Updates

Tales of St Giles – Part I: Noddies and Boobies

Some time ago, I posted about Magnificent Frigatebirds we enjoyed while bobbing around in the waters around St Giles Islands. For those of you unfamiliar with the territory, the islands – better described as rocks – that comprise St Giles are the northernmost land masses of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Located to the north-east of Tobago, they are only accessible by boat. And by accessible I do not mean you can step a foot on any of the rocks. Landings are ill-advised for the obvious safety reasons (large swells will smash any boat on numerous submerged and semi-submerged rocks) as well as legality.

Well known over the years as premium seabird nesting habitat, it is illegal to step foot on any of the islands of St Giles. And it shows, the number of seabirds still around even out of the breeding season was nothing short of staggering. What was better was the unfamiliarity many of these birds had with humans. Most boats that pass here transport fishermen, birdwatchers or scientists – or any combination of these. As a result, we enjoyed close passes by many birds, so close that I ended up using my wide-angle lens!

brown noddy

 

 

 

 

The incessant bobbing made long-lens photography entertaining at best and downright difficult at worst. With the rapid flight pattern of many seabirds, I missed much more than I hit. There were times though, that it all came together. This Brown Noddy was making a close pass to our boat – I have never before seen them this intimately. That silver-grey cap and facial pattern is amazing!

brown noddy incoming-2

 

 

 

 

 

Although we’ve seen many Laughing Gulls in our lifetime, seeing a few in their first juvenile plumage was not often enjoyed.

gulls and noddies

 

 

 

 

 

The real reason for checking out this patch of islands was for a single species in particular, though. I had seen Red-footed Boobies before, but only from a great distance looking off the top of Little Tobago island. In a telephone conversation with my good friend and expert boatman Zolani (reserve your spot today 868-470-7084 – totally worth it) a few days prior – we knew exactly what was the target.

Red-footed Boobies come in various colour morphs – meaning that it’s the same bird that just has chromatic differences. There’s a brown morph that’s completely brown except for the tip of its tail and its signature red feet.

red footed booby-3

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s the white-tailed morph, which resembles a brown morph that has dipped its tail in a bucket of white paint. The most beautiful (in my eyes at least) is the white morph. Lucky for us, we found (what we thought was) a single white morph Red-footed Booby perched on the sheer side of one of the islands.

white morph red footed booby with frigates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we drifted past, I continued shooting; and it was only long after while reviewing the images on my computer that I realized it actually was a pair of Red-footed Boobies, and I had in fact gotten a shot of the white-tailed morph after all. Not that obvious at the first glance eh?

nesting pair of red footed boobies

 

 

 

 

 

Normally I’d jump at the chance to photograph Brown Boobies – but I was fixated. This adult Brown Booby seemed to mock me -banking slowly and gracefully into my frame as I pursued that white morph Red-footed Booby.

booby photobomb