For Laysan Albatross Chick, Independence Day Awaits.

When no witty sentence or meaningful anecdote lies ready at my fingers to write about, I generally turn to one of two things: Setting. Or weather.

Today, it’s the weather. It’s hot. For Hawai‘i. Highs in the 90s are expected. Now, I know elsewhere in the world that might be considered a break in the heat. But, here, it’s hot. I repeat: hot.

Especially because our usual cooling trade winds have apparently left for the holiday weekend. Flown elsewhere. In their place, a hot breath of air from the southeast is hovering. When our winds switch around like this—from north to south—we call it a “Kona system.” Then, all the humidity—and bugs—in the air falls from the sky, draping us in a thin film of slime. Since most of us don’t have air conditioning, we sit slimily in our kitchens as we eat dinner, we recline slimily on our sofas as we lethargically binge-watch the latest series of Orange Is The New Black, and we lie slimily in our beds as we sleep—or try to.

Konas make us tired and cranky and complainers. We are, after all, only human, I tell myself. That’s what heat does to a person. But what if you are an albatross?

Laysan albatross chick Cornell web camera
Wing-flapping Niaulani

If you are a healthy Laysan albatross chick all set to fledge—fly to the sea for the first time—Kona winds can seem perplexing, I imagine.

About this time of year, chicks move closer to cliff edges and sit, stand, and exercise their wings all while facing the sea where trade winds, I imagine, when they are blowing, whisper titillating messages. Come, they say. This is your home, they encourage. We have your favorite food, they taunt.

But our chicks are facing mauka, inland, toward the mountain, right now. No scent of the ocean and its goodies is blowing off the ocean. Instead, the aroma of dirt and musty organic matter has replaced that of squid and fish in the albatross chicks’ nares, nostrils. They still stretch their wings and flap, strengthening their flight muscles, and some experimental wing-hopping takes these chicks even farther from their eventual watery destination. All the while, they wait for the perfect flying weather.

Laysan albatross chick Niaulani, star of Cornell albatross web cam
We’ve got lift-off! Barely. Momentarily.

Niaulani, our chick to which the Cornell Lab or Ornithology webcam has been glued for the past five months, is ready to fledge. Her last meal came from her father last week. She’s had time to digest it. She’s probably at optimal flying weight. Her mantle of down atop her head is left with one sideburn and a few sprigs atop her head. It’s time. There’s just one thing missing. Wind.

Trade winds are forecast to return tomorrow. Will Niaulani-o-Ko`olau fly free on Independence Day? Tune in and see.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lois shore says:

    What a great story, Kim. Sometime I will share my albatross and booby photos from the Galapagos with you.

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Kim says:

      I’d LOVE to see them, Lois!


  2. Dottie Bachman says:

    Hope our chick gets a good send off soon. Although I will miss watching her grow. Didn’t know the trade winds ever stopped, learning curve for me!


    1. Kim says:

      Thankfully, we’ll have video we can watch over and over and over and over!


  3. suegranzella says:

    LOVE the idea that the U.S. Independence Day may be the day she flies free! Lovely feel to this piece…..


    1. Kim says:

      Trade winds returned today. She’s been quite active, hopping atop the rock wall where a chick fledged last year. Could be today!


  4. says:

    This is so beautiful. Bringing tears to my slimily overfilling eyes Safe journey to you and Niaulani

    With fond aloha………Nicki


    1. Kim says:

      I wish my eyeballs would sweat right about now! They’re all dried out from a red-eye flight last night. Thanks for the sentiments;-)


  5. Susan says:

    Great post, Kim. Where we are in Glacier NP in Montana the temps went from 90 yesterday to 55 today, due to a big thunderstorm last night! Very exciting in a tent. But, never mind that, did she fledge?


    1. Kim says:

      Not on Independence Day, no. But read on!


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