Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Sorry I skipped the blog last week.  We had a weekend visit by the Director of the Fish & Wildlife Service as well as some visitors from the State of Hawaii and climate change experts.  We also got our annual flight of volunteers to count all of the albatross nests.  They're keeping very busy with somewhere around a half a million nests to count.  My wife, Dasha,  also came to visit for a couple of weeks and is helping with the bird banding, greenhouse work, and whatever else needs doing.  She's not getting much of a vacation, but at least she's out of the lab for a couple weeks.
I've got a bunch of photos this time so I'll put the rest of the text in the captions.  I won't do another blog tomorrow, but should be able to get one in next Sunday.

 This is the Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, stepping around albatrosses while getting a tour of Eastern Island.

We also took the group out snorkeling.  This is a spectacled parrotfish and a saddle wrasse in the foreground.

 The albatross nest counters are counting nests on Eastern Island.  They stretch out in a row and walk a line to make sure they get all of the nests.

The albatross counters also help with other things around the island when they can.  They spotted this net floating in the water and helped me take it away.

 The Short-tailed albatross on the nest is looking particularly shiny this year.  His head is much more gold this year.

Here's a zoomed and cropped photo so you can see his coloring a bit better.

The volunteers, Dasha, and the new Physician's Assistant are getting kayak training in the harbor.  The weather wasn't the greatest, but now they can take the kayaks out on nicer days.

 This is an uncommon bird around here.  This is a brant goose.  They breed in Alaska and northern Canada in summer and migrate down the Pacific coast for winter.  If this one can find enough food, it'll probably stay around until April or May before flying back up to the breeding grounds.

 The dolphins have been near the mouth of the harbor a lot in the past few weeks, so I've been getting a couple of decent photos of them lately.

The hydroponics garden is looking really good these days!

A Laysan duck splashes around to wash itself.

 We had a marine debris ornament making party at Capt. Brooks a couple of days ago.  The albatross counters are painting some floats.  We'll have a gift exchange tonight at the All Hands Club, and a nice big Christmas dinner at the Clipper House tomorrow.

Darlene's snowman looks like it should be a character in "Nightmare Before Christmas".  And it's not actually holding the glass of wine.

This is one of Dasha's float ornaments.

This was my ornament this year.  I may have made another one too but the blue paint took a long time to dry.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pearl Harbor, Kahana, Eclipse, etc.

There was a lot happening this week on Midway.  The island Thai population had a holiday on Monday for the Thai King's Birthday, Wednesday was Pearl Harbor Day and our supply ship, the Kahana, came in, we started our major albatross banding season, a lunar eclipse, a nice snorkel on a beautiful day on Saturday, and topped it off with a boat ride today with the dolphins around again.

Most people don't know that Dec. 7, 1941 was an eventful day for Midway as well as Pearl Harbor.  Midway was attacked by Japanese ships on that day.  It was nowhere near the scale of the Pearl Harbor attack or the Battle of Midway 6 months later, but 2 Japanese ships shelled Midway.  First Lieutenant George Cannon was also killed that day, and became the first U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in WWII.  The story is in one of the photos below.

I've got more photos than usual, so I'll write more in the captions below.

This is the George H. Cannon Memorial in front of the building where he was mortally wounded.  He was the first U.S. Marine to recieve the Medal of Honor in World War II.  His story is engraved in the granite block below the U.S. flag and the U.S. Marine Corps flag (basically the same short story as in the next photo).

I left this photo at a little higher quality so you can double click on it and read a short summary of the attack on Midway and the George Cannon story.

We had the U.S. flag and the U.S. Navy flag at the Navy Memorial at half staff for Pearl Harbor Day.

I got up early for the lunar eclipse. It was cloudy for a lot of it, but it cleared up about 3:30 a.m. and I got a couple of photos.  The moon is just starting to come out of the total eclipse in this photo.

 The Kahana is bringing us more supplies.  It is still outside of the atoll in this photo.

Ann and Karen band a Black-footed albatross.  Most of the time we can put a band on them while they sit on the nest without having to pick them up.  We use a bucket lid to keep them from seeing the banding and from biting anything.

We brought our lunches over to Eastern Island so we didn't have to drive the boat back and forth.  Here's Ann, Nik, Karen, and an albatross.

The spinner dolphins came by to escort the boat on our way over to Eastern Island.

We decided to have a family style dinner at Capt. Brooks tavern.  We just carried our food over from the Clipper House. I won't introduce everyone around the table, but people who've been around recentlt may recognize a few faces.

 Here are a few convict tangs looking for food.  The water was really clear yesterday.  I didn't see anything out of the ordinary, and by ordinary I mean the usual amazing fish and coral.

Here are some nice reef fish from yesterday.  This (clockwise from the bright yellow one) is an oval butterflyfish, female spectacled parrotfish, ring tail surgeonfish, ornate butterflyfish, and a Hawaiian hogfish.

Here are two photos I took a couple of hours ago by putting my camera underwater from the boat.  I just randomly snapped the photos underwater.  I got about 6 or 7 decent ones out of 174.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Our oldest known albatross is back this week.  "Wisdom" was banded in 1956 as a nesting adult and was estimated to be at least 5 years old at the time, so we say that she'll turn 61 this season.  She still looks exactly like all of the other birds.  We can't find any way to tell her apart from the young Laysan albatrosses.  Most of the Black-footed albatrosses have laid their eggs now, and the Laysan albatrosses are still laying them.

People around here are getting pretty chilly.  It was 64 this morning.  It has also been mostly windy and rainy for the last week, so normal winter weather is here.

If you haven't checked out Chris Jordan's Journey to midway page recently, it's worth looking at again.  He and his crew have posted a new video clip called, MIDWAY IV – A dream of a dying Albatross.  It's really well done.  Here's the site:

This is Wisdom on her egg.  It's only a couple of yards from her spot last year.  You can see there's a Bonin petrel burrow in the lower right corner of the photo that goes right under her nest.  The ground should be stable enough to hold the nest.

Most of the island population got out to say goodbye to John Hanna, the retiring DBSI (formerly Chugach) manager.  Don't pay any attention to that giant shadow right in the middle of the pic, ok?
The female Short-tailed albatross is taking her turn on the nest surrounded by Laysan and Black-footed albatross.

Anne and Karen are collecting beach trash in our Eastern Island marine debris plot that we check monthly.

This is Brackish Pond.  Which is a brackish water pond (hence the name) made by the Navy for non-potable water.  Those ironwood trees all died from the storm and tsunami washover, which bathed the trees in salt water for a couple of months.

The Thai King's birthday is tomorrow (Dec. 5), so it will be a holiday for the Thai workers.  Here's part of the holiday display that was put up in the Clipper House.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving and a Retirement Party

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal on Thursday.  The cooking staff did a great job on the food and presentation.  We also had another retirement party here last night.  John Hanna, the island manager for DBSI (our contractor, Defense Based Services, Inc., formerly known as Chugach Industries) retired after being on island for about 8 years.  Have a great retirement, John! 
Our new volunteers are learning the ropes, and they seem to be enjoying their work so far.  They don't have too many albatross bites yet, but they'll be getting more as soon as they have to start banding them.

Here's the Thanksgiving fruit table with a bunch of hibiscus flowers that grow around the island to add some color.

Here's the bread table, most was homemade by Laurel and really good.

Here's the head chef, Pong, carving the turkey.

For the big holidays, the tables at the Clipper House get pushed together, which is kind of nice once in a while.

Here's John and his wife Mali listening to Darlene's speech at the All Hands Club.  The presentations were followed by a pool tournament and karaoke.  Normally the band would play, but the lead guitar player is on vacation.

The volunteers are marking a Black-footed albatross nest near the south beach.
Here's a female Ring-necked duck swimming around in one of the seeps.
This is the Laysan/Black-footed albatross hybrid that hangs out across from the Midway House.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Volunteers

Most of our albatrosses are back now.  They have started laying their eggs too, so we're back to the usual Midway commotion.  We've got a new set of volunteers in this week.  Anthony, Dani, and Eamon have gone, and Karen, Dan, Ann, and Nik are here for the winter.  They'll be busy with a lot of albatross work, compared to the last group that had a lot of habitat and duck work. 
The male short-tailed albatross is still incubating the egg, so no new news with that. Our weather is cooling down for the winter, still nice compared to most of you, but temps in the 60's are cool for us.  There's not much else to update you with so here are a few pics.

 The albatrosses are filling the yards across the street from my house.

 This is Greg spraying the verbesina on Spit Island.  We also planted some native plants over there (for those who are interested; Pritchardia remota, Chenopodium Oahuense, and Sida fallax), since there are no mice and a lot fewer plant pests.

 A Black-footed albatross flies by.

 Thanks for the help Anthony, Dani, and Eamon.  They decorated a ceiling tile from the All Hands Club to commemorate their stay.

 I didn't take a lot of photos this week, so I'll show you some I took a few weeks ago.  This is in the hangar at the airport, and was painted back when Aloha airlines still flew out here.  We don't use this building anymore, except to keep a few things dry.

 There is still some ropework art on the wall.

Another painting on the in the hallway of the hangar.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Short-tailed Albatross Egg

The Short-tailed albatross pair has another egg this year.  We only saw the female here for one day, and now the male is incubating the egg.  So, in just over 2 months, we may have another chick.  I hope the weather is a bit better this winter so this chick doesn't get washed around like the last little bird.

The lead paint workers took the last flight home.  They got shade cloth placed around the cable houses, the old marine barracks, and most of the old buildings near the power plant.  They won't be able to remediate the lead paint from those buildings for a few more months, but at least the chicks this year won't be able to ingest the lead paint chips on the ground around those buildings.

Our volunteers are leaving this week after a lot of great work for us.  We wouldn't be able to do much at all without their help.  We'll have 4 new volunteers for the next 3 months who'll be very busy with a lot of albatross banding.

This is the male short-tailed albatross with it's egg.  We can tell it's the male because the female doesns't have her full adult plumage yet.  When she does, it will be difficult to tell them apart.

The lead paint workers helped us finally finish the 3 guzzlers on Eastern Island, so this is the last of my guzzler building photos.  The ducks will probably start using them as soon as they fill up with rain.

The Black-footed albatrosses are waiting on the old runway on Eastern Island.  They don't want to push through the verbesina until they have to lay their eggs.
This is the view from my backyard.  We have quite a few Laysan albatrosses now.

On our way to snorkel, Eamon hopped into the water to save a Wedge-tailed shearwater that was waterlogged and couldn't fly.  We dropped it off back at the pier so it could dry off and try to fly again later.

The weather was nice enough to go snorkel outside the reef.  The water is deeper, so we see a lot of different fish than inside the atoll, but there isn't much nice coral out there, at least in this area.  This is Dani checking under a ledge for fish.

Here's a couple of Galapagos sharks checking us out.  There were 3 at one point.  They weren't aggressive and just wanted to see what we were up to, so we weren't worried about them.  Those are John Klavitter's feet in the photo.