Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Late Thanksgiving

We had the usual Thanksgiving feast out here, including a 20 lb. turkey. We're still on leftovers, but now we're only down to turkey soup.
The day before that, we took a boat trip to Trig island to count the albatross nests and pick up marine debris. There are only a couple little portulaca plants on that island since it gets washed over fairly often. The birds are nesting on the high spot so I hope they'll make it there. The main reason we went is so I could find the way to get there, since when Dave leaves next week, I'll be left in charge. There's a small opening in the reef with little clearance, so it'll take some practice to not scrape anything.
After Trig Island, we went to LaPerouse Pinnacle to check which bird species are present. The peregrine falcon was there and no blue noddies, so it will probably take them a couple years to get going there again. There are also a lot of Brown boobies, White terns, and Great frigatebirds. The volunteers got to snorkel there and it looked like a great spot. It's from 10-20 ft. deep right around there so the coral and fish are a lot different than near Tern. I only got to look in the water next to the boat since we don't anchor there and someone has to drive.
This is our dining area. We had our T-dinner buffet style so that's why it looks skimpy.
This is Trig island. Lots of sand and a few birds. The picture is a little washed out because it's my little waterproof point and shoot instead of my nice camera.

LaPerouse Pinnacle up close.
It's not very wide. For being 120 ft. tall.

Here's the only Laysan/Blackfooted albatross hybrid on the island. It doesn't have any better luck with mates than the ones on Midway did.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Birds and Sharks

The weather here has been nice. I went snorkeling a couple of days ago. It's a lot like Midway, but a lot more sharks. I saw 5 of them. A gray reef shark and a bunch of white-tipped reef sharks. I was busy learning again too. We tried to take the boats out so I could learn the reefs, but they were acting up, so we'll have to look at them this week. There are also a couple of fish that I haven't seen before, like Potter's angelfish and Yellow tailed coris. They are both really colorful.
There are a lot of Black-footed albatross nests now, and a few Laysan albatross nests. The island is starting to fill up with them. The Black noddies are also laying eggs right now.
Things are going fairly smoothly around here, and I'm getting more comfortable with the cooking. Last night I made sesame chicken that I think turned out pretty tasty. On Thanksgiving we'll all do the cooking and cleaning.

This is the gray reef shark that was following me. It's about 6 ft. long, so it's bigger than the other ones I've seen. It was following pretty closely which was a little unnerving. I heard there is one gray reef shark that doesn't like people swimming through his area, so when you see him getting mad, you're supposed to swim quickly out of there. This one wasn't doing any posturing, so I wasn't too worried.

This is our one coconut tree that I told you I'd show you. The others are heliotrope (Tournefortia) trees. That one in the back is the biggest one on the island and the rest are pretty much just bushes.

This is LaPerouse Pinnacle. It's the last remaining part of the original island. It's still 120 feet tall. This is where the peregrine was hanging out and where the blue noddies used to live.

These are some Blue noddies on Nihoa. Here's are Brown and Black noddies for comparison.

Brown noddy.

Black Noddy. It normally looks more black than this, but the sun was really bright.

Since I showed you the noddies from Nihoa, here's another bird I saw there. This is a Nihoa finch in a native popolo plant (Solanum nelsonii). They are endemic to Nihoa. They are endangered since they are found nowhere else.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Almost Week 2

It's been a windy, rainy week. Since there's only 1 scrawny coconut tree on the island, there isn't much to stop the wind. The birds like it though. The fledglings are learning quickly how to lift off and land.
I've been pretty busy learning the ropes. The hardest part is trying to find things. I've had to do a few minor repairs and it's taken me far longer to find the tools than to do the work.
There are a couple of vagrant birds hanging around. One is a female Northern pintail duck (I haven't got a picture yet) that will probably stay around for the winter and fatten up for spring. There is also a peregrine falcon which I saw being chased by the white terns. The white terns seem to be the only ones that try to chase away birds of prey on these islands. The peregrine has pretty much taken care of the population of blue noddies (formerly called blue-gray noddies) that nest on La Perouse Pinnacle. Last time anyone went out there they found only 1. Next week I'll give you a picture of the coconut tree, La Perouse Pinnacle, and some blue noddies on Nihoa.
I didn't cook ramen for everyone's meal last week. I kept it fairly simple though until I learn my way around the pantry and cupboards a little better. I just made spaghetti with sauce from a jar (and a couple extra veggies and spices). Most people do it up a little more than that. So far the food has been really good. Right now we are on a 6 day rotation (supper only) and Sundays we fend for ourselves. We have 7 people, but our IT person who's here for a week, doesn't have to cook. She's been making good deserts anyway.

This is the sign greeting people from the plane. It's posted up on our tractor shed. It should really have flip numbers since the population fluctuates a little.

The masked boobies and brown noddy fledglings like to sit on the runway.

The frigate birds like windy days. Here's two young ones.
Our seawall is in bad shape so one of our daily projects, which we also take turns doing, is called the entrapment walk. We just look in all these spaces around the island to make sure no birds, turtles, or seals are stuck in there. It takes about 45 minutes to walk around the island.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Here

After about 10 weeks I finally made it to Tern Island! It’s a lot like Midway but much smaller, no trees (or bowling alley), and we have to take turns cooking. Right now there are 6 of us here in rotation so I’ll get my first chance to cook for the group on Friday. The food pantry is stocked pretty well but I think I’ll try something easy. There’s about a 2 year supply of ramen packages so maybe I’ll just boil some of those up.

The room I moved into needs some work. I’ve got to evict about 20 brown widow spiders (I heard they aren’t quite as poisonous as black widows). I’ll also need to try to coax the roaches into someone else’s room. We also don’t have a clothes dryer so we use a line outside. You just have to ignore the white stains that you get on everything from the birds.

Today was a holiday so I got a chance to snorkel off the east side of the island. The fish and coral are pretty much the same as at Midway, but the current is a lot stronger since the reef doesn’t surround the whole atoll like it does at Midway.

I’ll probably be here until about March before I get some time off the island. It looks like it will be busy around here, but I think I’ll love it.

This is the plane we take. We have to fly about 40 min. from Honolulu to Kauai, top off the fuel, then fly about 2 and a half hours to Tern. It can only take 720 lbs. so that's usually only about 3 people and gear.

This used to be a tennis court for the Coast Guard station that was here. Now it catches our water for the barracks. It only runs through 2 filters and a UV light, so it smells a little weird. We use a lot of tea/Kool-aid/Crystal Light/Tang etc. mixes.

One of the cool things is that you get to see endangered species through the window. A Hawaiian Monk seal is sleeping about 20 feet away from the barracks.

This is the view from the southeast corner of the island to the northeast corner. As you can see, it's not that big! A few Black-footed albatross are sitting at the end of the runway.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quick Trip to Tern

Ok, here is the new blog! Thanks for waiting. By the way, I won't be doing this daily because it takes a lot of time, so maybe once a week or so. We'll see.

I've been in Honolulu for about 2 months waiting to get out to Tern Island, and I finally got a chance to get out there last week for a day. The Kahana (supply ship) was bringing up a work crew and I can't be there permanently until Nov. 10th, so I took a ride up. On the way up we stopped by Nihoa, the first island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. People need special permission to go onto the island so it's really special to get there. The crew we dropped off had to check on the endangered/endemic Nihoa finches and Nihoa Millerbirds. I got a chance go on the island for about 20 minutes. There was a native Hawaiian settlement there up through the 1700's so there are ruins of terraces and other interesting archeological items. Nihoa is important in Hawaiian culture so a cultural monitor accompanies the groups that go to Nihoa to perform a spiritual ceremony and make sure that things are not disturbed.

Tern island is small. It's only about 30 acres, we catch rain for our drinking water, and we use mostly solar power (generator backup). We do have internet, but no TV. I'm just giving you a brief preview and you'll get more of the story on my later posts when I actually get out there.

Here's a picture I took of the Kahana at Midway. For those of you who watch "Lost", it is the ship that got blown up in season 4. It was a 6 day trip to Tern and back. Great food by the way!

A view of Nihoa from the southwest.
Looking east down the Tern Island runway. The barracks are on the right.

As you can see, the barracks are right on the water, so it's a nice view for the volunteers (my room looks at the other barracks rooms).