On 2nd January, we left Southampton on Queen Victoria for a cruise to Rio, via Ford Lauderdale and Barbados, in search of a little sunshine, some flying fish and a booby or two. We had been in the Caribbean 12 months earlier and I learned a lot about fishing. Although Barbados is technically in the Atlantic, its waters are the perfect habitat for the national fish of Barbados, the Cosmopolitan Flying Fish and, of course, their predators.
The weather across the Atlantic was the worst Queen Victoria had seen, with Force 10 gales and 15 metre swells but the further west we sailed, the better the weather became and on the edge of the Caribbean, the sun was shining and the sea was much calmer. Bird life was disappointing. We saw the odd tropic bird out to sea and a few other sea birds identified by ace birdwatcher Phil from Bolton/Majorca, who became the point of information for all interested parties, including me. However, the tropical seas produced flying fish by the dozen. Seeing the ship as a predator, they took off at 90 degrees to the ship in search of a safe haven.
I was concerned that I wasn’t going to get the pictures I wanted when, on deck at 6am one day, I was greeted by the sight of 3 masked boobies searching for flying fish on the port side where the wind was aiding their flight. By 10am, there were at least 45 masked boobies and the whole ship seemed to come alive with cameras as they performed their amazing aerobatics, diving, swimming and fishing techniques. By lunch time, they were joined by a solitary brown booby. Smaller than our gannet, the boobies have to be seen before you can truly appreciate their fishing skills. I knew when a flying fish had been spotted because there was a cry from above and moments later a fish was either plucked from above the surface of the water, or caught under the waves by this exocet. (Strange that I should describe the bird as such, because the coincidence is, that ‘exocet’ is French for ‘flying fish’).
As with all wildlife, the story doesn’t always end there because often the predator would come under attack by another booby to have its well earned prey taken from it. Also, it was only when I looked at the images later, that I discovered not all of the fish were flying fish but, probably, needle fish with their long, pointed bills.
I spent almost 10 hours on deck watching and photographing these fine birds and the next day the only one that remained was the brown booby who had spent the night on the front of the ship. However, the day then produced another interesting display as the brown booby was joined by three red footed boobies who were equally adept at fishing and kept me occupied most of the day.
Check out the site for just a few of the pictures, which I hope you like.