Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The albatross is one of the most beautiful and intriguing birds on earth. Their long, narrow wings are perfectly structured to allow them to sail effortlessly just above the waves without as much as a flap. They are truly masters of flight.
My first encounter with an albatross was on the island of Kauai in about 1990. I was visiting my college friend, Pam, and we took a drive out to Kilauea Lighthouse for some scenic vistas. We were walking out a narrow bridge to the lighthouse when suddenly a huge Laysan Albatross swooped up on a wind current right over our heads. I was blown away.....6 feet of wingspan zooming up, over and down again.......
A few years later in 1993 I volunteered for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to be an intern on the remote Tern Island in the NW Hawaiian Island Refuge.
Seabird Central! Not only two species of albatross but terns, noddies, shearwaters, boobies, frigatebirds, petrels, and tropicbirds. And I was supposed to count them, band them, and try not to get pooped on. Yep, this 3000 foot long, 500 foot wide island was my home for three months.

When I was there most of the albatrosses had teenaged chicks. These kids go through some tough times since their parents leave them for good before the chicks can fly. They still have to grow in the rest of their feathers,

learn how to work those huge wings,

and then make it past the tiger sharks waiting around for a tired chick to land on the water.
Life's a bitch.

But most of them make it out alive and take to the ocean like, well, an albatross takes to the ocean. They won't return to Tern Island for a few years and probably won't even see land until then. They have no need to until they are ready to find a mate.

OK, just as a random's me on Tern Island on my 25th birthday. Yep. I really was young!

If you'd like to read one of the most outstanding books ever written about birds then I recommend Eye of the Albatross, by Carl Safina. I think I cried at the end.......

In two weeks, I'll be heading to the Southern Hemisphere to catch some brand new albatross action.....this time it'll be Wandering, Black-browed, Sooty, and Grey-headed. I can't wait!! Of course, many photos will appear here once I return......penguins, albatrosses, petrels. Wow.


NW Nature Nut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NW Nature Nut said...

(Okay, let me try that again. I had a type-o and I guess you can't edit)
Thanks for the post....finally. :)
How come you got rid of "birdnerd", I liked that!

Laura W. said...

I'm trying to be a grownup.
Suddenly I just didn't like it anymore....Oh Well.

OneWuff said...

Are you kidding me? No more "BirdNerd?" You're my 2nd friend to say something like, "I thought being grown-up meant being serious." Puh-leaze!
You're always BirdNerd to me. It shows you have a fun side.
Love your fun side. I sure do!!

Laura W. said...

OK OK OK!! Sorry!

NYCmama said...

how about mentioning that the albatros chick were the size of turkeys and looked like fluffy grey peeps!