Soaring over Saddle Road, the elusive pueo paused midflight before diving down into the deep grass of the rolling ag land around us.
Taking flight again with empty talons, he circled over to a branch at a bordering forest where he perched with watchful eyes.
Few life experiences could top the back-to-back viewings of the Hawaiian short-haired owl that we were fortunate enough to spend some time with last week on the Big Island.
My previous owl sightings, of any variety, have been limited to mere glimpses. Maybe one of the coolest creatures out there, spotting a couple pueo as the early-evening sun side-lit Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea was an unquestionable highlight of the trip.
The only experience that may have topped it was the ‘io we saw for a few seconds around dusk the prior day deep in Kipuka Pua‘ulu. The endangered Hawaiian hawk plunged into the depths of the ‘ohio forest at the sound of my camera shutter clicking.
Hawai‘i spoiled us, I guess. Especially since that night was followed up with an hour absorbing the orange glow from the volcano at Kilauea caldera.
All the entertainment we needed on our little mini-vacation a couple isles away came from nature. And boy was there a lot of there, just like on Kaua‘i.
When we weren’t being dazzled by birds found nowhere else in the world, we were being overwhelmed by the vibrant show under the sea.
I finally got to swim for a spell with a Picasso triggerfish, which looks like our state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, just repainted by the great Spanish artist.
What really surprised and impressed me in the water around Big Island, both at snorkeling sites like Richardson’s near Hilo and Two-Step near Kona, was how much more alive and flourishing the coral is there compared to here, even compared to some of my favorite Kaua‘i spots like Tunnels and Koloa Landing.
From what I’ve gathered, the dramatic difference is due to all the runoff from rivers and streams on the Garden Isle. My sneaky suspicion is that it’s not just the runoff in and of itself, but all the pesticides and chemicals and human waste that gets washed over fields and flushed into the ocean.
We’re overdue for a renewed push to combat this problem of epic proportions. Kaua‘i divers and scientists and reporters have been raising the red flags for years. But still no action.
We can start by pushing our friends and neighbors to upgrade their outdated septic systems and cess pools. And if voluntary compliance doesn’t work, we must rally our lawmakers to draft legislation with a clean-water objective and some teeth in it that mean business.