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Part of my travels through the Hawaiian Islands earlier this year included a visit to Midway Island as part of a bird watching/bird photography group. “Midway Island” is a bit of a misnomer really as there are actually three islands in the group although human activity is mostly limited to just the largest of the three. For history buffs the name Midway should resonate for it was the scene of one of the pivotal air and sea battles of world war two. During the war years, the US Navy had a military base there which became the target of a major attack, by Japanese carrier borne aircraft, which was decisively defeated by the Americans turning the tide of the war in the Pacific theatre. Several years ago the navy ceased operations on the islands with administration being handed over to the Fisheries and Wildlife Service which now tries to preserve the islands as habitat for the tens of thousands of seabirds that nest and breed there.
As a visitor (I’m reluctant to use the word tourist) getting to the islands is not a simple matter. Due to the fragility of the environment, visitor numbers are kept small and the only way in and out is by fairly expensive charter flights at night via Honolulu. Accommodation is fairly rudimentary, making use of the former navy barracks, quite adequate but certainly no 5 star hotel (who needs that anyway!)
The great attraction of course is those colonies of nesting seabirds, albatross, boobies and frigate birds among others. There are no natural predators on the islands and so the birds can safely nest on the ground and have no fear of humans. This means that, within reason, you can quietly approach the birds and photograph them at close quarters without stressing them or disrupting their natural behaviour.
Today’s photo was quite an unusual opportunity. Whilst there are thousands of Laysan and Black Footed Albatross and Red Footed Boobies on the islands, the Masked Booby is a rarely seen visitor. Whilst we were on one of the beaches, this lone Masked Booby landed on the sand near the water’s edge and decided to stick around for most of the afternoon. The bird was totally unconcerned by our presence and several members of our group had the opportunity to et photographs at close range.
Scratching the itch. Masked Booby, Midway Islands, 2011.
Obviously, this is one of numerous photos I got, look forward to more in the coming weeks.
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