For a number of years now, I have been hiking the trails at Ho’omaluhia Botanic Garden to photograph the Ko’olau Mountains that tower over the landscape and the endangered Hawaiian Coots that make their home in the reservoir at the garden.
In the 1960′s, torrential rains over the Koolau Mountains in Kaneohe caused flooding that resulted in much loss of life and property damage. The City and County of Honolulu asked the Army Corps of Engineers to build an earthen berm as part of a flood control project to capture the rain. The reservoir at Hoomaluhia Botanic Garden, known as Loko Ho’omaluhia, is the result of this effort.
Since the usual trade wind pattern over Oahu creates ripples on the surface that prevents the lake from acting as a mirror, one must be at the reservior at the right time — when there is no wind — to see the Koolau Mountains reflected in the waters of the lake. In the photo above the Koolau peak of Keahiakahoe is reflected in Loko Hoomaluhia.
This man-made reservoir has become a habitat for the endangered Hawaiian Coot or ‘Alae Ke’oke’o. There are between 2,000 and 4,000 of these waterbirds remaining in the wild. The Hawaiian Coot (Fulica Americana alai) is endemic to Hawaii.
Adults have a black head, dark gray body, white undertail feathers, and a prominent white frontal shield and bill. The Hawaiian Coot is smaller than the Amercian Coot and has a bulbous bump on the frontal sheild on its head which distinguishes it from the American Coot. Coots have large lobed feet which allow the bird to spread its weight over a larger surface area that helps it walk on floating vegetation.
The breeding season for Hawaiian Coots is between March and September where they build nests on floating platforms of vegetation. There is a breeding population of between 60-80 birds at Hoomaluhia who build nests from water plants that thrive in the reservoir.
The Lake and Stream Trails at Hoomaluhia are a beautiful place to hike. After years of persistence I was able to photograph the Koolau Mountains, Moku Mo’o (the small island in the middle of the reservoir) and a Hawaiian Coot reflected in the still waters of Loko Hoomaluhia.
US Fish and Wildflife, Hawaiian Coot
Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Fact Sheet on Alae keokeo of Hawaiian Coot, Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii
Birding Hawaii, The Hawaiian Coot – Distribution and Population Status
City and County of Honolulu, Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden