At the end of yesterday's blog, I wrote that we were off to see the endangred Palila on Mauna Kea, a volcano that stands at almost 14,000 feet.
Well, we did see the endangered Palila along the western flank of the volcano. It's a striking bird with yellow shoulders and a formidable stubby bill for breaking into the seed pods of the Mamane tree.
Non-native ungulates are limiting regeneration of the forest, which has put the bird on a long term path of decline, and crashing 79% in the past decade. The birds we saw were among the last 1200 estimated to exist.
After this amazing experience, we traveled to the peak of Mauna Kea, where I received what is believed to be the highest altitude briefing ever for a Service Director with both feet on the ground.
In sub-freezing temperatures, with winds of at least 30 mph, I was briefed on the listing status of an insect which occupies the extreme habitat along the crater ridges -- The Wekiu. We also had what is believed to be the first inter-squad, inter-agency, DOI snowball fight in Hawaii.