Birds and Beasts
28 March 2010 | Nurse Cay
Beth / sun and cloud, 85 in the shade
At both Water Cay and Flamingo Cays, we have been ooohing and aaahing at the Magnificent Frigate Birds. Magnificent is capitalized because it is part of the name - as well as being a perfect adjective. I love the exuberance of the name - Magnificent Frigate Bird - it sounds so much better than plain old Frigate Bird, which might then be mistaken (at least auditorily) for friggit bird - and that just wouldn't do at all!
They are unusual and ... well..."magnificent", and we haven't seen them before arriving here. Mostly black, up to 40" in length and with a wing span of 90", they are easily identifiable. Their wings are angular and, while their tails don't stream out like those of the white Tropic Birds, they are long enough to be distinctive. These birds soar overhead looking for fish, swooping down near the fishing boats and to snatch fish from the water. My Sibley's Guide mentions that they are also known to steal fish from other seabirds in aerial chases too, but we haven't seen that.
At Nurse Cay, we spotted American Oystercatchers standing on the rocks in the evening. These are also distinctive, and although we've seen them in Georgia and the Carolinas (and I'm sure I've seen Oystercatchers in Vancouver, BC) we didn't know they can be found here too. This pair was watching the water intently, their long, bright red beaks and pinkish coloured legs making them stand right out against the rocks.
Some of these islands are inhabited by wild goats, chickens, and possibly a horse or two, and we've seen the goats at a distance when anchored in Buenavista and Raccoon Cays. One fellow was mostly white with a chocolate brown head and neck. It was as if someone combined two different goats in one body! We know the guys from Little Farmer's Cay come down sometimes to hunt goats, and it seems like they aren't hard to find. We haven't discovered how they came to be here - descended from shipwrecked goats? Put here deliberately? As Jim wittily declared, the only thing we do know is that they didn't walk from island to island over the ice in winter!
We left Flamingo Cay on Sunday morning, bound for Buenavista, and had a fabulous rollicking sail down. We started with the main up and the yankee out, but as the wind built to 20 kn and the waves south of Man Of War were 6-8 feet, we pulled in the yankee and put out the stay sail. We were still doing 6.5 knots and were a little more stable than the heeled over 7 and 8 knots we were doing under the yankee. It was one of those beam winds that makes for good sailing for both northbound and southbound boats and we exchanged greetings with Pearl - also going hull speed as they headed north.
As we drew nearer to Nurse Cay, Jim and I decided that the lure of being the only boat in an anchorage was irresistible so we pulled in there, nice and close to the beach. Ashore on the little beach, we found some old foundations with remnants of shells among the mortar, a great many old dead conchs and lots of lizard tracks, but no shells or beans or trails through the underbrush. The swimming was good though, and we returned to Madcap well exercised.
After a candle lit cockpit lobster dinner (seasoned with peppers, garlic, lemon and butter and served with quinoa and salad) we turned out the solar light and enjoyed the moon and stars for a bit, but there was a lot of surge so it wasn't quite the still, starlit night we had envisioned!