Nearly all of Midway’s seabirds nest on or in the ground - these include the Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, White-tailed Tropicbird, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Christmas Shearwater, Gray-backed Tern, Sooted Tern, Masked Booby, Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Bonin Petril. The verbesina (aka Golden Crownbeard) prevents the birds from building nests in existing stands (even if they had nested there prior to the growth); it reproduces rapidly and winds around existing nest sites, preventing parents from feeding the chicks, and trapping the chicks in place once they are fledglings leading to their starvation; and houses aphids, insects and ants that can transmit viruses to native plants, killing them off. Adding to that, the verbesina also stops the flow of the wind, raising the surrounding temperatures, causing dehydration in the chicks.
So, we set to work this morning clearing a path 1/4 mile long by 5 feet wide. A lot of work, but all our hands working together made about 2 hours work of it. We also planted native dune grass in man-built mini-dunes, which we hope will continue to grow and spread across the beach. A very rewarding morning.
The afternoon was reward time! We headed to the outer reef, where we snorkeled for an hour (freezing cold water, let me tell you!). We saw brilliant Christmas wrasses, cigar wrasses, bluefin trevally, a turtle, butterflyfish, and goatfish. Everything seemed to be at least double the size of the fish on O’ahu. It was crystal clear water, and the coral was healthy, even thriving.
Upon our return, we rinsed gear, showered, bicycled to the gift store (which is only open on request if the couple that runs it is on the island. Thankfully, they were here. Didn’t get much, as there isn’t much, but avoided the regurgitated plastic necklaces...:) Sorry Lori, no mermaids, but we’ll keep looking...
Tomorrow is Eastern Island, where we should see monk seals, brown boobies, and a host of other Northern Hawaiian Island tropic birds. Plus, I may give my talk, so I’ll be prepping that tonight.