Monday, June 30, 2014

Waved Albatross

Among the most incredible sightings I had on Galapagos was when I went to see the world's only waved albatross breeding colony.

These beautiful birds only nest on one island on the archipelago, Espanola. 

The day I visited was breathtaking. We walked ashore just as dawn was breaking.

The marine iguanas were lined up on the beach trying to warm up in the early morning sunshine.
Sally Lightfoot crabs, thought to be named after a nimble Caribbean dancer, were tip-toeing across the sand.

We left the shore and walked inland through dense bushes. Very soon I could hear the strange sound of albatross' clacking their beaks and emitting a haunting ‘whoo hoo’ sound. We rounded a corner into a clearing and suddenly there were several pairs performing their elaborate courting ritual right in front of us.

Waved albatross stand at nearly one metre high and sport waved markings across their breast.
During the breeding season, pairs greet each other by rubbing their bills together tenderly. 

This is followed by one or both of the birds standing bolt upright. 

Then they often either stand with their beaks pointed towards the sky, emitting the strange wailing sound that I’d heard earlier or pose alert with their beaks wide open, before continuing to rub bills again. 

Sometimes, they clack their beaks rapidly like a pair of castanets then stop abruptly to preen over their shoulders or to move their head fluidly from side to side in a comical manner. Then they might take a break or attend to their nests before resuming this unusual behaviour once more.

Albatross are quite cumbersome on land but up in the air they were majestic. I watched as a male with a 7.4ft wingspan circled overhead looking for somewhere to land. Finding a space big enough for that vast shape took some planning!

Taking off was also incredible to watch. The wind was blowing onshore so the albatross would walk towards the cliff edge and then start running hard into the wind. They looked like men taking off in hang gliders.

My video footage of albatross performing their elaborate courting display is currently on show at my exhibition in my gallery at Thixendale until 13th July.

Above is my new painting of waved albatross in acrylics.

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