Four R's Visit
Our House Guests
It all began at four in the morning when, on my two till six watch, I saw a bird that kept circling Beez Neez. Not one of the big white birds with the luminous undersides that we have seen before, but a dull colour against the dark sky. I thought no more of it and went to bed. Up for my ten o’clock start, Bear was just telling me about his shift and as we were peering at the chart plotter my little chap landed. The clock was up on our display and I noted it was eight minutes past ten. Clearly our visitor had red feet and immediately we named him Robin.
For the next hour Robin solidly preened himself.
“How do I look” – not quite there yet.
A more thorough going over
Each feather sorted one by one.
Exhausted our friend tucked into a deep sleep.
The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is a large seabird of the family, Sulidae. As suggested by the name, adults always have red feet, but the colour of the plumage varies. They are powerful and agile fliers, but can be clumsy in takeoffs and landings. They are found widely in the tropics and breed colonially in coastal regions, especially islands.
Now and again the front sail flapped and woke Robin, time for just a bit more preening. During one such period, he looked up and followed the flight path of another of his breed, clearly this was now HIS pad. Soon the odd sail flap didn’t bother him anymore and slept even more soundly. What was incredibly funny to watch was his balance, he clung tightly with his feet, rocked at the hips and somehow managed never to fall off or wake himself up. We took a short video as a keepsake.
Description: The Red-footed Booby is the smallest of all boobies at about twenty eight inches in length, a wingspan of up to thirty nine inches. It has red legs and its bill and throat pouch are coloured pink and blue. This species has several morphs. In the white morph the plumage is mostly white (the head often tinged yellowish) and the flight feathers are black. The black-tailed white morph is similar, but with a black tail, and can easily be confused with the Nazca and Masked Boobies. The brown morph is overall brown. The white-tailed brown morph is similar, but has a white belly, rump and tail. The white-headed and white-tailed brown morph has a mostly white body, tail and head, with brown wings and back. The morphs commonly breed together, but in most regions one or two morphs predominate – one example is on the Galápagos Islands, most belong to the brown morph, though the white morph also occurs.
The sexes are similar, and juveniles are brownish with darker wings and pale pinkish legs, while chicks are covered in dense white down.
Eyes shut in the complete joy of it.
Breeding: This species breeds on islands in most tropical oceans. When not breeding they spend most of their time at sea, and is therefore rarely seen away from breeding colonies. They nest in large colonies, laying one chalky blue egg in a stick nest, which is incubated by both adults for forty four to forty six days. The nest is usually placed in a tree or bush; rarely, it may nest on the ground. The chick is about three months old when they first fly, and five months before they make extensive flights.
Red-footed Booby pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals, including harsh squawks and the male's display of his blue throat, also including short dances. We so hope to see this for ourselves.
Diet: Red-footed Boobies are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speeds to catch prey. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface.
I began my two a.m. shift with great excitement from Bear. We have another one, this time on the solar panel. I took these pictures, clearly the first without the flash was no good, the second with but at a distance as I didn’t want to frighten him before you saw him. Meet Roland. Wow Bear, well done.
At twenty past two I was at first chuffed to meet Ruben, but by the look on Roland’s face, perhaps he was not so thrilled. Bear had not long gone to bed so I rushed down and showed him this picture.
Roland was clearly exhausted after long days at sea, so he went straight to sleep and was soon swaying gently in Beez soft movement. Ruben tried the preening thing, but every time the wind generator spun round he got frightened, (he was OK with the fans going round but not the whole thing turning on its axis). He moved too close to Roland, startling him awake - a fight broke out, beak clacking and a loud arr-arr-arr noise. They sounded like an old fashioned car hooter, the ones with the rubber ball attached to the little silver funnel..... Well anyway this went on and on and eventually fear made Ruben shove Roland off the end amongst much mayhem, wing flapping and noise. Roland being the first to roost took this badly, very badly indeed. Being a gentleman and not a wuss, he took the wind generator side (he had had time to get used to it and was not afraid of it). Landing in Rubens original spot, I thought was a good idea and that would be the end of it. No. Ruben kept all on making trouble. I was trying to listen to a good book. As always I had my earphone over my left ear, my right for listening to the radio. The birds were on my right, First Mate now getting cross, see the warning signs boys – I don’t think any breed of bird would survive me going ape with a winch handle.
Now as it happened, I was wearing my Joe Boxer leggings. Designed as men’s pyjama bottoms, I have changed their use and am quite happy to go shopping in them and stand duty too. The thing is though they glow in the dark, the eye, lip, tongue surrounds and all the wording. I did wear them once in bed on a cold night in America and made myself jump when I saw just how luminous they were, so much so, I woke the captain to share the experience. Great at three in the morning, pitch black until the wife whisked back the sheet and I saw a large, scary flash of brilliant yellowy-white. Steady with the word large. I could have said extra large. STEADY.
Have you ever seen an IPod swung with such menace
Scarper Bear, Scarper.
Oh, and to complete the leggings story, my favourites and best are my Marvel Action Hero. That’s only because you haven’t worn them to bed, wear them out more and that good looking man on the overhead cable in St Thomas said “way to go, sister”. Paint Pepe’s face a deadly shade of puce. Growl........... He was gorgeous though and was called Samson, if you’d like to know. No, he was young, gifted, black and had a particularly naught twinkle in his eyes.
Anyway. This would be a first first time in my life that I have ever stood next to the solar panel and shouted up close and personal - ”Enough, stop the noise, not only do we have three solar panels for you to sleep in four-star isolation but as this is my watch, it is therefore my boat so you will adhere to this command.” I had no idea I had bellowed quite so night sisterly, as Bear was heard giggling.
Well sheepish silence and looks of humble apology came over the faces of Roland and Ruben.
Sleep and silence in seconds.
I looked up ahead to see if any of the rearward kerfuffle had upset Robin, he had in fact been discreetly joined by Russell and all seemed quite orderly.
Daybreak on the naughty pair. Ruben silently flew off at five forty five.
Roland and Ruben had caused quite a mess, thank heavens Bear fitted me a power salt hose at the back, which gave a good drubbing to their numerous calling cards, AND all over my newly polished steel. On the other hand Robin and Russell had adopted the position well established in the old days for which the saying “heads” was founded, leaving just a tiny mishap on the front deck. They are welcome back any time.
Bear came on at six and assumed all our friends had left. Actually I had just been having a talk with Roland, (who after Ruben had left to go fishing), sat quietly on the right davit to apologise profusely for the events of the night before. I thanked him for his manners, said he was welcome back, but, could it not be with Ruben.
I said my assumed farewell to Robin through our open bathroom window as I went to bed at six. Bear told me later that he had been in no rush to leave, departed at just after seven.
The result of our day was not only being left behind by the rest of the fleet, but, actually going off course – nay in the wrong direction – northward. Did we care. Such a surprise, gift of a day as this, no. A fantastic treat to be in our very own private episode of a Sir David Attenborough documentary. All we needed was his voice, we had the rest. Robin was our sweet guest of twenty one hours. During the next day he, Roland and Russell gave us frequent fly-passes and we were delighted to see them. Realising we would take several more days to get them home, they decided to fly.
ALL IN ALL A RARE, UNIQUE AND COMICAL EVENT IN THE LIFE OF BEEZ NEEZ
AN EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED