Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another Interesting Week

We had a pretty interesting week for Tern island. Biologically, we got done with our fourth and final albatross sweep where every nest is checked to see if birds are banded or not. On Monday, the first Laysan albatross chick hatched. They are starting to pop out everywhere now. The Sooty terns are flying over the island by the thousands, and every day more show up to fly around. They don't land, for the moment, but one of these days they'll all decide it's time to sit and pick nesting spots.

A few days ago we had a visit from a helicopter. It must have been military from a ship since we are kind of out of range for anyone else. They just flew around the atoll for an hour or so, then went back where they came from. I guess they just wanted to check out the atoll.

We also had a supply plane come in on Saturday. They meant to turn right around and head back to Honolulu, but they blew a tire from having to brake so fast on our short, bird-filled runway. So they got to stay the night, and we were happy to have them since they brought us mail and fresh food which we hadn't got since Dec. 4. We've been having a lot of canned stuff lately. Today, another plane flew in with some new wheels and a mechanic to change them. The pilot was Bob Justman, who flew here for many years. Today was his 663rd flight out here. He was pretty good at dodging the birds.
My big project for tomorrow is fixing the kitchen/common room lights. It was kind of cool making dinner by kerosene lantern light, but I think I'd rather have a little better light so I can at least get most of the ants and fruit flies out of my food.

Here's the first Laysan albatross chick.

This is the unknown helicopter flying off into the sunset.

This doesn't roll so well anymore.

Bob J. was showing us a picture similar to this from a few years ago, except his plane was the one with the flat.

This picture was from last week. Kelly is taking the turtle out of the net so we can put it back over the seawall. This isn't the same turtle as in my last week's post. This one is a little bit bigger, but it was in the same spot.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Albatrosses are Hatching

Another busy week on Tern Island, of course it always is. The black-footed albatross chicks started hatching last Monday, which was a little earlier than expected. There aren't too many yet and the weather has been cool (high 60's, low 70's) and windy, so the parents aren't getting up to let us see exactly how many are hatching. The Laysan albatrosses are starting to poke holes in their eggs (pip), but aren't out yet.

The plane to Midway flew over today, so I got to chat with a couple of people on their way to Midway, like Matt (Midway Manager), Susan (Monument Supervisor), and Robyn (Regional Director). I don't know why, but for some reason that's more fun than chatting on the phone, even though it's hard to hear and we don't say much. We can't see the plane from down here because it's too small and high, but they can see us. I posted a picture of Tern from that plane on my Midway blog back in Sept. '07.

We ran out of fresh vegetables a few weeks ago, but we're expecting a plane this week with supplies and mail. The next plane after that is a month from now, so we should be able to almost make it until then.

This chick is right by the front door, so it will be easy to keep an eye on. The parent is shading it from the direct sun and talking to it so the chick knows it's voice when it comes back to feed it (I may anthropomorphize a little, but it's better than using technical terms).

We've had to rescue a couple of green sea turtles from behind the seawall this week. I found this turtle today in a pool and had to catch it and put it back out over the seawall. I had my underwater camera so I snapped a picture of it in the pool before I caught it. It was about 14" across. You can see a picture of where they get stuck on the Dec. 14 post.

The red-tailed tropicbirds are coming back. Last month we'd only see one here or there, but now there are about 100 flying around squawking in the afternoons.

A couple of endangered monk seals are sleeping on the beach while a Laysan albatross flies over.

There are a whole lot of these little black noddy chicks around now. This one is a neighbor in the same bush as the one from last week.

I haven't shown you many pictures of the facilities around here, so since I talked about getting food on the plane, I'll show you our food storage room. You can see we aren't in any danger of starving, even without this plane.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

More Rain

It's kind of been a weird week, weather wise. It's been either really nice or really bad. Not much in between. Yesterday, I spent the entire morning mopping up water that leaked through the roof and windows. We've had a few beautiful sunny days too. At least we weren't shoveling snow like some of you are doing.

There are a lot of chicks hatching right now. One red-tailed tropicbird has a chick, one white tern has a chick, and there are a lot of black noddy chicks hatching today. The black-footed albatross are about a week away from hatching and the Laysan albatrosses, about 2 or 3 weeks yet.
The nights have been beautiful for the most part too. The moon has been so bright, it's almost like daylight. I've got a couple pictures for you.
Here's the white tern parent hovering by its chick.

This black noddy chick is still hatching. It's back half is still in the shell. I couldn't get a good picture of that though.

This is the view from the roof a few nights ago just before midnight. I took a 30 second exposure, so it wasn't really this bright. The bright "star" in the sky is Venus.

This is looking north from the island. This picture looks really nice at full resolution, but that's too big to upload. If your screen has decent resolution, you can see the stars. This was another 30 second exposure. There was a turtle swimming around at the bottom of the picture, but since it's dark and moving, you can't tell at all.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy 2009

The volunteers had another busy week with the birds. Every week they either have to read the band on every albatross on an egg. They switch weeks to do Black-footed one week and Laysans the next. It usually takes them about 3 or 4 full days to get that done. While they do that I usually take care of the admin stuff, learn some more about this place, inventory everything on the island, and fix whatever broke recently or needs fixing. This week it was water filters, the warehouse wall, the boats, covering a large pipe so no one falls in, and a some other random jobs.
Since we're out of the holiday season now and are going to be back to 6 days a week, we should be able to do quite a bit more around here. We got out snorkeling on New Year's Day, so that was nice. The current was really fast near the island though, so we really couldn't stop to look at things, but I got a couple of pictures. The white-tip sharks were there as usual. The girls counted 6 of them at once. I couldn't really count them becuase I couldn't tell if I was seeing new ones or the same 2 every time. At least we don't have to do counts of all the fish around here.

Here's a snorkel pic at sunset with some water drops on the lens.

This is an old Jeep that the Coast Guard (or the Navy????) dumped in the water when they were done with it

This black-footed albatross got a net caught on it. It probably had fish eggs attached to it, which these birds love. A few snips with the scissors took care of it, but the net had worn into the skin a little and was blocking it's throat a little too. It's doing fine now.

I haven't shown you a white tern since my Midway blog, so here's one.

I thought at first that the bird in back was a white tern, but it's actually a brown noddy that's almost albino. It's bill and eyes are dark though. It was born a couple of months ago so its about the same age as the bird in front. We never see albino or almost albino adults of any birds around here. We think that them being in the sun all the time does them in.

The male great frigatebirds are starting to practice attracting the females. They aren't quite ready to nest yet though.