Category Archives: environment

What happened to the sparrows?

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve started feeding birds in our yard many afternoons, sometimes leftover rice, sometimes stale bread, sometimes seed from a large Costco-size bag. It’s something I did as a kid, here in this same yard.

I was out there earlier this week and it suddenly hit me that the mix of birds is now very different than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, most of the birds that come down are doves, sort of evenly split between the small doves, which I’ve seen referred to as as zebra doves, and the larger, ring-neck or spotted doves. There is one pair of Brazilian cardinals, grey with the red heads. There’s a pair, possible two, of bulbuls. And there are a few mynahs, usually just three, sometimes four, that hang around in the background. We do have a single kolea, or golden plover, that visits our yard most days in the late afternoon, but doesn’t mix with the other birds.

That’s about it.

That is very different than when I was a kid.

In those days, there were many sparrows, and and lots of mynahs. Also small finches, or linnets, with colorful breast feathers. Both Brazilian and Kentucky cardinals (the ones with full red body feathers) were common. There were doves, but they were far from the dominant birds. It was also common for some mejiro, or white eyes, to flit through, checking out what was available to eat. Sometimes we would see a family of Java sparrows, with their different plumage and beaks. I think the Shama thrush, with its beautiful song, came later. We saw them relatively frequently in Kaaawa, but I don’t recall them in Kahala.

It appears that most of those are gone. I think I’ve only seen a sparrow once, and I haven’t seen a Kentucky cardinal since we moved in. Linnets? Occasionally, not often. Mynahs, which used to often congregate in groups on the lawn, are much less in evidence, although they are still raucously in evidence in the banyan trees near the Waialae Country Club.

In general, a far less diverse feathered population, at least in this part of the island.

Does the feeding location makes a difference. I’ve been putting food out in front of our house, on the street side. I wonder if moving into the back yard, more sheltered, would make a difference? Perhaps I’ll experiment.

Speaking of oceanfront properties…

We were able to spend Saturday night with friends in Kaaawa, and got up early Sunday morning for our walk at dawn. This was the view at Swanzy Beach Park, where a few hardy campers braved the blustery weather.

November 27

Despite the concerns about the effect of climate change on sea levels, we noticed that a home on a narrow lot between the highway and the ocean sold earlier this year for a reported $998,000. It’s located along a beach that has experienced substantial erosion for years, and seems a prime candidate to fall victim to rising sea levels, but that apparently didn’t deter buyers.

I suppose it would be interesting to look at sales data for oceanfront properties. I’ll have to give some thought to what to look for in these data.

Any suggestions?

Or maybe someone’s already done this?

A great lead: “I was attacked by a pig…”

Most of us have never worried about becoming the victim of a pig attack. So when I saw this little story by an old friend now living up mauka in Hilo, I immediately asked for and received permission to share the tale.

As an aside, I realized we’ve known each other for well over 40 years. That’s both startling and sobering.

Anyway, here’s his story, reprinted from an email with his permission.

I was attacked by a pig down near the makai end of the street on October 14. I was taking a morning walk and heard a long, frenzied barking near the back of a house under construction, but, of course, neither the owner nor builder was there at the time. I walked toward the commotion and soon realized that a dog (it looked like a pit bull on a chain) and a pig were fighting. The dog would attack the pig and then the pig would attack the dog. Neither was yielding. The dog had a dog house but he did not retreat into it. I thought that I probably could see the pig’s snout covered with blood but was not certain of that.

I moved a little closer (to 65 feet or so) to get a better look, the pig saw me, and began to move toward me at a fast trot. I picked up a large rock to get ready for him. He came right up to me and bit me on my left thigh, and I hit him with the rock, dropping the rock in the process. I decided to make a run for it. When I wheeled around to run, the pig ran back toward the dog. I walked home and tried to get some help from our next-door neighbors, who are pig hunters, but none of them were home.

Then my wife and I drove to the lot in our car to check on the dog’s condition. The pig was gone, but the pit bull did not bark at us, which I took to be an indication that it was injured.

We returned home, and we called the Police and the Humane Society, both of which refused to respond. I tried everything I could think of to find out who the owner and/or contractor were, so that I could
contact them. Easily found the name of the owner but could not find a phone number for him. Finally, I left a message on the door of the house with my phone number. The owner contacted me that night. He said that the dog, a female pit bull, was pretty well beaten up.

The pig had bitten the front of my left thigh through my thick shorts, but it did not appear that his teeth actually had come in contact with or broke my skin, so I thoroughly washed the area and let it go at that–no trip to ER or urgent care. My thigh developed two large darkish bruises (one for upper
teeth and one for lower teeth) that lasted two weeks or so. I had my regular visit with my primary care doctor the next week. He was okay with my assessment/treatment of the bite. My neighbor pointed out that the femoral artery is on the top of the thigh, so a deep bite could have been dangerous.

A couple of weeks later, I took a walk down to the end of the road, near the house where the confrontation had occurred. I noticed that the owner-builder was on site, so I walked up to introduce myself. It turned out that he had returned the dog to the house site for the first time on that very morning, so I got to meet and make friends with Stella. She is a beautiful pit bull with a solid gray coat and very friendly. She is the special friend of the man’s daughter, who is 10 or 11 years old. The owner said that Stella’s tongue was cut badly during the fight, and he showed me the nasty wound on her right shoulder, a rip, which was healing nicely.

I think that pigs are a generally under appreciated danger here. Many people have houses on lots that are right next to forested areas, and pigs go where they want. I worry about, say, surprising a pig at the back of our property, especially a sow with a litter of small pigs or a macho boar. Just this morning, on our way to the farmers’ market, we saw a pig trotting along the edge of the road, not concerned at all by our car. They are not an unusual sight.

When we lived in Kaaawa, pigs would come down from the mountains when food or water was in short supply up in their normal territory. At least a couple of times, we looked out to see a large pig digging up the front lawn. Luckily, they didn’t attack. And there was the morning we found a piglet in the yard. It was small enough to put in a cat carrier while we tried to decide what we should do. I went over to see if one of our neighbors had any suggestions, and she decided to adopt the pig. It grew up and probably got to be close to 300 pounds, and lived a happy long life in penned area in their yard.

It was, fortunately or unfortunately, more common to have local pig hunters take such matters into their own hands.

Taro spotted in an unexpected place

I was walking back home from the bus stop at the end of the Kahala Mall route. It’s not too far, maybe 6/10 of a mile straight down Kealaolu Avenue.

Yesterday I noticed something for the first time. There’s an older house in the long block above Moho Street that has so far avoided the excesses of the new homes that have been built closer to the ocean. It’s got a somewhat ramshackle wooden fence in front. As I walked past, I got a glimpse through the fence, then looked over for a better view.

Along Kealaolu Avenue

There, inside the fenced front yard, are what appear to be two good size plots planted in taro. Yes, taro. And it looks like its doing well.

What a statement! Just a bit farther down the street, former gardens and shade trees that formerly graced the large lots were bulldozed to make way for homes stretching from property line to property line, usually surrounded by intimidating walls and a few selected plants for local color.

Now I guess I’ll have to be a little nosy and learn more about this unexpected oasis and its taro patch.