Abundance and Scarcity: A Day to Remember on Midway Atoll

Saturday, December 17, 2011 is a day that will live in my memory for a long, long time.  Walking out of Midway Atoll's “Charlie Barracks” at the brink of sunrise, a world of wildlife is quite literally at the front door. 

In fact, it is everywhere. 

Bonan petrels are streaking around, at eye level, heading out to forage for the day. The thousands upon thousands of Laysan albatross seem to be welcoming them back. 

USFWS Director, Dan Ashe, captures a photo of a Laysan Albatross on East
Island during his recent visit to Midway Atoll NWR

We took a boat to  East Island, escorted by Spinner dolphins, and walked across the place that was the WWII airstrip and is now covered, again quite literally, in nesting albatross.  Every step must be carefully placed in between nesting birds. 

They clap their bills as if to remind you that, “This is my space.” But they don’t seem alarmed. Jason Holm, new External Affairs Assistant Regional Director of the Pacific Region said, “It sounds like very polite applause, as if they were saying thank you to the Service for protecting this place.” 

It is so unusual when wildlife don’t see you as a threat, but just as a visitor.  We saw a Short-tailed albatross, maybe the world’s most endangered bird.  It and its mate are the first of this species to nest outside of Japan in recorded history.   We saw Red-footed boobies.  We saw endangered Laysan duck.  We saw endangered Hawaii Monk Seals. 

Incredible abundance and stark scarcity is on display at every corner of this incredible refuge.  

Learning about Wetland Restoration efforts for Laysan Ducks on East Island

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Last updated: August 31, 2011