Consider the Egg

A432 and EggConsider the egg. The obvious part, the shell, is made up of calcium carbonate crystals and on close examination, its grainy texture contains thousands of tiny pores. The shell is actually a semipermeable membrane through which air and moisture can pass. I figure that must also be how Laysan albatross are able to communicate and, possibly, imprint on their chicks, because as soon as an egg is laid, the parents start talking to their newborn. They’ll stand, point their serrated four-inch bill between their legs and speak every so sweetly, “Eeh, eeh, eeh.” Both parents get in on the action, because the world of albatross parenting is an equal opportunity endeavor. Read more

Introducing Albatography

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 10.27.26 AMFirst, let me introduce to you a seabird known as the Laysan albatross. Or mōli, in Hawaiian. This seabird is equipped with magical powers to cause your eyes to widen, your jaw to drop, your opinion of birds to change, and your understanding of an albatross to be anything other than a burden. Albatross will make you a birder. They will make you a science geek. A fan of physics. Albatross will make you a believer in the goodness of the world. A lover of nature. A protector of the ocean. A champion of the environment. Don’t believe me? Follow along throughout this breeding season, and let’s see what you say in seven or eight months. Read more

Was Justice Served?

Laysan Albatross ChickA week ago, I flew to Honolulu to cover the sentencing hearing of Christian Gutierrez, 19, who, along with two other young men, drove to the remote western tip of O`ahu in December 2015 to camp out in a state park. They packed a machete, air rifle, baseball bat, and photographic gear.

The three set up camp and set out hiking to a natural area reserve that only a few years before had been fenced to protect native flora and fauna from predators. Late in the year, when these three young men pushed open the gates to the reserve, they found their intended targets–charismatic Laysan albatross, a seabird highly respected by the Hawaiian culture and long studied by scientists, sitting quietly on their eggs, as if in meditation, as they do during the 65 days of incubation it takes for their growing chicks to develop and enter the air breathing world.

These young men used their weapons to bash, shoot, and mutilate a minimum of 15 adults. They crushed or left to die 17 eggs. And they photographed it all. When they were finished with their slaughter, they weren’t finished with their crimes, bragging in the days to come to friends, even posting photos of their gruesome acts to social media. Read more

On Endangered Species Day: Open Letter to Judge Castagnetti

The Honorable Jeannette Castagnetti
First Circuit Court of Hawai‘i
Ka‘ahumanu Hale
777 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Dear Judge Castagnetti:

Christian Gutierrez and the two juveniles involved in the massacre of Hawai‘i’s native Laysan albatross deserve to be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.

Allow me to explain.

Read more

How Extreme Birds Inspire Us to be Better Humans

Memorial Day. Graduation. Father’s Day. The solstice. For most people, one of these marks the beginning of summer. For me, these calendar events signal the coming completion of albatross season. Albatross? You mean those big white birds with wingspans longer than I am tall who glide over the surface of the sea as gentle as a leaf loosed from its tree in fall and floating on currents of air? Yes, those. They can soar for hundreds of miles, skimming the ocean’s waves and wheeling up into the sky, with barely a beat of their wings. Read more