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.