Hiding in Plain Sight

3 – 16 January 2012
Cameron Rutt and Robby Kohley

The once reticent millerbirds at last appear ready to announce their emergence from hibernation.  Not quite garrulous, but decidedly more chatty than their muted monotony of November and December, which was so disquieting for us and our resighting efforts.  This behavioral resurgence is a most welcome change of pace and in the past three weeks we’ve managed to locate no less than 20 of the 24 millerbirds.  Whether or not there is any correlation, this activity surge has coincided with the arrival of more seasonal wintry weather.  The nearly rain-free days of December, with its abundance of sunshine and temperatures that still soared into the 90s, may now be behind us.  With January, the weather has given way to chilling lows (56° F!) and brisk highs (73° F), but I doubt we’re drumming up much of any sympathy from our mainland audience.  Oh, and a day with 2+ inches of rain.  Now where are those long pants?

Despite relocating B/S, B/W (blue over silver on left leg; blue over white on right leg) in his self-imposed solitary confinement at the southern tip of the island, there is no competition for this installment’s “resight of the week.”  That singular honor goes to G/Bk, O/S (green over black on left leg; orange over silver on right leg) who was on our “most wanted” list after going AWOL following an 11/3 resight.  After more than two months, a routine visit (1/6) to an occupied territory yielded an unknown singer along the outskirts of the northern vegetation.  Much to our surprise, there was G/Bk, O/S – 64 days since we had last laid eyes on this mysterious male!  And to make matters even more perplexing, this was a location that we had regularly visited throughout November and December.  How a male could reappear in this fashion, singing in the midst of core millerbird habitat no less, is beyond us.  Where he spent those months is anybody’s guess.  Or perhaps he just broke his vow of silence.  Whatever the case, the shadowy nature of these millerbirds can transform a seemingly routine resight into a surprising discovery.

The ill-fated chased-by-a-Peregrine list now includes Bristle-thighed Curlew, in addition to the regimen of smaller shorebirds.  So far, we’ve watched as it gave chase to a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Great Frigatebirds, an adult Red-tailed Tropicbird, Black and Brown Noddies, White Tern, and Laysan Finches.  Our holiday scrooge – the Short-tailed Albatross – was back from its nearly three-week hiatus (1/11), having chosen to spend Christmas and New Years at sea.  The first Humpback Whale of the season spouted its offshore greetings (1/11) before flipping a fluke of a farewell.  Finally: single “Brewster’s” Brown Boobies made appearances (1/6 and 1/13); the well-fed Peregrine Falcon (through 1/15) apparently shows no intentions of dieting as its 2012 resolution, maintaining its breakneck pace of nearly a bird/day (its totaled roosting fare has increased to include 17 Pacific Golden-Plovers, 19 Ruddy Turnstones, 1 Sanderling, and 1 Laysan Finch); our high count for Sanderlings was eclipsed (111 on 1/3); and the Gray-tailed Tattler (through 1/13), Wood Sandpiper (through 1/13), 2 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (through 1/13), Dunlin (through 1/13), and Ruff (through 1/13) all continue.

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