One week ago I found a broken egg at the nest across the street from my house.
There was no chick in the egg, it was infertile. KP404 and KP756 are the two females who had built this nest of dirt and leaves in my neighbors’ garden, and it would have been a lovely, cool spot for an albatross chick. Last year, they incubated an egg that was fertile, thanks to a male albatross across the street from them. They spent that season raising a healthy chick. This is more likely to happen in an area like Midway, where all of the nests are close together and the females cannot avoid the males as easily as they can in Princeville. We have plenty of space for the nesting birds to spread out in; a male does not have such easy access to females.
Later that day I saw KP404 sitting on the lawn below the nest site.
She spent the night there, then left the next morning. She returned later and again spent the night, with an albatross who has lost her mate keeping her company. She was waiting for KP756; I saw her every day since the egg broke. Albatrosses who have lost an egg or a chick often do this. They need to meet up with the individual that they spend most of their time on land with, the one they have shared nesting duties with for so many weeks. They will probably come back to see each other here more than once. Both birds need to know that they can depend on the other one to put maximum effort into nesting duties. They will reinforce their bond by sitting close together and gently grooming each other. Usually they will meet up with each other at one particular spot, and will probably find each other there the following season. One couple in this neighborhood sat together together on one lawn on most of the days since their egg broke at the end of January. They may not nest there next year, but they will know where to find each other.
Yesterday KP756 returned. She and KP404 were sitting close together around the corner from their nest, not too far from a chick who was being visited by his mother. When two albatrosses groom each other around the head, it seems to indicate a number of things, depending on the couple:
I’d like to nest with you next year;
I’m glad to see you made it back here safely;
and of course,
It’s O.K., we’ll try again next season.