Nestling In For The Winter
22 November – 5 December 2011
Cameron Rutt and Robby Kohley
Like any good fireworks, the finale of the 2011 fall/winter millerbird breeding season was well worth the wait. At least one pair has successfully hatched a plan to safeguard their eggs, navigating their nest (Figure 1) all the way through incubation. It is with much anticipation that we officially announce the first genuinely “Laysan” millerbirds in nearly a century – the lone active nest now bearing one or two approximately week-old nestlings! During our latest nest check (12/2), we were able to discern the raised, begging head of at least one nestling, although it is likely that two exist! With every passing day, it is becomingly increasingly difficult to keep our hopes in-check, although we realize that they still have the better part of a week to go before fledging. Nonetheless, the countdown is on. Otherwise, we’ve been getting skunked by the millerbirds in the field, leaving no doubt that their reputation for being mouse-like is still very well intact. In fact, this past work period we had no less than three days without a resight. The millerbirds are literally shutting us out, that is, if we were keeping score.
With so few resights, it is tough to decide which is our “resight of the week.” Although not a resight, per se, overwhelmingly the best candidate is the only one that doesn’t have bands – the nestling(s). Second place, however, would have to go to Bk/S, B/O (black over silver left, blue over orange right; #1), who has developed a penchant for showing up in random places, often in the company of yet another male. Bk/S, B/O has debuted in this section of the blog before – due to her soap opera-esque lifestyle, although she now appears to be trying on the single life for fit. This past work period, she made two random appearances in other pairs’ territories, each time unexpectedly popping into view without so much as a peep. Throwing blind-folded darts at an island map might be just as likely as our best-made guesses to pinpoint her next location.
According to the Bird Banding Lab’s website, the oldest Black-footed Albatross on record is listed at 37 years and 8 months. This, however, will need to be amended as – drum-roll please – Andrea Kristof along with other USFWS Monument Crew resighted a suspiciously old banded bird on 11/25. Thanks to some quick detective work by Alex Wang, we learned that this individual was banded as a chick here on 8 June 1967 (!) – for a minimum age of 44 years and 5.5 months. Robby was especially pleased for the rejuvenating confirmation that, contrary to everyone else’s perceptions, he was not the oldest living creature on the island! Finally: the adult male “Brewster’s” Brown Booby showed itself 11/26; the male Lesser Frigatebird emerged in-flight over the Great Frigatebird colony just once (11/30); there are now 18 Northern Pintails, with a few “turning into” males (high count 11/26, 12/1, and 12/2); the single American Wigeon continues (through 12/2); the lingering Peregrine Falcon (Figure 2; possibly japonensis) has set up shop at such a location where we can analyze its leftovers (so far, wings from 5 Pacific Golden-Plovers and 3 Ruddy Turnstones (through 12/2)), and the Gray-tailed Tattler (through 11/26), Wood Sandpiper (through 11/26), Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (through 11/26; high count down to only 14 11/24), Dunlin (through 11/27), and Ruff (through 12/4) all made appearances.