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A Wandering Albatross Over Wyoming
The Strangest Tourist
Living just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I see tourists all the time. After 11 years of living here, not much surprises me. After all, people travel here from all over the world.
In the winter, they come to ski, snow board, enjoy fine dinning and world class hotels. In the summer, most are heading to Yellow Stone, to see the geysers, waterfalls and wildlife. Of course, there is also the Sturgis run: Merry Christmas, Bull Moose, Wyoming.
In the fall, hunters come from around the world. They come for a chance to shoot a deer, elk and moose. 'Grey's River Road,' less than a block form my house, is know and cherished by many men. I know this to be so, because we have never yet failed to meet someone who asks about it, when we are on vacation ourselves -- from Montana to Pennsylvania!
Of course, there are the non-tourists, who pass through the area. Those who have made the life choice to ride rickety old bicycles or hike where ever they go. Those who drive mules and wagons from rendezvous to rendezvous, reenacting the times and lives of trappers. Traveling crafts men, dog sledders, granola people, the occasional con-artist... you name it, I ignore it. After a while, they all seem the same.
That is why this particular tourist caught me so off guard.
He was completely different form any tourist I had seen before.
He was a Wandering Albatross!
What is a Wandering Albatross?
Albatross are large sea birds. For centuries, sailors have thought of seeing an albatross as sign of good luck. There are many species of albatross, 14-24, depending on who you talk to. Most species live in the Southern Hemisphere, as is the case of the Wandering Albatross.
Albatross take up to 13 years to reach maturity, they engage in courtships that can last up to two years. They raise one chick every two to four years, depending on the species. Some live to be a century old.
All Albatross are know for their long wings and their flight abilities. They are gliders, often soring long distances. The Wandering Albatross is known for it's exceptionally long wing span, 11-14 feet, according to National Geographic. Through studies, scientists have found that these exceptional birds are able to glide 10,000 miles at a time.
It was a cloudy fall morning. A storm was rolling in, and I was repeating the children's school instructions for the umpteen millionth time, when we saw a huge white bird soring over our neighbor's house. It glided over their barn and circled back around their house, turning sideways to fly between the house and a tree. Then up into the sky it went, disappearing amongst the clouds.
We stared, dumb-struck. We had never seen a bird so big. A few calculations, based on the size of our neighbors house, told us the wing span had to be at least 11 feet. We wondered if it had been some form of remote-control plane, but the fact that it had disappeared into the clouds made us think that it had been real. A few weeks later, we saw a National Geographic with our giant white bird on the cover.
In all of the research I have done, I have not found anything about albatross flying over land masses, except to nest. All of it has shown that their normal flight patterns are over the oceans. I suppose this was a once in a lifetime tourist sighting.
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