Friday, February 18, 2011

Albatross-Pearl Of the Sea

The largest bird in the Galapagos Islands, the waved albatross, is getting ready to depart, as it follows the cool waters back to lower southern latitudes. Albatrosses nest only on Española (Hood) Island, and live here from late March through early January.

The sole purpose of coming here is to reproduce, and so all their mating efforts must succeed before the arrival of the warm waters. This also brings the first rains, and their inland habitat is just impossible for them to cope with, as grasses particularly turn the dessert-like environment into a thick green lush jungle. Their offspring must be ready to leave too, as subaldults (adults with no previous mating experience), and so from October through December the most amazing flying lessons and wing exercises are witnessed on those brand new individuals.

Lots of downy feathers are seen being swept by the wind; the newer feathers are just coming out, and albatrosses must be ready to take off. Because of their big size, the young adults cannot have a second chance to take off. Once they jump off the cliffs near Punta Suárez, they will start their long journey until the nutrient-rich waters start heading back to the islands. Our ships have reported as of December 30th, a total of just 12 albatrosses left on the island. The latest they have stayed is the end of the second week in January. Bon Voyage!

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