Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homeward Bound

I finished work yesterday and spent much of today cleaning, returning borrowed books and materials and saying goodbye. I will leave tonight about 8:30 p.m. I have to pack my bag and do a little more house cleaning and then I'm going for a bike ride. Attached are a few pictures from my front yard to show the growth of the chicks over the past 3 months. The last picture shows a common strtching pose that is seen all over these days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yellowstripe Coris

On a snorkel trip yesterday I spotted a fish I hadn't seen before. I took pictures of it and looked through my book when I returned home. It was the terminal phase of the Yellowstripe Coris which I have seen many times before. The fish I had seen before were a younger version known as an Initial phase. I had noticed different phases listed for reef fish but this is the most dramatically different I've seen myself. The striped fish is the initial phase and the greenish blue is the terminal phase.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Laysan Ducklings

On Friday while working at one of the seeps we saw our first brood of Laysan ducklings. There were 7 of them that were actively feeding on the land and in the water. The adult female was not banded. What a treat it is to see such a rare bird reproducing and doing well. Attached are pictures of the adult and the ducklings.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Small Miracles

Several weeks ago Megan, my housemate, lost a water bottle on a snorkel trip out to the reef. She assumed someone had put it in their bag and not recognized it as belonging to another person. Almost 2 weeks later I found it washed up on the beach on Spit Island. It had probably fallen overboard on our trip and washed down the atoll and beached on Spit Island. It was a neat find. A week ago Wednesday on our way to Eastern Island for an early morning Duck Survey I had my hat blow off in the breeze from the moving boat and we didn't find it again. On Thursday this week, 8 days later, I was on another boat trip and when we returned my hat was floating against the seawall where we docked the boat. The current in the atoll is across the direction that my hat traveled and it managed to float through the narrow entrance to the inner harbor. Attached are pictures of the returned items.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Growing Chicks

The chicks are growing and developing quickly. Until recently the only way they could move around was to shuffle along dragging their bellies. There are now more and more that are standing and taking a few normal albatross steps. They are also flapping their wings to strengthen them for their flight off the island. There are also fewer non breeding adult albatross in the colonies so the look of the island is changing. Parents are now flying for many days and thousands of miles for each feeding trip and only stay with the chick a short time and then leave again. It uses so many reserves of the parents that most only breed every other year. Attached are a few pictures of the chicks in my neighborhood.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Battle Damage

The Seaplane hanger was heavily damaged when the island was bombed on December 7, 1941. When it was rebuilt the concrete that had been inside the hanger was outside because the hanger that was rebuilt had a smaller footprint. The damaged concrete from the battle is still in place and I happened by that area this morning shortly after a rain so the pitted surface was accented. Here are a couple pictures from that area.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Snorkel Under the Cargo Pier

The wind diminished today and the water was very clear. Here is a collection of pictures from our snorkel this afternoon.

Albatross in Flight

The albatross in flight are endlessly fascinating. Here are a few more pictures I took this morning.

The Undertaker

In any colony of a half a million nests there are bound to be many birds that don't survive. Away from the houses on Midway the dead are left to decompose but, for obvious reasons, in the developed parts of the island the dead are picked up every day. Sitthisak is a fixture every afternoon as he drives through town and picks up all the dead birds. He has a sign on the side of his trailer that says, "The Undertaker."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blind Snake

This interesting little reptile is not native to Midway and probably came in with soil during the early cable company days. It probably is native to Africa and Asia but that is not known for sure. It has been transported all over the world in soil and potted plants. The scientific name is Ramphotyphlops braminus and it is known as the Brahminy blinsnake. All specimens looked at so far have been female. They bear live young or lay eggs and the offspring are all female and genetically identical. In the accompanying pictures a dime would barely fit inside the circle of its body. Also note the tongue flicking out of its mouth in the other picture.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Albatross Hazards

Last Thursday while helping the visitor group plant native grasses I had an interesting experience. To backtrack I should say that albatross regularly whoosh by close enough that you hear the sound of their passing. On this day I looked up and had a Laysan Albatross about 5 feet in front of my face coming at me at 30 miles an hour. I think I flinched and its wing hit me between my glasses and my hat and stunned me. I turned around and the bird had been upended and landed awkwardly, it shook it feathers into place and looked around like it was making sure no one was looking and walked away. Both of us were fine.

Snorkel Trip to the Outer Reef

Friday afternoon we were able to tag along when the visitor group went snorkeling. Our supervisor is good about giving us time off to participate when these opportunities arise so it was a good way to end the work week. The weather was calm and the water was very clear. I wear a 2mm wet suit and can stay in the water about an hour before I get chilled. The first two photos are Sailfin Tang, the third is a Spectacled Parrotfish about 2 feet long, and last is a Pencil Urchin. The Parrotfish eat coral and can be seen eating chunks of coral and defecating coral sand.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Albatross Hazards

Albatross face many hazards one of which is damage to their feet. The following pictures are a collection of photos I've taken over the past month. I don't know if anyone knows how all this happens but fishing gear, I believe, would be a good guess.

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbirds are one of the sea birds that we monitor regularly. We have plots that are checked 2 times per week where we look for new nests and read the bands of any birds that we find on nests. When we find a nest we read the bird's band and put a spot of fingernail polish on its head. When we see the unmarked bird for the first time we read its band and after that we can use binoculars and look for the polish mark and know which bird we are seeing. Many of these adults are returning year after year to the same nest site. We also keep track of when the eggs are laid, when they hatch, and if the nest fails or the chick fledges. Using this information, hatching success, total reproductive success, and adult survival can be computed. The attached pictures are a collection of shots from in and out of our plots. These adults have a wingspread of about 3 feet. Notice the oleander in the background of the second picture. Unfortunately too many plants grow well here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Turtle Researcher

I spent the afternoon with a turtle researcher that is doing an assessment of the number of turtles on Midway. Midway is not an important nesting area for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and the researcher I spent time with believes it won't be in the future either because the areas around Midway don't provide much of the feeding habitat that the turtles prefer. They tag turtles with " pit tags" that are much like the chips that are implanted in dogs and cats for identification. One of the turtles we saw this afternoon had been first tagged in 1977 and they guessed it was at least 25 years old at that time based on its size and maturity. It is now about 40 inches long and has an estimated weight of more than 300 pounds. An interesting afternoon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Albatross Chicks

The albatross chicks are beginning to get permanent feathers to replace their down. They also have added size and weight since I last wrote about them. The following pictures show white feathers poking through on the Laysan chicks and dark feathers showing on the wing of the Black-footed chick. The top picture is a Black-footed chick and the next 2 are Laysan chicks.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Passerine Birds on Midway

There are 2 passerine birds on Midway and both are introduced. Passerine birds are perching birds such as sparrows and robins. The Canary was introduced during the early days of the cable company. Today's population came from a release of a handful of caged birds that were brought out to the island as pets. The Common Myna is well established but I don't know how it came to Midway. The top picture is a Common Myna and the bottom 2 are Canary. The Myna is more wary so I don't have much of a picture.