Helping around the island.

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There is a lot of natural habitat restoration going on around the island.  That means killing and monitoring invasive plants as well as planting native plants, especially in areas where erosion of the island is concerning.  There are volunteers and “Kookoos” (actually called “Kupus” who are paid interns, I just like to call them the “KooKoos”) that work seemingly endlessly to get this job done.

 

Hopefully I’ll have plenty of opportunities to help them out during my time on the island.  This week I helped pot some natural grasses to be transplanted here and there around the island.  The soil was a mixture of sand and composted coconut husks…

 

 

Creepy Places (Part I)

I’m hoping for this to be a multipart series in the blog.  As some of you may know, there is a lot of history out here on Midway.  It was a military base for many, many years with thousands of people living here.   The battle of Midway was a gory one indeed.  Many, many soldiers died defending the island and our country after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

 

In it’s “hay day”, this place was happening with a bowling alley, theater, library, gymnasium, etc.  Now many of these places have “KEEP OUT” signs but there are still a few that don’t and are open to wander through.  I imagine some location scouts might consider for their next horror movie!!   Back in the day I’m sure there wasn’t as much technology to keep buildings from succumbing to the elements.  The island’s weather can be harsh… rain storms bringing in cool air then tropical like heat waves.  This hasn’t faired well for the relic buildings built around the 1930’s and 40’s (my best guess).

 

I wandered into the Gymnasium yesterday and while some do use the main gymnasium for pickle ball, there are some back rooms that are super creepy.  I got chills when I opened some doors.  Check out these uber-spooky pics…

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I’d love to hear your thoughts…don’t forget to comment!

Say “hello” to my little friends.

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To my surprise, I really like the birds out here.  When I was considering coming out here to Midway, I was not so excited when I learned about the bird situation.  I would say I wasn’t a fan of birds before, not that I didn’t like them, but I was indifferent.  I’m certainly more of a fuzzy animal fan, like dogs.  I was worried about the noise and the poop mostly.

It’s really something special here.  These birds offer hours of entertainment, well to be specific, the Albatross.  They are so silly and clumsy!  If you’ve ever watched The Little Mermaid, Ariel had a bird friend named Scuttle and I think Disney captured the essence of these birds in that character (though I don’t think that bird was an Albatross).   The other day I was sitting out on the deck eating dinner with one of the volunteers here and we watched this Albatross that somehow found its way up there try to get down.  It walked over the the edge where there was a wooden railing and I thought it would try to jump or fly over but oh no… it walked in between the slats.  I was sure it would get stuck and need a helping hand but it managed to squeeeeeze its way through, getting stuck just for a moment, leaving us giggling.

 

Watching them take off and land is hilarious.  First they get a running start with their floppy webbed feet and then spread their wings to get lift off.  If everything goes ok and no other birds or twigs are in their way, things go smoothly.  Landing, on the other hand, is almost never smooth.  Usually I see them face plant on landing, they usually get up and shake it off.  I just love seeing them on the side of the road as I’m parking my bike or walking and they look up at me, kind of curious.  Often times, I’ll squat down to their height and start up a conversation… “hey buddy!”

(I promise to get some good video of their silly take offs and not so smooth landings)

Right now they have made their babies and are taking turns (mom and pop) out to sea to get food and return back to feed the kiddos.  They don’t start reproducing until 4 or 5 years old, so you can see some of the adolescents schmoozing and trying to find a mate.  This involves an elaborate back and forth of clapping/clucking with their beaks, hooting and hollering, eskimo kissing and this back and forth of “yeah, yeah, yeah!” or “no, no, no” shaking of their heads.  Here’s a video of the albatross doing some kind of Bird Square Dancing:

Once they do find their mates, it can be kinda sweet to watch them snuggle…

 

 

Red Rover, Red Rover…

There’s many ways to get around this island.  We all are given a bike.  I got to go pick out my bike on my first day and right there on the end of a line of bikes of different colors and different stages of rusting was a bright turquoise bike…the same turquoise in the shallow waters around the island.  It was calling to me.  The guys in the bike shop put a basket on the front and my license plate on the back… “MED1” (also my radio tag).  This is my transportation of choice.

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My wheels

I also have an old red golf cart that some refer to as the “island ambulance” but joking around with one of the fire fighters the other day we came up with the name “Red Rover”.  As in “Red Rover, Red Rover let Med1 come over”.  I’ll probably only be using it when the planes come in and out as I’m supposed to be out on the taxiway with it.  I took it out the other day when they were fixing the basket on my bike and when I got back in it, I couldn’t get it started.  I walked over to headquarters and one of the mechanics drove back to Red Rover with me to see if he could fix it.  Of course he gets in and turns it right on.  OK, so old golf carts are not my thing.

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Red Rover

At night I use my third means of transportation…my two feet.  It’s hard enough navigating around the birds in the road without hitting to getting hit by a bird (they lack grace in their take offs and landings).  At night its hard to see the little baby albatross who wander into the road.  The petrols are up and super curious so they’ll fly right into you, especially if you have a light on.  At night the moon is pretty bright so I usually don’t need a head lamp, but if I do use one, its down at my side so the birds fly into my legs and not my head!

Here’s a video of a bird I like to call the “Jaywalker”..

 

 

Me and my Ukulele…

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One of my goals I hope to achieve while out here on Midway is to learn how to play the Ukulele.  I bought a cheap ukulele in Honolulu before I came out to this island and I was fortunate to find a very talented Thai worker here who knows how to play and offered me lessons.  He asked in return that I teach him how to read piano music (he has a keyboard here) and I used to play and I’m pretty sure I can return the favor and teach him how to play.

I’ve had one lesson, most of which was tuning my very cheap Uke (I might need to buy a nicer one on Amazon).  I learned four chords, that he said make up most songs, and I think I’ve got them down pat.  We had the lesson on his front porch, so I had an audience of Albatross.  They are, of course, my biggest fans… clapping and whistling away as I learned my chords.

I took my Uke down to the cargo pier yesterday before dinner and I’m teaching myself how to play “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley.  I’m pretty excited, there’s nothing like being on a beautiful island and strumming some good reggae on your uke.

 

A little out of focus since I’m using my zoom lens (must stay 150ft from the turtles), but these guys were hanging out on the beach while I played.  I saw one’s head bobbing in the water near the pier.

Lazy Sunday

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Sunday was chill… I biked around the island some more.  I’m starting to get the hang of navigating around the birds.  They mostly stay on the grassy areas on either side of the roads but man, when they cross the street things can get tricky.

 

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Black Footed Albatross 

I’ve learned that it’s best to go behind them cause they tend to walk forward but they don’t really see you until you’re about a foot from them then they try to waddle quickly away and your not sure which way they’ll dart.  It’s not the ones on the ground that make biking all that tricky but the ones coming in for a landing you need to watch out for.  They aren’t the most graceful when they land and as I was heading out to the beach along the old runway one was coming in low and flew right into my bike.  I stopped, turned around and watched it shake off the recent collision then thankfully flew off again.  Phew!  I really don’t want to accidentally kill one of them  though I’m sure it will happen one day.  I know one day one will for sure knock me off my bike… from the tip of one wing to the other they are as long as I am tall with about the IQ of the nail on my pinky finger.

 

I sat out on the beach for an hour or so and had the whole thing all to myself (except for six giant tires and a whole bunch of birds).  The water is the most beautiful shade of turquoise and the sand is so clean!

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Back when this was a bustling military base with thousands of people on it, I bet Midway Bowl was the happening place with its shiny waxed lanes.  It’s slightly dilapidated now but not yet condemned.  Sunday evening I got some of the fish and wildlife volunteers to sign up for bowling.  We need at least four people, that’s 10% of the population of the island now, to get the lanes turned on.   They showed up to play but no one showed up to turn on the lanes, fortunately there was plenty other stuff to keep us busy in there including ping pong, pool, skeet ball, darts and Jenga to mention a few… I had just about the most exciting giant Jenga game ever…

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This Jenga tower was taller than me!!

Beach combing.

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I started my day at the Clipper House (where we eat) but when I was done eating the skies had opened and it was showering down so I sat out on the covered deck with one of my new island friends and watched a slight rainbow over the water grow from a colorful haze just over the water to a double rainbow.

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I feel like it’s impossible for me to turn away from a rainbow, they seem so rare that we should enjoy every second of them.  (This was two I’ve seen now in the barely three days I’ve been here)C61412ED-4D5E-4696-AED0-E0D746DB8FDD

I took a bike ride to the north side of the island (I think) and combed the beach.  My goal was to find an old glass float and I found a cute little blue one!  There’s also a bunch of old glass bottles (thinking of sending messages back out in them).  Not sure what the large glass light bulbs are, I found three, two clear and one orange/red one.  I think they might be from light hoses or maybe the lights from old ships, but I’m gonna ask.

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I have to say, it’s only day three but every day I’ve been here I’ve felt so lucky!  Today was no different, standing out on the pier and looking out into the clear waters and white sand beaches.

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Sadly, the beaches are not pristine.  Something I will for sure be blogging about later but for those of you who know me, I’m anti-plastic and pro recycling.  Been known to have a bunch of garbage on my kayak deck when I come in from a paddle and visitors in my house often leave their garbage on the counter for fear of throwing something out that I’ll later call out is recyclable or compostable.

Many of the beaches are off limits for the monk seals and sea turtles.  I might have wandered to the edge of one of those beaches cause I was looking down at all the plastic garbage in the sand and the next thing I know I was about 30-40 feet of a giant sea turtle!  I quickly turned back, good thing it wasn’t a monk seal, they can be aggressive.  I’ll have to look at the map again and make sure I’m not breaking the rules.  (This is where I say I’m not a rule breaker, but I can’t honestly say that.). For the sake of the wildlife here… I plan to follow the rules.

I found Gilligan!! And the Skipper too!

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Just kidding, no Gilligan or Skipper here, But I made it to the island!! I think we only took out a few birds on the landing. The pilot said she saw one walking the midline on the runway but there was nothing she could do (I guess you can’t swirve to avoid it).

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But there’s still somewhere between 1-2 million still left. Yes you heard me right… 1-2,000,000!!!I really don’t know how to talk about this island without talking about the birds. They are everywhere and nesting right now so some are sitting on top of baby birds, some are kibitzing with their neighbors (that’s a funny sight) and some are in the middle of the road which makes it kind of hard to bike. They aren’t the brightest birds, they aren’t aggressive or defensive of their babies. They mostly just make a lot of noise, a noise that kind of sounds like they are clapping. I like to think they are excited to see me or think I’m doing a great job walking down the road… I tell them to hold their applause but they just bring it on.

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The people here are so super nice and friendly!! I can’t say enough about how welcoming they are.

The food is amazing… Thai chefs and they also have a hydroponic greenhouse so the salad is so fresh! They also have tomatoes and soon to have some cukes. I hear there are some banana, lime and other trees too.