I didn’t plan it. Seriously. But I went on a bird walk in West Maui. In my defense, I thought it was a fitness walk along the Kapalua Coast
. When will I accept that I am a birder? Am I in denial of age? Because, stereotypical or not, I always think of birders as, well, older. Or am I in denial of the feathery cute- and cuddly-ness of birds?
I met Ben Auerbach at Kapalua Spa
at the decent hour of 9:00 a.m. A couple from Wisconsin, a mother and daughter from Dallas, Texas and another couple from Central California joined us.
A track-and-field athlete, Ben took us through a series of easy stretches to warm up our muscles and get our hamstrings “firing.” Ben is a one-time professional mid-distance, track-and-field athlete. So, of course, he has long legs, which he clothed in sleek, black sweatpants and with which he took long, purposeful strides—backwards.
Ben told us that the name “Kapalua” loosely translated to English as “arms embracing sea,” and the scalloped beaches here—Kapalua, Oneloa and Honokahua Bay, also known as D.T. Fleming Beach Park—clearly support that translation. Ben led us to the rocky point bisecting Namalu and Oneloa Bays with off-shore views of Molokai.
That’s where we came upon the bird colony. The birds, known in Hawaiian as ‘ua’u kani, return to Hawaii in late March to mate, lay an egg and raise their young. I’d heard some wedge-tailed shearwaters had been spotted at the refuge where I volunteer on Kauai, but I hadn’t seen any myself, and I wouldn’t on this walk, either.
Wedge-tailed shearwaters are crepuscular in nature. That is, they come and go during dawn and dusk. There may have been a few deep in their volcanic rock nooks and crannies that they use here for nesting. But, if so, they were sleeping—and quiet.
We followed an uneven lava rock footpath through the colony before coming to a boardwalk. Here, Ben paused to give us some pointers on technique—strike lightly with the heel, roll forward and push off the ball of the toe; and think about applying equal pressure across all parts of the foot. But the one that I still think of almost every day since on my daily walks is to stand upright, as if trying to hold a small twig between your shoulder blades.
A boardwalk traverses an active sand dune that is Oneloa Beach, and it was built to protect the trampling of native plants. Oneloa translates to “long sand,” and is a wide, straight, white sands beach. Its near-shore floor is made of a shallow sandbar and creates layers of frothy, white foam as waves roll ashore. Off-shore, whales sent their exhalations 30 feet in the air.
In its entirety, the Kapalua Coastal Trail runs 1.76 miles north from Kapalua Bay Beach, across Hawea Point, across the sand dunes at Oneloa Bay and on to D.T. Fleming Beach Park. When the boardwalk ended, we cut up some stairs by the Oneloa Beach access and looped back around to Kapalua Spa, where I met my friend Audrey and slurped a Mango Ginger Snap smoothie. Not a bad way to start a morning. Birds or no.