Sunday, April 25, 2010
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
We have had heavy winds all day today. Most of the seabirds are at their best when the wind is strong enough that people start looking for cover. Her are some views along North Beach this afternoon. The pictures from the top are Black Noddy, Black-footed Albatross, and the bottom 2 are both Laysan Albatross.
There was lots of good food prepared especially for today. There were several fresh fish, some of which was roasted and others cut for sashimi, a whole pig that was barbecued on a spit, turkeys also done over the coals and several different pickled salads using fresh greens and cucumbers. Sticky white rice and a big bowl of Poke' salad were also on the table. The pictures from the top show: chicken gizzards roasting on a stick, finger food from the roasted pigs head, and a bowl of Poke salad.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Songkran Day is a Thai holiday that is related to many spring festivals and religious observances world wide but the unique culture on Midway adds it's own twist to the day. There is a parade that includes almost everyone on the island. Since we are all in the parade the only way to see it is to drop out and watch it go by than hook on at the back. When the parade ends there is lots of food and drink for the afternoon. There were relay games and lots of water being splashed around. The photos show 3 views of the parade.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Here is a link to a page put together by a man that was on Jan's trip to Midway. It is a very nice capsule image of Midway and it's wildlife. http://www.elstonhill.com/Midway.html You should be able to click on the link and follow the prompts to see the photographs and read his descriptions.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
There are 3 albatross species in the North Pacific and all 3 are found on Midway. Laysan and Black-footed Albatross are the most numerous breeders here on Midway and Short-tailed Albatross is very rare and doesn't breed here. Midway is the largest Laysan Albatross colony on earth with about 450,000 breeding pairs. The Black-footed colony on Midway is also the largest of it's kind on the planet with about 25,000 breeders. There are only 3 individual Short-tailed Albatross here during the breeding season, but they have been seen performing breeding rituals so there is hope for breeding here once again. The last nest on Midway for this species was during he 1960's. The accompanying pictures show all three species. From the top the pictures are: Laysan Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, and Short-tailed Albatross.
The above series of pictures show views of banding albatross chicks. Basically one person captures and restrains the bird and another person applies a metal band to the right leg and a field readable band on the left leg. Sometimes these operations are easier said than done and it is never a clean experience.