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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.


1 comment:

  1. Is the same location that was a U.S. Navy base during World War Two?


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