You may have seen a recent article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about the Hui's efforts to tag trees that are being used by nesting White Terns. If you missed the article, you can still read it by clicking here! Mahalo to Susan Scott for giving the terns some notoriety!
Conventional wisdom says there shouldn't be much manu-o-Ku nesting taking place this time of the year on Oahu. But surveys during the past two months have documented over 150 active nesting spots with either an egg of a chick. Half of the trees are flagged with blue ribbon to alert tree trimmers (and Christmas light stingers!) to the presence of the nests. The ribbon also makes it easier to find the trees with active nests so citizen scientists can help us monitor the eggs and the chicks. You can help when out and about by looking up into any of these flagged trees and taking a picture with your smartphone of what you see. If you email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org, we can update the database to reflect the current status of the nest. This information is being used to help us monitor the overall condition of the Oahu white tern population and to advise tree trimmers when it's safe to trim the trees terns use for nesting. Mahalo for your help!
In addition to Christmas lights, a lot of trees in Honolulu and Waikiki are now sporting ribbons alerting trimmers to the presence of active White Tern nests. 85 trees to be exact! Along some streets there are now more trees with ribbons than without, such as this stretch of Kalakaua Avenue between Kapiolani Boulevard and King Street.
What better way to kick off the holiday season then to take a tern walk to see some of the new additions to the Oahu White Tern population! With the second peak of the 2017 breeding season well underway, there are several eggs and newly hatched chicks in the downtown Honolulu and Waikiki areas. Join us Sunday morning, November 19, at 10:00am on the steps of the capitol building facing the I'olani Palace for a 90 minute walking tour of active nesting sites in the downtown area. Also, at 10:00am on Saturday, November 25, we'll check the new arrivals along Kalakaua Ave in Waikiki. We'll gather at the top of escalator to the second level on the makai side of the International Marketplace for this 90-minute walk. Email email@example.com or text 808-379-7555 to reserve a space.
One of the nesting spots we'll visit on the Waikiki white tern walk on November 25th.
When it comes to conforming to a well-defined breeding cycle, White Terns are notoriously lax. They can be found laying eggs and raising chicks any month of the year. However, last year's white tern breeding season on Oahu was the first time two peak periods of egg laying were observed, one in the spring and another in the fall. Since then, we have been wondering if what we saw was a fluke or possibly the new norm. This year we saw the expected spike in the number of eggs laid in the spring and recent surveying documented 68 eggs laid in September and October, a repeat of the bump in breeding activity seen in the fall of 2016. It's still too soon to tell if the breeding season for white terns on Oahu now routinely includes two peaks of nesting activity, but what happened last year may be no fluke.
The map below shows the locations of the nesting spots where eggs were laid during the months of September and October. Eggs are still being incubated in most of the locations, meaning that in coming weeks there will be more and more newly hatched chicks to admire and adore!
With the support and assistance of a lot of people and state agencies, a group I'm involved with in Honolulu was able to flag our first trees yesterday with tape warning trimmers to the presence of nesting terns. In addition to cautioning about trimming the tree while Manu-o-Ku are actively nesting, the tape displays the phone number for the White Tern Hotline sponsored by the Hui Manu-o-Ku and the URL for our webpage with information on what to do if a chick falls out of the tree. The timing could not have been better since there has been a recent spike in breeding activity in multiple locations across the breeding range, including the grounds of the 'Iolani Palace where this tree stands. "Mahalo nui loa" to all those who made it possible for us to help make our city a safer place for Manu-o-Ku to raise their young! Special thanks to the good folks at the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife for their support of this project.
Here's a chance to apply your skills as a citizen scientist! There are over 25 white tern eggs in trees scattered around Honolulu. At least there were the last time the trees were surveyed back in August. We need some volunteers to check the nesting spots again to see what became of these eggs. Here's all you need to do:
- Check the Google Earth map photo below for the locations of trees with eggs. Pick the tree(s) you want to check and note the Nest ID (ex. KS300101). You can also view this map on the Active Egg Map on this website.
- Go to the online data base on our webpage at www.whiteterns.org. Click the Database tab. Then click the little magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of the database window and enter the Nest ID.
- Look at the photos in the database for this nesting event and note the location of the nesting spot in the tree.
- Check the nesting spot in the tree and note what you see.
- Report what you saw. You may see that the adult is still in the same spot in the incubating position. If so it's likely the egg is infertile, or the one we documented earlier failed and the pair has relaid already. Or you may see a chick at or near the nesting spot. You may also see an adult (NBA) at or near the nesting spot and no chick. Or the nesting spot may be vacant. There are a number of ways you can report your observations. You can click on the Citizen Science tab on our webpage and fill in the form. Since you have a Nest ID you can skip the fields asking for tree location and species information. The most important fields for this exercise are the date of observation, Nesting Event Status and observer name and contact info. Any additional details you can provide will be appreciated. Or, if you prefer, you can just email your observation to us using the Contact link on our webpage. Just be sure to include the Nesting ID, Nesting Event Status (Egg, Chick, Vacant, etc) and observation date in your email.
You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. A big "Mahalo!" in advance for any help you can provide us in checking up on these eggs!
The Hui Manu-o-Ku will be participating in the LICH Conference at the Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall on October 5. This event is the perfect outreach opportunity for the Hui to talk with arborists and tree trimmers about how they can help White Terns and give them advice on how to work around nesting terns. Part of the Hui's outreach will include the distribution of the cards you see below to help tree trimmers avoid disrupting active White Tern nests. The cards will also be used at other public outreach events in the city in the future.
Dr. Eric Vanderwerf, with Pacific Rim Conservation and a Hui member, gave a talk in April 2017 titled Seabird Medley: An Exploration of Seabirds on Oahu. Watch below to learn about White Terns and other seabirds that call Oahu home!