Monday, December 15, 2008

The Stars of Midway Atoll

By far the Stars of Midway Atoll are the albatross. Both Laysan and the endangered Black-footed Albatross nest and rear their young on the three islands. They literally take over every available inch of ground space. Traveling around the roads in a golf cart can put you into a stand-off with an albatross... luckily they don't seem to find the hard roads as comfortable as the grass, weeds and sand so they rarely stand their ground on the road. There were a few occasions when I had to get out and give a little push to get a stubborn bird to move over.

The courtship dances are amazing to watch. There are a least 25 different moves the birds make when they dance with their mate. The dances of the Black-footed are subtly different from the Laysan. One wrong step and the mate will loose interest so it pays to practice. I saw many groups of non-breeding juveniles dancing together trying to get all the steps down.

The bill clacking and squeaking cry's of the albatross make a wonderful music. I found that I am missing it since I've been home. It's much harder to fall asleep to the sound of cars than it is to the sound of happy albatross.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Birds, Birds and more Birds!

Midway is one of those special places where the birds have no fear of humans. White Terns flit just above your head, Bonin Petrels occasionally use you to break their plummet at night, Laysan Albatross are fond of untying shoe laces and Red-footed Boobies cruise by to check you out. For a photographer it is a dream... but don't mistake the abundance and willingness of subjects for easy photography! There are times when the birds are so thick it's almost impossible to get a clean background. It takes a bit of ingenuity, a willingness to crawl and a lot of patience but the reward is pretty amazing.

Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll is located at the Northwestern-most end of the Hawaiian Islands chain, midway... between Japan and the United States mainland.

The first recorded visit to Midway Atoll occurred in 1859 by Captain N.C. Brooks of the Hawaiian Bark Gambia.

In 1903 President Roosevelt put the island in control of the US Navy. They cleared the island and turned it over to the Pacific Cable Company.

The first cable message to travel around the w
orld went through Midway Island on the 4th of July 1903. It took 9 minutes.

In 1935 Midway became a playground for the rich and famous when the Pan American World Airways set up the Trans-Pac
ific Flying Clipper Seaplane service.

In 1941 the Navy moved in. In June of 1942 the historic Battle of Midway was waged between the US and Japan. This battle and the heavy losses by the Japanese is considered to be the turning point in the War in the Pacific.

In 1988 the Battle FOR Midway began. It has been a long journey from Military base to National Wildlife refuge, Battle of Midway National Memorial and the window to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Today Midway is host to well over 2 million sea birds as well as the Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal and the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. The Atoll and islands enclosed in the protective reef have been closed to tourists since 2001. This year it has been reopened and permits were issued for the Oceanic Society to conduct educational tours. I was lucky enough to visit the Atoll just this past week with the Oceanic Society. It was nothing short of amazing. Stay tune
d for the resaons I fell in love with Midway and her islands....