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Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011

Spring is in the air!  Everyone has been very busy this week -- It's the peak of reproductive season for many of the seabirds, while many other birds, the seals and turtles are just ramping up for their reproductive seasons.
The albatross are getting big!  This three-month old black-footed albatross chick is ready for banding, with full feathers across its chest wings and back.  The chicks will be ready to fledge in June.

ʻUa'u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters, or ʻwedgiesʻ) have nested in the inside of this fallen and rotten telephone pole.  The wedgies are just starting to lay eggs now; their chicks wonʻt fledge until October or November.

The NMFS seal crew checking for seals along the beach.  Only one early pup has been born yet this year -- most will be born in late May or June.   The seal under this bush stealthily avoids detection.... or is zonked out asleep.  Photo by Mark Sullivan.
Sooty terns have started laying eggs as well, although we expect many more.  Sooties will nest in densities of 2-4 per square meter.  Everyone learns to duck, as sooties are not afraid to poke you in the head (foot, ankle) when you approach their nest.

Coral are reproducing this time of year as well -- Lindsey Kramer dragged us all out into the water at the crack of dawn to witness the Pocillopora (cauliflower coral) spawning event.  As it turned out, it was a little too chilly yet for this coral -- so we'll try again next month.  The early morning light provided spectacular lighting, and the fish colors were fantastic.  Thanks for dragging us out, Lindsey!

Who would know you could wear full fleece and tights to go snorkeling?  The water was cold, so we dressed up.  (You have to love Sarah's special snorkeling tights -- Quite the enviable fashion.)  The Early Morning Tern Free Dive Team, from left to right:  Dan Rapp, Lindsey Kramer, Paula Hartzell and Sarah Youngren.

Uncle M29 and this year’s early pup (K60) play in the water together. 
Social play is important for ʻilio o ke kai.  Photo by Mark Sullivan.
And last but not least, a gratuitous beautiful photograph of a mōlī (Laysan albatross), by Mark ("Sissy") Sullivan.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 2011 at Tern Island

Aloha kākou, e komo mai o Kanemilohaʻi!

Its already April (however that happened) and life continues on here at Tern Island, as it does elsewhere.  Our big news is the arrival of the NMFS seal crew, including Shawn Farry, Mark ("Sissy") Sullivan, Brendan Hurley and Ben Cook.  The seal crew will be monitoring Hawaiian monk seals here at the atoll, as part of a larger effort to monitor and assist this critically endangered species.

The NMFS seal team translocates a newly weaned ʻīlio holo i ka uaua (Hawaiian monk seal) from an outer French Frigate Shoals island to Tern Island.  Seal pups are frequently fatally bitten by sharks on some of the islands (4 of 8 were bitten on this island last year), while they are fairly safe from shark predation on Tern, where we have had no shark-bitten pups.  Protecting the seal pups from shark predation is necessary because the population is so low now that every pup counts.  NMFS seal crew members (left to right) Ben Cook, Shawn Farry, Brendan Hurley, and FWS Volunteer Lindsey Kramer.  Photo by Mark Sullivan.

Proud ʻā makaʻele (masked booby) parents watch over their chick.  The MABO chicks are growing -- We look forward to their goofy 'snow man' suit as they get bigger.  This is one of the few species we can tell males from females easily; the males hiss and the females honk.  Photo by Lindsey Kramer.

We continue trying to improve our monitoring and management efforts for the wildlife at Tern.  The artificial shade shelters we have put up are being used by koaʻe ula (red-tailed tropicbirds), uaʻu kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters), pākalakala (gray-backed terns), and the albatross chicks (mōlī and kaʻupu).   We've been monitoring temperatures in different vegetation types, and the effect on nesting success in albatross; now we're also monitoring temperatures in different artificial nest boxes, trying to find the best design to emulate the fairly constant temperature found in burrows.

A bigger hat for the house: Seabirds that nest in burrows have experienced high mortality due to invasive ant species, the burgeoning uaʻu kani population (they kick other species out of their burrows), and people accidentally crushing burrows while walking. One way we try to minimize these negative effects is to provide some artificial nest boxes that ʻseemʻ like burrows, with a small dark entrance, like the one shown here.  Tristram's storm petrels -- which breed only in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and a few islands in Japan -- are a small burrow-nesting seabird that has been eliminated off many islands where they used to be, due to the introduction of rats and mice.  (Their close cousins, the ʻakēʻakē or band-rumped storm petrel, live on Kauaʻi, and are having a real struggle to survive.)  Tristram's have a higher nesting success rate in these artificial boxes which provide at least partial protection from ants and large people-feet, although the birds prefer to use burrows.  We are always looking for ways to improve the boxes, to better emulate their natural environment, while protecting them from invasive species.  FWS Volunteer Sarah Youngren has found that a larger shade top on nesting boxes lowers the maximum daily temperature experienced by the chicks inside, and so are likely to help increase chick survival in the boxes.  We're trying out a number of designs, but have to do so slowly and carefully, so as not to disturb the birds.  Photo by Sarah Youngren.
Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) resting on the beach.  Other green sea turtle species don't bask in the sun like this -- Must be a Hawaiian tradition!  :-)  Photo by Paula L. Hartzell

Team Tern Spring 2011:  Bottom row, left to right:  Sarah Youngren, Curt Youngren, Paula Hartzell.  Second row:  Brendan Hurley, Kristina Dickson, Jimmy Macaulay.  Third row, sitting:  Ben Cook, Lindsey Kramer, Mark Sullivan.  Standing:  Shawn Farry and Dan Rapp. 

[Because Google's Blogspot, the software program being used in this blog, has a 200-character limit for the list of labels in a post, we were not able to include Hawaiian wildlife names in this post's labels.  E kala mai, sorry!]

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