Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Manager

OK, it's supposed to be official as of today that I am the new manager of Tern Island. I was only "acting" manager up until now. I had to be here a year before I was eligible for the increase in grade. It won't change anything, but I'll at least get a raise.

We've been busy, as usual, out here. This time we've been clearing out the warehouse so the construction work can start in a week or so. It's really difficult to find other places to store all that, since that's why we have the warehouse in the first place. They should be done with it by late Nov, so I'll just have to keep things cluttered until then.

I've still had time to continue with my jogging. I decided 5k wasn't enough excercise though, so I bumped it up to 10k. Now that's enough excercise, at least for the time being. That's 5 laps around the runway. The scenery is great, so it doesn't get old. And some of the meaner birds like to try to peck my head at certain spots on the loop. It keeps me paying attention at least.

We'll be starting our flights this weekend. Many of the sooty terns have gone and I hope even more leave by the weekend so none of them get hit. The Kahana will be coming up on Labor day to bring the rest of the construction gear and 3 new volunteers. Ty will also be coming out from Honolulu to act as manager while I get my time off the island in Oct/Nov. So there's only one more week of 5 people, then by next week, we'll be back up to about 13 people. It makes cooking night a little harder, but other than that, it should be alright.

I took a little time this week to go out with Whitney and band some Bulwer's petrel chicks. We have these nest boxes for them since it hard for them to dig burrows with all the coral chunks everywhere. They use them quite a bit. Here, there are 3 chicks out of 4 nest boxes.

There was another nice sunset this evening.

This red-footed booby was just watching me work on the tractor.

This is one of my favorite little fish. It's a Hawaiian cleaner wrasse. They have little cleaning stations where bigger fish come to get cleaned. This picture is a little blurry, but I've been trying to get a picture of one forever, so this is as good as it gets.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tern Island - Population: 5

I thought being on a little island out in the middle of the ocean meant kicking back, reading some books and watching the wildlife. Not quite, apparently. We had 2 more ships this week. Really, they were the same 2 as last week, but instead of big offloads, we had big onloads. The Sette came through on Thursday and picked up the seal crew and all of their stuff. They also picked up the 6 seal pups that they tagged last week. I got an email from them saying that they let them go at Nihoa and everything is good with them. I hope they make it. We had one pup that just weaned that didn't make it. It was attacked by a shark a couple of days ago, but finally died yesterday, probably from infection.

The Kahana came today to pick up all of our trash and recycling from the last 5 months. Elizabeth also went aboard and is headed back to Honolulu. We are now down to the usual island poplulation of 5. Four volunteers and me. It's more cooking nights, entrapment walks, and cleaning duties for each of us, but it's kind of nice to have it so low key. All of the people who come out here are great, but it's just nice to have it slow down sometimes. When the construction on the warehouse starts in a few weeks, we'll be back up to 15 again. So I'm enjoying it while I can.

We're getting all of our trash into pallet tubs to put on the Kahana this morning.

We're bringing out a boatload of gear to the Sette.

A young brown booby was checking out our propellers as we waited to pull up to the Sette.

This is a brown noddy with its albino chick. It can fly now, but the parent still feeds it. Like I've told you before about albinos, seabirds don't usually make it to adulthood. There are a lot of factors working against them like bad eyesight, sun damage, being picked on, more obvious to predators, etc.

Just a gecko on the window.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More Groceries

It's been a very busy week with 2 ships and people coming and going. We offloaded the ship all day Saturday and had a couple of loads on Sunday morning, but we've got everything we need and we're back up to "good" on the food supply. And more importantly, we're good on the TP now too.

No one left on the Kahana today, but Elizabeth came on island to work on our emergency planning and supplies. She'll catch the Kahana on its way back from Midway to get back to Honolulu.

The volunteers have been working extra hard, so after the ship left this morning, I took them out for a reef survey where we snorkel around and look for entanglement hazards. We only found one net, but saw a lot of nice coral and fish. We also watched "Jaws" two nights ago. I remember when I first saw that as a kid. I was even scared to jump into the deep end of a pool for a couple of years. The one white-tip shark I saw today didn't worry me, but I think I'll wait on letting new volunteers watch it until after they've seen a few sharks. Along those lines, I think it's probably good that we don't have a copy of "The Birds" on island.

This is the landing craft from the Kahana bringing our food and construction materials.

A few of us took a break after work a couple days ago to go jump in the ocean.

This seal is going to be relocated to Nihoa where it will have a better chance of surviving than here. It's got a satellite tracker on it's back so it can be monitored. If no one is around to remove the device, it will just fall off when the seal molts.

Whitney is swimming through a school of little fish.

Here's Therese and Mark swimming around a nice bunch of coral.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Food and Mail

The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette stopped by today and brought us some food. Even though Sunday is "fend for yourself" day when it comes to food, we decided it should be a big salad night, since everyone was probably going to have one anyway. I'm not really that big of a salad person, but I must say, it was pretty good. At least we've finally got more ingredients than pasta and beans (a slight exaggeration, but barely). It was great to get the mail today too. It's been a few months since our last mail. Thanks for the package, Dasha! The Kahana is also coming later this week to bring us even more food and supplies, so as usual it's either feast or famine around here.

We now have 2 fewer people on island. Jon, Austin, and Mike (shark catchers) left to catch the plane at Midway next week. Derek and Monica (monk seal biologists) also left to go to Laysan to do some seal work there for a week or so. We got 3 new visitors too. Charles, Bob, and Tenaya are here to also work with monk seals. They are going to relocate 6 weaned pups to Nihoa, where pups have a higher survival rate than French Frigate Shoals. A pup just got bit by a shark this week, the morning after it's mother left. This one had one of it's rear flippers bitten off, so it probably won't make it since even the perfectly healthy ones have a tough time. We were bummed that it was a pretty healthy female, since the population needs females more than males at this point. I hope the seals do well on Nihoa. They'll be satellite tagged so that NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) can keep track of them for a little while at least.

Therese and Whitney are banding a Christmas shearwater chick. These are some of the best mannered birds on the island. They don't try to bite while they are being banded.

This Laysan albatross chick was just watching the waves smash the seawall a few inches in front of it. There are only a couple dozen left on the island now. All of the black-footed albatross are gone.

One more baby turtle picture for you. I sat by a nest a couple nights ago and waited for them to hatch out. I only had to sit there about 45 minutes until they decided it was time.

This is a bird I haven't shown you before. It looks just like a Great frigatebird, except for the white spots under its wing and it is a bit smaller. This is a Lesser frigatebird and they usually are found in the southern hemisphere.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blogspot Finally Works Again (for now)

I can finally do my own blogs again. Thanks for putting them up for me all those weeks Dasha. It must have been some setting that they changed, because our internet service is a little bit worse than usual. Oh well, it's always going to be something.

We've been finding more and more turtle hatchlings that are crawling around the island instead of finding their way into the water. They usually crawl toward light and with a bright, high moon like it is now, they sometimes go for the middle of the island instead of the surf.

The seal pups that have weaned also have been scooting up all over the island too. The runway isn't a good spot for them, so we have to put them back on the beach. I think they learn fairly quickly that there isn't much for them up here anyway.

We're getting ready for a couple of ships in the next couple of weeks. Next Sunday, the Sette will come and get the shark guys and 2 of the seal crew. They'll be dropping off 3 more people to help with some seal work that I'll tell you about next time. They'll also be bringing about 15 boxes of groceries for us, so we're kind of looking forward to that. A few days later, the Kahana will be bringing a lot of supplies and some construction materials to fix the warehouse up. We'll finally be getting some mail too. The last time we had that was in June. I hope people sent me some goodies!!

A baby green sea turtle is trying to get into the water. I put it in a bucket though and we let it go after sunset, since there are fewer fish and birds to eat them at night.

There was a question last week on the tagging. So Buzz, here's what the seal tags look like. This one was on Midway. They just put it on the tail flippers. With the sharks, they implant a tracking tag and they also give it a dorsal fin tag so they immediately if they've caught it before. I don't have pictures of that though.

This is a bush near the barracks that the black noddies love to nest in.

This is just a picturesque bush near the beach.

The brown noddies nest on the ground or on roofs and the chicks are usually white or gray when they are small. The black noddies nest in the bushes and the chicks are always black, except for the front of their head.