Alfonso the rogue macaw

Crazy dolphins and resourceful birds Dolphin sink social bubbles

A sudden boat trip this afternoon turned out to be a huge success. The conditions were optimal – warm water, warm air, plenty of dolphins and calm seas. We found a group of resting dolphins – females with calves. I do not think they were happy with the boat following them. #001 (Kuchizure), an older matriarch type dolphin, began tail slapping the surface of the water, and threatened us with the open mouth Angry Jaw display when we got in the water. I can understand – I wouldn’t want to be woken up during a nap either, but she was being a bit ornery. We found a huge group of playful juveniles, including Kitte and Joo – this season’s regulars. One of the juveniles went through this weird series of behaviors that we see dolphins do occasionally: she aligned herself vertically in the water, exhaled air, and slowly sank straight down to the bottom of the sea while remaining perfectly still. Once she hit the bottom, she shot back up at me echolocating all the way. I’ve seen this a few times and I can only assume that they do it because it is fun. Dolphins become more and more negatively buoyant as their lungs lose air: so as they exhale during this vertical elevator act, they start sinking faster and faster. I can only imagine that it is a fun sensation. I’ve included a picture (above) of this juvenile in the ‘sinking elevator’ position.

While I was waiting to get a ride down to the pier, I was standing watching the ocean. Right in front of me – not 10 meters away – flew a beautiful green and yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna). For a split second I thought this was normal – Mikura is filled with strange animals. But I quickly realized that Macaws are not native to this part of the world at all. In fact, they live in South America – thousands of miles from here. So I had to think – how is it that a species of bird native to another continent just flew by me? Is there some strange colony of Macaws here on Mikura – did they migrate here thousands of years ago and form some bizarre isolated group on this tiny island? That didn’t sound right. After putting my little gray cells to work, I figured out what must have happened. After asking around the island, my little idea was confirmed: someone had kept the Macaw as a pet and it had escaped. The cool thing is; it had escaped 15 years ago! Yes, that’s right – there has been a Macaw living on Mikura island out in the wild for 15 years. Now that is a pretty resourceful Macaw! I have decided to name the Macaw Alfonso (for no good reason other than he looked like an Alfonso). I take my hat off to you Alfonso – wherever you are, I bid you good night!