Return to cold distant shores
Voices on the wind
Last night I heard the passing warble of a Pacific Golden Plover, (Pluvialis fulva), or, as we call them, Kōlea. The name is an onomatopoeia that copies the plover’s flight call.
A timely reminder that April 8th is Draw a Bird Day, a monthly event in our blogging community formerly hosted by Laura at Create Art Everyday, and now cared for by Nina and Kerfe at Method Two Madness.
The Kōlea, navigator, messenger from the gods, guardian spirit, a god incarnate, and a familiar island guest, have wintered here long before man stepped foot on these sandy shores. Many believe the birds helped to guide early Polynesian explorers here and elsewhere in the pacific so it is not surprising they are part of our earliest oral history and even down to today they remain part of our belief system.
These amazing and mighty long-distance flyers, not only find their way back to tiny little specks of lava rock in the middle of the ocean, but they also find the same specific wintering grounds in the islands each year, … such as someone’s backyard. There is a record of a banded Kōlea returning to the same site for over 20 years. No wonder many island residents become attached to seeing their guests arrive year after year.
Most Kōlea have fattened up and their plumage has changed from the golden sandy colors they arrived with in the fall, to more striking breeding plumage complete with a white racer stripe. By next week a few will start to leave, and near the end of the month, large groups will depart on their arduous non-stop journey to as far north as the Arctic tundra.
Though a very few will remain over the summer, by the end of April the absence of Kōlea will be noticeable and people will start marking calendars waiting for their return in the fall. There is still so much to learn from these travelers, they are a link not only to past traditions, but possibly our future as environmental conditions change. As we say in the islands, Aloha a hui hou! (Farewell until we meet again)
(Sketch in Stillman & Birn Zeta series using Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Brown Oxide (Daniel Smith) and Ultramarine Blue (M. Graham) watercolor.)