Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fuzzy Little Friends

Well, I'm back to Midway after a two month whirlwind that took me all over the west coast and Hawaii. It feels good to be back with the birds and to see the progress that all of the chicks are making. When I left here in early February most of the eggs had not hatched yet. Now things are completely different! There are fat fuzzy chicks waddling around all over the place. They are fattening up on squid oil provided by their parents, which is just loaded with energy to get them growing fast.

I am here to band chicks from nests that we began monitoring back in mid-November. It is such a trip to see a pudgy Ewok of bird and think that when I got here it wasn't even laid as an egg yet! The most striking are the birds that live on the driveway of my house. I watched their parents incubate them as eggs over the course of the entire winter, now the little ones snap at me as I walk by to get on my bicycle. Yes, the little chicks are cute, but that hooked bill of theirs can still pack a mean bite. I have a nice slice on the palm of my hand where a cute fuzzball latched onto me and ripped at my flesh!! It is hard not to admire these wonderful creatures.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Kauai Wandering

Camille and I just finished up a wonderful week of vacation on the island of Kauai. We had a fantastic time and a much needed break from the hectic lives we have been leading over the last few months. Over the course of our stay we managed to pack a lot of activities in, plus we put in some good beach lounging time. We tried to swim in the ocean at least once a day, including playing in some nice big waves. The water was nice and warm and clear, great for swimming. I only got trundled under and near-drowned a few times!!

We did get away from the beach for a day or so when we went up to visit Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon. The canyon is pretty spectacular with red rock and lush green vegetation. We went on a really wonderful hike in Kokee that led us out on to a knife's edge ridge with views down either side plunging almost straight down. It is a pretty dramatic location. In the picture of Camille the cliffs start right in front of her! One of the highlights of our time in the mountains included seeing 9 different short-eared owls in 30 minutes while driving up to Kokee one night.

When we weren't hiking through the forest or lounging onn the beach we spent our time eating wonderful food and seeing the sights. We spent our first Friday night on the island touring a bunch of little art galleries in the town of Hanapepe. Camille picked up a few nice things at a little boutique. My favorite sight-seeing stop of the whole trip though was the Kauai Coffee Estate. It is a working coffee plantation that produces some amazing beans. We sampled different coffees and and took a tour that explains all of the steps in the coffee making process. By the time we left I was completely jacked-up on caffiene. I also had a bit of work to do while we were there, but it was fun work. We went and visited a friend of mine who is the widlife biologist at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. She and I needed to discuss some details of the albatross project that I am running. Camille got to hold an albatross while Brenda banded it, and we got to see hundreds of Red-footed Boobies flying all around the cliffs of the refuge.