Archive for July, 2010

Frigate Birds

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Last Sunday Alex stayed home but I thought that I might go and see if it be possible to get one of the kayaks to the beach single-handed and then put it away again. The answer is “probably,” though it is difficult to keep passers-by from helping. Next time I think I may try the lower of the two boats — harder to doff and don the cover, but easier to get the boat back into the rack.

Having gone to this much trouble I saw that a little paddling was in order, so I nudged the boat into the afternoon chop and headed around the point. As I entered the outer lagoon a magnificent frigate bird flew nearly overhead, maybe eight feet above. It banked left, dipped its beak three times in the space of about twenty yards, then continued left to head back the way it had come, passing me again at low altitude.

Now it’s not unusual hereabouts to see a frigate bird, or at least not rare — they tend to spend their afternoons circling above the lake at the golf course. But like many of the other locals they seem to have a lot of time on their hands, and I have seldom seen them actually feeding. Lots of other interesting things they do for sure. I have seen one descend steeply in what must be a deep stall, tail down, little forward motion, and they’re famous for a dive with fluttering wings. Maybe these maneuvers are social somehow; they can’t be intended to scare the fish.

I described the bird as magnificent, but that’s part of its name — to distinguish it from the merely “great” frigatebird, which has a wingspan of only, yes only, seven feet. These guys are large, and this had escaped my notice only because we don’t usually see them up close. They are sea birds, but they don’t swim; what little perching they do is done inland.

Many of the birds here are easy to cozy up to. Pelicans tolerate kayakers and nearly trust snorkelers; cormorants, though nervous, often don’t bother flying away; herons and egrets will pretty much go on about their business unless they feel they are being stalked; you can walk right up to a vulture; gulls will walk right up to you, if you’re near the snack bar. But frigate birds, well, not being a golfer, I had never seen one this close.