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 36 of 95

35 March 2017 | Birder's Guide to Travel lights, like giant moths. Finally, you start listening. Once you cut through the excited human chatter around you, you realize there is a wall of sound in the background. These are the albatrosses, and their constant honks, moos, whinnies, titters, groans, and quacks will not abate until you depart the island. On your ride to "town", you can make out the forms of thousands of Laysan Albatrosses lining the roadways, and your driver swerves to avoid any albatrosses or Bonin Petrels that wander into the road, which is what you saw in the lights at the hangar. The experi- ence is surreal, even intoxicating. It is difficult to sleep that first night, be- tween the unbelievable din of the petrels and albatrosses, and wondering what your first day will hold. As a birder, it is not un- like being a child trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. When morning arrives, you step out the door and into the world's largest Lay- san Albatross nesting colony. Laysan Al- batrosses and their nests seemingly oc- cupy every piece of ground in sight, and in between many nests are burrows dug by Bonin Petrels. Simply walking down the road to the dining hall will produce curious White Terns and the more busi - nesslike Black Noddies swooping over- head. Pacific Golden-Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones meekly make room for you as you pass, reminiscent of blackbirds in a parking lot. Wisdom, the world's oldest- known Laysan Albatross and oldest liv - ing wild bird (she is over 65!), is readily found every year nesting next to the bar- racks that you pass by. Grab a bicycle, take a short trip to the harbor, and find Black-footed Albatrosses nesting near the beaches, Great Frigate- birds relaxing in the ironwood trees, and Bristle-thighed Curlews poking in the duff for grubs or mice to munch on. Red-tailed Tropicbirds loudly perform their elaborate flight displays over the shoreline or peace- fully sit on nests at the base of trees. Keep an eye to the sky around "developed" parts of Sand Island for one of the few White- tailed Tropicbirds that nest there. Brown Noddies are numerous and may attempt a peck at your head if you are too close to a nest. Green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals haul out on Turtle Beach, and in the harbor, you may see an incredible diversity of reef fish, sharks, manta rays, and spotted eagle rays, all from dry land Clockwise from top: n White Tern. Photo © Steve Tucker n Red-tailed Tropicbird. Photo © Steve Tucker n Black Noddy. Photo © Steve Tucker n Midway Atoll satellite image. Google Earth Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, NOAA Image © 2016 DigitalGlobe Data NOAA

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