SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

28 September 2011


Wisdom's 2011 Chick that successfully fledged this summer.
Photo courtesy John Klavitter, USFWS.

This is a beautiful image of a young albatross alllllllmost fully feathered, but
still sporting a bit of juvenile softness, especially up there on the head.

Laysan Albatross chicks hatch at a size roughly the same as your fist.
Two weeks later they are double or triple this as adults feed them
pretty much every day, or perhaps every two days.

The young ones learn to identify their parents as they fight their way out
of the egg, a process that can last half a day or longer. At the same time, adults
identify with their little ones by smell, but maybe there are other clues, such as
behaviors and appearance. Afterall, every Albatross chick does not hatch at the same time, and so,
feathering differences may be clues that help sort out young when adults return
from 1,000 mile or longer feeding flights.

I watched adults soar onto Midway, land, and strut to their chicks as if nothing
could steer them from the correct young one...........This ability to locate also
reinforced by a nest site fidelity. The adult birds nest in the same location for as many
as 6 decades, a fact we know because Wisdom has been raising a chick that long!

When the above photo was taken, Wisdom's chick was still a few weeks away from fledging, an event you may not fully appreciate without seeing in person..........

Adult albatross have these incredible runways around Midway. They walk then run, then lift off FROM LAND.............They take flight like a jumbo jet, quite elegantly.


I watched this take place and it is quite amazing because the young birds take a lot of time to
leave the island........At first, they make their way to the very edge of the sea. On Midway, this means
they pad across sand to a most beautiful turquoise lagoon.......they might hop in the water one morning, only to go back ashore for a time. Next day they might hop in again, but at long last, sometime in July for the most part...........they swim out into the vast lagoon surrounding Sand and Eastern Islands.

The young are occasionally, but not often, preyed upon by Tiger Sharks as they swim away from the
place of birth.

The fledglings swim nearly all the way or even beyond the atoll rim - the remains of the island perimeter..............and with wind assist, lift off after a long swim. I can only imagine they have evolved to do this because the next year or two will find them ONLY at sea. And so, they must have adapted over time to be able to lift off (with a seven foot wingspan) from the ocean surface, not from a runway like that used by adults.

We know Wisdom has been able to feed this young bird without adding a lethal dose
of plastic. We also know, according to John Klavitter, that Wisdom feeds in areas
with a great deal of plastic.

What we do not know is how she avoids the toxic trash.........She does so at a time when
approximatley one million seabirds die each year from this cause of mortality. Keys to
her survival will be unlocked as more and more birds are fitted with Satellite tags
and as more young people find ways of studying birds in the wild.

I can imagine studies of albatross feeding behavior using more
sophisticated devices than exist at present.........How about Apple and Google and
Amazon joining forces to equip Wisdom's little one with a cam so we can
follow this young bird through its own 60 years of life!!!

What will we report at SOAR in the year 2071?
I'll leave that up to you kids. 


1 comment:

Barb said...

What a handsome son or pretty daughter!

X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.