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A Nesting Colony on Half-moon Caye

A Nesting Colony
Life on Half Moon Caye isn't all about sea kayaking and snorkeling in this tropical paradise. The island itself has some treasures to share with us. We are headed down to the western end of the island, to see a nesting colony of red-footed boobies and frigatebirds. The trail bends inland, through a thicket of Orange-Flowered Ziracote trees. The white fruits lay scattered on the ground. We pick one up. It is soft but firm. Putting it to my nose, I discover an exotic scent with a hint of vanilla. Hermit crabs line the trail and wander among the leaf litter. A big male Black Iguana is displaying his prowess on a fallen coconut trunk, but our presence is too much for him so he slithers off into the undergrowth.

We pass a copse of Gumbo-Limbo trees, with a sign informing us of their medicinal properties. The red, peeling bark gives it the the nick-name “tourist tree”, as it resembles sunburned skin. Now the trail winds deeper into the forest, and we hear, and smell, the birds. Looking up into the trees we see fuzzy white faces peering at us over pale, blue beaks. These are the booby chicks, sitting on their precarious nests made of a handful of clumsily-placed twigs. They are so close and yet not the least bit disturbed by our presence. Because boobies only nest on isolated islands with no predators, they have no fear on land, but they are clearly curious.

We round a bend in the trail and there stands before us an observation deck, about 3.5m or 12 ft high. We emerge one at a time through the low canopy and are surrounded by birds. All around us are birds; boobies and frigates, young and old. Male frigates inflate their bright red throat pouches, and clap their bills together, advertising their robust virility and perfect nesting site. Frigates and boobies croak and squawk, fluttering their necks to cool themselves. And overhead birds dip and soar, coming and going with food for dedicated spouses and hungry young beaks. And we are standing at eye level, surrounded by this magnificent spectacle. This small island, out in the blue Caribbean, does indeed have its treasures.