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.