Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2nd Try

As is the usual on Midway, things changed again. We just got word that our cargo plane is coming tomorrow night so our internet and phones will be shut off early tomorrow (today for all of you). Again it will be at least 6 days until we get the service back.

We had bad news and good news on the mowing today. The bad news is that we found the mower that we used yesterday had a flat tire and can't be used. The good news is that Thawal (our mechanic from Thailand) fixed the clutch on the tractor, so that's back in use. Today we got enough mowed for a few hundred albatross.

Other news: I have been asked to extend here for another 6 months. I told them I would. That's why I've been working all the extra time on Saturdays. I'm taking time off during Christmas and need some comp time so I don't have to take leave without pay. I'll still leave on Dec. 7 like I planned, but I'll just come back in January.

The fuel barge left this morning. Now we're set for a while.

This is the road that goes near the old gun emplacements, old bunker, and cemetery. For you guys who used to be here, it's Roosevelt drive. It probably wasn't so overgrown when the housing was here (this used to be a real street).

This is the bunker that I never knew existed until some weeds were cleared.

From the inside.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back On

Our internet hasn't been off very long because the cargo plane that was bringing supplies for the satellite move can't come. We don't know when it will be rescheduled so they are leaving our phone and internet on most of the time, and only shutting down for short periods at a time to do some repairs.

The Laysan albatrosses are back now. I saw one in a yard down the street. They'll come and go for a week or two, then they'll all come and stay. There are a couple hundred black-footed albatrosses here now. It looks like they are ready to stay. Most of them are in the areas we just mowed, so we got it done just in time. We still have a few more places to mow, but we got the little mower stuck in a petrel hole again. I might just have to tow the mower around the fields with the backhoe for how much I'm getting it unstuck.

Here's the first Laysan albatross I've seen this season.

A black-footed albatross is landing.

A perfect landing, except where it crashed into the ground between shot #3 and #4.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lack of Communication

So tomorrow the internet and phones will be off. 6 days is the estimate but you'll know if it takes longer than that. I'll blog as soon as I can.
We're expecting a fuel barge tomorrow to fill our new tanks, so I hope that goes alright. The tanks are brand new, but should be ready.
The clutch in our tractor went out yesterday from all the stop and go driving, so we got a smaller mower. I got it stuck because one of the wheels caved in a petrel burrow (they are out feeding during the day and not in their holes). I had to go get the backhoe and pull it out. Our mowing will be a lot slower now, but the albatross are just waiting to get into those verbesina areas. I'm sure there will be lots of news when I'm able to post again. Have a good week!

A white tern is resting on a piece of concrete at bulky dump.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Plane Day

Today we had a lot of people coming and going on the plane. The crew coming to move our comm satellite dish is here now. We got a fill in refuge manager while Barry and Matt are off the island, and our FWS computer tech person came to set up a server and do some of our computer maintenance. It looks like tomorrow will be the last day of my blog until the dish is reinstalled. They'll shut off service on Sunday, so check back in tomorrow but then it will be about 6 or so days until I can get internet or phone service. We will have an emergency satellite phone on the island so we won't be completely out of touch, and we'll still have TV. So it's better than when I was on a submarine underwater for a couple months at a time.
We banded the last red-tailed tropic bird chick in our plots today. It'll probably be ready to leave in about 2 weeks. Then the plots won't have to be monitored until about Feb.
Here's one of the black-footed albatrosses sitting around.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

No Chainsaw Thursday

This morning the construction crew had to cut down a bunch of ironwoods near the new satellite dish base. I had to go and make sure the tropic bird chicks and white terns didn't get squashed. That meant we didn't do chainsaw Thursday today. We loaned out the chainsaws so those trees could get cleaned up, but I'm sure we'll get back to it next week. We got a lot of mowing done instead.
I went to take pictures of Jimmy and Michelle banding ducks after work. Now they at least have pictures.
This is a little salt water pond over on Spit Island. It used to be open to the ocean and a big storm closed it off, so there are still small saltwater fish that have been living in there for generations.
I took this picture from the same spot on Spit looking toward the old water barge. You can see that all of our beaches aren't nice white sand.
He's Michelle, Jimmy, and our new deputy manager, Matt getting ready to release the newly banded duck.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No Ducks

Tonight I was going to go out and try to catch ducks to band with Jimmy and Michelle. They wanted some pictures of what they do, and since they are always busy, they can't really take pictures of themselves. Which is why you rarely see me in any pictures. The ducks are usually easier to catch at night, but lately it's been clear and the moon is nearly full, so the ducks can see you coming easier and get away. So we'll see if it's cloudier tomorrow when it may not be so bright.

The mowing is getting difficult because we are finding lots of cement foundations, metal chunks, and ironwood piles hidden in the verbesina. Last year the tractor transmission got cracked because of a big ironwood branch that was partially buried. We're getting the areas that are relatively clear now just so we can move quicker. It's kind of funny to watch the albatross move into the areas we mow as soon as we're done. They usually know exactly where they want to go. They haven't been coming in en masse yet. They get here and look around for a while then take off. Pretty soon they'll stay for good or at least until the eggs are laid.

A couple of my old Midway pals who were here earlier this summer and have left finally found my blog. So like I said before, fell free to forward this to anyone who might be interested.

Here's some more of the daily Midway life, or at least the Mon, Wed, & Sat life for 1 hour. This is our store which has about as much stuff as a little gas station. You can see the soda section is about as big as the rest of the store.

Here's most of the rest of the store, and Scott (who operates the weather station) is waiting in line. As you can see, there's not a huge selection.

I'll give you one wildlife picture. Here's the monk seal that was in the Spit Island picture a few days ago. I told you they like to sleep next to things.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Unexpected Plane Day

We had a plane today which I didn't know was coming. It was chartered to bring a fuel hose here to unload the fuel we're getting soon from a barge. The barge and tug people refused to bring it, so a plane was the only way to get it here. That worked out for me though since I got two packages.

We mowed some more today. There was only one albatross that was in our mowing area, and it wandered about 20 yards away when the tractor came by.

I won't be able to blog starting this weekend for a few days since we are moving the satellite dish that has our internet and phone service. I believe that will be starting Saturday and going about 6 days (we hope). I'll let you know when I find out the details.

I took a picture of the plane taking off, since I was mowing near the runway.

These two are pictures from Spit Island on Saturday. This is an adult red-footed booby.

This one's a juvenile red-footed booby. They like heliotrope bushes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Albatross are Back

This morning, I counted 6 black-footed albatross on the way out to mow. By quitting time there were 16 of them. There will soon be too many to count. We're going to try to get as much mowed as possible. At least there are fewer blackfoots than Laysan albatrosses, so we still could be able to mow the spots that the Laysan's like.
Tonight I played some basketball. It was a good time. I would've played takraw (the volleyball-like game where you can't use your hands) but there were too many guys playing and I didn't feel like waiting.

Here's 3 albatross enjoying the place we just mowed next to the runway. 2 of them were banded previously, which means they nested in one of our plots before.

This is one of them up close in the verbesina stems.

Greg is mowing by south beach.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nice Weekend

Yesterday, Greg and I went over to Spit Island to pull some verbesina. It was a lot of work since we took every flower off the plants so they don't seed. Everyone thought that Spit Island was clear of the verbesina, but apparently not.
Last night we had a birthday party at the All Hands Club for the 9 people with October birthdays. Our physician assistant's wife got back from a couple months on the mainland and she's the organizer for all the parties we ever have, so it's nice to have her back. She also is organizing the movies in the theater, so that's what I did this evening. It was actually cool this evening. It's 73 degrees, but there's a cool wind.
It looks like the albatross are back. Today Barry counted 5 black-footed albatross around the island. I don't know if they'll stay yet because it's kind of early, we've still got a lot more mowing to get done before the rest of them show up.

Here's a view of the north beach of Spit Island. You can see the ironwood trees on Sand Island.

This is the other direction. You can see that Eastern Island isn't too far of a swim from Spit. That little dark spot on the lower right is a sleeping seal.

It's not easy trying to get through the naupaka and heliotrope trees. They are really thick over there.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Power Lines

Today was more of the same, spraying and mowing. It was a beautiful day though so it wasn't too bad.
We had a plane today too. A few guys went out on vacation, including one guy who's worked here for 26 years. Of course he's had vacations, but he still likes it here after all that time. He was here when there were thousands of people on the island. We also had a few people come in who'll be evaluating some of the buildings to see if they are worth saving or not.

Here are two of the last power line poles on the island. A while back the new lines were put underground. A lot of albatross died on the lines over the years. This is over at Radar Hill. I took this picture right after breakfast and I went back at lunch and they were gone.  There is only one short power line left near the old fuel farm.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another Chainsaw Thursday

Ok, next week I'll bring my camera to show you how much we've cleared on Radar Hill. It seems like we're cutting down a lot every week, but there's still too many out there. It's like trying to mow a football field with fingernail clippers. I figure at the rate we're going, it would take about 300 years to clear the ironwoods from the island, not counting any new growth. We're not trying to get rid of all of them, thank goodness, but they are so invasive that we at least have to try to keep some areas clear. With the chainsawing, and verbesina mowing and spraying, I would say at least 20,000 more albatross can nest here. It's nice to actually see some physical benefits from your work.

Look at Peggy's comment from yesterday about frost killing the verbesina. That would be nice. One year when I lived in Big Sky, Montana we had 7" of snow on the 4th of July. I didn't see any mosquitoes the rest of the summer. I don't hold out much hope for frost though since the lowest temp. ever here was in the 50's. Maybe a lot of liquid nitrogen would do the trick?

Since it's getting dark so early, I haven't had much time for pictures in the evenings. Here's a couple that I could take during twilight.

This is our library. The door across the way by the garbage can is our store.

This is one view of our books. People have just left them there over the years. We actually have a lot of them, but before we take them home we have to make sure the termites aren't reading them too. A lot of them are unreadable because of those little bugs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


We finally got bulky dump completely mowed. I'm sure the black-footed albatross will be happy. Tonight Wendy (who does the coral reef stuff) showed some slides from her trip to India this summer. It was interesting. After that we played a few games of volleyball. Jimmy and Michelle didn't end up staying on Eastern last night because of the rain, so they tried again tonight to band the ducks. They both will be leaving soon so they have to band as many as possible so they can keep track of them. That's about it for today.

Lots of red-tailed tropic birds hang out at bulky dump.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eastern Island

I did more mowing today out at bulky dump which is a lot more beautiful than it sounds. It'll probably take another day to finish. Early today was another cloudless day, so Jimmy and Michelle thought it would be a good day to go stay on Eastern Island and band ducks overnight. The ducks mostly run around at night and look for food, so that's when they like to catch them. It's been raining for the last hour, so I think they're probably getting wet over there.

There was a fuel tank over on the beach at Eastern that was buried from the Navy days and was starting to get uncovered by the weather. Today a few people went over with our backhoe on the old Navy landing craft to pick it up. That old landing craft is in poor condition and the transmission burned out just as they got it back here so they are lucky they didn't get stuck out on the water.

Here's some pictures of the view I get while mowing bulky dump. The beach is South Beach and is closed to people (except to get to the old pillbox there). There were a couple of seals there today.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Sunset

Today was a typical Monday. Chainsaw maintenance in the morning, and mowing in the afternoon. The verbesina was really thick and tough to walk through to look for ducks, and it was pretty hot today. But it wasn't bad work because we were right next to the ocean in a beautiful spot. I still haven't been able to take any daytime pictures so you get a couple more sunset pictures that I took tonight from the trail on the west beach.
This was the least cloudy day I have ever seen on Midway. There were still a few, but not in the pictures.
The last sliver of the sun is setting.
I zoomed in a little on the sun.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Nice Sunday

I went kayaking this afternoon since it was a beautiful sunny day. The dolphins were swimming around the beach and stayed about 100 yards away from us. That was too far for me to take any pictures. We also stopped by cargo pier on the kayaks and jumped off a few times. That was nice because it was pretty warm out on the water.
I didn't take any pictures earlier in the day, so I got some sunset pictures from the northwest tip of the island.
Tonight's sunset.
Here's a picture that Kate took of me over a month ago. There are a couple of little black specks about 50 yards from me which are the dolphins. Today they would have even been smaller specks.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mowing and Planting

We're taking advantage of there still not being any albatross here and mowing every chance we get. They'll be back in about 3 weeks so we should be able to open up quite a bit more area for them. Today I took some pictures of the same spot before and after mowing so you can see what's up.
After mowing Greg and I went and planted some of our native morning glory over by the cable houses. We hope that it will take over a big area and keep out some of the weeds. We had good timing since it started raining as soon as we finished.

This is an area we call bulky dump. If you look at the satellite image of the island, it's the little peninsula on the south side. We got about half of it mowed the last 2 weeks.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Mowing

We mowed most of the day today again. Greg and I took turns checking in front of the mower for birds, pipes, rocks, cement, etc. We could mow at least 5 times more area if we didn't have to look for things. Right now we are concentrating on areas that black-footed albatross like to nest since they are a threatened species. The Laysan albatross' will also nest there but they have more space options than the black-foots. I also checked the red-tailed tropic birds today. 6 of them have fledged since last time I checked, now there are only 4 left to check and only 1 hasn't been banded yet.
This is one of the tropic bird plots. They like to nest at the base of the ironwood trees. This area used to be the submarine base. You can see the harbor water through the trees on the right. The birds also like to nest next to a long cement wall that used to be part of a building. I'm sure you guys reading this that were here back in the 50's wouldn't recognize the place.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Usual Thursday

This morning I sprayed the verbesina that's coming back up in the field where the Canon School used to be. It was the school for the kids of the families stationed here and named after George Canon, whose memorial I showed you not too long ago. We have to spray there about every 2 weeks to keep up.
This afternoon was another chainsaw day. It's getting done slowly. One of these days I'll take a picture so you can see the progress. The Laysan ducks were there again watching the action, so I'll give you a picture of a couple of them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday Work

Today I got a lot of mowing in. Greg checked in front for ducks, tropic birds, shearwaters, and cement blocks, and I drove the mower. I'm guessing we made enough space for a couple thousand albatross nests.
Tonight was volleyball night, so that was fun as usual. Other than that, it's been an uneventful but nice day. I realized I haven't given any flower pictures for a while so here's some.
The aloe that my roommates planted in back of the house is blooming. I didn't think it would make it after it sat in a plastic bag for over a week in the sun, but it's doing great now.
The hibiscus in the front yard is blooming like usual. They are always blooming somewhere on the island in different colors.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eastern Island

Today after I did my chainsaw maintenance, we went to Eastern Island. Jimmy and Michelle went to check on the ducks, and Greg and I went to maintain the short-tailed albatross area. We brought a weed-eater and spray packs to clear the area where the one bird comes to hang out. If there are any new people reading this, we have one short-tailed albatross (an endangered species) that comes here so we set out decoys and outdoor speakers that play calls to try to get one more to stop so we can have at least one breeding pair. Jimmy dropped us off 0n the beach and we hiked to the area we worked. We see lots of birds like boobies, sooty terns, frigate birds and others, so even though it's tough walking through the thick vegetation, it's really cool to go there, especially with all the little fledgling birds. They are very curious so they fly within 3 feet of us to check us out. They are still not great flyers so every now and then they accidentally hit you with their wings.
I like this picture even though I would have liked it more if it was sunny. These are some juvenile red-footed boobies sitting on old ironwood roots near some rusty old navy stuff. I don't know what they had in this area before. All the ironwoods were removed from Eastern Island. but we still have to get rid of new saplings popping up from old seeds. There were also some monk seals on the beach but I didn't take their pictures since I didn't need to bother them.
Here are the short-tailed albatross decoys which are getting overgrown by the verbesina. We'll come back in a few weeks to make sure we've opened up enough area for the birds. We couldn't even find some of the decoys under the thick weeds.
By the way, how come nobody told me I spelled "holiday" wrong yesterday. It's not spelled "hiliday". I went back and edited it now, but you have to tell me about that stuff so I don't look dumb in front of the new people, ok?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Plane Day

Today was a holiday so I took it easy since I worked the last couple of days. The plane came today and brought 9 people. We have a new FWS employee, he's the Deputy Refuge Manager and we're now up to 6 FWS people. A few construction guys came out and a few went on vacation. Another duck person also came out to see how the ducks are doing and to help Jimmy band the new ducks from this year.

White terns like to sit on bikes.

Spring Cleaning

Today my project was to clean out some of the old termite infested furniture from our storage building. About half of our excess dressers, tables, and chairs are garbage because of termites or mildew. It' s interesting going through 30 years of stuff.

I don't know if you read John's comments about the seawall from 2 days ago or not, but I said the seawall was to prevent erosion. I was oversimplifying things a little. Basically, they put a seawall around the entire eastern part of the island and filled it in with coral and anything else that they could. Our whole harbor and boat pier area are just added land. The island was doubled in size. They dredged out the atoll and also brought in a lot of topsoil and fill from all over the pacific to make Sand Island larger. That's why we have fire ants and centipedes and most of our other invasive bugs here. Thanks John for your comments and anyone else who's been here should feel free to make comments about the history here, or anything else that you want.

These pictures are of our old furniture storage area. This building used to be the commissary, now it's just a place to store old non-functional appliances and non-useful furniture. It will probably take a few weeks of extra time to sort out the worthless stuff. I don't know what we'll do with it, but at least we'll organize a little.