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Friday, November 26, 2010

Crew Change and Thanksgiving

The Fall Crew left Tern on Tuesday -- again, many thanks to Phillip, Ty, Sarah and Keith for their months of hard work and dedication!

Fall 2010 Crew Members Keith Burnett, Phillip Howard, Sarah Harvey, Patricia Jackson, and Ty Benally (Nov 23, 2010)

The new crew arrived just in time for Thanksgiving, Tern Island style.  We are all thankful to be here, thankful for our families and friends and their good health, and the continued survival of seal pup T148, who has hung in there following a shark bite.  Go T148!

Team Tern for Thanksgiving Dinner, from left to right:  Patricia Jackson, James Macaulay, Melinda Conners, and Dan Rapp.  (Paula Hartzell taking photo)

Melinda's bread turkey! 

We're thankful seal T148 is still alive!  This seal, born this summer, received a serious shark bite, but is working hard at healing here at Tern.  There are so few Hawaiian monk seals left, each one is very important.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Headed to Tern (Hopefully!)

We're all set and ready to head out to Tern today -- Now, if the runway is just dry enough for us to land! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Next Week -- The exchange of crews on Tern

Aloha kakou!  This week is the final week for the crew currently on Tern:  Ty Benally, Phillip Howard, Sarah Harvey, and Keith Burnett.  They have done a great job, particularly in the face of numerous maintenance (and shark) issues.  This crew has been the first on Tern to quantify shorebird mortality, to look at wedgetail shearwater burrow habitats and chick weights.  They have also participated in the first vegetation monitoring in years, in addition to all the regular bird work. They will be heading out on the 23rd, back to Honolulu and home, after six months on the island.  Trish Jackson will be staying over for a few more weeks, while the new Team Tern comes in.   Thank you all for your hard work, patience with each other, and volunteered time!!!
Sunset on a very wet runway at Tern Island.   Photo by FWS Volunteer Keith Burnett.
Let's hope the runway dries out by Tuesday, or the crew exchange flight may be delayed!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Albatross nesting on Tern

Aloha kakou!  The albatross are nesting on Tern starting this week -- We already have three eggs in the ka'upu (black-footed albatross) plots! 

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to most of the breeding albatross in the world.  New nesters will continue to come in and lay new eggs over the next couple months.  Albatross come back to the same place each year, and lay only one egg at a time.  They generally come back to lay every other year, and don't lay another one that year if the first is lost, so survival of each chick is more important that for species that lay lots of eggs.  (This kind of strategy, where you invest a lot of time and energy into one offspring, is typical for long-lived species like albatross -- and humans.) 

One of the first moli (Laysan albatross) returning to nest on Tern this year.  'Aa (masked booby) in the background.
Photo by Keith Burnett.

These magnificent birds fly thousands of miles across the North Pacific, eating squid, but also fish.  They return to the place they were born to nest, though.  You may see the same bird behind a fishing boat in the Bering Sea, and find it nesting here in Hawai'i.  It is during this time that they often ingest plastics, when they see something brightly colored in the water, thinking it some yummy fishy goodness. 

Both moli and ka'upu populations were declining in the early 1990s.  The moli populations appear to be increasing since that time, but are more difficult to assess since their interannual nesting numbers vary a great deal from year to year.  The ka'upu return more regularly, and are increasing slowly but surely over the past ten years.  The ka'upu (black-footed albatross) in the photo below was banded as a 'teenager' in 2006, nested in 2007 and 2008, and then was gone in 2009. 

One of the first ka'upu (black-footed albatross) returned to nest on Tern this year. 
Photo by FWS Volunteer Keith Burnett.
Albatross chicks born on Tern get a plastic yellow-and-black band on their left foot (seen on this ka'upu).   Each bird also has a metal band on its right leg, in case the plastic band breaks -- but its much harder to read those bands, and less disturbing to the bird to read the big-lettered plastic bands.  These bands help us to identify the bird whenever it returns. 

Welcome back, albies!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Volunteers on Tern

From Keith Burnett, Volunteer on Tern since June 2010:

Having the opportunity to volunteer here on Tern Island and be a guest of the seabirds in their own home - away from most human influence - has been a real blessing.  Every morning before work I have the opportunity to walk down the runway to the East end of the island, enjoy the sunrise and see all the birds during the time they are most active.  It never ceases to put a smile on my face to be able to share the same space with thousands of birds who are more concerned with themselves than me as a human, and every day I see a new behavior, or perhaps even the same behavior that makes me laugh and view these birds as individuals and part of their own society.  Each bush, even, has its own story to tell with the chicks that have grown up and the adults that return to the same places each year.  This photograph is a nice diverse representation of most of the birds on the island and how they interact with their surroundings including Masked Boobys, Red-Footed Boobys, Brown and Black Noddys, Black-Footed Albatross, and Great Frigatebirds.  The only other seabird species not represented here that are regulars at Tern are the Sooty Terns and Laysan Albatross (who have left the island to feed and will return to breed) and the White Tern.

View of Tern Island Wildlife, Photo by Keith Burnett (FWS Volunteer)

The following is from Kristina Dickson, who will be heading out to Tern in December:

Hi, my name is Kristina Dickson and I am from Covington, LA.  I look forward to being one of the interns at Tern Island for the next 7 months. I am a 2009 graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in Biology. I spent a year studying marine biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which sparked my interest in marine mammal and seabird research.  Since graduating I have volunteered at the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas as a naturalist guide, interpreting animal behaviors and working to provide educational information about the exhibits to visitors. I have always loved the water and enjoyed swimming.  I swam competitively for 10 years and now enjoy applying my swimming ability to other water sports such as scuba diving, surfing, body boarding, and water polo. My overall goal while volunteering at Tern Island is to get more hands on experience in the marine science field and to make a contribution to the work being conducted out there. I look forward to learning more about marine mammals and seabirds, and I am excited to be able to see these animals living in an unspoiled habitat.  Living on a remote island is not something many people have the opportunity to experience and I hope to make the most of my time out on Tern Island. I am looking forward to joining the volunteer team on Tern Island and I hope that I can make a positive contribution to the program out there.

Kristina Dickson, Volunteering on Tern Dec 2010-June 2011.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shark Bit Fin!

Ty Benally and his shark-bit fin!  Photo by FWS volunteer Keith Burnett
Ty Benally, Acting Tern Manager, had a big surprise this weekend, when a shark bit his fin!!!  Ty and volunteer Keith Burnett report that a tiger shark came up and bit the fin off, then swam away.  Apparently, the Tern Island Speed Swimming Record was set shortly thereafter. A good reminder that this is, in fact, a wild and remote location, and we humans are not immune to harm. We're glad everyone is safe!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New seal pup on Tern!

Its very late in the year, but we have a new seal pup on Tern!  This is especially wonderful for this critically endangered species, because shark predation is not an issue on Tern.  The new pup will still need to get fattened up enough from mom's milk to survive until it learns to feed on its own, which is a big challenge.  But at least no shark-wrestling for this guy!  This mom had a pup on Tern in 2008, and was seen on Nihoa in 2010.

New Hawaiian monk seal pup with mom, on Tern Island/FFS.  (Photo by Keith Burnett)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Big surf at Tern!

An amazing photo of the big surf at Tern -- The surf does not normally come anywhere near topping the seawall.  Photo says it all!
Waves crashing over the northeast seawall, Tern Island.  Photo by Phillip Howard Nov 2010.

First 2011 Moli Returns!

The first Laysan albatross (Moli, with kahako's over the 'o' and 'i') of the 2011 reproductive season returns to Tern Island!  It's hard for an albatross to dance alone, but more are on their way...

First Returning Moli (Laysan Albatross) of the 2011 season returns to Tern Island!  (Photo by Sarah Harvey)
Sarah Harvey and Phillip Howard send a few photos from Tern Island this week:

Red-tailed tropicbirds chicks getting ready to fledge.  Although they are such a pure white as adults, the chicks are spotty black and white at fledging.  (Photo by Sarah Harvey)

Evening at Tern Island, November 2011 (Photo by Sarah Harvey)

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