The Kolea Return

Krazy for Kolea Kontest has a winner.

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The fall’s shorebird migration was slow to start, with fewer kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover) returning than last year. Of the ten kolea banded on Molokai in 2006, only two have been observed to date, the female at Molokai Education Center, and a second female at Koheo wetland. Of the three Ruddy Turnstones (akekeke) banded, only the one on the Kaunakakai Elementary School playground has returned. No other shorebird species previously banded on Molokai have returned to their territories. The Krazy for Kolea Kontest was extended until October 1 due to the late arrival of most returning birds.

First place winner of this fall’s Krazy for Kolea Kontest is Steve Burkson, who observed a total of four returnees on July 23 – two on the stone fishpond wall at Ualapue Pond, and two on the mudflats of Kamahuehue Pond. Burkson will receive a Keep Them Wild! T-shirt from Nene O Molokai and a gift certificate for one scoop of ice cream courtesy of Kamoi Snack-N-Go. Gift certificates will also go to the runners-up (with observation locations in parenthesis): Helen VonTempsky (August 9, Kaunakakai), Sarah Yerhot (August 11, Kaunakakai), Judith Gardiner (August 19, Home Pumehana), Barbara Rasmussen (August 20, Kaluakoi), Shari Lynn Oshaunessy (August 20, Kalaupapa), Gordon Davenport (August 21, Kaluakoi Golf Course), Cherith Joao (September 14, Kaunakakai), Lily Jenkins (August 18, Kaunakakai Elementary School), Guy Hughes (September 21, Kaluakoi Golf Course). Congratulations, and please call Arleone to make arrangements for collection of your certificates.

Returning to Hawaii from their summer breeding grounds in the Alaskan tundra, the earliest observed kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover) are usually females, with some birds still wearing their black & white breeding plumage called ‘alternate’. Males typically arrive in September, followed by juveniles in October. Kolea are long-lived (20-plus years), and annually return to the same territory, such as a ball field, playground, or lawn. Many Hawaii residents have named their distinguished winter guests and note arrival and departure dates on calendars.

Ancient Polynesian voyagers may have followed the kolea on the bird’s northerly migration, resulting in the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The kolea figured prominently in Hawaiian folklore, and was considered to be the embodiment of the god of healing, Koleamoku, and a messenger of high chiefs.

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