You catch a boat to go out to the Park. I saw a whale this morning about 4 AM out the front window. The Gannets were kicking up huge gouts of water feeding on schools of small fish. Gannets have have air sacs in their necks like bubble wrap to cushion the impact with water. They can hit 60 MPH and go very deep after fish.
There are four trails over the 1.6 square mile island to where the Gannets are nesting.
The park ranger on the boat says that there are 400,000 nesting birds. It seems like a lot more to me. Gannets are black the first year and gradually become mostly white except for black wingtips. They can mate at five years of age and produce one blue egg per season.
When the male returns with a bit of seaweed for the nest, the birds spend some time rubbing bills. They remind me a little of the Gooney Birds on Midway Island. We saw one pair copulating, but it only lasts an average of 24 seconds... it was all over when I got my camera focused. They may do that several times in the summer.
Mrs. Phred wonders how the mated birds can find each other. I tell her probably people all look alike to birds. They are aggressive birds and fight a lot over space, resulting in a fairly geometric distribution of birds in the nesting area.. .They are just out of reach of each others pecking range.
The rocks are very soft. They are eroding quickly.
We take the longest trail to the nesting area and the shortest trail back. The whole morning is about six miles with a 200 meter elevation gain.
You can tell when you get near the nesting area. The birds are noisy and smell bad.
About 40% of the chicks survive to make the flight down to the Gulf of Mexico in the Fall. You have to wonder how many will end up in an oil slick this year.
We see a ranger marking birds with a squirt gun and making some kind of population estimate.
Our neighbor, Marcel, has recommended a small restaurant with home cooking for tonight. He says codfish tongues fried in sea urchin butter are similar to fried oysters.