Hawaii: Crouching Heron, Basking Turtle

To get a glimpse of what the Kohala Coast might have looked like before man arrived with his myna birds and monkey pod trees, Dave and I walked towards the sea (makai, in Hawaiian) along the coastal access between the Hilton Hotel and A-Bay Beach.

The sun was getting low in the sky, but we paused to admire the anchialine ponds surrounded by jagged black lava rock and emerald green shrubs and grasses.  A black-crowned  night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactili) crouched, perfectly still, over the smooth surface of the brackish pool intent on the tiny shrimp swimming there.  Similar to his cousin on the Mainland, this night-heron is indigenous to Hawaii, which means that unlike the house sparrows and saffron finches flitting around the shopping centers and golf courses, he came to the Islands on his own, without any assistance from humans.

Photo Credit:  P. Nixon

Photo Credit: P. Nixon

At the beach, a mix of small, sharp-edged lava rocks and smooth white coral, we found two large slabs of lava and settled in to watch the setting sun,  partially obscured by vog from Kilauea Volcano erupting further south on the island.

Dave noticed him first.  A Hawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) just a few feet away from us was lumbering across the rocky beach.  After a few hours basking in the sun he was making his way back to the algae beds.

Photo Credit:  Dave Betzler

Photo Credit: Dave Betzler

We turned away from the sunset to watch him inch closer and closer to the water.  And then he was gone, into the waves, taking millions of years of secrets with him.

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