Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Oahu (Mon., 1/18/10) – Day Two
by -- January 19th, 2010

We Hike to Kae’na Point to See Albatross and Monk Seals

It was dark at 6:30 when we stumbled into the big white van and drove to Coffee Talk for our morning java.  Sipping our coffee, we drove across Oahu and up to the North Shore, famous for its big surf.  Our trip ended at Ka’ena Point, at the far northwestern tip of the island.  We met our friends Lindsay Young, David Hyrenbach and Tracy Wurth in the parking lot.

The class gathers to learn about conservation measures at Kaena Pt.

The class gathers to learn about conservation measures at Kaena Pt.

Ka’ena Point is a special place in many ways.  The 59-acre Natural Area Reserve is managed by the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources and is home to the only albatross colony on Oahu and a variety of endangered and endemic coastal plants. The reserve also contains a leina a ka `uhane (Spirit Leap), a celebrated legendary place.  It is also the best place on Oahu to see the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Tom McMurray on the trail at Kaena Pt., an albatross on the nest nearby.

Tom McMurray on the trail at Kaena Pt., an albatross on the nest nearby.

We started the two-mile hike out to the point with some nice surf breaking on our right and cliffs to our left.  It was cloudy and cool; a perfect day for a hike.  We chatted with Tracy and David about albatross and monk seal conservation and Lindsay stopped to show us the results of projects that are re-introducing native plants such as naupaka.  As we neared the Point we saw our first Laysan albatross soaring over the water.

A closeup of albtross 0099, nicknamed Gretzky.

A closeup of albtross 0099, nicknamed Gretzky.

When we reached the Point, we split up into three groups and Lindsay took each one off the path to census the albatross nests.  The adults are currently alternating their parental duty of incubating eggs (a 65-day task), so Lindsay gently coaxed each one to sit up so she could check on the status of the egg.  Their partners are foraging at sea – we watched one come in for a landing near its partner.  Interestingly, there are many female-female pairs here, a trait that Lindsay chalks up to a lack of an adult males in this relatively young colony.

Dr. Lindsay Young restrains an albatross to assess it's leg band.

Dr. Lindsay Young restrains an albatross to assess it’s leg band.

We also spent some time watching several monk seals sleep, surrounded by interested humans.  Mitigating the potential disturbance caused by visitors is one of the major challenges facing monk seal conservation in the main Hawaiian islands (we’ll find out about a different set of challenges in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands tomorrow).

One of four monk seals surrounded by people at Kaena Pt.

One of four monk seals surrounded by people at Kaena Pt.

Lindsay has been leading a project to introduce an anti-predator fence to protect nesting seabirds at Ka’ena Point.  Dogs and mongooses have already destroyed a fifth of this year’s nests; rats and mice are also a problem.  The fence will prevent these predators from entering the reserve and enhance the survival and breeding success of the albatross and petrels that breed here.  It’s exciting to see how the hard work of a small number of dedicated people can have such dramatic conservation benefits.  We are looking forward to returning next year to see the fence in place and perhaps helping with the predator removal.

The class visits Yogurtland for the first time

The class visits Yogurtland for the first time

After a lunch at Killer Tacos we returned to the University of Hawaii and made our first visit (OK, OK, my second visit) to the dreamy, frozen wonder that is Yogurtland.  Last year’s class will know exactly what I mean…

5 Comments

  1. Anna-Marie Laura
    Jan 21, 2010

    Really enjoying the blog so far and am sooo jealous of your Yogurtland adventure (not to mention the visit to Ka’ena point)–DC has a lot of great food but so far no Pistachio yogurt to be found! Any new info or theories from Lindsay about the nests that actually have three birds rotating through?

    • Andy Read
      Jan 22, 2010

      Hi Anna-Marie:

      The birds say hi… Here are Lindsay Young’s thoughts on your question:

      “Yup, Midway has a few threesomes that we’ve found so far. We find these every year in the main islands also- always 2 females and one male and it is probably a function of sex ratio, although I haven’t really investigated much further yet. In some of the larger colonies, because the birds are so site-specific (even within islands) you can get localized sex ratio skews which means that the birds ‘available’ to mate/pair with in a certain area may be of the same sex leading to female-female pairs or threesomes. Whether they started as threesomes, or just a female pair that added a male, I don’t know.”

  2. Michelle Fabie
    Jan 22, 2010

    Oh how I miss that place. None of the DC yogurt places come close…

    Hope this class realizes how lucky they are to be en route to Midway!!

  3. Lindsey Feldman
    Jan 22, 2010

    Is it awful that before I even read Anna-Marie’s post I was going to post something about the joys of Yogurtland too? I’ve been privileged enough to spend a bunch of time in CA in the past year where frozen yogurt shops are plenty-but none are as good as Yogurtland. Love reading the blog and remembering what an amazing trip we had last year. Have fun guys!

  4. Andre Jackson
    Dec 1, 2010

    Very nice to see the animals in their real living condition.
    When I was in Hawaii(Kauai) it was brilliant.
    The resort I stayed was Poipu Kai. Good resort and you can see a lot from there.
    For all those who are interested just visit: http://www.poipu-kai.com/

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