For the second time in recorded history, a shorttailed albatross has hatched outside of two islands off Japan. The chick hatched in January at Midway National Wildlife Refuge, yards away from the nest where the chicks parents hatched and fledged a chick last year. The parents met four years ago; the female is nine years old and the male 25. They amazed the scientific community last year by fledging the first chick despite two major storms and the Japanese tsunami that washed the young bird almost 100 feet from its nest. If all goes well, the two parents will spend this spring and early summer bringing food to their new chick every three to six days. They will log tens of thousands of miles, soaring between Midway Atoll and the nutrientrich waters far to the northwest, foraging on squid and flying fish eggs that they will regurgitate to the chick once back at the refuge.
We are excited and guardedly optimistic that this chick will grow strong and healthy enough to fledge, said refuge manager Sue Schulmeister. The shorttailed albatross chick raised last year thrived and fledged, so we know it has good, experienced parents. Adequate food and weather permitting, this chick will fledge and join its sibling at sea. The chick will be monitored via remote camera by staff at the refuge, which is part of Papaha–naumokua–kea Marine National Monument. Shorttailed albatross were one of the most abundant albatross species in the North Pacific before being hunted for their feathers and driven close to extinction by 1949. They are now a federally endangered species whose global population is estimated to be 2,200.
A stakeout at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge has uncovered a previously unknown brand of wetland avian thievery. To learn more about the habitat needs of American black ducks and Atlantic brant, two University of Delaware graduate students watched waterfowl day and night at the refuge over the past two winters. They collected new information about nocturnal behaviorand witnessed brazen daylight robberies. On the highest tides of the month, they saw black ducks catch fiddler crabs, only to be confronted headon by herring gulls, which chased them up to 300 yards. When the ducks dropped their catches, the gulls swooped in and ate the crabs. This kleptoparasitism is a new observation, according to a December 2011 Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management article coauthored by one of the students, Orrin Jones; his professor, Chris Williams; and state Division of Fish and Wildlife research scientist Paul Castelli (now a wildlife biologist at Forsythe Refuge).
The National Elk Refuge collaborated with St. Johns Medical Center to offer an innovative activity that combined an interpretive talk with a hospital program encouraging wellness. The medical center borders the refuge. Outdoor recreation planner Lori Iverson saw an advertisement in December for the medical centers Walk and Talk Wellness Series, twiceweekly outings that combine a noontime halfhour walk with discussions led by hospital staff. Speakers on the tours have used the opportunity to discuss their areas of specialty, including hearing, diabetes and nutrition. Iverson and medical center official Julia Heemstra arranged to have one outing be about refuge management. Lori is the only outside speaker weve had so far, and we got really positive feedback on that particular walk, said Heemstra. The refuge and the medical center are planning more walks this spring.
Taking advantage of a floods aftermath, Santa Ana Refuge on the U.S.Mexico border partnered with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in December 2011 to remove a couple hundred alligator gar, thereby improving refuge habitat and aiding state research. In July 2010, flooding had submerged the refuge, and, as waters receded, alligator gar had become trapped in many of its wetlands. Concentrations of the predatory fish posed a threat to migratory birds and state threatened or endangered species such as the blackspotted newt and the Rio Grande lesser siren. So, late last year, a partnership opportunity presented itself when the wetlands were drawn down, a management tool used by the refuge to mimic the historic flooding of the Rio Grande. The small, shallow pools full of alligator gar made it easy for refuge staff and state biologists to net more than 200 of the fish. Of those, 100 were taken by state biologists for research; alligator gar are prone to overharvest in Texas. The rest were released into the Rio Grande away from refuge wetlands.
This new badge is being issued to all Refuge System law enforcement officers this spring.
New Refuge Officer Badge
The Services Division of Refuge Law Enforcement has updated its regularduty badge for the first time in three decades. The new badge will be issued to all refuge officers this spring at their annual inservice training. It is the first regularduty badge in Service history (excepting the centennial year) to identify the National Wildlife Refuge System specifically. The badge also displays the year 1903, a reference to the establishment of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and the appointment of the nations first refuge manager/refuge officer, Paul Kroegel. Our current badge design dates back to the 1980s, and our identity to the public as their protectors and conservation officers for the natural and cultural resources of the Refuge System is more critical than ever, said Jim Hall, the divisions chief. Refuge officers are often the first employees that visitors encounter. This is another means to identify who we are and the unique treasure of our public lands. The badge rollout coincides with the divisions step of moving refuge officers from the 025 park ranger job classification to a new land management law enforcement series, 1801, with the title of federal wildlife officer. That move is designed to better support officers in human resourcesrelated areas, including recruitment.
In the spirit of service on Martin Luther King Day, 274 volunteers removed 3,672 pounds of trash in a coastline cleanup at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. Local high school students and several nonprofit organizations participated in the event, organized by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Charles W. Moore, author of Plastic Ocean, was among the volunteers. Dave Ellis, project leader at Oahu National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said plastics are the biggest part of the trash problem along coastlines, posing a danger to turtles, seabirds and other wildlife. The cleanup, which was done along a newly acquired twomilelong area of coastline that has been closed to the public, gave many residents their first chance to see the land.
A rare falcated duck, left, comes face to face with an American widgeon at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. The falcated duckwhich is common in Asia and is a member of the teal familydrew more than 10,000 visitors to the 4,507acre refuge north of Sacramento this winter.
Credit: Steve Emmons/USFWS