I could not tell you whether some of the albatrosses choose nest sites that have an abundance of building materials available or whether that is of any concern to them at all. It just seems to work out that a number of them will build their nests in spots that are sparsely provisioned with suitable vegetation while others will find areas that have copious amounts of the stuff.
Here is one of my favorite nests from this year:
There is a poignant story that goes with this bird, who was banded as a chick in an empty lot on Punahele Road in 2002. She nested for the first time with blueKP045 in the 2009-2010 season., not far from where the current nest is located. BlueKP045 took over nesting duties after a few days and sat on that egg for 39 days. That is a very long time and it certainly indicates that he or she was a good parent. KP300 relieved him, and on the 36th day of her incubation shift, the chick hatched.
Both of these incubation times were very long, but generally the male or the female who arrives after her mate’s egg has been laid will take the first, longest shift. That is often about 3 weeks. The incubation times after this first long one are generally shorter, so 36 days was a long time for KP300 to incubate the egg.
KP300 sat on the chick for 6 days, then stood over him for 2 more. The next day I got a call from a resident, reporting that the parent had left the nest during the evening and that the chick appeared to be dead. I went right over there; the dead chick was very cold.
When a chick first hatches, the parent on the nest can feed him a warm fish oil regurgitated from the stomach to sustain him until the other parent returns with food. Having sat on the nest for 36 days, KP300 may have been unable to give the chick enough to keep him well-nourished. The nights were very cool, so losing the warmth of the adult may have been a double blow for the little one. I never saw blueKP045 again, and when a bird disappears while nesting and never comes back, I assume he has died at sea. That season I saw KP300 twice after that, both times at the site of her nest. The following season she displayed with a variety of birds, no one in particular. When an albatross loses a mate, it always takes them at least one season to find a suitable replacement, sometimes more. They can live to be at least in their 60s, so this is an important decision, one not made in haste.
Last year I saw her with whiteA093 on 8 different occasions, and the behavior I observed each time was “quiet contact,” the signal of an exclusive relationship. I should say that 8 times is a lot, and even observing every day I may miss some of the interactions so the number could have been higher. This is why I observe every day, because if I checked every week or so I would miss way too much of their stories and would have a spotty record of their activities. I might just see a few isolated incidents that would skew my view of their actions. I would not get an adequate overall picture, and that would drive me crazy.
After they spent so much time with each other last season, it was not a surprise that these two chose to nest together this year.
I wish for them a healthy chick, and a long life of nesting together.