Friday, November 30, 2007

More Birds

The birds have been laying eggs like crazy lately. In one of our Laysan albatross plots, we had 9 nests last Friday and today we had 56. We still have about 15 more to mark in there tomorrow. So we're keeping busy, but between the birds and the computer work we've been falling a little behind on the weeds, but like I said, they are growing slower this time of year.
The plane was full tonight. The new volunteers are here and I've got my new roommate. They'll all be working mostly with the birds for the next few weeks so Greg and I should be able to make some weed headway.

Here's a good example of why we need to get rid of the verbesina. We mowed this area and sprayed it once to keep the sprouts down. We had to stop here because there were baby ducks in the vicinity and we had to give them a lot of space.

A Black-footed and Laysan albatross are sitting next to a memorial for the Japanese military men who died near Midway in WWII. I heard there was some controversy about honoring the enemy, but it got put up and it's small, out of the way, and only written in Japanese.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Computer Day

It was another cool, cloudy day today. It seems like winter is coming. I spent the day on the computer doing our annual report on invasive species. It's to show where our time and resources are going and if it's worth it. I think it is. We actually have got more done than I thought we would.
The plane is coming tomorrow with a lot of people (13 I think). I'm supposed to be getting a new room mate. It shouldn't be too bad, especially since it keeps my rent down.
This is an old bunker hiding in the ironwoods.
We use it to store rat traps and there's some other random junk in there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rainy Wednesday

We got rained on again today as we were marking the black-footed albatross nests in the plots. Our plots are 20 x 20 meters and so far we have an average of about 35 nests per plot (there will be more). We do these plots to check reproductive success for the birds. We have some other plots that check for overall survival rates.
Most of the verbesina is dying off now for the winter season, so we have more time to do the other things. There's plenty of it still flowering and sprouting, but it doesn't grow so quickly this time of year.

You can never have too much of Turtle Beach.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stuck Computer & Stuck Forklift

Greg and I spent another half a day trying to get that awful Lotus Notes email program working. That makes a day and a half that we've wasted on it, but it finally works. It's been cool out here lately. It got down to 62 F last night, but it warmed up to 78 this afternoon. A lot of people are actually wearing long pants and sweatshirts. There's a few of us on the island that still think it's not that cold yet.
This afternoon was interesting. We got the forklift stuck twice while we were moving palates of spray chemicals. At least we had the backhoe to pull it out. I had my reservations about taking the forklift on softer ground but I was assured that it would make it. After I got it stuck, one of the very experienced guys said he'd show me how not to get stuck and made it about 3 feet, and of course, sank right in. We ended up unpacking the boxes and moving the stuff in a little cart. It was 68 boxes at about 45 lbs each, so I got a decent workout today.

Here's some more albatrosses for you. That square thing in the background is the hangar.

The south shore of Eastern Island.

Monday, November 26, 2007


It quit raining today, and I saw a new bird today. It was a black headed gull, which doesn't have a black head by the way (at least with its winter plumage). It was standing in a puddle in a road. I didn't get a picture of it because I didn't have my camera. Our last red tailed tropic bird chick left the plot last week so now we only have to check the albatross plots for a few months.
I've got some more pictures from Eastern Island a couple of weeks ago.

Here's a juvenile frigatebird watching the boat go away after it dropped us off.

Some brown noddies and a masked booby on a cement block.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rainy Sunday

It rained the entire day today so I had a chance to clean up the house and do a couple of office projects also. Some of the albatrosses laid their eggs in low spots that filled up with water, so I hope they could keep their eggs warm enough to make it. There wasn't any news today so I'll just give you one picture and try to do better tomorrow.

A green sea turtle is sleeping on the beach.

A Little Work

I cut down some more little ironwood trees to make sure they don't get too big. I didn't do much else besides that. I watched some movies and was lazy. I was sorting through my marine debris pictures, so I'll give you a couple of those today.
The east side of Eastern Island.
A couple of seals are sleeping next to the marine debris.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Back to Work for a Day

There are so many albatrosses dropping eggs right now that we had to spend the whole day marking their nests and banding them. Greg's hands are all bit up from trying to hold them while I band them. They really don't bite that hard but the point of their bill is very sharp so they scratch pretty good. One of these days we'll remember to bring gloves for him. You can see pictures of the bird banding from June earlier on my blog, but it's the same thing now.
It's only 2 weeks until I go back to Hawaii for a week with Dasha (my girlfriend) then back to visit in OH, MN, and ND. That means tomorrow is another day of working for comp time.

Jim (our P.A.) and I are taking some duck pictures at the Radar Hill seep.

This is just me taking Laysan teal pictures (Photos used with permission of Jim Cassell and Nancy Wallander (as soon as I ask them tomorrow)).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey and Football

We watched football at 6:30 this morning. With all the computers off we didn't have any trouble with the internet feed. We also saw the dolphins jumping around near the beach while the game was going on.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was great. Besides the turkey we had roast beef, ham, and shrimp. There were plenty of leftovers for later too.

This was the scene at Capt. Brooks' this morning. It was still dark outside.

We eat at the Clipper House. I showed it before but it was a while ago.

This was the setup today. Normally the tables are all separate but today it was one big one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to you American readers, and Happy Thursday who don't do Thanksgiving. It's going to be an early day for me. We decided to turn off the internet to all but one computer so we can stream in the 2 football games. We'll see if we can still get enough bandwidth to watch it smoothly. The first game starts at 6:30 a.m. We'll watch it up at Capt. Brooks'. Our Thanksgiving dinner will be at 1:00 and consist of all the usual foods. I heard it was great last year.

Today was a good day of work. We got a lot of spraying done. We got off 2 hours early today as federal employees. It was fairly nice out today so Matt and I went swimming at cargo pier. There were lots of turtles over there today. I'm off now to go play volleyball.

A booby and a juvenile frigatebird are on the pier on Eastern Island. These two are like the sheep dog and the wolf on Bugs Bunny. The booby will go out and catch some food then the frigate bird will harass it until it gives up its lunch and will then steal it. Then they go back and sit together.

A Laysan albatross with a hybrid between a Laysan and black-footed albatross.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting Cooler

It was cloudy and windy today. It was in the low 70's but it seemed a lot cooler than that. The water gets pretty choppy too. This is what winter is supposed to be like here.

We banded a few more black-footed albatross today and marked a bunch more nests. At least the birds won't dehydrate so much with it cooler.

There wasn't much going on today so I'll just leave you with some more pictures from Eastern island.

The brown noddies are sitting on old seawall pieces.

A black-footed albatross taking off.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Short Week

It's the start of another holiday week, so I won't get quite as much done as usual. Today was a lot of computer and ipod troubleshooting. I was trying to fix our ipod shuffle that plays the short-tailed albatross calls on Eastern Island. I think I got it but I'll have to get back over there to try it on the solar set up.

Greg and I went out today to count black-footed albatross nests and to band any birds that needed it. There are quite a few with eggs so far so it took the whole afternoon to do that. We'll check again on Friday.

We had a little party tonight for Moo (from Thailand) since his wife had a baby today. It will still be a while before he can get back to see his new son, so I guess that's one of the downsides of being out here.

This is the gun over on Eastern Island.

I don't know what this meeting is about, but it looks important.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Pictures

I took a spin around the island today to take some pictures with Jim and Nancy (our Phys. Asst. and his wife). They don't have any pictures of the two of them together around the island and I don't really have any pictures of me around the island either so it worked out for all of us.

I think we're at about the maximum number of albatrosses about now. Some of the Laysan albatross are laying eggs already. The females go right out to sea to fatten up again and let the males take the first shift on the eggs. They'll switch off after the females get enough food.

There are thousands of birds on the parade field.

Here's a monk seal crashing the party on Turtle Beach.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Easy Saturday

I decided to take it easy today and pretty much relaxed. A few of us played dominoes tonight for something to do at Capt. Brooks' Tavern. We haven't played volleyball for a couple of weeks now. I guess people have other things going on. I'm sure we'll get back to it soon.

Last night we got some Pizza Hut pizza on the plane so that was good. We reheated in the pizza oven at the All Hands Club. They're talking about making that a regular delivery now, which would be alright with me.

A masked booby on the beach at Eastern Island.

Greg and Lynda (our visiting IT person) next to some beach debris nets.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Today wasn't that exciting, I got some computer work done and did some weed spraying. It was cool today, mid 70's and a cool north wind. It brought a lot more birds in. I think most of them are here now, and some of the black-footed albatross have already laid their eggs.

The plane is coming in this evening. It's a good thing they moved to night flights this week because there were thousands of albatrosses flying around today.

Here I am with some albatrosses on Eastern Island.

I found this glass fishing float on Eastern yesterday. It's about 6" long. Most of the floats are round so people usually like to find this style since they are more rare.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great Day

Today was a really good day. I saw some good stuff. First, I sprayed some weeds, then went to Eastern Island to check on our bird calling stations. On the way over to Eastern, we saw a really big tiger shark eating an albatross. I didn't get great pictures of it but I'll show you what I've got. We guessed it was in the 10-12 foot range. I'm glad we were in the boat, but Ben, Kristin, and Matt were going snorkeling after they dropped Greg, Linda, and I off at Eastern. They were going to take the cinderblocks with the cloth to check for oyster colonization that Kristen and I had put in a couple months ago. They didn't end up seeing any sharks while they were doing that.
Over on Eastern There were a few turtles and lots of seals. We also found that the short-tailed albatross returned to its usual spot. There's only one and it comes back to the same spot every year, so we're hoping this year that maybe a mate will show up.

I helped out with picking up the cinderblocks this afternoon. It's not that easy to tread water holding a cinderblock you know.

I took some good pictures today so I'll probably be giving you photos from Eastern Island for a little while.
Here's the tiger shark we saw today. It already ate the albatross.
The short-tail is hanging out with the decoys.
A close-up of the "golden gooney", as people around here call it.
This is the solar panel for running the ipod shuffle that tries to attract more short-tails. We have a couple more of these around to attract Bulwer's petrels. There were a lot of those petrels until the rats extirpated them from Midway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Work

Today we caught up a little more on weed spraying. We also did some work on a fence around Midway House (the refuge manager's house). We have to keep the birds from nesting next to the house because there's still lead paint chips around that the chicks will pick up and eat by mistake. They can get developmental problems, mainly "droop wing", where they can't hold their wings up. They don't end up making it, so we try to keep them away from places with lead paint. We don't have the money to get rid of 40 years worth of lead paint so we do a little at a time.

Ocean view.

Laysan albatross.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to Work

After a nice 3 day weekend it's back to work. Nothing exciting there, just chainsaw maintenance and random stuff. It's kind of fun having the birds back again. They are always doing something interesting. It's pretty loud here at night now. The albatrosses make all kinds of weird noises, plus the petrels are still squeaking away all the time. It's pretty dangerous riding bike around here at night because petrels like to fly towards light, so there's a lot of near misses. They've hit me with their wings a few times but haven't got hit full speed yet by them. Another cool thing at night is the night jasmine bush in my yard. The flowers open at night and it makes the whole neighborhood smell like flowers. It's a very strong smell.

Here's a couple pictures from the fuel pier.

This is the seal that I showed you a couple days ago.

Here's a wandering tattler and a pacific golden plover on the pier.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

We didn't do anything really special for Veteran's Day other than put up a flower wreath at the Memorial. Some of the Thai guys made the wreath and did a beautiful job. I think there are about 10 vets on the island, but we didn't have any ceremony.

I got to watch some football today. It wasn't a great game, but it's something I haven't seen for a while. I also took some time to write an article for the "Friends of Midway" newsletter about the turtle nest that hatched this fall. It wasn't really much more than I already wrote on my blog, but I think it's interesting news. If you want to review that again it was back on Oct. 5th, I think.

Here's the Veteran's Day flowers. The red flowers are Turk's cap, the yellow are hibiscus, and the pink one is a rose.

The wreath is at the left at our Midway Memorial (aka Gooney memorial).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another Good Day

I went around the island and took a few pictures today, then went swimming at cargo pier. We were going to go snorkeling off the boat, but a seal was blocking the boat ramp so instead of bothering an endangered species we just went to the pier. There's a lot of fish under there and it's 20-40 feet deep so it's interesting to swim down and look around. I got a decent picture of a turtle that swam next to me, but it's on film of course and not digital.
Tonight we watched a movie over at the theater. It was "300" which was entertaining. It'll be nice to sleep in tomorrow, and I'll even get to watch "Monday Afternoon Football" since it's on TNT. Usually it's over by the time I get off work.
The turtles are on "Turtle Beach" as usual.
This seal was between the fuel pier and the cargo pier.
A black-footed albatross flies by.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

3 Day Weekend

Today was a good day on Midway. I pulled some ironwood saplings on the beach. It was hot work, but I cooled down by going snorkeling with a few people on the other side of the atoll. The water is still fairly warm for November. I don't need a wetsuit yet, although a couple people wore them. We we saw an octopus swimming around today. I have pictures on my underwater film camera so you can't see those quite yet.

We're still getting more albatrosses in every day. If this picture was bigger, you'd be able to see hundreds of them.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Sorry I didn't blog last night but we had a bonfire last night to get rid of some of the ironwood we've been piling up and I got home too late. Quite a few people left on the plane today, so it was sort of a going away party.
The planes are going to be very crowded from now until after Christmas. The construction workers will be leaving the island for a month and a bird counting group will be coming in. The bird counters will go around the atoll and count every albatross. There should be at least a half million birds so they'll be pretty busy I think.
The plane took off today and got about 15 minutes away when they turned around and came back. They thought they had a problem with the propeller, but it turned out that nothing was wrong and they left again right away.

Here's Tawan, Kate, Zen, and Wendy. Wendy and Kate are done with their coral reef work for now so they left today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

5 Moths

This time I know I made the spelling error but I left it because "5 Moths" is a little bit funnier than "5 Months".
Today I was supposed to have 1 month to go, but now I guess it's 7 months to go. Obviously it's still great here or I wouldn't be staying. It's so nice not having to worry about the price of gas, crime, politics, or any of that other bad news that brings you down.

It's supposed to be cooling down here since it's November, today it was in the mid 80's. I was hot in my spray coveralls and the goony birds were panting all day in the sun. This morning I was seeing one bird fly in every 20 minutes or so and by afternoon I was seeing about 20 birds every 5 minutes coming in.

I'm sure you'll get your fill of albatross pictures soon so here's one of my favorite white tern pictures. I like these friendly little birds. In fact, this is the picture I have as my desktop background (a higher resolution one).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hello, I'm back again

Thanks for the comments, those of you who make them. Our phones and internet are mostly back up now. The internet isn't back up at the office yet though. We should have a little better connection now.
I've been busy this week but I don't have much real news.
As I told you before, since we're close to the International Date Line, all of our holidays are a little off. So we had our Halloween party on Saturday night. Most people scrounged up enough for a costume.
We did a lot of mowing at least until the tractor broke again. Now we're back to spraying the weeds. We cleared a lot of area for the birds. The acting refuge manager counts the birds by the runway every day to see when we have to switch to night flights. Today there were about 2,000 black-footed, and 400 Laysan albatross. There are still not enough of them flying around to switch to night flights yet, but maybe by next week.

Our dish is moved.

The birds are getting a little more crowded. There's a few thousand here already just in the areas we've mowed.

Here's Ben at the Halloween party with the Chupa Cabra pinata that our physician's assistant Jim made.