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A walk near the pond

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge biological science technician Suzanne Conlon (second from right, first photo) leads a tour of the wetlands Tuesday morning for guests from as far away as Zurich, Switzerland. Along with pointing out native and non-native birds, Conlon explained the impacts of invasive animal species like pigs, cats, rats and mongoose, as well as non-native plants like pickleweed. Another challenge Kealia nesting birds face, she said, is rising water levels due to increased stream flow. Now that shuttered Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. no longer diverts water for agricultural use, the wet-dry cycle the refuge experienced when it was established in 1992 has been replaced by consistent water levels, punctuated by flooding that can inundate nesting areas. The free walking tours of the refuge are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesdays through March.

Second photo: Hawaiian stilts, or a’eo, ply Kealia Pond’s nearshore waters Tuesday.

Third photo: A pair of nene put on a brief show as they fly past walkers at Kealia Pond Tuesday.

The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

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