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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The times, they are a changing....

The field season moves along, both for people and the wildlife....

Although turtle nesting is slowing down, there are still lots of turtles nesting, we are definitely past the peak of the nesting season.  We are starting to see just a few of the first turtle hatchlings -- probably from nests laid in late April or early May.  Expect to see lots of turtle hatchling pictures in the months to come!!

A honu nesting on Gin Island.  The white spot on its back includes the temporary numbers which help the Turtle Technicians Tyler and Irene keep track of who-is-who.  Each turtle nests several times during the season.  This gal nested on both East and Gin Islands this season.  
About 97% of the ka'upu (black-footed albatross) and about 72% of the mōlī (Laysan albatross) chicks have fledged -- It's funny to have only a handful of chicks left on island, after having thousands of albatross on the island since last December.  We won't see these chicks again until they're old enough to come back as sub-adults to learn the proper way to court and find a partner for nesting.

The first bird to nest in the deactivated runway was a brown noddy, on July 6, 2011. Although many birds have always used the runway for resting and socializing, this is the first nest to be brooded in the runway proper.  We now have several BRNO nesting in the runway.  This is exciting news, as use of the runway area provides over 30,000 square meters of open nesting opportunity for seabirds – about 30% of Tern Island. We will be monitoring wildlife use and natural regeneration of vegetation in the runway over the coming months.

Our first nest brooded in the runway!  (You can see how her feathers pooch out under her belly, where the egg is.)  This noio (brown noddy) was the first, but others have followed in her footprints.  We now have all stages of brown noddy reproduction on island -- courtship feeding, eggs, small and large chicks.  Noio chicks fledge when they're about six weeks old, and then are still fed for a couple more weeks.  Noio are more than happy to jab you in the head if you come too close to their nests, so we've all taken to walking hunched over and dodging...
Natural regeneration of vegetation on the runway.  Considering this process began at the start of the dry season, and that we aren't allowed to scarify the surface (in case they want to reactivate the runway some day), we are pretty excited about the speed of vegetation coverage so far, which appears to be (not unexpectedly) dominated by Portulaca spp.  We will learn a lot watching the vegetation spread over the area, providing about 30% more nesting habitat for birds that nest in the open.
The 'new' crew -- Meg, Scott and Erin -- have settled in, and are home on Tern Island now.  Meg Duhr Schultz is the new Assistant Manager at Tern, and will be taking over the blog after Paula leaves in August.  Meg just completed her Bachelor's degree from Oregon State University, and has worked as a seabird monitor for several field seasons.  Scott is from Fontana, California, and will be doing both maintenance and biological work while volunteering here.  Scott brings knowledge and experience gained from working in the Catalina Islands.  Erin is from the Big Island of Hawai'i; she has a lot of experience to lend on marine, coastal wildlife and plant propagation specific to Hawai'i.  This is the first time out here for all three of them, so they are learning a lot from the existing crew, before they take over on their own this fall.  These three will have quite the adventure this fall as they lead the atoll's conservation efforts from September to December!

p.s.  Thanks to Frank C!  Nice to know someone is following our activities -- We appreciate all the positive comments.

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