Scott C. France - University of Louisiana at Lafayette
May 13, 2017
Like many biologists, my interest in nature does not stop when I leave the deep-sea "office." I love exploring the natural world on land as well. When we first met, my wife introduced me to bird-watching – and I love it! Not only is the diversity of birds fascinating and beautiful, but the mere act of looking for birds focuses my eye on the natural world around me and allows me to see so many more animals, plants, and insects that I might have overlooked.
When I have the privilege of heading to sea for research or exploration, I look forward to the opportunity to explore the local birds and natural settings in remote ports (a highlight on Tutuila, American Samoa, was the Flying Foxes, fruit bats the size of small herons!). On a typical day in the remote ocean, spotting birds is difficult.
The Pacific Ocean is a vast space – most of the time, water surrounds us to all horizons with no land in sight. While there are seabirds out there, they are usually hard to find because their relative density is low. They aren’t congregating on the open ocean, but are constantly flying or gliding in search of food. When they are present, they may be hard to find because they are either flying low to the water and disappearing behind the swells or because they are far off and moving fast and, therefore, easily overlooked.
On this expedition, I've actually been surprised by the number of seabirds I have seen since we left American Samoa. But I'm even more fortunate because on three occasions we are conducting remotely operated vehicle dives very close to islands that host seabird colonies: Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef.
I've spent enjoyable time before breakfast and after the dives patrolling the deck, taking photos of Fairy and Sooty Terns; Brown and Black Noddies; Masked, Brown, and Red-footed Boobies; Frigatebirds; and Shearwaters. Being outdoors looking for the birds has put me in the right place at the right time to also photograph visiting pods of dolphins! Thank you birds!
May 13 is both International Migratory Bird Day , which highlights the importance of migrating-bird stopover sites and their habitats, and Global Big Day , an event that brings together birders from around the world. Go outside, observe the birds, and appreciate nature. If you are inclined, share your findings. I’'l be doing my part out here in the Central Pacific!