Two of the seventeen albatross chicks born in Princeville have taken flight. All of these chicks were born the end of January and have stayed close to their nests until now. Mom and Dad have been bringing them sustenance for months. Now it is time for each of them to head out to sea to find their own food thousands of miles away.
Pela (Hawaiian for “soar”), the chick I was lucky enough to name, is still in the cul-de-sac just at the foot of Honu Point’s driveway. He/she, like the others, has much of her body covered in flight feathers but still maintains the baby fluff around her head and chest. It is not her best look.
It has been a month since I reported on Pela, “my” Laysan albatross chick in Princeville, Kauai. He/she is now ten weeks old and growing like crazy. I will not know his/her gender for awhile so until then I am choosing the “she” pronoun. When she gets closer to fledging (first flight), the Biologists will tag her and pluck a feather to be analyzed. At that point we will know her gender.
Pela is on her third nest. She started in the nest her parents lovingly built prior to laying the egg from which she emerged. Several weeks later she moved to a spot next to the fire hydrant and built her own nest (see photos here). Now she is a few feet away at the base of a tree. Much better for photographs!
Yesterday I was gardening at Honu Point, our vacation rental next to Pela’s nest, and I heard the very distinctive sound of albatross communing with one another. So, I dropped my tool (any excuse for a rest) and headed in the direction of the noise, camera in hand. In the yard of a nearby neighbor I found two albatross beak to beak, both with tags on their left leg. I happen to know that Dora, Pela’s mom, has her tag on her left leg so I assumed she was one of the pair. But, who was the other adult bird? Larry, Pela’s dad, has his tag on the right leg. Oh dear.
If you find yourself falling in love with the albatross in Honu Point’s neighborhood, consider a walk with Cathy Granholm. She lives just down the street and checks on the albatross almost daily. With her computerized list of tag numbers handy, she scouts the neighborhood (and Princeville in general) to see which adults have flown in. She has been following some of these adults for years and has a family tree showing the lineage of many of the birds. She also checks each nest to make sure the chicks are progressing as they should.
Cathy’s walks are fascinating, filled with facts, theories, and lots of stories about birds she has observed over time. Because albatross return to where they are born and where they nest, it is much like a family reunion each year when the birds return from the north. She, like I, and many of the neighbors, feel totally invested in their welfare. Cathy has anecdotes about who has paired up with who (not all mate for life apparently) and about times when she has had to step in and help out a fledgling trying to fly for the first time. There are some funny stories as well as some sad ones. I keep telling her she needs to write a book.
I’ve written thirteen blog posts about the Laysan Albatross at our Honu Point Vacation Rental on Kauai, but, by far, this is the one I am most excited about. I have always appreciated these graceful creatures but it was while building our vacation rental that I fell in love with them. Being on the property on a daily basis and watching them soar overhead was magical. Hearing and seeing the mating dances of young birds and eyeing nesting couples snuggling along Kaweonui Road made them even more endearing to me.
Each year I have been jealous when neighbors up and down the street are given the “right” to name a new chick because of it being born on their property. Our bluff property is not safe enough for nests and fledglings wait until they are six months old to waddle down our driveway ready for their first flight.
This year one pair, Larry and Dora, returned and scouted the area for the perfect spot to nest. They eventually decided on the interior of the cul-de-sac at the foot of our driveway. This was my chance! Because the property is not private I asked (okay, begged) our resident albatross historian, Cathy, if I might have the honor of naming this chick. She agreed!
Spending lots of time on Google translator and waiting not so patiently, I searched for the perfect name. An egg was laid and about a month later “my” precious chick started pipping its egg in order to meet his/her surrounding world.
They’re back! Each year Hob Osterlund, author of Holy Moli, Albatross and Other Ancestors, has a contest to guess when the first albatross will return to Kauai. This year one eager bird (not the one shown in the photo) was spotted at a Kilauea property on Thursday, November 8th! A second sighting happened at the Kilauea Lighthouse on Friday. That means many more will follow over the next few weeks. We can hardly wait to see who shows up on Kaweonui Road.
Those of you who have been following my blogs know how crazy I am about the Laysan albatross. In fact, if you go to my blog category list you will see that I have already written ten blogs about these birds. Therefore, I won’t go into much detail, here, about what makes these birds so special to me and others on Kauai. You can read about that in my other blogs. But, I did want to share with you a short documentary that Hob Osterlund has created, Kalama’s Journey. She has been working on the footage for this video for a couple of years. Those of you who have been to our vacation rental, Honu Point, will recognize the opening shots.
It is a special time of year for guests staying at Honu Point on Kaweonui Road in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii. The Laysan albatross chicks who were born in January are very busy practicing to fly. We have ten in the neighborhood and it seems that no matter what time of day you drive by one of them is spreading its wings to test the air flow.
Yesterday I stopped to take three videos. The first two are right from my car as you can tell when the chick decided to check out a piece of frond in the road.
These chicks have stayed very close to their nests for six months with mom and dad flying in to bring them food. The only baby fluff left is on their chest and head. The rest of the body is covered in flight feathers. They have not seen the ocean yet but in a couple of weeks they will find their way to the bluff and take a giant leap of faith. From there they will head out to sea for three to four years, flying about 1000 miles to find and catch their first live food.
To get ready the albatross chick raises and lowers its huge wingspan to test the wind, running down the side of the road. You can see how unsteady they are at this point.
The cutest part is when they start taking little hops to get airborne. Keep in mind that they never actually fly until they jump off the bluff. In years past we have had at least one chick per year jump from our property, Honu Point.
Each albatross chick is banded and, if they stay safe for their years out to sea, they will return to where they were born to find a mate. Our neighbor, Cathy, is compiling a family tree of the birds who have been born and raised in the Kaweonui Road neighborhood since the late seventies. It is always a celebration when one comes “home.”
Vinney fledged from just outside Honu Point’s master bedroom in 2015. An author and neighbor took this great shot. We are waiting for Vinney to come back.
So, if you are visiting Kauai from January to July, be sure to take a drive around Princeville to get an up-close and personal view of these amazing birds. If you are lucky enough to watch one fledge it will be an event to remember, for sure.
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Yes, today was another drop dead gorgeous winter day in Princeville, Kauai; warm temperatures, clear skies and a slight breeze. From the lush, green mountains to the white water swells I just had to share. This video was taken by me at the end of our peninsula.
And, just to add some excitement to the spender, we have at least four albatross nests within five houses of our property. One parent stays on the nest while the partner goes off for food. Then they exchange places. This continues until the chick emerges from its shell and is old enough to stay warm without them. Princeville is the only place in the world where albatross nest among people!!
To highlight the day, as I was wandering around taking photos, I caught two young albatross trying to “hook up” with each other. Enjoy the dance (be sure to have your volume on).
These magnificent birds stay in the neighborhood until their chicks fledge in July. They definitely add to the enjoyment of a winter or spring vacation on Kauai. Come stay at Honu Point and you, too, will be able to have this “bird’s eye” view.
For more detailed information about the Laysan albatross, see my previous blog written one month ago when I was anxiously awaiting their arrival.