Friday, August 16, 2002

Birds Featured in September-October Issue of Islands Magazine

I have long admired Islands magazine for the stunning photography and the exotic locales that it features in each issue. That said, I also have to admit that I have never subscribed to the magazine, nor even purchased more than one or two issues. But for bird lovers, the September-October 2002 issue includes three articles of sufficient interest that they should at least peruse the issue at their favorite news stand or book store.

Serpent in the Garden (page 20) is a brief, two-paragraph note about the destruction wrought on the native fauna of Guam by the introduced and invasive Brown Tree Snake. Nine of Guam's 12 indigenous forest bird species have vanished, including Guam's official bird, the Ko'ko, or Guam Rail.

Flying High (pages 50-51) chronicles the successful effort to bring back the Aleutian Canada Goose from the brink of extinction. I am particularly fond of this article because it documents a project that I was personally involved with for several years. In fact, I am credited with several quotes:

By 1971, with several hundred geese thriving in captivity, a group of Maryland-born goslings were released, with some success, on a fox-free Aleutian Island called Amchitka. The Arctic seasons are much different than Maryland's, and the birds needed to acclimate to the area before they could be released. In February 1974, more Maryland geese were flown to the Aleutian isle of Attu, where they were met by John Trapp [emphasis added], a young biologist working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Attu was relatively accessible and was the site of an old Coast Guard loran station). After acclimating for a month, the birds, accompanied by Trapp, would be loaded onto a support ship and taken to Agattu, which was accessible only by sea.

On Attu, Trapp lived in almost complete isolation. "I had to hike three miles just to make a phone call," he recalls. "It got pretty lonely."

Weeks passed and bad weather delayed the arrival of the support ship and its supplies. At one point, the crew received a radio message from Trapp: "Running low on food," he said. "Geese looking tastier every day."
The author then moves on to describe another aspect of the project, the capture of entire family groups of geese at Buldir Island for relocation on other islands:

"Rounding up the geese was hazardous," says Trapp, who was also tapped for that assignement. "There were large boulders scattered everywhere on the island, and by late summer, when we'd capture the geese, the grasses were waist high, completely hiding most of the boulders."
'Till the Cahows Come Home (pages 108-110) tells of the life-long endeavors of the legendary David Wingate to restore populations of the critically-endangered Cahow, or Bermuda Petrel, at its only-known breeding colony on tiny 14.5-acre Nonsuch Island, located just off Bermuda.


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