Long-Tailed Tropic Birds

First thing this morning, 150 nm away from land, we were joined by two white, long-tailed tropic birds. They are bright white, pelagic sea birds with long, bushy, tail feathers. They are such beautiful birds, seen almost always at sea. They aren’t as large as the brown boobies you also see at sea – which themselves look very handsome, chunky brown and white seagulls. White-tailed tropic birds look like precious gems.

We had one land on Quest in the middle of our Atlantic passage. It was a thousand miles from anywhere. The tropic bird stayed for some hours, quietly resting on Quest’s A-frame.

‘What’s that?’ Jack asked this time, pointing to my face.

I was still looking up. I ran my fingers over my mouth and chin. Urghh. Remembered brushing my teeth at about 4am. The night had got very balmy. The wind had died down and I’d grabbed my toothbrush. It seemed as good a time as any. Some of the toothpaste must have still been stuck to my face. Spitting in the wind had taken its toll.

Before I had a chance to grab a flannel and wipe up the remnants, Jack pointed upwards into the pink sky. ‘Your tropic birds.’

Result! Two long-tailed tropic birds were gliding high above Quest. I called and urged them to come closer and say hello.

Perhaps not many people must wave frantically at them. The birds did come lower to check us out. This time I called them even more. ‘Come on beautiful birds! Come and stay with us for a while.’

Suddenly, the white tropic bird pair flew right over my head – and spoke back to me. ‘Squawk, squawk!’ they called.

I felt triumphant! The tropic birds sounded like parrots. All noisy and squeaky. ‘I got them to speak!’ I beamed.

Jack nodded, still looking ambivalently at my face. Aha. Time to clean up.

We saw dolphins too. Small and dark, a group of five or so joined us for a little bit in the waters off Martinique. Dolphins here always seem like they’re late for something though. They visit fleetingly before they zoom off again.

Welsh dolphins by contrast will stay with a boat for hours. We’ve had hulking great bottlenoses in the Cardigan Bay downright flirt with us. There’s a resident population in the bay. The closest I can get here is the tropic birds squawking. I’ll take it. Now, where’s that flannel?

PS – I could only get booby pics in the end. Hmm. Different to what was in my head.

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