One of the rewards for the 3 or so hours a day I generally devote to the albatrosses is that I know the approximate day an egg will hatch. It usually takes a chick 3 or 4 days of breaking and removing the shell before he makes his appearance. During that time the parent will not help the chick but will talk to him and offer moral support. The chick often responds. It is one way they both learn to recognize each other. That may not be a big problem in Princeville, where nests are spaced far apart. On Midway, of course, being able to recognize your chick’s voice would be important for locating him amidst the hundreds of thousands of nests.
The first two Princeville chicks made their premiere appearances yesterday.
I am eternally grateful to Bob Waid, my friend and neighbor, for the beautiful photos. Bob has his own blog, http://www.albatrosskauai.com, where you will find many more incredible pictures. He lives in one of the areas most favored by albatrosses for nesting and for courtship displays. When albatross chicks are getting ready to fledge, they become much more active, flying further and further from their nest areas. Bob sits in a lawn chair keeping an eye on them. He calls me when it looks like a chick is getting ready to leave. Sometimes they choose unsafe spots to fledge from, sometimes they wander further away from the ocean bluffs. They may need a bit of guidance to find a safe area for their first flight, a bluff with ocean breezes to fly into. These are the hazards of not nesting at sea level on a small island like Midway where a chick can locate the ocean wherever his nest may be.
This first chick’s parents are K233 and purpleO324. K233, the male, was banded as an adult in June of 2007. Because he was an adult when banded, we can only assume that K233 was at least 3 years old, which would make him 10 years old. Of course, he could be much older than that.
PurpleO324 was banded as a chick on 06/09/1989 on Whale Skate island in French Frigate Shoals. As a result of rising sea levels, this island has disappeared. Wow. Shades of things to come.
She was rebanded in 2008 by Dr. Lindsay Young at Ka’ena Point on Oahu.
Enough explanation, bring on the chicks!
Here is purpleO324 with her chick on the 3rd day of pipping. You can see his bill with the whitish “egg tooth” on the end. The chicks use this hardened bit to help break out of the shell, then it falls off later when it is no longer needed.
And the next day….
The second nesting couple is KP424 and KP467.
I have written about these two before, they have both led interesting lives. 467 nested for a number of years with a mate who eventually dumped her and moved on to nesting with another female. Both females had eggs that season, but the male chose to incubate his new mate’s egg. 467 eventually had to abandon her egg. She met her current mate last season. 424 was banded as an adult in Princeville in June of 1994. At some point he started nesting at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. But every year before returning to the refuge he would spend a few days sitting on my neighbor’s lawn. When his mate did not return to the refuge, he relocated here. The rest is history.
If you think you have reached your cuteness quota today, do not look at these photos.
While the parents are taking turns incubating the egg they will stay away for periods of time ranging from about 2 to as many as 4 weeks. However, when it is near the time for the chick to hatch, and most especially, once the parents have seen the chick, they will spend just a few days away. I have even seen them return after just one day. When they come back they often have to shove the mate off of the nest, they both want so desperately to stay with the chick. The reason? I guess someone could go into a scientific discussion right about now. But I think it has more to do with this: