satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Take a "Virtual Visit" to Midway

Who wouldn't want to visit Midway Atoll NWR, the site of the world's largest Laysan Albatross nesting colony?!  At the moment, there are no eco-tourism opportunities on the Atoll, but there is a way to visit the Refuge virtually --> "like" Friends of Midway Atoll NWR Facebook Page.  Lots of pictures and updates!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Albatross is TWO STORIES tall!

You don't believe me?  Well take a look at this --
During his visit to Midway Atoll NWR, Wyland painted a mural on Charlie Barracks (near L7 on the map.). The video clip above is a time lapse taken during the painting project.  Can you see the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle hovering over some limu, or seaweed, as well as a graceful Hawaiian Monk Seal?  And there they are, a pair of huge dancing Laysan Albatross.  If they were real, I wonder how loud their song would be ?!
(photos: Wyland Earle Midway Atoll 2011)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's Happening on Tern Island?

Sooty Tern, ʻEwaʻewa; photo by Paula Hartzell
Previously, in this blog, we've mentioned our neighbor Hawaiian Island to the northwest, Kure Atoll:
  • Dolphin Survey -- May 2010: Pictures and a video clip showing dolphin work done by Cynthia Vanderlip, Matt Saunter and Ilana Nimz a crew of staff and volunteers at Midway prior to their deployment to Kure.
  • Kure Atoll: Part of the ʻOhana -- August 2010: This post begins with an explanation of how the chain of Hawaiian Islands was formed from volcanoes.  Hawaii state Department of Land and Natural Resources staffers, Syd Kawahakui, Jr. and Jason Misaki, are introduced on their way to Kure.
Tern Island within FFS is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Now we "tern" our attention to our neighbor to the southeast, Tern Island Field Station within French Frigate Shoals.

Visit the French Frigate Shoals: Kānemilohaʻi, Tern Island Blog.  Beginning in December, a new crew will be doing oceanic bird work, habitat restoration, marine debris monitoring and other projects over the winter and spring seasons.  During the summer, there will be additional work with Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and Hawaiian Monk Seals  You can follow all the happenings on the blog.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Albatross Losses from 2011 Winter Storms and Tsunami

two adult Laysan Albatross,
It's the end of November and the albatross are back; hurray!!!

Worldwide, most of the Black-footed Albatross (BFAL) and Laysan Albatross (LAAL) live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  That's 95% of the global population of BFALs and even more, 99%, for the LAALs.  Therefore, it's important to keep track of how well albatross are doing in the NW Hawaiian Islands.

Before we really get into this season, let's take a look back at how well the albatross chicks did last year.  Specifically, let's look at how well they survived the heavy winter storms and the March Japan tsunami; the following numbers are provided by Dr. Lindsay Young, Wildlife Biologist with Pacific Rim Conservation.
Wow!  Looks like Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was particularly hard hit!  Let's hope the 2012 hatch year is lots better!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Midway: EARs Listen for Whales

Humpback Whale; picture from Wikipedia
There just might be Humpback Whales hanging around Midway during the winter.

We've known for a long time that in late fall Humpbacks travel from the Alaska area to main Hawaiian islands, especially Maui.  During their winter in Hawai`i, these whales do family things: mate, give birth and take care of little whales...and the mature males sing.

Now there's scientific evidence showing that maybe the whole Hawaiian archipelago, from the Big Island of Hawai`i all the way to Kure Atoll, is the site of one, big winter-time Humpback Whale "family reunion."  In 2006 scientists began to see more whales around the small islands, atolls and coral reefs northwest of Honolulu.  Hhhhmmmm, researchers from the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology, the Joint Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Research, as well as NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division decided to find out more.  So, in 2008 they tuned their ears to listen for whale song.

White circles show EAR locations; see reference below for source of map
spectrogram of a Humpback Whale song; see reference below
Make that EARs, or ecological acoustic recorders.  About ten EARs were placed at various places along the island chain.  Whale songs were recorded at all locations!  The picture at the right is called a "spectrogram."  Its horizontal axis represents 30 seconds of time, and the vertical axis is the frequency, or pitch of the whale sound.  I think the spectrogram shows a lot of little blips of sound at different pitches; what do you think?

I'm  pretty sure this whale song from NOAA wasn't recorded at Midway.  The mp3 is about 13 minutes long, but maybe you'd like to listen for awhile--  _____________________________________________________________________________
Lammers, M.O., Fisher-Pool, P.I., Au, W.W.L., Meyer, C.G., Wong, K.B., Brainard, R.E. (2011) Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae song reveals wintering activity in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 423:261-268.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Midway Tsunami Links: new...and quite old

Aloha!  Rather than write my own update about tsunami-related news, I've decided to link you directly to sources reporting on Midway, as well as other atolls in the NW Hawaiian Islands:
And look at this aerial shot of Midway's main street almost 60 years ago! - --

Midway Island Flooded by 1952 Kamchatka Tsunami Tsunami Generated by Earthquake of Nov. 4, 1952, Kamchatka Peninsula, USSR. Flooded street resulting from tsunami on Midway Island. The tsunami was generated by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake on Kamchatka where it caused severe damage. The tsunami then struck Midway about 3,000 km away, the Hawaiian Islands 5,200 km away, and other areas in the Pacific. Midway reportedly was covered with 1 m of water. Photograph Credit: U.S. Navy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The resilience of life: post-tsunami reflections

area not impacted by tsunami
photo by Anna Liem
Guest blogger Anna with reflections on the Sendai tsunami's impact on Midway

We're all relieved to hear the USFWS announcement that Wisdom has returned safely to her nest after the tsunami, and was seen feeding her chick. Although the parents of the STAL chick on Eastern have not yet been sighted, USFWS is hopeful that they are still at sea gathering food and, like Wisdom, will eventually return.

Wisdom's return serves as a reminder that, while this year's cohort of chicks was undoubtedly severely impacted by the tsunami and the two heavy winter storms this year, there are still hundreds of thousands of breeding adults who survived and will continue to return to Midway and raise new chicks for years to come.

USFWS volunteer Ipo rescuing a waterlogged bird
photo by Anna Liem
When I look at the raw numbers, it seems strange that we spent so many hours rescuing what seems like a tiny handful of birds. USFWS rescued at least 50 waterlogged adult albatrosses from the lagoon, and USFWS and visitors alike freed over 200 trapped birds; however those numbers appear insignificant compared to the estimated 110,000 chicks and 2,000 adults thought to have been lost due to the tsunami and the severe winter storms of January and February.

But the numbers are only part of the story. Yes, the 300 birds we rescued are a tiny percentage of the birds impacted by the tsunami and the storms, but each of those birds is an individual, just like Wisdom, whom we managed to save. Perhaps we didn't make a huge difference to the albatross population, but we made a huge difference to those individual birds.

All those involved in the rescue efforts walked away with wounds on our hearts from seeing all the birds we couldn't save, but what we will strive to remember instead are the wounds on our arms from the bites of the frightened birds that we did save. I can hardly express the comfort I took and the satisfaction I felt in lifting a newly-freed chick, still covered in wood chips, from the debris and carrying it to safety. As I remember that feeling, it reminds me that, in the face of disaster, both the best and the least we can do is to try to save as many as we can.