Sunday, December 30, 2012

Midway Christmas

It was a nice Christmas here.  We had a gift exchange at Capt. Brooks' on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, some of the albatross nest counters volunteered to do the Christmas Bird Count for the Audobon Society.  I'm impressed that they want to count birds on their day off from counting birds.  We did that for half a day, and after a really good Christmas dinner, a large group went out snorkeling at Reef Hotel.  The water is a lot cooler now, but that makes it much clearer since there's not as many tiny organisms growing in the water.  I got quite a few decent fish pictures, but I'm only posting a few since I've got more pictures than usual.  I'll put them up sometime when I don't have as many.

Capt. Brooks' is all set up for the gift exchange.  The tree is decorated with the marine debris ornaments.

Santa is stating the rules for the gift exchange.  You can only steal presents twice before they are out of play.

The Clipper House staff set up the community table again for Christmas dinner.  We had turkey, pork, baked black cod, and beef Wellington for the main dishes.  I was great as usual.

This is Dasha's marine debris ornament made from 3 plastic floats.  She drew on some Christmas turtles for good measure.

Last year I painted some flying birds on a blue float, this time I put a turtle, dolphin, and some fish on a blue float.

These are threadfin butterflyfish.

This is a bluespine unicornfish. This is an easy name to remember since it has blue spines near the tail and a "horn" on it's head.  There's a tiny saddle wrasse following it.

I've tried for a long time to get a good photo of a pearl wrasse and one finally cooperated.

These are 2 of the Pacific golden plovers that Dasha and I counted during the Christmas Bird Count.

The green sea turtles are taking advantage of some nice, sunny weather on Turtle Beach.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Midway

There's not that much news again, but it's good to have a few extra people on island.  It gave the band an excuse to play, which they haven't for quite a while.  We haven't had too much other excitement around here.  The albatross counters are working hard every day counting all of the albatross nests, so they really don't have much time for anything else.  The weather has been very cool and windy lately, but we still might try for reef trip in the next day or two for snorkeling and to make sure everything's good out there.

The albatross nest counters count in a line so they don't miss any nests.

 We had our annual marine debris ornament making party at Capt. Brooks' Tavern.  I'll put up some ornament photos next week.

 Dasha is helping to pick up some lines off the beach.  They are an entanglement hazzard for the seals and turtles.

 Here are some anchors in the field near the harbors.  I'm not sure why they were put there originally other than Navy decoration.
Two Lasysan albatross flying by.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Albatross Counters and Island News

We've got some new people on island for the next couple of weeks, but with a lot of our island population gone for vacation, it's still pretty quiet on island.  We've got our annual albatross nest counters here to tally up all of the Laysan and Black-footed albatross nests on all 3 islands.  My wife, Dasha, also came out for a couple of weeks.  We haven't seen each other for a few months, so it's about time.

There was some news from Tern Island this week.  They were hit with a short but violent windstorm last week and there was quite a bit of damage to the facilities there. Everybody is ok, but it will take a lot to get it up and running again.  Here's a link to the press release: 

We're losing our neighbors out in the archipelago.  The field camp on Laysan Island was evacuated on Nov. 4 for a medical issue.  Article:

The only currently inhabited places in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are at Midway and Kure Atolls. 

 Dasha is feeding the one White tern that is left from the chicks saved from the lead paint removal project.  We've been feeding three of them for the past few weeks and two flew away on Friday.  We're usually feeding them frozen smelt from the grocery store.

 The albatross nests aren't near as dense in the trees as they are in the open areas.

This area is near Brackish pond.  It doesn't look much like the rest of the island over here.  A few albatrosses try to nest, but the water is still rising, so they get flooded out.

 It was a cloudy day at the cargo pier on Saturday, but it was one of the few non-windy days for the past month, so Dasha and I went for a quick snorkel under the pier.

 There are large schools of fish under the pier, including chubs, jacks, needlefish, and like in the picture, yellow-fin goatfish.

A small green sea turtle swims below.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dec. 7, 1941

On Dec. 7, 1941, the same day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, Midway was also attacked by two Japanese ships.  First Lt. George H. Cannon was mortally wounded and became the first U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in WWII.   I've got a short version of the story in a photo below. 

We had a visit from some of our Washington D.C. staff, regional staff, our new monument superintendent, and one of the Assistant Secretaries of the Interior.  It's always good to have people in the organization see what we do out here at one of the most unique wildlife refuges in the country.

The Thai King's birthday was on Dec 5th.  There's usually a celebration on island for that.  This year we had a presentation and food and drink at one of the Thai houses. 

 This is the memorial to First Lt. George Cannon outside of the old command post/power plant.

This is the story of George Cannon.  If you click on the photo, it should open up large enough for you to read.

 Our group of visitors took a trip over to Eastern Island to see the progress of the verbesina removal project and the endangered Short-tailed albatross.

 The Short-tailed albatross female was near her usual spot, but so far doesn't have an egg.  It looks like they may skip breeding this year. The female is young, and she's had a chick two years in a row, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a year off.  It's still possible that she'll lay an egg though.

An exhibit honoring the Thai King was set up at the Clipper House.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wisdom is Back

Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird, has returned.  Wisdom is a Laysan albatross who was banded while sitting on an egg on Dec. 10, 1956.  She was at least 5 years old at the time, so we say that she's at least 62.  She could be older, but that is the youngest that she would be.  A few days ago I came across Wisdom sitting on her egg, and while I was watching, her mate pushed her off the egg so he could take the first incubation shift.  She'll probably be gone for a few weeks.  

I don't have any news on a Short-tailed albatross nest on Eastern Island yet.  I'll get over there this week and see if the pair has nested again.  

 Wisdom's mate is sitting on the egg as she stands next to him.  She was gone the morning after I took this photo.

It's turning into winter around here.  The weather is cooling down and we're getting a lot of wind and rain.  This is the parade field on a rainy day last week.

One of the White terns that we've been feeding  is getting soaked in the rain.  We're only feeding 3 terns now.  It's been a few months since they became homeless, and the last 3 should start finding their own fish sometime soon.

 I haven't shown you a picture from the woods over on the west side of the island for a while.  The trail looks passable here, but as you get farther, more birds are nesting, and it's too difficult to get a cart through there.

This is the street that goes past the Midway House and Charlie Barracks.  I took this with my little Olympus camera with the "Dramatic" setting.  

I checked the south beach for tsunami debris.  I didn't find any, but I took a photo of the old wooden floats that were used to float the anti-submarine nets that they had back in earlier military days.  These are now used to reduce shoreline erosion.