This fall’s first goslings made their debut last week. I haven’t seen any yet, but we knew the adults were nesting, because they’d gone underground, so to speak, for the past few weeks. Instead of strutting through the golf-course-like grass on the grounds surrounding the Kilauea Lighthouse like they normally do, noshing on the salt-tolerant seashore paspalum, the adult nene have been spending their time under the native naupaka bushes, near their nests. That is, until closing time. Right at 4:00 p.m., when the gates to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge shut and the people disappear, nene emerge. Just like they have a built-in alarm clock. Or, rather, it’s like a dinner bell sounds, because the nene leave their nests to feed.
Now, the report of nene goslings may not sound like news. I mean, they do look a bit like the prolific Canada goose. But the hatching of nene goslings is news in the bird world. Nene are listed as endangered and protected by the federal government. They numbered 30-some in the 1950s. Today, thankfully, their numbers exceed 1,500, and they are the official state bird of Hawaii. Nene like the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. (Even during nesting season, you’re pretty much guaranteed to spot one or two here.) Another good place to see nene is at Kokee Natural History Museum on Kauai and at Volcanoes National Park on Big Island.