Thursday, April 1, 2010

At sea with a nice pair of Boobies.

April 1 2010 (mid-day)

I spy with my little eye, a nice pair of Boobies. Two Red Footed Boobies (Sula sula) have come to visit IO. After about 15 fly-bys the first landed on the front rail and has been happily perched there ever since. He was joined briefly by a fellow Boobie who, upon landing also on the bow rail, promptly began to squabble and chat with the first about who should have the right to that particular post. When interrupted by Hyo-jung wielding a camera, they both sorta wobbled off into flight with the original Boobie returning, again after about 10 flybys and 3 landing attempts. These birds, like the Isla Isabela Boobies, seem to have no fear of us and will easily let me approach within 2 feet. The odd characteristic of these birds is that they have both eyes positioned close to the front of their head (think Owl instead of Seagull) which is an adaptation to increase the stereo visual field which allows greater spatial acuity at close distances. That is, by having both eyes that look directly forward, they can focus on a prey item directly in front of them. Now I say this is odd, only because when you are sitting at the front of the boat having a conversation with one, it stops its feather preening, looks back at you directly with both eyes and sorta blinks at you as if it's waiting for you to say something profound. It's sorta eerie, in an "I'm 200 miles out to sea and talking to a bird" kinda way.
We have also been approached by no less than 4 different pods of dolphins in the past 36 hours. The most intimate of which was with a pod of about 30 Pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuate). The deep blue offshore waters, being low in particulate matter, are crystal clear and when these playful animals were bow riding IO, you could see them roll on their sides and look up at us. Our eyes met across a distance of 3-4 feet as they darted and turned with ease.
Another pod of three Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris, not sure on this ID) approached us. One of them was juvenile and was clearly interested in showing off its ability to tail slap. It repeatedly slapped the water and even managed to splash the deck before heading further off, still tail slapping all the way.
One last biological observation we have recently had baffles me profoundly and I will wait to hear back from a colleague before expanding further. Suffice it to say that it involves a species of insect that, to the best of my knowledge, has no business being way out here.


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