Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Magic of Midway Atoll- Its all about the wildlife

Sunrise from Midway Atoll's Sand Island

My favorite thing about Midway is that the real stars are the wildlife. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff is working  hard to enhance and increase good habitat for the species of concern that breed here. Many of the birds, seals and turtles have lost most of their breeding habitat & these islands are one of the only breeding sanctuaries left. Here are a few photos of some of the stars...
Laysan Albatross
Black-footed Albatross
Laysan Duck
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Green Sea Turtle
White Tern

We were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to return to Midway for our 3rd year to participate as volunteers for Fish & Wildlife to count Albatross nests. Last year we were asked if we would be interested in being trained as back up Count Leaders & came back early this year to learn the ropes in preparing for the count. The current leaders have been preparing and managing the count for 15 years. We came 10 days early and helped to mark sector lines and corners to facilitate the count process as well as counted a number of sectors that are considered hazardous or sectors that cover large areas but have few nests such as the runway sector.

The Count Leaders & Leaders in Training (Jill, Bettina, Bob, Jenny & Richard)

Bettina, my wheels & the birds.

Bob and one of his special projects -  if we are able to complete the count ahead of schedule we participate in projects designated by Fish & Wildlife staff. Bob and Neil re-hung the doors that had fallen off the building below to prevent birds from wandering in and being in harm's way.

The count takes place between December 15th and January 6th. Why is this count so important?

The population of nesting Laysan Albatross on Midway Atoll is the largest nesting population in the WORLD. They are a species of concern. The health of the Black-footed Albatross population is of even more concern. Both species must fly thousands of miles to portions of the northwest pacific ocean in order to feed. The Black-footed Albatross must fly even farther because they feed in cooler waters. It is rare to have such a large concentration of a species in one place making the ability to perform an annual census possible. As a result the annual census not only provides insight to the health of the breeding Laysan & Black-footed Albatross but also the overall health of the northwest Pacific Ocean. The count information provides data to help guide ocean management decisions such as long-line fishing practices.

Besides loss of habitat the albatross are literally choking on plastics. If you are interested see the link and documentary trailer below that graphically displays the impact of plastics on these birds. Beware it is truly heart breaking. Bob has never been able to watch it.

We met some amazing people..... the U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff is a small group on highly qualified folks that have tremendous responsibilities and exude passion and enthusiasm for their work......the long term volunteers inspire us with their incredible credentials and dedication to science and helping our planet to be a better place for those species that need help.

Bob with long term volunteers; Marie & V

There is wonderful insight and information into life on Midway in the blog's below.

V's blog (long term volunteer)

Greg's blog (long term volunteer)

Midway Link

Friends of Midway Link

In you are interested in learning more please see the  2 part series from last years blog for more details and photos of the wildlife and count activities.

We are off for our next volunteer adventure on Maui where we will be working with Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP) in the Nakula Natural Area Reserve (the southeast or leeward side of Haleakala Volcano). We will be planting native seedlings and helping with invasive species removal to restore the habitat in hopes that the Maui Parrotbill will once again make its home here.

The world is full of beauty & wonder,

Turtle & Hawk


  1. What a lovely account of Midway- you definitely captured some of that Midway magic in your post! I feel so fortunate to have met such passionate people like you two out here!


  2. The volunteer work you guys are doing is inspiring. I agree, the issue of plastic refuse and the impact on seabirds and shorebirds is heartbreaking. You're probably aware of the Washed Ashore Project in Bandon, Oregon. The artists and volunteers are doing a wonderful job of bringing the issue of plastic debris in our oceans into public awareness.

  3. I am having issues with posting my comment, a third time is a charm.
    First thank you for checking out our blog.
    Second, you are doing a great job with your volunteer work, and the NWR needs passionate people like both of you.
    As for spring migration, I had a great time with the birds at Dauphin Island and Gulf Shores Alabama during the first week of April.
    As for Florida, oh my, that is another state for great birding and the NWRs there are pretty well kept. We have visited St Marks NWR.
    If you have not done so my postings in Florida and Alabama has some tales of birds while there.