#4 I Came Across a Stream
I cursed at the mosquito droning obnoxiously in my ear and waved my hand at it. For a place that doesn't have any native mosquitos, I thought, Hawai'i sure has an abundance of introduced ones.
The stream that I was following ambled along through a maze of rocks and roots, surrounded on both sides by the high, fern-lined walls of the valley. As I waded through the rill against the soft current, the water glided past my legs as though I wasn't even there. My presence didn't seem to make a dent in the grandeur of my surroundings.
I had set out that morning with the intent of photographing native Hawaiian critters and this was a perfect place to be.
As I came around a bend in the stream, I caught a glimpse of a small red blur zooming past. I stopped in my tracks and tried to spot the creature, which I like to call the Golden Snitch of the natural world. I caught a glimpse of it as it gently touched down on the edge of a Kalo leaf on the other side of the stream.
What I was seeing was a Pinao 'ula, an endemic Hawaiian Damselfly (Megalagrion calliphya). This slender red damselfly is only found in Maui Nui, which includes the islands of Maui, Moloka'i, and Lana'i. They are often seen darting through clearings in the forests, along shallow streams and pools, dancing just above the water's surface. They soar through the air, hunting for smaller insects as they go.
Luckily, this striking creature hung around long enough for me to capture a few photos before it took to the air and quickly disappeared from sight. I was once again alone, surrounded by more hidden creatures yet to be discovered.
I continued along, searching carefully as I made my way up the stream bed. Just ahead appeared a perfect waterfall, making its way down the narrow valley. I moved towards one of the surrounding walls, hoping to find a small critter clinging to its surface. Up close, the green veneer of the walls turned into a miniature forest; the tiny ferns were now towering trees and the understory was a bed of damp moss. I pulled out my loupe and leaned in for a closer look, likely appearing as Gulliver to the inhabitants of this Lilliputian world. I was soon immersed in this new domain.
I scanned across the floor of this forest, looking for anything animate. I soon noticed some micro snails, slowly gliding across the dwarfed landscape. From afar, these native Hawaiian snails (Achatinellidae family) resembled specks of dirt. However, within the bounds of this tiny realm, they were actually beautiful figures, speckled with hazel and gold. Watching them navigate through the long arms of the moss, I quickly lost track of my own world, evidently favoring this new one.
After awhile, I began to sense the pitter patter of rain on the water and rocks around me. The seemingly giant drops of water didn't seem to phase the snails as they continued on their way to their various destinations.
Eventually, my back cramped from leaning over, I stood up, straining my eyes to readjust and focus on my surroundings. The previously sunny stream bed was now concealed in a cool shadow; the sun having sunk below the valley walls. I checked my watch, surprised at how late it was and how long I had been transfixed with that tiny world.
Deciding to call it a day, I made my way back down the stream, following its course as it drifted along. These magical valleys are always worth exploring.