After 4.5 days of counting, we have completed 19 of 50 sectors on Sand Island and the largest 6 of 10 sectors on Eastern. We are doing super well and a big part of that is the removal of the invasive plant verbesina. Verbesina is in the daisy family. On Midway, it grew to 4+ feet tall. When it dies back, it becomes woody and is very hard for counters to get through and can be a death trap to the birds. We counted sectors today that in the past might have taken 2 teams to count in one day. It only took us hours today. Our team counted 3 different sectors today. We counted the sectors know as Where’s Waldo and the Parade Field.
Many years ago the rats were eradicated from Midway. As a result, the Bonin petrel population has exploded. They are really cool little birds that come in from sea at dusk and tend to fly into your head lamps because they are attracted to the light. It’s always a wonderful sight to see them coming in because they fill the sky. With the explosion of the population comes the increased number of burrows. They make the nest under ground. When we step into a burrow, we have to repair it. We clean the sand out and make sure that there are no birds buried in the sand. Some times we have to build a ramp so a bird can climb out. In any case, it mean getting down on your hands and knees and digging with your hand. This does not make counting easier. We now employ a method of counting called “air counting.” We do not mark each nest. Instead, the people on the end of the lines paint lines along the edge of where they are counting and look towards the next team member and count the nest between each other. It’s a good method for avoiding burrows.