Friday, May 30, 2008

National Geographic Day

In all of my years of doing fieldwork I've been really fortunate to see some amazing things. Some days though are just extra special, and today I was lucky enough to have one of those days. I started out watching a frigatebird snatch up a sooty tern chick and fly off, only to be attacked in mid-air by seven more frigatebirds. The photos of the mid-air tug of war are pretty cool! In the afternoon we went snorkeling around La Perouse Pinnacle, a 150 ft. tall rock jutting up from the atoll several miles away. I saw tons of sharks, had a green sea turtle swim within three feet, was swarmed by schools of reef fish and I ended the dive watching a spotted ray glide under me! To end the day, I wandered the island with my camera and came upon two monk seals having a heated discussion of growls, burps and belches. Usually they are kinda boring to watch bacause they just lay on the beach and sleep, but these two gave me quite a show.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Turtle Rescue

A sea turtle found it's way into the Sooty Tern colony this morning, and the crack, Tern Island Turtle Rescue Squad was scrambled to net the poor beast before it could crush too many bird eggs. A full grown female turtle can weigh over 200 lbs. and when she moves she flattens everything in her path! So, we went out and caught her in a heavy net that has poles attached to make it easier to lift and carry her. It was a tough job but it is very cool to get up close looks at such an amazing animal. The photo below is a different turtle, basking on the beach, where they belong.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Whole Day Off

Today I got to enjoy my first day off in almost two weeks (thirteen days to be exact), and I enjoyed it to the fullest. I slept in a little, but got up in time to catch good early morning light for picture taking. I set out without any ideas or direction, just the camera in hand. This island really is easy for taking pictures though and I snapped a few good shots over the hour or so that I wandered around. All the birds are full of energy in the cooler morning hours and it is fun to watch all of the behaviors and social interactions going on. Lots of chicks popping up all over the place too. Tern chicks, booby babies, tropicbird fuzzballs and tough looking little frigatebirds. The frigates might be my favorite. They are so full of attitude! The one in the picture above just looks tough, even though he's pint sized. A feisty attitude will serve him well since he'll make his adult living by stealing food from his neighbors!
Of course, the Laysan Albatross chicks are really my favorite. Even though they are looking kind of disheveled these days, molting into their real feathers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tern Induced Headache!

Well, I'm not quite ready to take back all of the nice things I said about Sooty Terns the other day, but there charm is wearing thin. We were working in a Sooty colony today, banding albatross chicks and a Sooty flew by and drilled me with it's bill right in my right temple! I almost fell to the ground it hurt so bad. Over the course of the work day I got hit in the head by different Sootys four times. During a break we were joking that OSHA needs to set a Daily Tern Collision Limit. I think I surpassed mine today.

On the lighter side though, I spotted this little Red-footed Booby fuzz ball yesterday and got some good pictures of it. I think it's a little early to be testing his wings but he doesn't seem to think so.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Red-footed rainbow

I took this picture yesterday and I really dig it. The Red-footed Booby is the coolest bird! The coloring of their facial skin is extremely variable and this guy really takes it to the extreme. He has almost an entire color spectrum represented on his face!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Great Day on Tern Island

Well, another great day has passed out here on Tern Island. It was hot today and the work was a little bit harder than usual given the heat drain, but it was still fun to handle all of the albatross chicks. We are about 1/5 of the way done with banding after two really full days of effort, which is pretty good! I am happy with the way things are going and I'm taking lots of pictures in my off time. Here is one of the sunset the other night. Half the crew says they saw the green flash and the other half doesn't believe it!!
This is a shot of Irene and Steve banding a Black-footed Albatross chick. Irene is holding the bird while Steve puts on a stainless steel band on one leg and a colored plastic band on the other. The color band has a code on it that is easy to read from a distance so we can identify the bird in the future with minimal disturbance.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tern Island Bound

I left Portland a few days ago, headed for Tern Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride out on the NOAA ship Oscar Sette. The ride was smooth and the folks on board, heading out to the other islands, were fun to interact with. It took us two days to get out here and now I'm on the island and getting to work. I'll be here for about two weeks to help band albatross chicks before they fledge. There are about 3,000 of them that need to get banded over the next few weeks, so we have our work cut out for us. Tern is amazing from a wildilfe perspective with birds covering most of the island and green sea turtles and monk seals lining the beaches. The most numerous and vocal residents are the sooty terns. They are practically everywhere and they are loud, day and night. Although some folks could take them or leave them I think they are wonderful!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic: Stage 2

Here are a few more pictures from the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. These are from Stage 2, which occurred the day after the Time Trial Prologue. The stage was held in MT. Tabor Park which is pretty close to my apartment. The riders raced a circuit through the park, amid some pretty big old trees. The picture above is of the women's race leader in the yellow jersey and the picture below is of the men's peleton cranking by on the last circuit before the finish. It was great to see the race action at my local park, particularly since I ride my bike there often.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic

The Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, professional bike race came through Portland the other day with an individual time trial prologue in downtown. Some of the top domestic professional teams were there and the racing was great to see. The time trial was great to watch, and lots of fun to photograph, particularly since I just picked up a brand new Nikon D300 digital camera! The Rock Racing team was a crowd favorite due to their wild green kit and sweet De Rosa TT bikes. These guys just look like their going faster than anyone else, even when they're not.