Blue-footed boobies meanwhile, were raising their young on the island. Pairs of these birds nest on the ground, drawing a circle in excrement to keep insects away. We walked within a few feet of them as they had no fear of us, taking cellphone pictures of them and their strange-looking young.

South Seymour Island

We had an extra day before boarding our cruise, so we opted for a day trip to South Seymour Island for bird watching followed by the beach snorkel described above. I had booked this trip in advance and perhaps overpaid: all along the waterfront are signs offering deals on “last minute” excursions, though I didn’t get the chance to do any comparison shopping, I suspect there are bargains to be had. We boarded a small cabin cruiser with about 10 other guests for a really pleasant hour boat trip out to the uninhabited island. South Seymour is scrub land. Rocks, dry grasses, shrubs, stunted trees. And home to huge numbers of iguanas and birds. Magnificent frigate birds are enormous birds with wingspans up to eight feet in length. Despite living near the sea, they're not adapted for water and can’t get their feathers wet, so they must either catch fish very near the surface, or harass other birds by stealing their catches and forcing them to regurgitate meals for them, a behavior known as kleptoparasitism. It's this bullying behavior and not their penchant for following warships to hunt fish in their wakes that gave them their name. They are perhaps better known for the huge red pouches under the throats of the males, which they inflate to attract mates. Mating season was in full swing when we arrived on the South Seymour, and males with bright red balloons were everywhere. Each bird can keep his pouch inflated for up to eight hours, but during that time he can't eat or drink. He will perch in a small tree or bush and wait and hope for a female to visit. If she accepts him, they mate and then he leaves, letting her keep the tree. At least that's what our guide told us was supposed to happen. Reality seemed a bit more clumsy, as we watched a female land on top of male, stay there for a few minutes and then take off without consummating the relationship as far as we could tell.

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