Birder's Guide

MAR 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 35 of 95

Birds of Midway Atoll 34 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2017 likely become even more prized as a birding destination. It's not the quantity of species you will get to see, though; it's the quality! Midway is a low-lying atoll, comprised of three islands and a large circular coral reef. Sand Island is the heavily vegetated is- land where Midway's small human population resides, with nearby Eastern Island and tiny Spit Island seemingly desolate by compari- son. Midway is considered an unincorporated, unorganized terri- tory of the U.S. and does not actually fall under the jurisdiction of the state of Hawaii, though islands both to the east and west do. Midway typically has several dozen permanent residents at any given time, and offers many amenities, despite its remote location. The residents of Midway generally include an eclectic mix of US- FWS staff, contractors (including many Thai nationals) who help run the "town" and airport, and a handful of researchers. A birder's first visit to Midway is something to remember forever. The arrival itself is a very disorienting experience. During much of the year, all civilian flights to the atoll arrive at night, in order to avoid collisions with diurnal seabirds. When you begin your descent through the darkness, you can see nothing but a single strip of lights suspended in a black abyss, glowing through the cockpit window. After landing and taxiing down the tarmac, the plane pulls up in front of a massive, dilapidated hangar, lit up in floodlights. You disembark and are quickly herded into a waiting golf cart (there are few cars on the island). You take in the warm, wet air that has a faint sweetness to it. As you find your bearings, you become aware of swift, black-and-white birds flying in and out of the overhead Top: n Black-footed Albatross. Photo © Steve Tucker Middle: n Gray-backed Terns. Photo © Steve Tucker Bottom: n Short-tailed Albatross incubating. Photo © Barbara Maxfield

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