Fledgling Independence Day

Millerbird with spider.

June 25 – July 8
John Vetter

This two-week period was a study in contrasts for the Millerbirds, and showed how frustrating and rewarding working with this species really can be. The first week was hot and dry and many birds had begun post-breeding molt. Thus, birds were very quiet (two songs all week!) and I managed to find only four of them the entire week, often leaving me wondering if there really were Millerbirds on this island. However, cool, wet conditions prevailed the following week and suddenly they appeared everywhere, once again singing and moving about extensively in the foliage. While adults continued feeding their chicks early in the period (Photo 1), by the end of the two weeks many of the young fledglings had begun to strike out on their own. So keeping track of these little ones will become more difficult. Luckily for me, curiosity is a defining characteristic of hatch-year Millerbirds, and I do not have to find them as much as realize that they have already found me and are peering intently at me from a few feet away.

The Resight of the Week this week goes to Bk/Y, G/S. This small female is one of the more difficult Millerbirds to find due to her territory in very thick, dense vegetation. After last resighting her on May 19th, I found her again on July 6th quietly preening in the vegetation. Both her tail and her wings were fresh and still re-growing after molt.

The albatross colonies are beginning to thin, as many of the chicks took full advantage of the recent windy conditions to hone their flight skills and head out to sea. Many are still in the learning curve, however, and crash landings are common. One definitely needs to keep one’s eyes and ears alert when walking around the interior lake, where many of the Laysan Albatross chicks are learning. More than once I have had to duck out of the way of an out-of-control fledgling. Among the other birds, the Brown Noddies have begun hatching. Seemingly every nest on the island hatched during a two-day period last week. More small Laysan Duck chicks have begun appearing as well, while many of the early chicks are now out on their own. As with young Millerbirds, these fledgling ducks are often found in groups and are extremely curious about the people working on the island.

There are still no unusual migrants or vagrants around the island, but the Bristle-thighed Curlews and Ruddy Turnstones are keeping many of the seabirds on their toes. Both of these species are known egg predators, especially the curlew. Anytime one of these birds flies around the island, it is accompanied by a strong contingent of vigilant seabirds, usually Sooty Terns. The Blue-gray Noddy continues its residence on the island, being found regularly in the heliotrope trees along the beach.

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