Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Band Repair

As we were getting ready for our counting this morning I noticed a Laysan Albatross that was limping. I looked more closely and it had an old style band that was made of aluminum and it had worn and opened to the point that it fell down on top of the foot and was cutting into the bird's leg. I captured the bird and one of the other count team members with banding experience used a pair of pliers and opened the band and closed it on the other leg to allow the injury to heal. The island biologist re found the bird later and placed another permanent band that will be much longer lasting and should cause no more trouble for the bird.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Albatross Numbers

The magnitude of the albatross colony here on Midway is hard to comprehend. The 5 of us on the team that I'm part of counted on Eastern Island Thursday and Friday. The landscape is pretty open and there are not many petrel burrows to fall into so our count numbers were pretty good for those days. Thursday the 5 of us counted more than 20,000 nests and Friday we counted about 18,500 nests. There are 3 teams working and it will take 3 weeks to cover the 3 islands that comprise Midway Atoll. There are a lot of nesting albatross here. I've not taken a picture that does it justice but I've included my best effort.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Albatross Count

 Our Internet speeds have been very slow so no pictures today. The count is going well with an energetic group of 17 people counting everyday. Today we woke to heavy rain and wind but we still worked until noon. We are a little ahead of schedule so we were able to take the afternoon off to get all of our things dried out. I can put on dry rain gear in the morning, so that will be good. These birds have many difficulties surviving in the world and add to that some deranged person is shooting what look like darts at the albatross. The best guess is that some bored fisherman in the North Pacific is taking shots at the albatross around their boat with a blow gun. Our group has found 2 Black-footed Albatross with embedded darts, one of which was removed, but the other bird they were unable to catch. If we see 2 that are alive and flying I wonder how many don't live. The Black-footed Albatross is much more rare that the Laysan and it's a shame to see this kind of thing happening.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Albatross Count

I'm back on Midway for the albatross count. Seventeen of us will count every active nest on Sand Island, Eastern Island and Spit Island over the next 3 weeks. There are several different ways the count is accomplished but most of the techniques include putting a small dot of traffic paint beside each nest and then following along the line of counted nests established by the counter nearest you. The total count will probably be somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 nests so we learn a lot about large numbers. The total number of albatross on the 3 islands is about a million nesting albatross and then about 500,000 non breeding adults so there are lots of albatross around us all the time. These 3 island comprise the largest albatross colony on the planet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Albatross Numbers

To read these graphs you will need to click on them and increase the size like you would with an image. You can also use the screen magnifier in the lower right of your browser window. I could not figure out a way to publish them in a more readable format. It is an interesting look at albatross numbers on Midway. The earlier counts before 2000 are difficult to compare with the last 11 years because they all used different protocols than are used now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Black-footed Project Completion and Going Home

I walked my last sector collecting Black-footed Albatross data on Wednesday morning the 11th. We had the rest of the afternoon off and I used the time to return borrowed items and get my bags packed. We flew out of Midway before dawn on Thursday the 12th and I was back to the hotel in Waikiki by noon. It's always bittersweet to leave Midway as I enjoy the residents, my coworkers and the WILDLIFE. But I also miss my family and am happy to see Jan and be with her again. The pictures include the last sector that I worked through and a nesting Black-footed Albatross. One of about 1700 nests that I mapped. It was not a bad place to work!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Black-footed Albatross Project

Yesterday the albatross count was finished without me. The count was close to completion and I had an opportunity to work on a different project until I leave for home. There have been 2 scientists from U.S. Geological Survey here for 3 weeks and they worked with the bird counters until recently. They are collecting data on nest locations for Black-footed Albatross within the Tsunami inundation zone. They didn't finish all the work they had hoped to accomplish and I am going to carry on their data collection while I'm here. It entails using a very accurate and expensive GPS unit to mark all Black-footed Albatross nests within the inundation zone. The unit has mapping capabilities and I can look at the inundation zone as I do my work. I worked with Karen and Crystal yesterday and last night they left for home. Today I was on my own in our first heavy rain since I got here. For one reason or another about 1/2 of my data this morning was useless but this afternoon I did much better. I managed to plot about 350 nests successfully and think tomorrow will be better. I'm tired every night and learning new stuff every day so the fun continues.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunrise on Sand Island

White Terns in Flight

Albatross Numbers

There are many interesting and rare birds on Midway Atoll but the albatrosses are the real poster child for the refuge. Here are some very rough figures on the populations we are counting and how they rank in the world. Midway is the largest albatross colony on the planet. About 75-80% of all The Laysan Albatross on Earth nest here. The percentage for Black-footed albatross is a little lower at 40-50% of the world's population nesting here. We are counting all the breeders of both species on Midway so it is an unprecedented look at a large population of birds of any kind anywhere on earth. It is a rare treat to be involved with a project of this magnitude! Laysan Albatross with egg in the top picture and Black-footed Albatross with chicks in the lower picture