Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

Another nice week.  Not for any extra reason other than it's great out here.  We've been getting a bit of rain lately which makes for some very muggy days, but it's still pretty nice around here.  I'm taking a lot of trips to Eastern Island, checking for Laysan ducks with botulism.  A sick one was found last week.  We fixed him up with some anti-toxin and food and let him go on Thursday.  We've got a small Memorial Day ceremony planned for tomorrow, so I'll show you some photos of that next week.

This is the view across Eastern Island with the old airplane revetments in the background.  The verbesina removal is going well over there.   

The Brown noddies like to gather on the pier on Eastern.

This White tern thought this albatross chick was a little too close for comfort.  It was kind of funny that the tern would only snap at the chick when it was looking the other way, not when it was an inch from that big bill.

That albatross chicks look kind of pathetic in the rain when they still have down.

The old officer houses that were built in the 50's have all just been renovated.  They don't look much different on the outside, but have new windows and doors, as well as better flooring and furniture.  Charlie barracks is being renovated with non-asbestos tile and a sprinkler system, so everyone had to move out of Charlie and into houses for the next couple of months.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Warming up

We finally had rain yesterday for the first time since I've been back.  The native plants that we planted finally get a drink.  A few ducklings didn't make it though, since it got a bit too chilly for them.  The hotter weather overall has been having an affect on the albatross chicks.  The ones that haven't been getting fed as much are finally starting to succumb to dehydration and starvation.  It happens every year, but usually the hot weather shows up earlier, so we start to lose them earlier.  If it's a normal year, about 65% of all of the eggs laid, will end up with a chick that fledges.

We've had a few Laysan ducks die from botulism in the past week, so we've got to check all of the seeps on Sand and Eastern Islands, rain or shine.  You can sort of see Sand Island through the rain.  I got pretty soaked, even with full rain gear on.

I had to wait until this young monk seal was done checking out the boat before I could start the engines.
This nursing monk seal pup is getting big.  That big rusty thing out in the water is an old barge that is grounded near the channel into the atoll.  

The Sooty terns always follow me around when I check the duck seeps on Eastern Island.

 The Great frigatebirds are building their nests and the males are trying to attract the females by puffing out their gular pouches.

There are fewer adults out in the fields every week.  The adult feathers are starting to come out of the down on the chicks.
For people who want to see pictures of more buildings than I usually post, remember that you can go to Google maps and check the street view.  You can see most of the buildings on that.  Here is an old bunker near the old fuel farm that you can't see very well on Google maps.  The entrance is in the center so it goes both directions under the sand dune.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


 It was a quiet week with a lot of people off island right now.  The construction/repair crew is just finishing up their spring work and will take some time off before they come back in July, so it will get even quieter. 

I had a comment asking what it's like coming and going from Midway.  I've been going back and forth for about 6 years now, so I'm used to it and don't get culture shock either way anymore.  It's like anywhere you live though, you need to get away to revive your appreciation.  That works both ways.  I appreciate the mainland more for its conveniences, friends, and social activities, but I also appreciate Midway each time I come back for the simpler beauty, lack of crime, traffic, and politics.

It's been mostly sunny this week and seems like it's warming up for summer.  There are ducklings all over, and the albatross chicks are getting bigger.  A lot of the birds are laying eggs right now, Great frigatebirds, Red-footed boobies, Red-tailed tropicbirds, White terns, and Gray-backed terns so far.  Although we're all very busy around here, it's just normal work, so I won't bore you with the details.  Here are some pics.

The beach.
We got to see a little bit of the solar eclipse at Midway on Thursday.  We were right on the edge of the viewing zone, so this was about as good as it got.  I took this picture through a welder's mask, hence the greenish hue.

 There were a bunch of White terns following me around, seeing what I was up to.

 This is a leucistic Laysan albatross on Eastern Island.  You can tell it's not albino since it doesn't have pink eyes and has a bit of brown in the feathers.  There's one on Sand Island too, near the water tower.

 This is the same Laysan duck and ducklings that I showed you last week.  They don't grow too much in a week. 

 I was on Eastern Island checking the duck seeps and noticed a pod of spinner dolphins just off the pier.

 They followed me for a little way on my way back to Sand Island.

I slowed the boat down to try to get a count.  They are really difficult to count, but there were at least 152 in this pod.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back Again

It was a long vacation, but I'm finally back.  I was in Washington D.C. for most of that time, but also went to Bismarck, N.D. for training and to visit my parents and a few old friends.  It was a bit cool there with -30 wind chills, then 91 in D.C. two weeks later. 
There was a big change while I was gone.  Our island population is getting smaller.  Twelve positions have gone away, so the folks left on island will get a bit busier.  Here are a few photos that I took on vacation, and a few new ones, too.

The prediction for the blooming of the cherry trees in Washington D.C., was off by about a week, so the crowd gathered around the one blooming tree.
Here is the same spot a few days later.  There were more trees to take pictures under so this one wasn't so popular anymore.
A lot of people were out enjoying the blossoms.

Some cherry blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.
 The chicks have grown quite a bit, and there are quite a few around.

There are a lot of Laysan ducklings in the seeps now.  
We had some visitors from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  They gave us grant money to help get rid of the verbesina on Eastern Island, and now Sand Island.  I'm glad they got to see what great work the crew is doing with their grant.  Here, they are on a tour of Eastern Island.

 The Sooty terns have also come back since I've been gone.  Eastern Island is loud again.

A Coast Guard C-130 came through for crew rest after conducting a search for a person who fell off of a sailboat.  They called off the search without finding him.

 A group from NOAA also came to pick up marine debris while I was off Island.  They got a decent amount in their short time here.

 I think you can see why the albatross eat lighters out in the ocean.  They look a lot like the squid on the left.
 I found this dead Pacific Golden Plover while I was checking seeps on Friday.  This bottle cap was probably picked up by an albatross in the ocean, brought back to Midway and fed to a chick, then either was coughed up with other non-digestible stomach contents or was left after a dead chick decomposed, then found by this plover which then caused its death.

We got out to check on the reef.  This spectacled parrotfish is just about to take a chomp out of the coral.