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Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Crew on Tern

Welcome to our new crew on Tern!  The Kahana arrived on Monday with the new summer crew:  Summer Manager Meg Duhr Schultz, and volunteers Catherine Fox, Ryan Potter, and Megan Juran.  The new and old crew will work together over the next 10 days, passing the torch.  The winter crew will be leaving when the Kahana comes through on its return trip to Honolulu, and Meg will be taking over the blog.

Offloading supplies and getting new crew:  Left to right:  Dan Rapp, Ryan Potter, Morgan Gilmour, and Abram Fleishman.  Photo by Sarah Youngren.
Abram Fleishmman and Megan Juran stack milk in the food room.  All food must be labeled with date of arrival and stored in its proper place.  This food will last the crew -- plus folks from NOAA's seal and turtle crews this summer -- until October, when the next crew switch-out occurs.
Biologically, the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) are starting to show up in slightly higher numbers -- from 0-1 per day on Tern in mid-winter, to more than a dozen per day now.  (It will be more like 100/day on Tern later, and double that on East Island in peak season.)  We're seeing a few turtle 'rafts' or 'dog piles' -- a bunch of males vying for a female turtle's attention. 

Basking honu on Tern Island
'Old style' metal tag, #G692.  We were lucky to happen to see the first female turtle of the season digging high up on the beach, checking out good spots to nest later in the season.  She was last seen nesting in 1996 and 2002. 
 We also saw two red-footed boobies (ʻĀ wāwae) with signficant oiling in the past month.  One had about 15% of its body covered, and another had about 30%.  We've spotted a handful more with small (quarter-sized) spots.  The oil looked to be old, but we collected feather samples, just in case the oil needs to be analyzed. We'll be keeping a sharp eye out for additional oiling, and are starting to photograph the 'small spot' birds in order to assess how many birds have actually been affected.

Sarah Youngren finds a returned invasive -- sandbur -- under the clothesline.  It was probably accidentally reintroduced by people coming back from East Island, where the weed reappeared four years after 'eradication' -- perhaps due to old seed bank being exposed by record-breaking turtle nesting activity last summer.  Bird, seal and turtle crews will have to be particularly careful not to accidentally move these sticky seeds around more; right now we're hoping to keep re-eradicate the weed in the next several years.

The only bummer news for this week is that because Paula (the manager) has to go back to Honolulu to work in the office, and won't be staying or returning this summer, the benthic monitoring project we were planning to start this winter (but hadn't yet because we had no working boats) will not be carried out.  Of course Paula is very sad to miss out on all the summer actvities (particularly the benthic plate project, as well as helping out the turtle and seal crews), but Meg will be carrying the torch high and proud, and all the other activities will carry on under her guidance.

Dakshina Marlier (USFWS), Abram Fleishman (USFWS), and Morgan Gilmour (UCSC and USFWS) will also be sadly returning to Honolulu, but they have great plans after that!  Dakshina will be moving on to a summer biking position in Alaska, and Abram and Morgan have wildlife jobs in California.  Morgan may be entering graduate school, and if she gets the permits, returning to Tern next winter to continue tagging albatross and boobies, and working on her dissertation tagging great frigatebirds!

More good news is that Sarah and Dan will be staying on at Tern to work on Paula's data quality project, funded by the USFWS Inventory and Monitoring Project, so we can get some of the 30 years of bird monitoring data.  They'll also be able to complete their work on acoustics, plastics, burrowing seabird habitat, working alongside Meg, Megan, Catherine and Ryan.  Yeah!!!

Neighbors.  Snorkeling photos by Abram Fleishman.

Ka Hiapo, our eldest mōlī  (Laysan albatross) chick.  Notice his nice new 'wrist-bracelet' -- a flexible poultry band used to identify chicks.  Ka Hiapo, a.k.a. Goliath, is also the heaviest of our chicks, and part of Dan Rapp's study looking at the effects of plastics on chick growth.  Photo by Sarah Youngren.

Dakshina Marlier, enjoying the sunset.  Photo by Abram Fleishman.
Measurements before applying a geolcator tag to a red-footed booby ('a), as part of Scott Shaffer's (UCSC) study.  The tag will provide us with a map of where the booby goes to forage.  From left to right:  Abram Fleishman, Sarah Youngren, Morgan Gilmour.
Manu o Kū (white tern) feeding its chick.  Does anyone know if this is a mahi?

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