Birding Without Borders: Day 6

Meditations on albatross while crossing the Drake Passage.

January 6, 2015, At sea in the Drake Passage -- I think the life of an albatross is incredibly romantic (in the wide sense). These birds, which have the biggest wingspan of any bird in the world (12 feet across on a Wandering Albatross), occupy space in the big picture: An albatross might live 50-100 years, and it does things deliberately; it takes up to 10 years for an albatross to mate for the first time, and, during those first, wandering years, an albatross lives mostly out of sight of land, often covering hundreds of miles a day. You might think that's a lonely existence, but I see a certain poetic elegance. If I was reincarnated as the creature of my choice, I'd be an albatross.

These thoughts glided through my head today as I watched five species of albatrosses knifing past the stern of the Akademik Ioffe. The most impressive were the Wanderers and the Royals, but even the smaller Black-browed, Gray-headed, and Light-mantled looked sharp and in their element. I feel an affinity with these birds--nomadic, deliberate, focused, optimistic, calm, taking each day as it comes.

Birdwise, I saw six new seabirds from the ship's bridge today, bringing my running big year total to 31: Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Gray-backed Storm-Petrel, Northern Giant-Petrel, Royal Albatross, and Rockhopper Penguin (swimming far from land). It was a relatively relaxed day at sea, spent watching some of the seabirds that habitually follow ships, hoping to scavenge some food or simply play in the wind currents. Tomorrow, the Falkland Islands await--and a whole lot of potential new birds!


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