20 December 2010

December, 2006

With the onset of December 2006, I realized that I'd be leaving Hawaii in just 3 weeks.  I got back into the photographing mood and let loose.  Here are some photos from my last 3 weeks on Tern Island:

If you've ever wondered, yes, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses can and do hybridize (although quite infrequently).  Here is a hybrid bird that, as you can see, shows characteristics of both parents.  The interesting thing was that this bird couldn't "dance" correctly.  Since both species have species-specific dances, this bird never paired or mated:

A nonbreeding RUDDY TURNSTONE on some rocks (these guys only winter in Hawaii):

Adult breeding RED-FOOTED BOOBIES:

They're called RED-FOOTED BOOBY for a reason... here are two:

RED-FOOTED BOOBIES come in two different color morphs.  The more uncommon morph here in Hawaii is this creamy brown-morph:

A typical view of a WHITE TERN coming in and hovering near my head:

A BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS coming in to land at dusk:

This time of year the GREAT FRIGATEBIRDS are starting to think about pairing.  This male has started to inflate the red neck airsac (used for displaying):

Here is a typical view of some shorebirds (two RUDDY TURNSTONES on the left with a SANDERLING on the right):

Still a crowd-pleaser, the palest of the island inhabitants, a WHITE TERN:

Here is a close-up of a BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS.  Note the scruffy feathers on the top of the crown... we marked each individual bird (for resighting purposes) on the head with dark nail polish!  This way, we can see which birds we've resighted and which are new to the island:

Being this tame, it wasn't hard to stand over this adult breeding MASKED BOOBY and snap a picture:

Ever see the sparkle in a LAYSAN ALBATROSS eye?  Now you have:

I'm not sure if I've posted many pictures of RED-TAILED TROPICBIRDS, but here is one either on a nest or chick:

These birds are rather stunning in flight, even at a distance:

Here is a typical view of a BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS in flight.  Not too many birds have such long wings:

 I snapped this picture of a BONIN PETREL (BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS in the background) on one of my last nights on Tern Island.  This was about 10 feet from our front door:

Then came the day that I was to be flown back to civilization (Honolulu).  The flight came in without incident and before long, we were on-board and flying off the island!  Being back in civilization was quite an odd experience!  For example, I hadn't seen a car in 3 months.  I had also been on an island with the same 5-10 people for 3 months!  I didn't have much time to sight-see around but I couldn't help myself from taking a picture of this SPOTTED DOVE as I waited at the airport in Honolulu!

Another dove I photographed outside the airport was this ZEBRA DOVE:

I will try to put one more post together someday showing some random movie clips from the last 3 months in Hawaii.  Stay tuned.

12 December 2010

All of November!

I still haven't caught up to December 2006... so this post will summarize the entire month of November from Tern Island!

Unfortunately, I had been on Tern for long enough that perhaps I didn't take pictures of everyday life as often.  

The White Terns were still around though, including this pair in the evening light:

Here is a parent incubating its egg.  Note that former volunteers created a little clay/mud cup to help secure the egg.  Since White Terns lay their single egg on a bare branch or concrete, many roll right off:

A bird that doesn't belong on Tern Island was this CATTLE EGRET that showed up.  The seabirds constantly mobbed this thing though (which is a good thing since Cattle Egrets will eat chicks and eggs):

As I mentioned before, the albatrosses have come back in force now.  Here is a BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS stretching its wings.  It may be hard to imagine this... but that wing span is about 7 feet wide:

Watching albatrosses "dance" is really quite the neat experience.  Dancing is a big part of their pairing rituals.  If a bird doesn't dance, it doesn't mate.  For years I had seen footage like this on BBC shows and such... but now I could sit and watch this for myself:

The LAYSAN ALBATROSSES are back now as well.  They are slightly smaller with smaller bills, paler breast and head, and pale bills.  Here is a pair, obviously quite fond of each other:

If I haven't mentioned it before, the seabirds here are fearless.  Not only did I get hit in the head a couple times by passing albatrosses that were unaware of how big their wings really were, but I could snap a picture of birds and only get a responsive stare:

Maybe it was the fact that I had been on Tern Island for over a month or two by now, or maybe I just wanted a picture that LOOKED like I lived in a place with trees.  Here is a sunset shot including one of the few trees on the island (and some bushes on the right):

 Likewise, it was then that I started taking more abstract photos, including this one in my bedroom:

In the previous post I mentioned Tristram's Storm-Petrels and how they nest in burrows and boxes here on Tern.  Well, part of our work was to monitor all the nest burrows on the island.  How do you do that?  Well, with the night-vision burrow-cam, of course!  Here I am sticking this narrow, tube-like camera down a burrow while watching on a special set of monitor-glasses (with my head in a pillow case so that I  can see).  As I sat there moving this camera further and further in, all I would see is a black-and-white image of what the camera was seeing.  If we were lucky, I'd hold the camera steady and there in the back of the burrow would be a bird incubating an egg or even a chick!  This was likely my favorite work activity on Tern:

28 November 2010

Rest of October, 2006

I have fallen behind in updating my blog from 4 years ago... how much worse can I be?  Alas, I'll try to make up some ground by including pictures from the remainder of October 2006.

One thing that stood out about this period of October were some rarities that started to show up.  Being such a tiny speck of land in the middle of a very vast ocean, it was a fairly attractive spot for lost birds...

Here is a NORTHERN PINTAIL that showed up a stones-throw from our house.  Note that it's sitting in the only freshwater available on the island; a puddle on the catchment pad!  The bird went missing after a day or two; hopefully it made it somewhere it was supposed to be.

Some neat shorebirds also made appearances.  Here is a SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER.  This species is actually Asian and very rare in the lower 48 states.  However, Hawaii gets several of these each fall so it was not that much of a surprise.  We ended up seeing 3-4 different ones.

Another shorebird that showed up was this DUNLIN.  We only saw this one individual the entire fall:

Perhaps the rarest bird we found on Tern Island during our entire stay was this BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER.  Although they breed in Alaska, they migrate through the central part of the US, not the west coast.  Clearly this bird was VERY lost and I believe Hawaii had fewer than 5 state records:

These guys were the opposite of rare, the numerous WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATERS that nested on the island:

A personal highlight for me during my stay on Tern Island was getting to watch BONIN PETRELS.  These are very rare or nonexistent in the lower 48.  However, Tern Island hosts many breeding pairs every year.  These birds come to Tern Island only under the cover of nightfall (a nice way to be sneaky).  One night I wanted to see if I could find some of these petrels.  I remained very still as nightfall came over the colony and pretty soon, I could hear and even feel the wingbeats of this rarely-seen species.  Bonin Petrels rarely see humans and are thus very tame!  A quick click of the flashlight reveled one at my feet:

... and here is a look at one scurrying around on the ground, checking out holes for potential nesting spots:

Another thrill for me were the TRISTRAM'S STORM-PETRELS that nested on Tern Island.  In fact, we had buried nest boxes for these rare seabirds (which they use!).  With easy-open lids, we were able to check which boxes had nesting birds and which didn't.  Here is a quick glimpse into one of the boxes:

Another exciting event was the arrival of the first albatross!  Although the island was soon to be inundated with Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, here is the first BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS that arrived:

At this point in the season, I would often take my spotting-scope to the corner of the island and scope for passing seabirds.  I couldn't help but to snap a few pics of some rough seas to the north one evening:

Another thing I spotted while scoping was this vessel, something we definitely didn't see very often.  I forget now, but it may have been the NOAA vessel that was conducting some tests nearby:

Here is proof that I scoped seabirds once in a while.  And yeah, some music went a long way in helping me maintain sanity:

And lastly, more and more BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES started showing up as the month came to a close.  Here is a different albatross that recently arrived:

08 November 2010

First third of October, 2006

Still trying to gain some ground, I'll show pictures from the first third of October, 2006.

I realize I haven't shown much of our living quarters on Tern Island.  Well, here is a black-and-white version of some of our living room.  We also had a TV off to the left.  With no cable or anything, we used it only for watching movies.  You can also see the corner of the ping-pong table.  

This view shows our table and chairs and also the ping-pong table.  Here Jeff is clearly either playing ping-pong by himself or trying to juggle paddles:

I'm not sure how exactly it came about, but this scary scene being drawn by Jeff is supposed to be me prior to an imminent frigatebird and shark attack:

We also had a pool table in the living room area.  I greatly improved my pool skills (which didn't take much considering I don't play!) but also used it as a "I'm bored" photo opp.

Speaking of being bored though (shame on me, right?), this was probably my "bored look" on Tern... always with sunglasses.  It was also a great place to enjoy the sun, I didn't touch a single t-shirt for 2 months straight:

Out from our living quarters is a deck with a table that overlooks the "courtyard".  You might notice in the lower left corner of the picture how the building is raised up off the ground.  This gives the many shearwaters plenty of bare ground to wander around (although I'm sure this wasn't the real reason to have the building up off the ground).  Many of the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nested under the building and thus, the midnight wailing would commence:

In the courtyard is a shaggy little pine.  Here you can see the BLACK NODDIES and a WHITE TERN perched in it:

I may have mentioned how the WHITE TERNS will nest anywhere with a ledge of any sorts.  Here is one that is incubating its egg on a cement ledge:

I tried snorkeling again.  Although I never got pictures of any of them, we did see sharks but mostly Reef-Sharks, small little guys that weren't ever aggressive.  For some reason, I can never remember if we were seeing Blacktip or Whitetip's.  Anyway, here is proof that I actually did snorkel again:

... and a really crappy underwater photo!  I suspect this guy is another Convict Tang:

La Perouse Pinnacle was visible in the distance from my bedroom window.  Upon a closer look (we boated out to it a couple times), you can see the whole thing is covered in bird droppings.  This constant bombardment of nutrients from the poop have actually created some pretty interesting environmental conditions on the rock and also below it:

Here are some interesting things about La Perouse:

* It stands 120 feet tall.

* It is the oldest volcanic rock in the Hawaiian islands. 

* Scientists have found several new species to science on this one rock!

Back on land, about this time in the season one can expect most of the tropicbirds to have hatched.  Here is a spunky RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD chick peering at me from underneath its bush:

And if you haven't had your share of BLACK NODDIES by now, here is another look.  Pretty long bill on these guys, huh?

Many evenings I would wander up to this rigging and scope passing seabirds:  

Here are some of the sunsets, of which there were many: