“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” - Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
"Cock-a-doodle-doooo", the rooster begins at 0530 in the morning. The outside world begins to stir as the sun rises over the horizon, creating a beautiful cotton-candy sky. Sunlight pushes back the shadows and reveals Crayola Light Chrome Green Prosopis leaves. As more rays peak over the horizon, the rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri) travel down from deep in Mānoa Valley and take their positions in their Prosopis pews outside my window. Soon their chorus of harsh hymns will begin. As I shuffle from the bed to lanai, I observe the not-so feral cat below wake and patiently wait for humans to walk by and provide her with six breakfasts.
Across the way, I can see our neigboring Myna couple (Acridotheres tristis) now has young nestled at the base of their coconut (Cocos nucifera) frond. Conveniently for the Mynas, the tree has no coconuts currently on it and they are not likely to be disturbed by local fruit pickers. I begin to wonder if there is at all a correlation to their nest placement and the lack of fruit on the tree.
Most of the landscape before me is a mix of concrete, structures, and flora and fauna introduced to Hawai‘i. However, I feel fortunate that the landscaping crew incorporated a variety of native plant species too: Hibiscus arnottianus, Vitex rotundifolia, Scaevola taccada, and Wikstroemia uva-ursi. All the interactions between species unique compared to elsewhere in the world. Species navigating a big city and relying on other species that may not be part of their ancestral memory. As I am still working to adjust to city life myself, I cannot help but admire the resiliency of these plants and animals that now call bustling downtown Honolulu home. As I notice my mind begin to wander, I myself wander back inside to continue my morning routine...
As the sun heats our concrete jungle, my wild neighbors are still hard at work. I make my way to water our lanai garden. Two red-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) are perched on the banister closely inspecting the glossy, green cherry tomatoes - days away from beginning to turn yellow. The sound of the sliding door causes the inquisitive duo to quickly fly to the Prosopis; but, they maintain a close watch of my movements.
During my watering, I hear a song unfamiliar to our little neighborhood. A whimsical whistle followed by rapid clicks. A young male white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus) is searching for an area to call his own. I hope he has luck. He would quickly be the new headliner of our daily concerts.
As my watering routine ends, I again notice the two red-vented bulbuls across the way; now, displaying rather mischievous behavior. One of the two is carrying something large, green, and squirming. I quickly reach for binoculars inside to witness what such a food item could be. A large caterpillar. I take note of two distinct circles where I'd expect eyes to be. They are white in the center transitioning to royal blue to black. The caterpillar is larger than the bulbul's head. Surely, it won't be able to eat it. I watch as the bulbul thrashes the caterpillar into submission. Before I can witness just how a bulbul tackles such a food challenge, they fly out of sight. (Research later reveals the caterpillar to be an oleander hawk-moth caterpillar, Daphnis nerii, another introduced species to Hawai‘i.)
As the sun begins to set, it's easy to notice the world slowing down around me. As we eat supper in our lanai garden, we eat mostly in silence observing all that is happening around us. We note the cumulus clouds highlighted by a pink and violet backdrop. The two native white terns (Manu O Ku or Gygis alba) return to their new home in the monkeypod tree (Albizia saman) 50 meters away. A particularly spectacular species because it is one of the few native birds that have adapted to urban life.
The rose-ringed parakeets return briefly to their Prosopis pews to chirp a quick evening hymn before returning to their homes in the back of the valley. As they fly off, their green feathers are well contrasted by the colorful sky behind them. Their beauty almost makes up for their loud, harsh hymns. The roosters and chickens return to their roosts in the Mango (Magnifera indica) tree, knocking down overly ripe mangoes in the process.
Our neighborhood feels like it is taking a collective sigh. Trees return to a grayscale of shadows, birds roosting for the night, and the not-so-feral cat receiving the last of her suppers from a middle-aged woman dressed in athletic attire. We take part in that collective sigh as we watch our wild neighbors, and discuss our days and anything new we may have learned.
As the moon begins to replace the sun, we notice a different set of neighbors stir. We begin to see rats (possibly Rattus rattus) scamper on the building roofs across from us. They travel their distinct highways and socialize with one another. Two rats begin to play tag on the telephone wires. Often underappreciated, rats are incredible creatures and amazing busy bodies.
As we begin to clean up our plates, I look at my queen of the night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) and wonder when it might bloom again. The flowers are not only stunning at night; but, they are quite beautiful even as they wilt. Finally, we head inside to clean up and prepare for rest and the new day ahead...