One of the rewards of visiting the albatrosses every day is that I have occasionally had the privilege of seeing one return for the first time since fledging. When they first fledge, the do not come back to land until they return to the area they fledged from, or occasionally to some other place that is colonized by Laysan albatrosses. At least two Princeville birds are on Midway. Occasionally I receive a call from a concerned observer telling me that they have spotted a limping albatross on the golf course. When an albatross returns to Princeville for the first time, he almost always lands on the golf course, which has large, obstacle free expanses of soft grassy fields for a bird to stumble around in while he gets his land legs.
And stumble they do!
One day when I was feeling sorry for myself because it was a long day and I really wanted to go home and relax, I saw a bird in the distance on the golf course who seemed to be having difficulty standing up. He was not favoring either leg, he just seemed to be having problems navigating the beautifully shorn grass on fairway 14. I checked out the auxiliary band number, and it was one of the chick band numbers I had memorized. It was Tater, who had hatched and grown up outside my mother’s bedroom window, much to her delight. With just about any other chick, I would have checked my lists of chick numbers and years sighted to make sure this was his first time back, but I did not have to.
Tater is a PMRF chick. He was raised by two females who have never had a chick that was not delivered as an embryo inside an egg picked up at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. My sister named him. His older brother is named Spud. Tater and Spud hatched in years when DNA tests were performed to determine the sex of each chick, and as many adults as could be captured.
I sat on the grass and watched Tater as he tried to cope with his wobbly legs and the uneven walking surface. In fact, I filmed him. I posted the film on YouTube, if you do a search on Cathy Granholm you can find that one and a couple of others. So far, Tater’s first day back on land has had over 26,000 viewings. My favorite part is when he attempts to display with another albatross and ends up falling against her. She tolerated that, but was turned off by his weird gestures, and finally moved away from him and took off.
By the next day, Tater was walking fine. He learned proper displaying techniques and found a possible mate. He and an unbanded bird hung out together within 20 feet of the spot where the nest he grew up in was located, on my lawn.
I saw him for the first time this season on the golf course, near the Westin Hotel. I had never seen him there before.
The next day he was sitting on the corner where my house is located. Unfortunately for him, Hanai, the father of Kirwan, the chick who grew up in my yard 2 years ago, did not want him hanging out too close to the area next to my house where he was waiting for his mate to return, so he chased him around the corner.
Unfortunately, Tater keeps missing the unbanded bird that I suspect may be the female he was meeting near my house last season. One arrives here right after the other one has left. Right now Tater is here.
I would love to have two nests in my yard, one on one side, one on the other.
Am I being greedy?