Sometimes when I have been checking albatross chicks and the non-nesters that are attracted to them it starts to feel like a routine, as though everything is proceeding smoothly according to the Master Plan of albatross activity in Princeville.
Then I get The Call. Someone is reporting that an albatross may be injured, that he doesn’t look right. He may be holding his wing oddly, or limping, or any variation on the theme. So when the manager of the Cliffs condos called to report an albatross that seemed to be having difficulty walking, I had visions of all kinds of catastrophic injuries.
The albatross was sitting on the side of one of the large lawns that are bordered by the condos on one side and ocean bluffs on the other. He stood up as I approached. Both legs were identical, the same color, no swelling, and he was not favoring either one. He seemed to be standing just fine. Then I saw the tiniest bobble, as though he might sit back down suddenly at any moment. I had recently seen a similar albatross movement on the golf course, when my old buddy Tater returned to land for the first time since fledging from Princeville. I checked Barney’s band number against my list of all of the chicks who had fledged from here in the last 10 years or so. I keep track of when (or if) I saw them again in Princeville.
It was Barney!
Barney was raised in a nest next to my neighbors’ house. His father was only 6 when Barney hatched, very young for a parent. My neighbors, Bob and Joyce, saw him fledge early one morning in late June of 2010. Barney’s grandmother currently is raising a chick on the golf course. She relocated there after her mate disappeared in the 2008-2009 season.
The management at the Cliffs is very supportive of local wildlife, and they allowed me to put up a sign telling people about Barney and asking them not to get too close and not to feed him. The first time back on land is a big event in the life of an albatross, we want them to have the least amount of stress possible.
He was gone the next day. I left the Cliffs to check on some chicks on the golf course. A couple of adults were in the area. Non-nesters often hang out near the chicks, it is definitely a great place to meet other birds. One of them was Barney! He was walking like an old pro, and he was not very far from his grandmother’s chick. He definitely needs to practice his displaying techniques, but he is only 4 years old and has many years to perfect his moves.
That’s Barney on the right in this photo. His partner is trying to get him to participate in the display. Barney was trying to figure out what he should be doing, which way to move his feet, what he should say. He is just beginning the long process of finding the perfect nesting partner. He is only four, he has plenty of time to learn the moves.
Welcome home, Barney. May you live a long, peaceful life and raise many healthy, happy chicks.
What a lovely story! I’m hoping I will get to see Liho when get returns someday. But til then, I love these stories. Is it unusual for someone like Barney to return when nesting season is nearly done? What is he expecting to happen, do you think? Thanks again.
Returning this late in the season is very common for an albatross coming back to Princeville for the first time since fledging. I just saw another one yesterday. Why do they come back now? I have no idea. I don’t even have a theory about that. It is a behavior that has earned a space in my “Things I Do Not Know About Albatrosses” mental notebook, which seems to get bigger every season!
Great piece of writing and a wonderful story
Thank you for the kind words! I think I will be a VERY old lady before I will give up checking on these birds. They are way too interesting, I am always learning something new about them.