Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Nineteen

Last week, a friend on a walk along a coastline saw a bird and texted me:

Friend: Do shearwaters have a super big wing span? White underneath? Dark brown?

Me: About three-foot wingspan. And they nest along the coastline.

Friend: I’m watching these huge brown birds fish! I think bigger than 3 feet! Diving and swooping.

Me: Could be ‘iwa.

Friend: Not frigate.

Me: Could be brown booby. Pointy bill. White chest.

Friend: Yep. That’s it.

It’s not unusual for people to ask me bird questions. Good and bad. The same day, another friend texted about nēnē. Unfortunately, this one was an adult and gosling that had been hit by a car.

Not that I’m a birder.

Kaloakulua PreensYesterday, the text I received was about an injured albatross. I was overdue for my weekly bird survey, so I responded.

Me: Heading your way. Should be there in 10 minutes unless I hit a checkpoint:-)

I was being only half facetious. Our mayor continues to crack down on unnecessary travel around the island. In fact, he’s now got the National Guard helping with checkpoints. Would an injured albatross be considered essential travel? Maybe not in everyone’ s playbook, but they are in the mayor’s.

And as I’ve said before, I can perform my weekly bird surveys without coming in contact with anyone for miles, and it’s only a 10-minute drive from my house. These wildlife surveys also serve as my exercise. I hike a good two to three miles in the process. So, all that is my justification for venturing beyond my driveway. (I’m careful, Dad. Really, I am.)

Our chief of Police, Chief Todd Raybuck reported that yesterday’s two checkpoints tallied almost 10,000 vehicles. His officers estimate half of those “essential” travelers reported they were headed to Costco. “Those shelves must be empty,” Chief Raybuck commented. “Ask not what you can do for yourself. Ask yourself what can I do for my community?”

He and the mayor make a good team. Today, our mayor closed county golf courses, because apparently people were not following proper social distancing. He ordered all employees involved in the sale of food (restaurants, grocery stores) and medical items (pharmacies) to wear face masks. And he shut down vacation rentals, saying some unethical people were advertising Kauai as “COVID-19 retreats.”

His message was similar to one I’d heard in my childhood from my father: If you don’t behave, I’ll make you.

Turns out the albatross wasn’t injured. Instead of dancing with other courting birds, it was intent on resting. Phew! I wasn’t looking forward to driving an injured albatross across the island (and through a checkpoint) to the seabird rehabilitation facility.

So, I went about my usual business of surveying—using my binoculars to read the bands attached to albatross’ legs. I noted three or four when I saw one that was different. Most bands start with a letter or two and are followed by two or three numbers. However, this one only had three numbers. I immediately thought of a specific bird. A specific special bird. That’s the cool thing about bird bands. Because of bird bands, you can track the life histories of birds. It’s because of a bird band that scientists discovered the Laysan albatross known as Wisdom—and that at, at least, 70 years of age, she is the oldest known wild bird in the world.

The one I was spying isn’t nearly that old—just six. However, she might be the second-most famous albatross in the world. But I wasn’t 100% sure it was the bird I had in mind. So, I texted my tribe of albatross spotters.

Kaloakulua Leg Band“What is KK’s band?”

Louise answered almost immediately: 119.

“Got her!” I texted back.

“KK” is short for Kaloakulua, the very first chick to be featured on Cornell’s AlbatrossCam. She hatched on January 27, 2014. Her first re-sighting since fledging took place last year at the very spot where she’d hatched. This was her first re-sighting for this year, and it wasn’t her natal site.

“KK’s checking out another hood?” Nicki texted.

In the midst of sad news coming out of New York with hundreds more deaths due to COVID-19, at least, we found some good news on Kauai. KK survived another year. Maybe this year, she’ll select and mate and come November will be incubating an egg. I believe in miracles. As you can see, KK’s got some dance moves, too. (She’s in the middle back.) It can happen.

We’re up to 435 cases statewide. A sixth death was reported, the second from Maui. No new cases here; we’re at 19 cases on Kauai.

Be well. Be sane.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Caren Loebel-Fried says:

    Hi Kim, I just wanted to let you know I look forward to your daily stories. Thank you!!! With aloha from Volcano, Caren

    http://www.carenloebelfried.com

    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 5:49 PM Kim Steutermann Rogers wrote:

    > Kim Steutermann Rogers posted: “Last week, a friend on a walk along a > coastline saw a bird and texted me: Friend: Do shearwaters have a super big > wing span? White underneath? Dark brown? Me: About three-foot wingspan. And > they nest along the coastline. Friend: I’m watching these huge b” >

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Great to hear from you, Caren! Just when I’m about to say, “Eh, no need today,” someone writes and says this. So, I keep writing!

      Like

  2. Anne C. says:

    Nice free-ranging here. A day in the life of a *specialized* birder 😉

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Good one: *specialized* birder!

      Like

  3. Connie Bishop says:

    Sightings such as you found and shared on your blog does give us Hope!

    As for human mankind! What can I say! It’s sad that some don’t have respect and selflessness for mankind.

    Many years ago, I learned that a few who don’t follow the “rules” bring changes to all of us!

    Thankfully, your mayor and LEOs take this serious and have changed the rules for everyone!

    Stay safe!

    Love and hugs,

    Connie

    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 11:49 PM Kim Steutermann Rogers wrote:

    > Kim Steutermann Rogers posted: “Last week, a friend on a walk along a > coastline saw a bird and texted me: Friend: Do shearwaters have a super big > wing span? White underneath? Dark brown? Me: About three-foot wingspan. And > they nest along the coastline. Friend: I’m watching these huge b” >

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      I agree, Connie, wildlife provides hope. Because in nature, we see the continuance of life. Hugs!

      Like

  4. diane tilley says:

    lo,kim another story that brings hope. the Kauai Mayor is doing a great job, and so are you.

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Thanks, Diane. Kind words, yours.

      Like

  5. Nicki Lorayn Pignoli says:

    Your discovery of KK exploring
    new potential nesting areas brought so much happiness. Your writing about her added even more. Your Covid Journal is seeing me through all of this much like Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings, Dr Fauci’s intelligent calm demeanor, Chief Todd Raybuck’s total commitment to his new island home & Mayor Derek Kawakami’s blend of determination balanced with a TicTock dance debut. You are in mighty good company GFF. Mahalo nui

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Honored to be mentioned in the same paragraph as all those fine folks!

      Like

  6. Louise says:

    Our lives are full of special moments that many of us barely recognize as such and rarely share. Thanks for sharing, Kim!

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Yes, indeed, and I wonder how many I miss in the course of the day. But I guess it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, and the KK sighting was quality to the nth degree! Thanks for your kind words, my friend!

      Like

  7. Hello Kim,

    Although we haven’t met, I’ve been following your work for a while. I’ve been flagging your COVID-19 blogs to circle back to read, and today I’m doing some of that reading!

    I was so delighted to read in your Day Nineteen post that KK is back! I had the good fortune to “meet” (really just see) KK in person when she was the star of the Tross Cam, when Hob took me there. I met Hob years ago at the annual conference of the AATH (Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor) when she was a presenter. Although I enjoyed the contents of her presentation about her research on therapeutic humor in a medical setting, what really called to me was her introduction in which she shared photos and stories about albatrosses. I went up to her after her presentation to meet her, and as I thanked her for her presentation and told her I was intrigued by the albatrosses, she said that she could see in my eyes that I needed to see albatrosses in person. She invited me to visit Kauai for that experience, and a couple of years later my husband and I did just that, and then I was able to visit with Hob and these amazing birds again during a subsequent trip, which was when we visited KK (along with Mango). I’m sure I started seeing your photos on Hob’s FB page, and now here I am reading your blogs!

    Thank you for all that you’re doing for the world, your island, and all of the amazing creatures there! And thanks for sharing your writing!

    Warmly, Katherine Puckett

    >

    Like

    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Wow, Katherine, what a treat to have spent time with Kaloakulua. Very few people can say that. She is a beauty. Hob is a good friend of mine and a great friend of albatross. Be sure to reach out if you ever come back to Kauai. Mahalo for reading.

      Like

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