirt road, Larsen Beach Road. Follow the dirt road till it ends. You will likely turn on at least one wrong dirt road before you find the right one.

Hint: The dirt road ends. You park. Walk toward ocean. You’ll know you’re at the trailhead to Larsen’s Beach when you come to this sign:

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Which brings us to Surprise #2: ‘Swimming is less than ideal.’ Unless you’re suicidal. Deadly unseen currents have killed how many? ‘Strong currents channeling through the reefs exist even in perfectly calm conditions.’ One site I Googled said, “If you go in, wear a rash guard to protect against prickly sea urchins and sharp coral on the bottom.” Oh joy. Rash guard? Well, unless you’re a full-blown masochist and/or enjoy cutting yourself.

Ah but the water is so perfectly calm and beautiful!

Dip your toe in

Dip your toe in

Larsen’s Beach is about a 2-mile narrow stretch of sand backed by brush and trees. Including a Surprise # 3 – Nude beach. I mean, Naturalist beach (uh, Naturist beach, corrected per comment below). We discovered this on our first visit two years ago: January 25th, 2014. We were walking along the brush and trees, minding our own business, sat at a picnic table to rest, when we noticed a bare bronzed bather. I photographed and blogged about the experience (zoomed an i-Phone photo to make sure my eyes weren’t tricking me). Here’s the link to the blog for those of you with a dirty mind, uh, I mean an appreciation for the beauty of the naturalist human form. Actually if you click on the link, scroll down to the end of the blog. No! Don’t click on the link! Oh, come on, you want to! Stop being so decadent, Jody. Who cares anyway? CLICK ON THE LINK! (and scroll way down to the bottom).

Surprise # 4:

Darth Vader Bumble Bee…

Looks like a bumble bee

Looks like a bumble bee

I had never seen such a bee in my life. You can see it has really fuzzy legs for pollination. Upon further research I learned that it is a female Carpenter bee. They are quite fascinating creatures. Carpenter bees are solitary bees. Females live alongside their own daughters or sisters, creating a small social group. They enjoy kaffeeklatsches (Ha, just kidding). They make nests by tunneling into wood. Each nest has a single entrance (very neat), almost always a 1/2 inch diameter near-perfect-circle. The entrances may have several adjacent tunnels. (Cozy!)

Female Carpenter bees have stingers but they are docile and rarely sting unless handled or provoked.

Male Carpenter bees, on the other hand, are harmless. They do not have a stinger and their face may be white or yellow (face color possibly predetermined by how much and the manner in which, previous generational males handled or provoked females.)

Surprise # 5. Hawaiian monk seals:

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Hawaiian monk seals are a highly endangered species – a ‘conservation reliant endangered species,’ which is why we see them on Larsen’s Beach – we were walking near their nesting grounds. Monk Seals are the only seal native to Hawaii.

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I almost walked right by this Hawaiian monk seal without seeing it:

Don't bother me, I'm a log

Don’t bother me, I’m a log

The small population of about 1,100 individuals is threatened by human encroachment (not us, of course), limited gene pool, entanglement in fishing nets, marine debris, disease, and past commercial hunting for skins, according to this wiki-article.

We saw four Hawaiian monk seals on our round trip walk to the arch. Along the way we ran into Surprise # 6: The albatross nesting area.

Do not disturb!

Do not disturb!

The magnificent Albatross are also an endangered species. We accidentally walked right by this nest and tried to act invisible as we approached our destination…which is,

Surprise # 7: The Arch at the end of the lava rock outcropping half way down Larsen’s beach…

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the sea is roiling here:

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The surf crashing against the rocks in front of us

ooooo- David's sexy shoulder

ooooo- David’s sexy shoulder

And swirling through the arch at the end of the point

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I captured a video:

Walking back along the beach I couldn’t resist zooming in on this Hawaiian Monk seal’s face:

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Surprise # 8.

Yeah, Kauai’s spectacular Ka’aka’aniu (Larsen’s) Beach!

A ‘must-see’ – once you find the right dirt road that takes you to it!