Kōlea, center, sometimes forage with other shorebird species. This outstanding photo shows a kōlea with a ruddy turnstone (upper left) and two sanderlings. ©Ann Tanimoto-Johnson

During a recent June stroll in Waialua, I had a sad moment of missing my six feathered friends Cookie, Bilbo, Frodo, Boogie, and Mr. and Ms. Ed. These are the kōlea that established territories along my usual route and the walk just isn’t as good without them.

Now that July has arrived, though, my steps are springier knowing it’s possible that I’ll see an early returnee. Last year, July 6th marked the first kōlea arrival from ‘Āina Haina resident, Tom: “Aloha, I’ve seen him [the kōlea] every year for the last 8 years. He loves eating the bugs out of my lawn. Very shy.”

29 individuals returned to Hawaii in July, 2021

The kōlea that return in July get here early for one of two reasons, says plover researcher, Dr. Wally Johnson. Those individuals either had a super successful nesting season, where their chicks hatched and fledged early, or a failed one, where their eggs or chicks didn’t survive bad weather or a predator strike.

July 1st marks the start of a new season of information gathering in this ongoing Kōlea Count. We’re zeroing the tabs to start again.

We can’t count every plover in Hawai’i, of course, or record every coming and going, but the project helps us learn more about the birds from those of us who care about them. It’s also a place to record stories. Thank you for sharing the joy of these marvelous native birds. I read and save all notes.

Below are numbers from our tallies of the season. Special thanks to Susanne Spiessberger, Interim Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Audubon Society, for tallies, graphs, and maps.

5,124 Total number of birds counted December 1 – March 31

O`ahu: 902 submissions

Big Island: 161 submissions

Maui: 70 submissions

Kaua`i: 14 submissions

Moloka`i: 2 submissions (No map)