Gator hatched in my neighbors’ yard in 2006. He first came back in 2011, and by 2013 he had found a mate, KP513, and they had a chick together. They raised him in the same yard where Gator was a chick, and two years later they raised Pablo together there. They always got together in Princeville in the years when they did not nest, and always next to the same house. In the albatross world this yard gets a 5-squid rating.
Last year there was no egg, but Gator appeared to be sitting in a nest, and to an observer it appeared that there might be an egg there. But there was no egg. Gator sat on the nest for two weeks, but KP513 did not appear to be as interested.
KP513 did not return this year. I always assume that if an albatross who has a nesting partner does not come back, he or she has died. It takes so much time and effort to find the perfect mate, and the ultimate test is whether they can successfully help to raise a chick. I never see a missing nester again, and never hear that they have moved to another nesting area. Gator has spent many days here, always in his favorite yard. Recently he started working at building a kind of nest around himself. He has not met another mate, he does not need another bird for the kind of egg he found to incubate.
The “egg” is a tennis ball that belongs to Heather and Steve’s dog, who had not willingly given it to one of those big, dorky birds who hang out on her lawn. Gator clearly wanted to raise a chick, despite all those months of care required. He is not the first albatross to attempt to incubate an inanimate object. We had a couple who sat on a cap from the end of a PVC pipe, even exchanging incubation duties.
In the afternoon I noticed that Gator had left his nest. He was displaying with two other albatrosses, a good first step in meeting a new mate. With any luck, he may find that perfect someone to share his favorite nesting grounds with.
And the dog gets to keep her tennis ball, too.