Monday, March 31, 2008

Tropic Birds

This morning was another day of checking tropic bird plots. There was even a chick already. I also finally had some time to spray the verbesina. It's the first time since Greg left on vacation on the Kahana last week. We also have a law enforcement officer here for a week and a half. Although we haven't had any problems, we are having new groups in every week, so we are going to have a full time person here soon.

Here is the new red-tailed tropic bird chick we saw today. It probably just hatched.

Brent is banding the tropic bird while Dasha is holding it. Usually someone has to hold its bill, but this one was very calm and nice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Busy Day

Today was another beautiful day. The new group of visitors went on a historical tour and Dasha and I went along. A couple of the visitors in this group have been reading my blog so it was nice to meet them. We went swimming, played basketball, and went bowling so we kept busy today.

A red-footed booby is sitting in a heliotrope tree.

Here's a bigger picture so you can see the colors of its bill.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Visitors

Our first visitors left the island tonight on the plane that brought in our second group. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed being here. I finally had a pretty relaxing day just going around the island showing Dasha the sites. She was happy to see the 23 turtles at turtle beach, plus the seals. We had to go jump off of the cargo pier, of course, since it was a warm, sunny day. Here's a few more pictures from Eastern Island yesterday since I haven't had a chance to go through the ones I took today.

An male Great Frigatebird is displaying for the females. The other bird is juvenile.

This Red-footed booby is flying over the mustard flowers. We've been able to keep the mustard from getting over to Sand island for now, but it is the big problem weed on Eastern during the winter and spring. The verbesina is still there, but it takes a little longer to get big.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Follow-up to Last Installment

I guess there was one more BBC segment on video and one more story. Here are the links:

Here's a Q & A article with Matt:

Here's the Q & A video with Matt and John:

The BBC and FAA people left this evening. And Dasha (my wife) came in on the plane. She'll be here for a week and a half. She loves wildlife so she'll love it here. We've been concentrating mainly on the plastic this week but we still have our other issues, such as invasive species and endangered species.

Here we are dealing with the invasive species. We are pulling verbesina at the memorial on Eastern Island.

Here is one of the endangered species. Can you spot which short-tailed albatross is not a decoy? The juvenile that was hanging around hasn't been seen for a while.

P.S. For all of those who found my site via the BBC stories and are interested in the volunteer program, here is the link:
But also watch the Q&A link up above with Matt because it's difficult to get out here.

Last Installment

The BBC did the last of their Midway stories today. Here's the latest:

And here's the latest of the written stories:

Today was another Chainsaw Thursday. The ironwood trees at Radar Hill are almost gone. This evening we had a get together at Capt. Brooks' Tavern where the BBC clips were shown to the people who hadn't seen them yet. The visitors came up also and it was the most people I had ever seen there at once.

This is part of our collection of interesting things we've found that the albatross brought here. These things were found near nests and not just washed up. That big toy is about 6" tall and was probably a stomach full for a bird. Like I said yesterday, sometimes you really do wonder where these things came from.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BBC Segment

It's been a very interesting week with the return of the broken racing sailboat, the beginning of the visitor's program, the supply ship coming in, and the BBC here enlightening the world about our plastic problem. They used a little clip of me picking up marine debris and saying a few things. I hope I won't be followed around by the Midway paparazzi now. Actually, I take more pictures than everyone else on island put together so I probably don't have to worry. This is the link to today's story:

And don't forget to read David's new internet story. His reports are a bit more colorful than mine, and also written much better. Most of the plastic we find is not so thought provoking. Lighters, toothbrushes, bottle caps, and broken bits of plastic make up the usual finds, but every now and then we find some toy or other item that really does make you wonder what it went through to get here. I'll get a picture tomorrow of a few of the more interesting items. Here's David's link again:

I was taking a picture of these chicks in the marine debris when I heard a lot of squawking. There were two Great frigatebirds fighting over a fish.

The chaser ended up getting the fish from the chasee. Did I mention that Midway was a great place?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Forget More BBC Today and Tomorrow

The supply ship "Kahana" came in this evening. It will be nice to be restocked on our frozen foods. Our new volunteer, Brent, came in on the ship. Brent has been a long time blog reader so he should know what to expect here. He's pretty lucky that he got to do that because the ship stops at the other Northwestern Hawaiian islands like Laysan Island and French Frigate Shoals.

It has been nice having the BBC guys here because they are kind reminding us of the big issues we have here. We see the thousands of albatross chicks dying each year because of plastic, but most other people have no idea. One of the crew, Mark, said they'll probably use a quote from me either today or tomorrow, so don't forget to watch at the times I told you on yesterday's blog. It was about 7:25 eastern time Tues on BBC America, but can be anytime between 7 and 8 pm depending on other stories. The shows on BBC One and BBC World should be the same as I put yesterday, and they'll probably put the stories on BBC online in the Science/Nature section.

Here is a link to David Shukman's daily Midway stories:

This is the link to the BBC video from Tuesday:

This is the Kahana coming in at sunset.

Two of the visitors are planting bunch grass in the field where the Cannon School used to be.

This is a teaser for the BBC story later.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Watch BBC (If you get it)

Today was a good day. We started out with the dolphins escorting us over to Eastern Island. A big group of us went over to pick up marine debris for one of the BBC news segments. They will be broadcasting Midway's plastic issues for the next 3 days. They will be live from here sometime between 11 and 11:30 our time which is 10-10:30 Greenwhich Mean Time. I'm not sure of the U.S. programming, but it may be on around 6 or 7 Eastern time if you get BBC. It'll probably be on the internet too so I'll give you a link if I find out what it is.

This afternoon the volunteers, Greg, and I showed the visitors how to clone and plant bunch grass. It was great that they helped us out. We got a lot of work done with 16 people.

These are a couple of the spinner dolphins we saw today.

It was a beautiful day today. Here are a couple of turtles and the boat bringing over a few people to Eastern Island.

We picked up this pile of marine debris in 30 minutes for the BBC crew.

This is the plaque at the cross near the harbor that I said I would show you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter (a day late for you all)

We had a good Easter brunch today. A few of our visitors that arrived last night were a little dissapointed that we didn't have sunrise services though. There are no ministers of any kind out here. We had an egg dying party last night so we at least had those.

The group that came last night is the first group of the regular visitor program. One of the women said she had been here 6 times before (she is 86) and was really happy that she could get out here again. The group that is offering the tours is the Oceanic Society. You can check out their website if you're thinking of coming out here. Just so you know, it'll cost $4890 for your trip from Honolulu.

Tonight was another bowling night. It wasn't near as crowded as it was with the sailors here, but it was alright.

I had a request to take a picture of the plaque at the cross at the east end of the harbor. I didn't see the message until tonight, so I checked my earlier pictures and found I almost had it. You can barely see the little monument in front of the cross and I'll take a close up of it tomorrow. It basically says that this point is the last place in the U.S. that sunrise services are performed on Easter. I don't know when the last services were here, but probably when the Navy was out here. There are too many petrel burrows there now for any activities.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More Plastic

Today we said goodbye again to the sailboat racers. Three of crew actually stayed behind and are going to take the plane back tonight. They are going to try to get aboard other boats in Honolulu to continue the race to Santa Cruz. The and the other boat will take a while to repair their masts, and may get a late start for the next leg of the race.
The BBC crew came down to the pier to see them off. It worked out perfectly for their story on the effects of plastic since one of the sailboat crew spotted an albatross chick with plastic hanging out of its mouth. They are doing a few stories on plastic around the world, and for those of you who get BBC news, they will be doing a live broadcast on Tuesday. I'll let you know the details if I find out. Anyway John K. removed the plastic and all is well.

This is the chick with plastic problems.
Here's the BBC crew with John Klavitter explaining the situation.

This is what the bird had. It looks like a little plastic mesh bag for produce or something. Normally the chick would have just swallowed the whole thing and it would have taken up space for food, but the hook caught on its mouth. It probably has more plastic in its stomach, but at least this piece is out.

Goings On

There's a lot happening on Midway now. The sailboat came in yesterday. They made it even with half a mast and no engine. We had another little get together with the crew last night. This time it was at the bowling alley. They place was packed and it was a lot of fun.

Their parts came in on the plane tonight and Marty (the skipper) took about 3 hours to fix it so they are ready to try for Honolulu again at 9 in the morning.

Christy (bug studier) and Lauren (volunteer) left today. Christy will be back soon but I think Lauren wouldn't have minded staying a little longer. There were a couple of other guys that were out here working to install detection equipment for the U.N. Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, who also left. One of them was a former submarine nuclear power guy like myself, so we had a good time talking.

Matt is back, and I also got a new roommate. His name is Murray. He'll be the new visitor services ranger on the island for 6 months. The first group of paying visitors will be here tomorrow also.

Three people from the BBC came out to do some filming on the plastic problem here. Both the plastic that the albatross eat and the stuff that floats around here and washes up on the beach. There are also a few FAA people who came out. I'm not sure why yet, but I'll find out sooner or later.

Our boat is towing the sailboat past the old wrecked water barge.

Lou and Johnboy are getting ready to tie up to the LCM (landing craft).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boat Update

Today was windy and cloudy, but not rainy. We got some weed spraying done and also had to band a bunch of red-tailed tropic birds. We don't band them if it's raining because they might fly away for a while, and the rain could cool the egg too much. Usually they don't get too bothered and will hop right back on their egg.
The is going to be coming in tomorrow morning or afternoon. It looks like we'll be able to get their new gearbox for their transmission on the G-1 (our usual plane) on Friday. I hear it weighs over 100 lbs. so I hope they don't bump off too much mail and fresh food. We have a supply ship (the Kahana) coming next week anyway so it won't be that big of a deal. Here's the link to their site again if you want to check it out.

Dana and Lauren are banding the one of the tropic birds.

Here's one of our frequent activities on Midway, digging out petrel burrows. It's very hard to walk anywhere without caving them in. We just have to make sure the sand doesn't bury the birds and that the opening isn't blocked. Most of our work is not on the paved areas, so we usually fall in about 5 times a day. There is rarely injury to the adults, but every now and then an egg or chick doesn't make it. I've fallen in up to my hip before but that was probably a wedge-tailed shearwater burrow, not a petrel burrow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another Day of Wind and Rain

Even with bad weather we still got our chainsawing done this afternoon. It rained a couple of times and the trees only fell one direction, but we got a lot done.
We also got some news today. The sailboat that was just here had some more trouble. Their transmission went out, so it looks like they'll be back on Thursday. They were about 200 miles away, but decided that Honolulu is too far. Nobody really knows what's going on yet but they were a great bunch of people so we'll be happy to have them back.
I haven't been able to take any pictures in the sun lately, so here's some I took with the clouds.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Seattle Day

More wind and rain today. We still couldn't do any chainsawing or tropic bird banding, so it was an inside work day. I feel sorry for our volunteer Lauren, who leaves Friday and has had only one sunny day since she's been here. At least the other 2 volunteers, Dana and Kristin are here for a while longer so they may get some good weather. There's not much more to report on now. So here's your picture.

This is a Bonin petrel chick. The burrow got collapsed, so it had to sit outside for a minute until it had a hole to go back to. They are little puffballs with a beak. I'm sure they have eyes, but you really can't tell.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sailboat's Gone

Our new friends on the sailboat left this afternoon. They were a really good bunch of people. Even though they can't get their mast replaced anytime soon, they still want to get to Hawaii soon to be with the other boats. One of the other boats broke their mast also, but were closer to Hawaii. These aren't even professional sailors. They pay a lot of money to do a 3 week sailing class and then they pay to take different legs of the races. It's all on the link that I gave you yesterday, plus it tells what these sailors actually do for a living. I'll have to check on their progress since their actual sailing track is mapped by gps.

One of the traditions at the All Hands Club is for visiting groups to decorate a ceiling tile.

They were tied up to our old landing craft. Now they are headed for Honolulu.


The sailboat came in. Their mast is only about 4o feet instead of 81 feet tall. We got tour of the boat. It's pretty small for going around the world. They started their round the world race in Liverpool in September and race separate legs around the world. It ends up taking them about a year to go all the way around the world. They've got a website and do a blog.

We had a little party for them at the All Hands Club last night. They are supposed to leave after lunch on Sunday. It'll take about 8 days for them to get to Honolulu.

The weather wasn't so good for them. It was really windy and cloudy all day. They were still glad to get here and at least have a day to walk around and have hot showers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bad Weather

Today was tropic bird checking day. There were 8 new nests today, but the weather was so bad that we didn't want to catch them to band them. It was really windy and rainy, and sometimes the birds fly away and leave their egg for a while after they are bothered. If the weather is nice, they just come back and everything is fine, but in bad weather the egg can get too cold and fail. We'll get them later. We also couldn't do chainsaw Friday today because of the rain and strong wind.

We had a good game night at Capt. Brooks' tonight. Tomorrow will be an early day since the Australian sailboat will come in first thing in the morning. They are waiting nearby because they can't pull in at night.

The weather was bad for pictures today, but I went down the road and got this Laysan/Black-footed hybrid picture. This bird always comes back to the same place and tries to dance with the Laysan albatrosses. I think it has too many Black-foot dancing genes because the Laysan albatrosses won't have anything to do with it. It still tries though, and maybe one of these years it will find a mate.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


We got some news that we'll be getting some visitors tomorrow. Apparently a 68 ft. sailboat from Australia that was sailing around the world, broke it's main mast. I guess it's stopping here to get enough fuel and food to make it to Hawaii to get fixed. I'll have to put out some rat traps tomorrow just in case there's any onboard. There won't be, but you can't be too careful. I'll have more on that tomorrow.

The petrel chicks have started hatching. I don't know if I'll get any pictures of them since they live underground, but I'll try to get something for you. The only way that they get seen is by accidentally collapsing their burrrows. So I hope that I won't see any, but since it's impossible not to cave one in now and then, I'm sure I will.

Here's a canary on a Norfolk pine branch by my house.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Usual Wednesday

So today the usual stuff is going on around here. Greg and I were getting rid of invasive species, the volunteers were planting new plants for the ducks around the seep we've been clearing, Christy is looking for different species of bugs, the construction guys are trying to get the airport building finished, Cindy is trying to get things straightened up for all the visitors who'll be showing up, John is busy with paperwork in the office, and everything else is as usual. It's still cool and rainy here, I hope it gets a little better by the time Dasha (my wife) comes out here in two weeks. And Happy Birthday Dasha!!!

Here's a sunset picture from last night. I know you just had a sunset picture a couple days ago, but like I said before, you can never have too many sunsets.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Today while I was out spraying the weeds I saw a shark. No, I wasn't near the water. I found a dead shark in the middle of the field. It was tiny, only about 13 inches. Apparently an albatross ate it and brought it back to feed its chick, but it was a little too big. So now I've seen a shark eating an albatross and a shark eaten by an albatross.

Here's the shark by the nest. It sort of looks like a cookie cutter shark. They only get to be 18 to 20 inches long. It's hard to tell though since this wasn't that fresh. They call them cookie cutter sharks because they go up to bigger fish and seals and just bite a little circle out of them, then swim away.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Monday

Another cool day today and more rain this evening. The volunteers got to spend the day collecting seed and cloning bunch grass and Greg and I got to spend the day trying to get the computers to let us fill out our timesheets. I also got a chance to take a few pictures tonight before the rain, so here's a sunset picture.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Good Weekend

Yesterday morning we went swimming by the cargo pier and went snorkeling in the afternoon. We saw the usual fish and one turtle so it was great as usual. It was rainy again this morning but got a little nicer this afternoon. We played basketball in the gym this afternoon, but other than that it was kind of a lazy day.

I didn't take many pictures this weekend, but I'll get a few tomorrow. Here's a Pacific golden plover by my house. There are quite a few of these around during the winter months.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Busy Day

We had a good morning of spraying while the volunteers checked the tropic bird plots. There was still only one bird on a nest. We did chainsawing in the afternoon. We're really getting a lot done with the extra help. It will be nice to take it easy this weekend.

Here's a Gooney bird near the ofice. Sometimes it just fits better to say "gooney bird" than Laysan albatross.

Clean Up

We finally got one pond cleaned up today at the ballfield seep. All of the umbrella sedges are gone. They'll probably come back, but we'll worry about that later.
I'll keep it short today, so here's your picture.

The last umbrella sedge is getting pulled out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Another Rainy Day

Today was albatross plot day. We did that in the morning and most of the rest of the day we worked on landscaping around the office.

I found an albatross chick stuck in a petrel hole. The parent was still feeding it so it was just getting fatter and more stuck. I had to dig it out. That actually happens quite a bit.
I also saw a black-footed albatross with fishing line hanging out of its mouth attached to a bunch of fish eggs. It was trying like crazy to get the line out so I caught the bird to help out. It ended up throwing up its food, luckily, the fish hook came out with the eggs. Although it has to take another trip out for food, at least it, or its chick won't get a hook stuck in them.

Kristin and Jimmy are checking the albatross chicks for their band numbers.

Dana, Lauren, Kristin, and Rex are trimming the naupaka and pulling weeds by the office. I'm finally getting a few pictures of people working. I haven't had too many of those, but now with a few extra people around, I can show the work instead of just birds or scenery.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Weed Work

Today Greg and I got a lot of spraying in. Right now we are just trying to keep the verbesina thin enough so that the birds can walk around since there are too many plants to clear completely.

Tonight we had a couple of talks up at Capt. Brooks'. Christy gave a talk on the relationship between bugs and verbesina, and Janet gave a talk on her petrel research. It's nice to know what people are up to when they are out here and why it's important.

The white terns are coming back like crazy now. There were always a few around, but now they are everywhere. This is an earlier picture, but I like it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Surprise Plane and Petrels

It was a good day for working with plants. Greg and I got a lot of spraying done and the volunteers went and planted some native plants over at the ballfield seep to replace the umbrella sedges that we took out. The ducks like to have a lot of plants there because that's where the bugs hide.

Tonight the plane flew in and brought us some mail unexpectedly. It was on it's way to the Marshall Islands and needed to stop here for fuel and rest for the pilots. They'll leave before sunrise and come back for their normal flight on Friday.

I also went out tonight to help catch and band the petrels. I hadn't done it for a while, but it was about my turn again. Janet and Jen are leaving Friday, so there will only be one more night of them doing that.

Jen, Lauren, and Dana are all bundled up while we were catching the petrels. It was 69 degrees so I didn't think it was so cold. Lauren and Dana live in Hawaii so they have an excuse. Jen is from Canada, so I guess she's just practicing for getting back there next week.

Lauren is having a good time anyway.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Movie Night

It was another day with not a lot going on. I didn't do much, just some reading. This evening we had a movie at the theater (Ghostbusters). I hadn't seen it for a while, so it was worth seeing again. That's about it for today.

This chick looks like it's taking care of the egg. It was really just sitting near it, but it looked funny.