Sunday, March 30, 2014

Last Post From Midway

 I got so busy packing and squaring things away that I didn't even realize I didn't do a post last week, so this week I've got a lot of pictures.  I usually like to keep it short and to the point, only because that's what I like to see and read, but there were quite a few things worth taking pictures of the past 2 weeks.

I don't have any information yet about anyone else starting a Midway blog, but I'll post something if I hear.  In the meantime, if you are on Facebook, you can keep up with things out here by liking the Friends of Midway (FOMA) page.  They frequently post updates and will keep you informed about this amazing place.

 Penny is planting some native goosefoot (Chenopodium oahuense) on Eastern Island.  It grows pretty well when it's planted in the middle of the bunchgrass.

 This is what the goosefoot should look like in a year or so.  It's good habitat for a lot of the birds and doesn't grow as thick as the invasive plants.

This is a photo of the one native popolo (Solanum nelsonii) plant on Eastern Island.  The White tern was checking my camera settings. 

 You can see the brown mustard (Brassica nigra) growing pretty thick.  We'll hopefully have that eradicated in a couple of years.

Here's another photo of Hope painting stuff.  This time it's the 3" gun on Eastern Island.

 Bret and Denise are removing an entanglement hazard from the beach.

The Great frigatebirds are building their nests and looking for mates.

Same for the Red-footed boobies.  Both species should have eggs anytime now.

 Here's the tree with the 2 birds above.  You can see a little White tern nesting in this tree too.  A lot of times you have 6 or 7 species or more nesting in or under 1 tree.

The Eastern Island invasive species crew is on the way back from Eastern Island.

 The Kahana brought us another 6 months of supplies.  They are swapping out the field crew on Kure Atoll this weekend and will be back on Monday.

We took another trip out to the reef.  I hope these White terns don't lay their egg here because usually the reef chicks get washed away before they can fledge.

This is an old woman wrasse, or blacktail wrasse.  The emergent reef in the photo above this probably looked like this a hundred centuries or so ago, when that was actually submerged.

 On our way back from the reef, we saw 6 Hawaiian monk seals hauled out on the boat ramp.

We had a bit of a problem with birds stuck in trees this week.  This Bonin petrel had its foot stuck in some branches and had to be rescued.

 This Laysan albatross got really tangled up in this tree.  That's actually the bird's right wing all the way over on its left side.  It took a long ladder, a long stick, and a pole saw to get it unstuck.  It took a day or so, but the bird recovered.

Here's a photo of Bret and I getting the bird free.  Cynthia Vanderlip happened by on her way back to the Kahana and took this photo.  I didn't have a chance to get it from her before she left so I grabbed it from the Kure Atoll Conservancy Facebook page.  They have some good posts about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands so it's worth liking them.

The mulberries across from the old galley are getting ripe.

 This is the view from the Clipper House (our dining hall).  I still am not tired of it even though I've seen it at least twice a day for all of the years I've been on island.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


It was another cool, windy week.  At least the albatross chicks aren't getting overheated yet.  A Coast Guard C-130 came in for a day this week.  They had a search operation in the area.  Landings were more common when we were able to do more medical evacuations from passing ships.  Other than that, it was a usual week with the Laysan duck botulism checks, albatross plot monitoring, invasive plant removal, and of course, trying to get all my affairs in order to move out 2 weeks from Tuesday.  Thanks for the nice comments this past week!

 The C-130 crew spent the day here since they have to land and take off at night, and the pilots need their rest.
 Volunteer Hope is painting some of the Short-tailed albatross decoys in the garage.

This is Frigate Point.  This area is closed, so we don't go there much, but I was giving Bret the island tour.

There are even fewer albatrosses in this photo of the parade field than when I showed the same area 2 weeks ago.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I've got some news for you.  We've got a new deputy manager.  Bret Wolfe came out on the last flight.  He was previously the marine program coordinator for the refuge system.  He was out here last summer for a short time but is back for a permanent position now.   That brings me to the next news item.  I'll be going over to the headquarters office in Arlington, VA.  Bret and I are doing a position swap, so I'll be going there for a permanent position.  I won't be doing the exact same job as he did, but I'll be working as a biologist in the Branch of Wildlife Resources.  It will be nice to finally live with my wife again.  

You may be wondering if I'll be continuing my blog.  Last time I left Midway, I did start a new blog:  However, French Frigate Shoals is as suited to blogging as Midway is.  Although I'm sure I'll do some interesting things in the Washington D.C. area once in a while, I'm afraid most of my posts would be photos of me stuck in traffic or doing yard work.  So I obviously will be bringing this blog to a close, and don't plan on doing anything when I get back to civilization.  I'll be leaving in April and I'll post until then.  I'll let you know if anyone else will be doing a blog from here.   

I've been busy getting ready to move, so I hardly took any photos this week.  We have to do our daily seep checks for sick or dead Laysan ducks from botulism, so all my photos on this post were from my 2 hour trip to Eastern Island this morning.  I think I'll miss this place.

 On my way to Eastern Island this morning, the motor got tangled in a fishing net that was submerged and stuck on some of the coral.  It took a couple of minutes to get on my way again and I cleaned up some marine debris.  I guess that's almost analogous to a flat tire on the way to work.

As I walked from the pier to the island, I saw this green sea turtle sleeping on the beach.

A Black-footed albatross and chick were sitting near Sunset seep.

This is one of the guzzler ponds that we have on the Eastern Island revetments to ensure fresh water for the Laysan ducklings if the island gets washed over again.  I think I mentioned before that the revetments on Eastern Island were made during WWII to protect airplanes and ammunition from causing chain reactions if they caught fire or exploded.

There were 29 ducks in the Monument seep today.

I've got quite a few pictures of the beading water running off of the ducks, but I keep taking them anyway since they are always kind of cool.

I saw one of the ducks with a plastic ring stuck around its neck.  It's very wary and we haven't been able to catch it yet to remove the ring.  The ring is loose and doesn't seem to be causing any harm, but I'd rather take it off if I can.

It's a nice view from up on the revetment.  I've got quite a few photos from this revetment because there's a guzzler here too, and this one has a bit more elevation than the other one.

I took this photo from the same spot as the previous photo, but facing the other direction.

On my way back to the office, I saw a monk seal up in the field.  They are usually closer to the water.  Since I had a threatened green sea turtle photo and a couple of endangered Laysan duck photos, I figured I'd add an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


The albatross chicks are mostly on their own now.  There are a few parents still incubating the chicks, but most are out getting food to bring back.  It has still been consistently windy, and I wish that I had pictures of the huge waves that have been pounding the reef from the northwest.  The reef is about 4 miles away from the North Beach, so the photos of the 30-60 foot waves don't do them justice.

The volunteers have been organizing journal clubs lately.  They choose a journal article to read and then have a discussion.  The last article is interesting reading that you should be able to find online if you're interested.  It was originally in The Auk journal in 1912.  The article tells the story of the introduction of the canaries to Midway in the great prose of the early 1900's.  The article is titled, "The introduction and acclimatization of the Yellow Canary on Midway Island", by William Alanson Bryan.

This canary is one of the descendants of the one original pair that was brought here in 1909 and 2 additional males that were brought in 1910.

A Laysan albatross chick waits in the parade field for its next meal.  The parade field is less crowded with most of the parents out to sea.

 This parent is back to feed its chick.

 Our marine debris pile is getting large again.  That red container in the back wasn't debris.

Here's one of the more ironic items that washed up.  It says "keep our beaches clean" and "Heal the Bay".  At least we are reusing it and filling it back up.

 Those big waves that I was talking about cleaned up the beach next to the cargo pier.  I'm sure a lot of that stuff will be back soon enough.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New Manager

I forgot to mention something a few weeks ago, since the news happened the night that I left for Honolulu.  We have a new manager at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  Dan Clark will be in charge out here, and his wife is able to join him.  I worked with Dan and Kathy a couple of years ago when he came out on a work detail.   We are happy to have them.    
The wind finally slowed down for a few days, so we got a chance to go survey the reef.  We like to check things out to make sure nothing is amiss out there, so I'll have a few photos other than birds this week.  Don't despair, birders, I'll still put up a couple of bird pics.

Here is a Black-footed albatross chick asking for food.

That little dark line on the horizon is Sand Island (where we live) from the very northern tip of the atoll.  It would be even harder to see if it wasn't covered with ironwood trees.  It was sunny for the early afternoon, but got cloudy later on.  More fish come out of their hiding spots when it's cloudy, so it's not that bad.

This coral is growing very close to the ocean surface.  The water is only about 6 inches deep here.  It's too shallow to snorkel, but there are channels that are deeper that we can swim through.  

The coral in this area is beautiful and healthy.  One of the benefits of the cold winter water is that it is much clearer for photos than in the summer when it's warm.  There is a lot less micro sea life growing in it now.  A wetsuit is a must for most people.

The reflection of the coral on the surface gives a really cool effect.

 Here is a nenue swimming by.  There are a few convict tangs in the background.

There are some nice tide pools on the emergent reef.

 This obviously is the other bird photo.  It's a Northern shoveler with 2 Laysan ducks.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Eastern Island Birds

There wasn't a lot going on last week so I'll make small talk about the weather.  Once again it's been pretty chilly for Midway.  The temps have still been in the high 50's and there's been quite a bit of wind, so everyone is wearing their winter gear out here.  The chicks are getting bigger and most don't seem to be bothered by the cool weather, except the really small ones.  I only took a few photos this week and most were on Eastern Island, so here are a few of the birds over there.

The Short-tailed albatross chick is getting big.  It's about 6 weeks old now.

 The Great frigatebirds are starting their displays for nesting season on Eastern Island.  They don't nest on Sand Island.

The Masked Boobies also don't nest on Sand Island.  I only saw one nest over there this week.

This pair may be getting ready to have a nest sometime soon.