Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Isla Isabela with Baby Birds



Solstice afternoon, Maya and I went ashore to climb the ridge and observe the blue and yellow -footed boobies. To get there, we walked past the nesting frigate birds. These rather unattractive but good flying birds congregate in the trees and build their nests close to each other, just like apartment living. We saw as many as 15 frigate birds perched on one tree. Some of the males were showing off by puffing their red throats and making clucking noises. But Maya and I didn’t stop to admire them. We were on a mission: the sun was going down and we wanted to spend some more time with the congenial and rather funny looking blue-footed boobies.

Instead of living on an apartment in a crowded tree, the blue-footed boobies build their nests on the ground, many with views of the blue ocean. Maya and I walked on the ridge overlooking the anchorage. We walked carefully because we didn’t want to trip on any of the birds nesting on the bed of grass on the ground. Some still had eggs, some had tiny chicks and others had chicks that seemed a little too big for their mother’s to be perched on top. Like kids they don’t want to leave home, even though they were a little squashed, they seemed content with their mom’s warmth. None of the birds seemed to care that we big footed humans were nearby.

I found two male blue-footed birds looking at each other and circling a blue egg about three inches long. The egg looked abandoned, but it seemed like the males were wondering which one would sit on it. None took the initiative -- they just kept prancing around discussing the matter in their bird language.

Perhaps in this case, sitting on chicks is best suited for the females who with their brown and white feathers and neutral webbed feet aren’t as attractive as the males, but know how to take their jobs seriously. Once they lay their eggs, they have four days before it hatches and then comes the task of feeding the hungry white fluffy chicks.




Just next to the abandoned egg, some of the males congregated in pairs and danced together. Pointing their tails in the air and lifting their blue webbed feet. As I watched the birds and wondered what life would be like being a booby soaring through the air and building nests, Maya bent over and handed one of the female birds a piece of straw for her nest. The bird took it from Maya.

I smiled to myself as I watched the sunset on the shortest day of the year. What a privilege to be so close to the birds where our presence doesn’t concern them; and how doubly satisfying to be able to share this special moment with my own little chick, Ms. Maya.

Our journey out of Isla Isabella was equally impressive. We saw a number of humpback whales breach high into the air and then slapped its large tails back in the water. Some say they are courting the females and others say they may be trying to get the parasites off their bodies. Its really impressive. Tim caught some of the breaching on video for you to experience as well.

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