A few more albatrosses have arrived in Princeville.
Yesterday my friends Allan and Julie, visiting from California, spotted 3 birds next to the golf course. Unfortunately, one disappeared before I arrived, but that one may be half of a couple who always nest behind some homes next to the golf course. I know these two albatrosses as the Tuna Bird couple because someone once left one of them a tin of tuna fish. People who leave food or water for the birds believe they are helping them, so if I leave a note telling them that the food could attract predators to the birds, they always stop. We also have Pastry Bird, Ham and Cheese Bird, Stinky Fish Bird, Fritos Bird, Hamburger Bun Bird and Fried Rice Bird.
BlueKO027 is probably waiting for her mate, another female. They were given an egg from the Pacific Missile Range Facility last year (refer to my December 18, 2011 post for a discussion of our egg swap) but they got a bad one. This bird was banded as a chick in June of 1999 at an area of Princeville called Queen Emma’s Bluff. The third albatross was KP302, who also grew up at Queen Emma’s bluff, but in the 2001-2002 season. In 2010 this bird nested for the first time but would not incubate the egg that the mate had laid. It is not uncommon for a bird to be a poor parent the first time they nest. I hope that if KP302 is nesting this year, he or she will now know what to do.
I should point out that generally the first birds to return are ones who have nested before or who are planning to nest for the first time. They mate shortly after meeting, then the female usually leaves soon after, to return in about 8 days to start nest building. Sometimes the male leaves when she does, somtimes he hangs out for a few days. The couple I wrote about in my last post, KP505 and KP792, are gone now. I will be watching for them. They staked out a spot for their nest, fortunately not under a coconut palm. Coconut trees are beautiful, but I am happy when an albatross couple does not build their nest under one. By the way, I forgot to mention that KP505 was originally banded in 1989 at the PMRF. His daughter, KP465, has nested in my neighborhood since at least 2005-2006.
This morning I had a happy surprise. Last season a couple who also had a bad PMRF egg started hanging out in my garden. Often when a couple of nesters spend lots of time together in a particular spot, they will nest there the following season. Here is one half of the couple I think will be my new residents:
K407 and KP466 have been nesting together for as long as I have been collecting data, maybe longer. Now I am listening to K407 vocalizing, perhaps letting KP466 know where she is. Every year some of the albatrosses do not return, but I am especially pulling for the survival of dedicated mates like this one. I read recently that many of the long-line fishermen in Alaska have modified their fishing techniques to reduce the possibility that an albatross will end up hooked to the line. I wish USFWS would insist upon this before they allow fishing companies closer to us to kill a certain number of albatrosses every year.