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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Volunteering at Tern

Usually there is one US Fish & Wildlife Service person on Tern with three or four volunteers, to do all of the biological monitoring, maintenance, safety, and enjoying this unique location.  Its a lot of work, sun, wind and bird doo.  But it can also be extremely satisfying. 

Here's from two volunteers:  Sarah Youngren, who volunteered last winter, and is coming back to help me out this winter, on why she volunteers at FFS; and Trish Jackson, on her present experiences on Tern.

Sarah Youngren:

Sarah Youngren on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, Spring 2010
 Hi *waves* my name is Sarah Youngren and I have found that migration isn't just for the birds! I spent last winter as a volunteer on Tern, and enjoyed this once in a lifetime experience so much that......I'm coming back for another 6 months!

I was given a formal introduction to the land of the island nesting seabird in July of 2008 while working on a project through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I finished up my bachelors (Biological Sciences from UAF) in December of that year, and have been living the transient seabird researching field biologist lifestyle ever since (summers in Alaska. winters a bit closer to the equator) and loving every minute of it!  I'm really excited to return to Tern because I feel that I have even more to offer to the year than I did last, have gained greater perspective on the biology and workings of the island. Some time in the not so distant future, I plan on returning to school using the field skills I have gained working on varied projects towards my own masters or phd project!

Trish Jackson:

I have been at Tern Island for over a month now and feel this to be one of the most memorable events of my life.  At times I have the urge to pinch myself thinking this experience is so unlike anything imaginable or explainable.  I've asked my husband to send me a tape recorder so I can capture the most unusual sounds that come from this island.  From the soothing sounds of the surf just outside my bedroom window to the haunting sounds some of the birds make at night and the chatter and squawking of all during the day.  Even though I have much to learn, I have already encountered many new and interesting things since joining this small group who seem just as awe struck as I.  The rest of the world can only attempt to imagine such things as I have experienced.


Trish Jackson, at Tern Island/French Frigate Shoals, Fall 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Schools and InTerns

We will be starting our first partnerships with some Hawai'i schools this winter -- Each volunteer will be matched with a class to work on a project together.  Thanks to the supporting teachers, classes, and principals from Roosevelt High School, Lana'i High School, the Hawaii Center for Deaf and Blind, and `Iolani School!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Welcome to the New French Frigate Shoals / Tern Island 2011 Blog!

Aloha kākou! E komo mai o French Frigate Shoals and Tern Island.

The staff and volunteers at Tern Island are in the midst of change – Station Manager Pete Leary left at the end of September, and will be starting as the Midway Wildlife Biologist in November.  Congratulations, Pete!!  Pete has kept a blog going for Tern Island for a couple years (Tern Island Times) -- we can't replace his amazing photographs and unique perspective, but hope to keep readers going with this new blog.

Photo:  Tern Island Crew in September 2010, with marine debris on Tern.  From left to right:  Sarah Harvey (volunteer), Phillip Harvey (volunteer), Paula Hartzell (staff), Pete Leary (staff), Ty Benally (staff, sitting), and Keith Burnett (volunteer).

Ty Benally is Acting Manager for the Fall season, working with volunteers Phillip Howard, Patricia Jackson, Keith Burnett, and Sarah Harvey.  They will keep the Tern Island Station going until the next change-over in personnel at the end of November.  (Photo)    Paula Hartzell will be the new manager in December, with volunteers Sarah Youngren, Dan Rapp, Jimmy McCaulley and Kristina Dickson.  Melinda Conners will be continuing her research on albatross and boobies, as well as volunteering.

Photo:  First black-footed albatross on Tern Island for the 2011 albatross season (October 2010).  Photo by Keith Burnett.

Our first albatross returned to Tern Island this week!  (Photo)  You can see the yellow and black band on the albatross in front – E126.  It was last seen on Tern in 2008.  Over the next few months, many of the albatross that were born on Tern will be returning.  The earliest arrivals are the black-footed albatross; the Laysan albatross are expected shortly. 
Those returning albatross that are still 'teens' will be flirting with others, learning how to act like an adult, learning their dance, getting to know potential mates.  Those teens are called 'walkers' (as opposed to 'nesters).
Many of the albatross that are a little older will find a mate, lay a nest, and raise their next chick.  Albatross go back to the same place to nest -- not only the same island, but the same spot.  They stay with the same partner as long as they are both alive, and they greet each other with an elaborate dance, with much head-ducking, wing flapping, 'mooing' sounds, and bill clapping.  It is amazing to watch.
Albatross don't always lay an egg every year; they may wait 2, 3 or even 4 years before they try to raise another chick.  Their health and body fat influence how often they come back.  Being fat is a good thing for these birds -- they have to fly hundreds and even thousands of miles, and deal with cold air and cold water.  Because albatross only have one chick at a time, often skip years between breeding, and because many, many of the chicks die from ingested plastics, each chick is very important.
We look forward to this year's albatross season -- as well as to the many other species which breed in French Frigate Shoals. 

A hui hou—Until next time.


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