Monday | September 25, 2017
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Birding trail website that shows prime viewing locations on Big Island to make debut

A website is about to go live for bird lovers seeking the best spots from Hilo to Kona to see the diversity of the Big Island’s feathered friends.

Suzanne Case, chairwoman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, plans to unveil the Hawaii Coast to Coast Birding Trail website and trail Saturday during the Hawaii Island Festival of Birds with Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.

The website, hawaiibirdingtrails.com, offers a self-guided tour map with stops for bird-watching all the way from Hilo, across Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road), to Kona.

“It’s just like a treasure map of where to find birds,” said DLNR trails specialist Jackson Bauer.

The trail includes spots where avid hikers seeking the “rarest of the rare” birds can find enjoyment, but also where people with more passive interest or limited mobility can stop and see birds, too.

“Hopefully that inspires people to care, and if people care, hopefully the park system gets preserved,” Bauer said.

An overarching goal of the new bird-watching route, he said, is “to create and inspire that interest.”

So far, the trail itself is a straight shot between Hilo and Kona.

“Hopefully in the future we’ll expand and add more of these birding trails,” Bauer said.

Officials say it’s the first such birding trail in Hawaii — the last state in the country to create one.

But Bauer said it’s actually a good thing Hawaii was last. That’s because the website gets to use the latest technology and will be easier to use as a result. Many states started their birding trails in the 1970s, Bauer said, and many still use paper checklists.

In Hawaii, users can view trail stops online and then create printable lists of the bird-viewing areas they want to visit.

“It goes from coast to coast. It goes over the Saddle. It pretty much covers all the ecosystem,” Bauer said. Along the way, the map points out “birding hot spots.”

On the Hilo side, the trail starts in the region of Lokowaka Pond off Kalanianaole Avenue in Keaukaha. The map says birds that might be seen there include egrets, waterfowl, shorebirds and “accidental migrants” near the ancient Hawaiian fishpond.

Bauer said bird-watching has grown in popularity throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 47 million people participated in bird-watching nationwide in 2011.

“Those birding experiences generated more than $100 billion in total industry output,” the agency reports.

The second-annual Hawaii Island Festival of Birds (birdfesthawaii.org) starts Friday and is being hosted by the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.

Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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