Hakai Magazine


One Great Shot: Beam Me Up, Booby

A blue-footed booby rises through waves after a successful fishing dive.

Authored by

by Henley Spiers

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blue footed boobie catching a fish underwater

In the fall, sardines form a vast shoal around the rocks of Los Islotes in Mexico’s Espiritu Santo Archipelago National Park off Baja California Sur. For years, I have timed my trips to coincide with the seasonal appearance of these sardines—and the birds that come to feast on them.

Seabirds might just be my favorite animal to encounter underwater. They make for unforgettable dives—hovering between tranquility and chaos as pelicans, cormorants, and boobies hurtle into the water to chase the silvery sardines. Usually, seabirds dive so swiftly that by the time you react to the loud thud of a little body hitting the water, the bird has already returned to the surface. Predicting exactly where an attack will happen is impossible, yet I dreamed of capturing this spectacular feat of predation.

While visiting the area in 2022, I set out on an evening dive and picked a spot among the sardines. I waited patiently as the sun began to set, hoping to get lucky. After a long while, I heard a bird dive down at full speed just a couple of meters to my right. Spinning around, I clicked the camera’s shutter button instinctively. I was elated to discover that I’d finally captured the elusive shot: a blue-footed booby rising up from the depths with a sardine clamped in its beak.