Sunday, December 15, 2013

Happy Winter!

We've been getting a lot of wind and rain for the past week, and it's supposed to continue through this week too.  I'm not complaining.  At least it's in the 60's, although with people in winter coats and wool hats, you wouldn't guess that.

We had a group come to the island for a couple of days this week.  People on the Monument Management Board (USFWS, NOAA, and the State of Hawaii) were able to visit.  We always like to have people who are involved in management decisions come out and are able to see what it's like out here.  Most of them end up saying, "I knew there were a lot of birds here, but I didn't expect this many".  

 Wisdom's mate is now back on the nest.  She's out filling up with food after laying that big egg.

 The MMB group is getting a tour of Eastern Island.  That brown stuff on the horizon is all of the dead verbesina that was recently sprayed.

 Is anyone missing their front bumper cover?

 We took the group out to Reef Hotel for snorkeling.  It was really rough.  You can see a big surge coming over the emergent reef toward Rick.

 This was the first time I've been out there where water was actually washing over the reef.  Normally it dissipates before it gets there.

The underwater photos weren't quite as good as usual with all the bubbles. 

This is what it is supposed to look like (taken in June).

"OH, OH, OH!  The Clipper House Christmas decorations are up.

This is the view out the back door of my house.  There was a decent rain, but you can't really tell from this photo.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wisdom is Here

 For those of you who were wondering, Wisdom is back again this year and has laid another egg.  If you are new to the blog, Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird.  She is at least 62 years old.  We know she is at least that old because she was banded as an adult on a nest in 1956, and albatross are at least 5 years old when they mate.  I noticed that I never did mention that her chick fledged last season.  We are assuming that it did, since we had no evidence to the contrary.  Here are a few links with more of my photos, and a video that I got of Wisdom laying the egg.

It was the Thai king's birthday on December 5th.  We had a nice celebration here at one of the Thai houses.  The Thai's usually have big celebrations for the king's birthday and Songkran (the Traditional Thai New Year), which is in April.  

Wisdom (on the left) is sitting with her mate.

This is Wisdom a few minutes after she laid her egg.

There were photos and information about the Thai king posted in the Clipper House for the week.

There was also a birthday card for people on island to sign.

The actual birthday celebration was a good time with a lot of Thai food.

I haven't shown many Black-footed albatross lately, so here's one.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A lot of food!

 I hope everyone had a great long weekend.  We had a great Thanksgiving dinner.  The cooks did a wonderful job cooking turkey, ham, steaks, all the usual side dishes, and more.  I just finished up my leftovers today.
We're keeping busy monitoring the albatross plots.  It's about the peak of egg laying this week.  We also have to put bands on any new nesting birds in the plots so we can keep track of which parent is on the nest.  Luckily, most of them have bands on them already since we've been monitoring these areas for a few years and the birds nest in almost the same spot each year.

As usual, the tables at the Clipper House were all put together for the holiday meal. 

Wine isn't normally allowed at meals in the Clipper House, but they make holiday exceptions. 

The pumpkin pie and carrot cake was good.

The volunteers check for new eggs in the Black-footed albatross plot near the end of the runway.

This is what the parade field looks like this week. 

This albatross has a rusty fish hook in its neck.  We caught it to try to remove it, but it's been in so long that it has healed into the skin.  I'm sure the hook was nice stainless steel when it went in and it will probably be worse for the bird to take it out since the bird looks very healthy.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving week.  This past week we said goodbye to Refuge Manager Sue Schulmeister and her husband Bob.  They've done a lot of great work out here the past couple of years.  We'll be getting a new manager out here in January.

We're starting our albatross monitoring this coming week.  We'll mark nests in 5 different plots and follow those nests to see how many of the eggs hatch and how many chicks end up fledging to determine reproductive success.

Egg laying for the Laysan and Black-footed albatross is in full swing.  This bird has an old aluminum band that isn't even readable anymore.  We'll have to see if we have time to replace it this season.  

 This is the old officer housing, which now is mostly the Thai worker housing.

We keep a few interesting artifacts in the seaplane hangar.  This is a section of the anti-submarine net that would keep out any unwanted submarines.  There are also a couple of the old tank turret pillboxes that were used as protected shooting spots for defensive forces in WWII.   

Since I hardly took any photos this week, I'm pulling one out of my older photos file.  This was a recently weened Hawaiian monk seal checking out the boat.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy Retirement, Sue!

Sue Schulmeister, the refuge manager, will be retiring soon and leaving Midway this week.  We're sorry to see her go.  We'll also miss her husband Bob, who has been a really big help with most of our projects out here over the past couple of years.  We wish them both the best.  

We've also got some news about the Short-tailed albatross.  The pair on Eastern Island has another egg.  This is the 3rd egg from that pair since 2010.  The female laid the egg and has been out feeding for the past week or so.  If all goes well we'll expect it to hatch in mid-January.        

 I said last week that I would post a photo of the Veterans Day Ceremony.  People are gathering for the ceremony in this photo.

The Thai workers made another beautiful wreath for the ceremony.

 Sue and Bob recieved a few going away gifts at the retirement/going away party.  This is a photo of the DBSI employees on island in a handmade and painted frame (made by Apiwat and A2).

 Our viewing station for the remote camera on Eastern Island is set up in the visitor center.  It's nice to be able to monitor the Short-tailed albatross on their nest from my office.  We can't see the egg too easily, but we should be able to see the chick when it hatches.  I want to say thanks to NOAA for bringing the cameras out her originally.

 Speaking of Short-tailed albatross, this one showed up by Rusty Bucket yesterday.  This is a 5 year old bird that has shown up for the last two seasons.

The albatross are starting to clog up the roads.  It's easier to get around on a bike than in a golf cart now.

Not all of the birds are paired up yet, but you can tell the ones that are with their mates.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thank You, Veterans.

Thanks to all the veterans who have served or are still serving!  We'll have a small ceremony at the Navy Memorial here tomorrow.  I'll put up a photo next week.

It has been pretty windy for the last few days, which is bringing a lot of albatross in.  Every day the numbers are doubling.  It's good that all of the construction is wrapped up for the season.  There were quite a few people on island the last couple of days.  Most of our flights are every 2 weeks now, but every once in a while we have flights that stay here for 2 days.  That's when people like the termite inspectors, fuel inspectors, and anyone else who only needs a short time on island will come out.  So our hectic two days has passed for now.

 The field behind the new fuel farm is filling up with both Laysan and Black-footed albatross.

 There was a turtle nest on Eastern Island this summer.  This was only the fourth nest that we have documented at Midway.  Most Hawaiian green sea turtles nest at French Frigate Shoals.  We wait until it has had plenty of time to hatch and then dig it up and see how many eggs hatched.  It took a while to find the exact spot, but with help from Dale and Hoku, we finally found it.

There were 91 eggs in the nest, with 6 that didn't hatch.  That's in the normal range.  With all of the crabs, birds, fish, etc that are trying to get the hatchlings, there will probably be very few, if any, that will make it to adulthood.

 Konrad and Dale got the remote cameras on Eastern Island up and running so they had time to help out with other things, like digging up a turtle nest and installing a couple of aerators in two of our wetlands.  The photo shows one in Brackish pond.  We're hoping that the extra oxygen in the water will reduce the number of botulism cases in Laysan ducks.

 One thing I've been doing for years is cutting up my plastic 6-pack holders for just this reason.  This Laysan duck got entangled in one.

It took a little while to catch him, but we netted him and removed the plastic.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's November Already?

This year is just flying by for me out here and it's hard to believe it's already November.  More birds are coming back every day, including a few Laysan albatross.  The female Short-tailed albatross on Eastern Island still hasn't shown up yet, but we're hoping she will soon.  We had no flight this past week, so it has kind of been business as usual out here.   

Our rain catchment area was cleaned out this week.  The algae gets pretty thick in there so it has to be cleaned out every year or two.

The naupaka bushes in front of the office were trimmed, so we have a better view of the old sperm whale skeleton. 

 Here is one of the very few Laysan albatrosses on island right now.

 This is the male Short-tailed albatross that hangs out near the runway on this island.  It still has a little bit of brown on its neck, but will probably finally have its full adult plumage next year.

 Here are a couple more of the winter visitors to the island.  These 2 species are very similar, but the one on the left is a Pectoral sandpiper and the one on the right is a Sharp-tailed sandpiper.

 Konrad and Dale found some old costumes for our Halloween party at Capt. Brooks.  They added some marine debris to the costumes.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

They're Here!

There's a little less activity on island now that the taxiway crew is gone and the barge has departed.  Just in time, since the albatross started coming back this week.  There have been Black-footed albatross showing up all over the refuge.  Two Short-tailed albatrosses have also returned.   One on Sand and one on Eastern Island.  We've got some technicians from Seemore Wildlife here to get our remote camera working again to monitor the Short-tails on Eastern.  It's cooled down quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, so we are finally seeing less botulism in our Laysan ducks.

 Our new airport taxiway is looking good.  The airplanes shouldn't have to drive through large puddles anymore.

 Here's one of the early Black-footed albatross on Sand Island.

This Black-footed albatross is taking a nap while waiting for the rest of the birds to show up on Eastern Island.

 The native nohu, or Tribulus cistoides is ground cover for most of Eastern Island in areas cleared of verbesina.

 This looks very similar to the photo above of the nohu.  The difference is that this is the invasive verbesina that grows 3-6 ft tall and is poor nesting habitat for the seabirds.  The nohu is mostly less than a foot and the albatross can easily flatten it to nest.  We are hoping to have this area cleared in the next couple of weeks.

 A lot of vagrant birds have been showing up lately.  Here are two of the 25 or so Northern pintails.  I haven't had a chance to count all of the vagrants yet, but there are also some Northern shovelers, American and Eurasian wigeons, and some sandpipers.

Yesterday I saw 4 Laysan ducks at the Monument seep on Eastern that had been sick with botulism and treated.  You can see that this one has a temporary lavender band on its right leg.  He would have died had we not found it and got the anti-toxin into him.

 Dale and Konrad are fixing up the remote camera at the Short-tailed albatross plot on Eastern Island.  We'll be able to monitor the nest without bothering the birds.  You can see a few of the decoys in the background.  Konrad used to help us out on Tern Island with NOAA's remote turtle camera.