Midway Albatross Count: Day 4

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Midway Albatross Count: Day 4

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Dec 17, 2008

This picture was taken yesterday--when it was sunny.

We gather at the Empire Café-which is now just an osmosis water treatment facility-to gear up for the day.  We fill our bottles with treated water and our bike baskets with florescent orange spray paint.

That reminds me, did you know Midway is actually composed of three islands:  Sand, Eastern and Spit.  Today, we were supposed to head over to Eastern Island, but blasting wind and stinging rain required us to abort our plans.  Instead, we stayed put on Sand Island, our base.  When we signed up for this gig, we were warned that we would work every day, no matter the weather.  Today was a good example of how stoic and brave we bird counters can be.  “It’s for the birds,” I could more than one person say, as they pedaled off into a stiff breeze.

At one time, someone hand-painted a few extra words to the Empire Café sign.  It now reads, “The End of the Empire Café.”  We re-grouped here, deciding on where to count for the day.  Our team leader, Richard, pulled out his map of the island.  He asked, “Do you want to deal with verbesina, naupaka or petrel burrows?”  No sector on any of these islands is simply a walk in the park.  Not since the military signed over the island to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is letting nature control the island again.  “We are here for the wildlife,” the head biologist said when we first arrived.

Our team settled on a forest of ironwood trees, because they would give us cover from rain and wind.  That meant, though, we would have to watch out for falling trees.  This is a serious problem.  I would later tally three albatross-all lying dead under tree trunks.

Richard is retired from Intel.  Rather, he is “actively retired,” as he likes to put it.  Because after leaving Intel, he and his wife moved from Oregon to Big Island and now farm a 45-acre tropical fruit farm.  Richard pointed out the forest location on his map.  Eric, one of the two biologists on our team and a fit 30-something, peered over Richard’s shoulder.  “Hmm,” he said.  “Do you think we can finish that sector today?”  Every time we identify a new sector to count, Eric asks this same question.  It gives you an idea of the intensity of my team.

Whenever we break for water or lunch, Karen, from an island of 100 people in Alaska, is the first to say, “Let’s get back to work.”  If she had it her way, we wouldn’t take a single break and lunch hour would last 15 minutes.

I’ve decided on a name for our group:  Team Overachievers.

Trigger pulls today:  1,840
(It’s slow going through the forest.)
Total to date:  7,834


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