The first egg of the season was laid by a female that I call Bipolar Momma. She and her mate, KP515, have been together for at least 10 years. KP515 has proven to be a steadfast parent, Bipolar Momma has a somewhat spotty record. So far:
One year they didn’t nest.
Years they successfully raised a chick: 2
Years they had a bad egg, which broke: 2
Years BPM abandoned the egg: 3
Another year BPM pulled the shell off of the chick in one day. The chick lived very briefly with the yolk sac still attached. During hatching the chick is supposed to peck a hole in the hard shell of the egg, then break bits of the shell off until he is free of his former home. It usually takes from 2 to 4 days for an albatross chick to break out. The parents are supposed to let the chicks hatch by themselves; the chicks use a temporary structure on the bill called an egg tooth to chip away at the shell. The egg tooth is the white spot at the end of the bill in this photo. This happens to be Bipolar Momma with her chick from 2012, a good year for this couple.
The parent usually talks to the chick during hatching, but they never help with shell removal. Except for Bipolar Momma, that is. The chicks should absorb the yolk sac by the time they hatch, but this one had not had time to do that before the shell was pulled off of him.
Two of the times that BPM abandoned her egg she first left it the day after she laid it. KP515 came back the next day and resumed incubation, then BPM abandoned it again later on. The other time KP515 had taken his first incubation shift, and she abandoned it the day after she came back to relieve him at the nest.
Here is hoping that this couple can get through incubation and hatching with no problems. Once the chick is safely out, Bipolar Momma knows how to be a good parent, she has proven that in the past. She just never totally got that whole incubation/hatching thing.