(From the notebook of seasonal technician Kevork Babayan)
The field season has come to an end and it’s been quite the journey for the “PU Crew.” We’ve spent the vast majority of our time conducting Occupancy Surveys (OS) for Puaiohi along five major streams in the Alaka’i: Mohihi, Waiakoali, Kauaikinana, Koaie, and a stream in the East Alaka’i Fenced Area. Mohihi Stream is the only one that has previously been surveyed using the current technique. The four other streams had not been visited in recent years, so in addition to setting up survey stations on each stream (20 stations, each 150m apart) we had to find ways to safely get into these drainages. Needless to say, there was lots of bushwhacking down steep slopes and mutterings under our breath.
Some of these streams had a fair amount of Puaiohi activity, such as Waiakoali. In others, like Kauaikinana, we found no Puaiohi at all (likely due to lack of suitable habitat and the stream being overrun with invasive species).
Nevertheless, it was always exciting to hear a Puaiohi call, or better yet, sing! The first time I heard a wild Puaiohi sing was while scouting out the slot canyon-like upper drainages of Koaie Stream in the central Alaka’i Plateau. The bird was a good distance downstream of us, but the male’s song echoed so beautifully through the canyon, I couldn’t help but think just how well the Puaiohi fits into its environment. Although I had seen and heard the beauty of the Alaka’i forest, something still seemed amiss. Only after hearing the Puaiohi’s song against the picturesque backdrop of moss- and fern-draped canyon walls cut by babbling streams did I find a track worthy enough to go along with the scene. The Puaiohi do truly belong there, and nothing else can replace them.