Much time has passed and great distances sailed this week; From our outbound Cabo San Lucas departure to Socorro Island, we have visited the three islands in the Revillagigedos Group in Latitude 18North, then all the way up to 24North in the Sea of Cortez. An 850 Nautical Mile journey to see everything from our usuals: Manta and Hammerhead sharks to some unusuals: False Killer Whale, California Sealions, Wahoo – and a Brown Headed Cowbird.
This Cowbird, which I named ‘Duncan’ (from the celtic for ‘brown headed’) made his presence aboard known on our first day of the Southbound Transit when he flew into the wheelhouse from the deck.
I don’t mind saying that I love birds, they are my wildlife interests in these voyages. We have great birds in Mexico not seen in Canada, like the Magnificent Frigatebird who has the longest wingspan to body length ratio of any bird and is a near constant companion soaring for hours at our masthead with a momentum matching the ship. And the comical ‘Booby’, one of the only seabirds with forward sited eyes, rather like a human. A bit of a feather brains, these birds populate our foredeck when at anchor and then stare lamely up at the sky without the vaguest clue how to achieve it. Pre-departure, I go forward and gamely pick them up to toss overboard; I once saw one trying to squeeze his seagull sized frame through an aperture in the deck not larger than his body, all the while flapping its wings to reach the sea and sky before him.. and after 10 minutes of trying he made it through.. didn’t think to just fly up?
Cowbird was our mascot. For six days the bird was’ imprisoned’ in the confines of the ship, freedom to wander about but being a landbird, not able to return from sea. Its not uncommon for us to inadvertantly transplant finches and the like from Cabo to Socorro; I find them on the Sundeck under a lounger looking doleful at the cheerless prospect of never seeing land again. The first scent of the islands on the horizon and they break away for them. Not Duncan. He stayed day in and day out and my hopes were in returning him somehow to his home in the Baja. He took our offerings of water and bisquit as he took to our programme of diving; every divetime he would watch the deck activities with interest from his perch above, then with increasing absorbtion he would skitter across the dive deck between the feet of our guests chasing the tiny larval crabs that are washed up on deck.
Duncan was a favorite, by day three he was eating out of our hands and posing for photos with the guests. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how he fared for by the morning of our Northbound transit Duncan was not in his usual places nor did he appear again. A moderate breeze out of the Northwest was giving us gusts to 20 knots and seas to 8 feet. The only lively seas in our whole voyage. I don’t think a Brown Headed Cowbird can make Baja from over a hundred seamiles out, and athough he was astute enough not to strand himself at the Revillagigedos, I hope he did turn back to Isla San Benedicto to await our return. He was a most welcomed stowaway and I do wish him well.
Photos supplied by Sten Johannson and Victor Silva – thank you.