I collect albatross data almost every day, but occasionally the unfeathered part of my life intrudes and I have to spend time on the non-ornithological part of it. The first week of fledging, there was a day when I was not able to observe the 5 chicks on the golf course. I returned the next day to check on them.
In the center of the golf course is a nesting area where two couples had been raising their chicks. The fact that the lawn was mowed where I had grown accustomed to seeing one of the chicks indicated to me that he was gone before the mower guys finished their jobs in the early morning. He had the perfect nest area, across the golf cart path from the ocean bluff, with a beautiful view of the Pacific and constant sea breezes.
The chick was gone.
I walked around that end of the golf course checking the areas near the fairways, just in case he wandered off and got stuck somewhere. I had never really seen this chick trying out his wings, he was always just sitting there when I arrived to check on him. Even checking every day I miss so much. I found out that others had seen his practice runs. He disappeared that morning and I have not heard of anyone who saw his departure.
The next to fledge was a chick from my neighborhood, Lexi. Albatross chicks often cool down by raising their feet up off of hot surfaces, like my neighbor’s lanai, which is where Lexi was resting in this photo.
Recently I had seen her close to the street. More than once she walked across to the yard that was her half-sibling’s territory; they both avoided getting too close to each other. Albatross chicks generally do not enjoy each other’s company. I am fairly certain that these two share a father, based on a neighbor’s observation, a neighbor with binoculars. I know that some people think they can identify an albatross without checking the leg band, but no field biologist or trained observer would try this. They really do all look alike.
I saw Lexi one morning and she was gone by the early afternoon. Which way did she go? Nobody knows, unfortunately, she left when none of us were looking.
The third to fledge, a bird I called Miracle, left less than an hour after I last saw her. She was raised by two mothers who had never before had a fertile egg together, the only time they raised chicks was when they were given fertile eggs from the albatross colony at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Again, I never saw her trying out her wings, but I know others who did see that. Miracle had become nervous about being near humans. I stayed far away from her. I was about 50 feet away when I took this photo, but she was looking straight at me. In general, if you see a photo of an albatross and the bird is looking straight into the camera, the photographer was standing too close. Fifty feet is not usually “too close” but this bird was definitely keeping a wary eye on me, so I left. Rule number one of good observing: leave if your subject is spending most of his time watching you.
Week one of fledging in Princeville. While the order in which chicks hatch can be predicted from the date when the egg was laid, we cannot predict the order of fledging. I have numbered the nests according to when the eggs were laid, and of the 10 nests in Princeville they left in the following order last week: chick 5, chick 6, chick 4.