|Isla Isabela, Mexico, December, 2003
|Christmas Day and I wish we were back in Isabela. I loved being in that wild place with my family. Yes, I
worried for my children as they pushed their freedom as they snorkeled away from the family group.
But, I also was exhilarated by their freedom. And hearing the anchor groan as the rode finds a rock or
two that it snags upon—is more than disconcerting. But, the wildness of this island intrigued. Am I
always going to be torn between the many manifestations of nature (“civilized and un”).
We had a wonderful hike on that island. We rode the dinghy into the beach and secured it among the
pangas (fishing boats) in front of the small fishing village. We found the path to the Crater Lake and
walked to the lake. We saw many huge birds nesting in the trees—most at eye/head level. They looked
at us straight in the eyes. They did not budge. At first, being novices with birds, we thought these were
the boobies that we were looking for. Only later in our hike did we discover that they were the
pterodactyl like frigate birds. When he wants to look impressive, the male displays a red throat balloon.
We followed the trail through the jungle. When I took my turn at being the trailblazer (the trail was
marked nicely with pink tape ribbons)—my biggest challenge was spider webs. And hearing the heavy
and fast movement of iguanas as they made for more camouflaged environments, made me even more
Finally, we reached the other shore—the north side of the island. We saw more birds—and then, there
, sitting as pretty as you please, was a booby taking care of the nest. Again, being birding novices, we
assumed it was the female. But, later we determined it was the male. The nest owner did not budge.
He plucked at the nest when we got too near. But other than that , he watched us cautiously, but not
aggressively. I spotted an egg near the nest that was intact, but not being supervised. Emily and
Martin saw the egg but did not seem overly concerned. We continued our walk along this rugged north
shore. Emily, Martin and Lou found a booby father basically on top of his booby chick to protect it. The
chick emerged as we approached. Not long after that, the mother arrived back. I knew that the female
was giving the male a parental reprimand for revealing their most precious treasure.
Martin and Emily kept talking about the abandoned egg . At first Lou and I discounted this to random
thought generation, but then the theme keeps recurring. Martin gets in his head that we can not leave
this egg. We must do something. Lou and I have already categorized the egg to “the will of mother
nature” and have long ago left it alone. As we head back to the trail, that goes by the abandoned egg—
the volume of the entreaties from Martin and Emily to “save the egg” become deafening. And suddenly,
Lou and I are drawn into the need to participate in the survival of this precious egg. We talk about all
different scenarios—one of them being that we bring the egg with us and try and hatch it on the boat
(Yikes!). Finally, the compromise occurs. It is not far from the first booby nest we encountered. We will
move the egg to the booby nest. (I thought—okay—the booby will take charge of this--- he will have
nothing to do with this defunct egg). The engineer among us (Lou) devises a way (with straw and
sticks) to transport the egg to the nest without our touching the egg. We all move toward the nest, Lou
transporting the egg. The booby father (I love that term!) moves off the nest, exposing the one egg he
is responsible for… okay he does not just move off== he gets the heck out of Dodge. We put the
abandoned egg in the nest. We all moved away. Holding our breaths, will the father return? We
notice the egg he left behind has a crack in it—imminent chick? We all give a sigh of relief as the father
returns, checks the nest out and sits on the two eggs and appears not to notice the different feel on his
booty (Let’s see—would that be a booby booty??)
We then turned around and headed for the trail. We were completely satisfied with our adoption
scheme. In my head, I played out the female booby coming back to the nest and giving the male heck
for being so clueless, “How could you not know you had two eggs instead of one?” (not that I’ve ever
done that to any male in my family!) We did ponder how long the booby would sit upon the egg if a
chick didn’t emerge. We didn’t return to Isla Isabela to check on our meddling. But, I know Lou, Emily,
Martin and I have all imagined that there emerged two chicks from that nest. (After reading this—Lou
says he didn’t imagine that— it was such a magical day, I was hoping some of the magic had rubbed off
on the engineer).
|But then the chick got curious and left
its cozy spot to come out and look at
|The birds will sit tight until you get within
arms reach. Then they get nervous
and prepare to fly off.