There are days when I just don’t feel like walking around the golf courses checking on various nesting albatrosses and the birds who like to hang out near them. Sitting on the sofa and reading one of my trillion books sounds like a fitting reward for all of the hours I have spent with these birds. But that little voice in the back of my head tells me that I really need to check on that nest in the area where albatrosses have never nested before, or to look out for the bird who abandoned her egg and is now sitting on another bird’s nest. Something tells me to just do it and it becomes impossible to ignore the call to duty. And every now and then, the albatrosses reward me in a spectacular fashion.
On this day, January 20th, I had just arrived at the last place I check on the golf course. I saw a bird sitting on a fairway overlooking the ocean. Often it is where I see the bird I call Mrs. Pastry Bird, named for the Danish pastry that once appeared next to her nest. She lived the trauma of being stuck next to someone’s fenced off pool for an indeterminate period of time, unable to fly out, and when I carried her out from there she immediately took off and did not return for about 6 weeks.
When I next saw her she was near her mate but was not sitting very close to him the way birds who have nested together usually do. The trauma of being stuck in a fenced in area clearly had a lasting effect on this albatross. That is one reason why it would be wrong to encourage these birds to nest anywhere that is not on an open bluff overlooking the ocean. They are not naturally in areas where they must fly over a tall fence, with no view of the sea. People who love albatrosses do not want them to be in unsafe areas like that, they are not lawn ornaments. They may decide on their own to nest someplace that is not the safest spot for them, but for us to actually solicit their presence in potentially dangerous areas is selfish and short-sighted.
Mr. Pastry Bird did not understand his long-time mate’s unexpected coolness towards him. He relocated to the golf course, found a new mate, and raised a chick with her the following year. Mrs. Pastry Bird found him and won him back the year after that. They raised another chick together. He did not return to Princeville last year and Mrs. Pastry Bird often sits near the spot where they raised their last chick. I have a special place in my heart for her, she has been through rough times.
So I assumed the bird was her, and walked over to check the auxiliary number.
The bird did not want to stand up. Usually if I approach one from the rear it makes them nervous and they will stand long enough for me to see the band number. I do not even have to get very close to them as a rule. I was afraid she might be injured, so I did get close.
She stood up briefly, and—-it was not Mrs. Pastry bird. It was K555, Tater!
I moved away from him quickly and moved to the grass across the golf cart path from where he was sitting. If I could have made myself invisible, I would have, anything so he would not notice me and alter his behavior. Good observers want to be able to watch the animal acting normally. The bad ones want the animal to notice them so the animal alters his behavior to reflect the presence of the human. Some people call it being one with the animal. I call it worshipping at the altar of the grandiose ego. It reflects a total lack of concern for and interest in the animal.
As I watched him I realized that he was far too busy trying to learn how to walk on land to worry about me. He could hear two albatrosses to my right. He wanted to vocalize with them, but did not know quite what to say.
The albatrosses across the path from him started displaying with each other. He decided to leave his comfortable fairway and cross the scary concrete golf cart path to join the other birds. He was a bit intimidated by the other two and he walked back to his resting spot on the fairway. It is clear that walking on and off the cement is a learned experience, not an instinct that is wired into his albatross brain.
If you are not falling in love with this bird by now there is something seriously wrong with you.