“White birds! White birds!” I lunged and staggered out of the surf. Without my glasses even the beach chairs were a blur.
“Where? Where?” I yelled as I groped toward where I thought my chair was.
I found my glasses and whirred around. My sister was pointing up at the rocks that protected the bay. Sure enough. There were 2 white birds, wheeling and darting around the rocks. I squinted against the morning sun. The birds winked in and out as they turned and the sun flashed off their wings. They were far and the binoculars were in the hotel room. Of course.
I shaded my eyes with my hand and watched as more birds joined the original 2. Soon there were 6, then 9, then 13.
They weren’t behaving like terns or gulls. Could it be?
We both stood there shivering in our swimsuits facing into the sun, hoping and praying that they would come closer to shore. I needed to see the tail. As more birds joined the throng, a few came closer. We could see the black wing tips and wing patches. But I wanted to see the tail. Finally, one bird wheeled off and flew in front of the black surface of the rock. We could easily see the tail streamers and the black markings on the otherwise white bird. Ah. Thank you.
The White-tailed Tropicbird, known locally as a “longtail” breeds in Bermuda. But it was late September; the season was over. An otherwise abundant bird was not common at all. The birding deities smiled on us on our last day on the island.