I have already seen 62 albatrosses and 3 eggs in Princeville, scattered around two residential areas and the golf course. Most of these birds are the ones who have nested before. There are a few non-nesters that last year exhibited the “quiet contact” behavior typical of couples, sitting close to each other and gently grooming the mate. Those couples may also nest this year.
Finding a mate takes time and effort. Sometimes when a bird’s mate does not return, the one who is left does not find or perhaps even look for a replacement for a year or two. Other times, they start searching the same season as the mate’s disappearance. Sometimes they disappear from Princeville, and I always wonder if they have relocated to another spot on the North Shore because they could not find a suitable mate here. It may not be easy to find a new one. I have said this before, if I ever learn how to speak albatross, the first thing I will ask them is “How do you choose a mate?” This is a mystery to an ignorant human.
A few of them are still waiting for their mates to return. Some have already been together and have left for the “pre-egg laying exodus.” After they have met here, all of the couples leave for a week to 10 days before returning to get down to the business of laying an egg (or eggs, in the case of a female/female couple) and beginning the cycle of incubation and chick feeding. Even checking every day I may miss seeing some of the couples reunite, I may not see them until they come back to nest. If I checked less regularly, I would miss a ton of interesting albatross stories.
Oh, and I should add that last year I had seen 51 albatrosses and no eggs by November 23rd. Princeville is doing very well as an area for safe nesting, thanks to the concern and care of the people who live here and of all the visitors who cannot believe that they can walk down a street and see a wild seabird sitting on someone’s lawn. I picked the house I live in because it is in the middle of a nesting area, and I have had nests on my property 4 times, and watched two chicks being raised. Sitting in my living room, I am listening to an albatross calling to another bird flying overhead, hoping that one is his missing mate. About half a block away, I hear the exuberant display of two or more birds. At night the albatross across the street claps his bill together for no apparent reason, at least not one that a non-albatross can understand. Over the years I have watched traffic come to a halt more than once because a chick has decided to try out his wings on my street.
We have been given a glimpse into the private lives of beings that were here long before Homo sapiens. We must honor this miracle by protecting them from harm and by respecting their right to live normal albatross lives. We admire them from afar and realize that the observer who can watch these animals without intruding into their lives is the one most likely to be treated to an unexpected behavior, a tiny golden moment of unguarded birdiness.
Beautifully written. I am so glad you are there for them.