02 November 2010

Rest of September, 2006

I need to ramp up my catching-up efforts on this blog!  Thus, I'll include some pictures from the rest of September 2006 in this post.

In case you're just joining in... all these pictures were taken on... well, the sign on Tern Island sums it up well:

You'll notice it says "No trespassing"... that's true since Tern Island has so many nesting seabirds, etc.  Secondly, no, I sure didn't see anyone that was going to be trespassing!  You'll also notice how the sign is covered in bird crap.  Everything was there.  In fact, it was on our weekly list of things to do: clean solar panels of all the bird poop."

Another sign on Tern Island was this one:

You'll notice the "4" and "6" are changeable.  That's because the population on the island can range from 3-4 all the way up to 15 or so.

Moving on from signs, here are a couple pics of adult male GREAT FRIGATEBIRDS:

Frigatebirds are amazing for many reasons.  First, they are amazingly efficient kleptoparasites.  This essentially means they steal their food from other birds (kind of like pirates).  Other kleptoparasites include jaegers and some raptors, etc.  However, they were also adept at snatching other seabird chicks right out of their nests!  Looking at the long and hooked bill on the above males, you can imagine how efficient they were at raiding nests!

Secondly, the skeleton of a frigatebird actually weighs LESS than the summed weight of their feathers!  In fact, they have the largest wingspan to body-weight ratio of any bird on earth (males can have wingspans of over 6 ft but only weigh 2-4 lbs).

They're strictly aerial and can stay flying for over a week!  They're oceanic birds but they can't even perch on the water.  Kinda cool, huh?  It was an every-day scene to have dozens swirling around the island in the wind.  Here is a typical view of a flying youngster:

Here is another youngster, complete with some down poofing out:

One of the more uncommon residents of Tern Island (at least while I was there) were the GRAY-BACKED TERNS.  I honestly thought they looked quite similar to the Bridled Terns that nest near Florida.  Alas, these terns are definitely distinctive from Bridled's.  Here is an adult Gray-backed:

Here is a picture of a young Gray-backed that was still rather fond of land when I arrived on the island:

Maybe not as exciting, here is another (calm) BROWN NODDY:

While talking about "brown" birds, I snapped a shot of this BROWN BOOBY, the rarest of our nesting boobies.  In fact, these don't actually breed on Tern Island proper, but La Perouse Pinnacle instead (more on La Perouse later):

Here is another look at an adult RED-FOOTED BOOBY, one of the abundant species:

It was a shame I wasn't on Tern during the peak of shearwater breeding because I absolutely was fascinated by the CHRISTMAS SHEARWATERS.  I don't know much about them but by the time I arrived on the island, there were just a handful left from the breeding season.  Here are a couple pictures of one:

One of the special inhabitants of French Frigate Shoals are the Hawaiian Monk Seals.  Besides these guys being endangered, they were almost constantly loafing outside our building!  Here's a picture I took of a resting seal from the living room window:

We ventured out on the sand spit at the end of the island for some snorkeling.  Here's a typical view: sand, birds, and lots of sky and water:

While standing out on the sand spit, this RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD decided to zoom by:

I experimented with my underwater camera housing again.  Playing around in the surf, I took a couple pictures of the beach/water:


Once underwater, you can see us checking out some of the coral formations near the island:

Maybe the scariest thing in the water that day was this creature: