Home Again

ImageI’m home and it still feels weird. There is something so magical about Midway and it is hard to come back.

The Short Tailed Albatross chick hatched 2 days after we left. This is the third chick that has hatched outside of Japan. This pair are very good parents and I’m sure if all goes well at sea, they will fledge another healthy chick. Take a look at the FWS website for video and pictures.

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll/Whats_New_Short_Tailed_Albatross.html

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Bachelor Short Tailed Albatross who sits by the runway waiting for his true love to come.

Thought I would share some of my favorite pictures. The albatross nest count and Midway hold a great place in my heart. I hope to return again many times. Met some wonderful people this year and renewed old friendships with other. It is just MAGICAL.

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Black foot telling me where to go.

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David’s first large glass ball. He was ecstatic.

Bettina with her big find.

Bettina with her big find.

Bob and the girls

Bob and the girls
Me, Char, Bob, Gunilla, and Betty.

Gunilla's hat

Gunilla from Sweden. She left this hat and found it in the volunteer clothing.

Water take off.

Water take off.

Buoy Boy

Buoy Boy

Sector called "Where's Waldo?"

Sector called “Where’s Waldo?”

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Grass

There is always something to do here on Midway. Today was plant bunch grass day. Bunch grass is a native plant that is out planted to provide shelter, shade, and nesting material for the birds. It also acts as a seed barrier to prevent invasives from spreading. By planting bunch grass at road edges, it helps to hold blowing seeds out of the path of bicycles and golf carts therefore not allowing the seeds to be transferred to other areas of the island.

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Greg Schubert of Fish and Wildlife Services shows team how to plant grass.

During the past year the old dangerous Marine barracks were torn down and removed and soil and sand brought in to fill the area out.  Before we started it was a very large, white, open sandy spot with very few birds nesting on it. The birds that did nest in the area are previous nesters who had found spots around the buildings. It could take several years before new nesters discover the spot. And when they do, they will have grass for nesting material.

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Bunch grass shoots.

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780 pots of shoots were planted in just a few hours.

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Mature Bunch Grass

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Nest lined with Bunch Grass.

 

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Joy Ride

Our last Sunday and we have the whole day off. I slept late and wandered up to breakfast early so I could enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch. It was a perfect day, warm and just light breezes. Sunday is brunch day so there is both breakfast and lunch foods. Pot stickers were the highlight for me. 

After brunch, Betty, Char, Gunilla, and I went for a long ride out to see the short tailed albatross who sits by the runway. We sort of took a wrong turn so we had to go all the way to the end of the runway to be able to get to the side with the short tail. Turned out to be a very nice ride. Not much head wind so the pedaling was easy. Stopped to check out the beach where the WWII pillbox is. It is a small concrete box that young soldiers would watch for approaching enemy day and night. Storms and the ocean are gradually claiming it.

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World War II pillbox

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Incoming formation

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Man-of-war jelly fish on beach near the pillbox.

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Mr. Handsome

After a second go at the pot stickers, I rode down to turtle beach. The turtles were taking advantage of the beautiful day too. There were 24 turtles resting in the sun.

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Turtle Beach

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Turtle by old seaplane ramp

The highlight of the day was a cruise in the lagoon. Richard took 10 of us for the “Joy Ride.” First off he made sure everyone in the bow got soaked. I made the mistake of sitting up there. It was fun, sort of like being on a theme park water ride. Then we turned back and started looking for dolphins. No luck today. Instead, we visited a couple of rafts of albatross. A raft is a group of birds all sitting together on the water. You just don’t see this very often from shore. A number of them were bathing which was amazing to watch. Some even flipped entirely over on their backs with their wings stretched out, bellies up and webbed feet up in the air.

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A raft of albatross.

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Big bird bath.

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Bird breach.

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Pau (Done)

I was thinking yesterday that we would have a full day of counting today. However our directive was to finish sectors 1 and 6 by lunch time. To get to these sectors by bicycle would have taken a long time due to head winds so we took the limos (8 seater golf carts one for each team). There is just something fun about riding around in a golf cart. This year we took a new attack with sector 1. This sector has a large amount of naupaka and the birds manage to walk under it to the darnedest places to nest. The whole sector was carved into about 5 smaller sections with pathways that lead to the beach. Each team took a section and we split the team in half and gradually worked from the beach and the runway to meet up with each other in the middle. This really worked quite well. The Verbesina Team has cut pathways perpendicular to our paths which also made getting to the center of the naupaka a lot easier. I found a monk seal at the end of one of my passes. Luckily I didn’t disturb his/her sleep.

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Young monk seal resting on Frigate Point

Sector 6 was divided into 3 pieces and each team took a chunk of it. Our part was a long strip of beach with naupaka on the other boundary. Not a lot of birds in this area but you still have to look. I did find some White Terns that were willing to be photographed.

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White tern

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Gunilla from Sweden and White Terns

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The Wandering Totalers L-R MK, Gunilla, Hob, Char, Jill, and Betty.

As we finished, we looked at our watches and saw that it was 11:25. We got it all done before lunch and had the rest of the day off. So I got a little domestic and did laundry and helped Jill inventory and put away the gear. It was a nice easy going afternoon. Tomorrow is a free day and Monday and Tuesday we will help FWS with what ever they need us to do. Could be anything.

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Fun Friday

Our team has really come together nicely in the last few days. We got our Gunilla back today. She had gone to work with the burrows specialist team for about 3 days. Yesterday, team leader Jill said that if she did her job right she could disappear and we would continue to work like a well oiled machine. Well, this morning Char and Betty and myself did just that. We followed another team out to sector 9 and the 3 of us started work on our portion of the sector without Jill. We were probably 2/3s done with the sector before Jill could join us. We had fun just the 3 of us moving through the sector and knocking it out. We were also joined by the white terns. They love to fly around your head and look at you like “What are you doing?”

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Team leaders: L-R Jill, Richard, Jenny, Martha, Breck

This afternoon we went down to what is know as Frigate Point, the most western point of the island. We counted the open area of sector 1 before everyone goes crashing through the naupaka in search of nest tomorrow. As an early explanation of what tomorrow will be like, we walked some of the paths that have been cut to make sector 1 a little less confusing. These path lead to the beach area which also must be checked for nest. This is a beautiful beach area that the birds just love to glide down. Tomorrow will be a good day regardless of how hard the work is.

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Frigate Point

On our way home we went by the bachelor Short Tailed Albatross. Today he was on other side of the road from where I normally see him and he was dancing for a Black Foot. Jill tells us that sometimes he will harass a Black Foot until it gets off its nest. Then the Short Tail will incubate until he gets bored and leaves. Luckily the Black Foot never confuses this big yellow headed bird for its mate and therefore he returns to incubating as soon as the intruder leaves.

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Short Tailed Albatross

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What’s for Dinner?

One of the perks of volunteering for the annual albatross survey is the 3 squares a day. Midway has a 5 star Thai chef who is up at 2 AM every morning for an hour of meditation and then off to start the meals each day. There is always a wide variety of food to choose from both American and Thai for all meals. You can request omelets in the morning and on Thursdays you can get short order sandwiches for lunch. The hamburgers are like the old fashioned ones you could get at a good grill back before the days of fast food chains. On both Christmas and New Year’s Day, we had a sit down lunch with ham, chicken, beef, pork, fish, deviled eggs, a huge variety of salads and many different pies, cookies, brownies, and soft serve ice cream. If you go hungry, it’s your fault.

One of the newest things they have added since I was last here is a coffee machine. This is not like the coffee maker you have at home. This one make all kinds of coffees and even hot chocolate. 

 

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The miracle (and only) coffee machine

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Choices, choices, choices

The Thais also maintain a hydroponic green house in which they grow lettuces, green onion, cucumber, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers to make that Thai food hot, and some Thai herbs. The salads are the best here because they pick the lettuce an hour before the meal. We get fed very well while on Midway.

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Cauliflower

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Lettuce

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Pepper

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Tomato buds

 

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What Do the Birds of Midway Do on New Year’s Day?

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Some birds soar.

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Some birds run.

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Some birds stretch. This is a Ruddy Turnstone.

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They moo at each other.

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And they show off their feathers.

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Some birds sleep …

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and they sleep …

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and they sleep …

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and they sleep some more.

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Some birds just know.

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And they all are beautiful.

Betty and I were the only counters to stay up for New Year’s last night. It was a lot of fun and I won’t miss another New Year’s celebration if I am on Midway. I think it was the first time for both of us and it is our third trip for each of us out here.

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Betty and Chef Noum

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Noum, JR, and me.

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