Introduction to the Galapagos

blue-footed-booby-7-10-2016-5194

Blue-Footed Booby

I never thought going through pictures I took two months ago would be so therapeutic, but it turns out after being away from them and the pressure hanging over my head to get through them when life got too much in the way, it’s feeling pretty good to go back to the Galapagos through these memories. These pictures are all from Day One.

Our first morning we flew from Quito to Guayaquil and then to Baltra Island. While waiting at the dock to be transported to the catamaran sailing vessel where we would spend 9 days visiting as many of the islands as possible, it became apparent that we might be seeing sea lions and marine iguanas virtually everywhere.

My entertainment included watching Brown Noddys following a Brown Pelican (Southern) who was trying to fish.

brown-pelican-7-10-2016-6308The predominant species of crab is the Sally Lightfoot Crab which delights me by its name almost as much as its appearance. The photograph on the right has a Galapagos Striated Heron in it, an endemic also referred to as the “Lava Heron.”

Magnificent Frigatebirds were so abundant I nearly forgot to pay attention to them later in the trip so I’m glad I managed to get some photographs the first day.

magnificent-frigatebird-7-10-2016-5095

Great Blue Herons were seen on several of the islands.

great-blue-heron-7-10-2016-5201We got on and off the catamaran using a vessel I’m pretty sure was referred to as a “panga” and was designed with seating on the sides so you could throw your gear in the middle of the boat. I seem to have only this picture of the boat from a few days later, but I think the islet pictures must have been taken from it. Below the picture of the panga is a Whimbrel on the shore of an islet.

Panga 7-12-2016-0286.jpg

Also on the same little islet, the first and farthest views I would have of a Galapagos Mockingbird.

Brown Noddies…

Our first island stop on the afternoon of our arrival to the catamaran was at Santa Cruz Island. The catamaran sailed from island to island, set anchor and we were transported to the island in the panga. A word about our itinerary: the islands we would visit and when were determined by the authority of the Galapagos National Park to insure that not too many people were on any island at any one time. Some islands were off-limits altogether, but there was plenty left to see.

black-necked-stilt-7-10-2016-5311

Black-Necked Stilt

The Black-Necked Stilt above and the White-Cheeked Pintails below are not native to the Galapagos but still very nice to see.

The Marine Iguanas were irresistible.

Below, Blue-Footed Boobies in a flight pattern and a view of the beach where we landed to explore.

The Yellow Warbler below is a subspecies found in the Galapagos. This turned out to be a very common bird and easy to photograph.

The two finches below would be seen almost every day, but these were my introductory looks at them.

small-ground-finch-7-10-2016-5140

Small Ground Finch

Darwin’s Finches all evolved with different adaptations to their environment. For whatever reason these finches were named “ground” finches, I must admit that for the most part we did see them on the ground and not in trees or bushes.

medium-ground-finch-7-10-2016-5137

Medium Ground Finch

I have dreamed for years of getting decent looks at American Oystercatchers. They’re not rare or native to the Galapagos but it was such a delight to be able to get close enough to this pair.

Off the stern of the catamaran we often had seabirds following us. Elliott’s Storm-Petrels were the most common. The challenge was to sit and try to capture them as the boat swayed.

Back on board the Nemo III every evening for dinner, our chef prepared great food and a different fruit-and-vegetable sculpture. I may have to do a separate post featuring all of these.

dinner-sculpture-7-10-2016-0171One more look at an oystercatcher…

american-oystercatcher-7-10-2016-5424I’ll be back with so very much more, this trip was amazing. Although I can’t imagine going back and doing it all over again, in a way I wish I could. I guess that’s the reason for taking pictures. This time I’m really reliving an entire experience, not “just” the birds.

Right now I have to go clean up the tree mess in the alley. The Horse Chestnut is dying and losing its leaves early. I hope I won’t have to cut it down.

 

Double Vision…Deal With It!

wire-tailed-manakin-07-08-2016-5995

Wire-Tailed Manakin

I got so excited thinking about how much better I was going to see after cataract surgery, I completely forgot to ask about the length of time and inconveniences of recovery. My timing could have been better, perhaps, like after fall migration, not during. As it stands right now, my current prescription does not work with my right eye, so in between trying to figure out which eye to read with, I have been working on eye-hand coordination with my left eye behind the camera lens and my right index finger on the shutter button. I keep imagining headaches but I’m too lazy to indulge.

Beyond inconveniences like staring too long at name-tags trying to read them and place them with faces on Saturday night at my 50th high school reunion (well, if I had cataract surgery, you probably already deduced I’m not a spring chicken), I’m finding at least my distance vision is improved and I think I can still see with binoculars. After a visit to the eye doctor this morning, I go back for another checkup in two weeks and then I think I can get another right lens for my glasses which will fit with my new vision and then I will quit complaining about all this. “All the better to see you with, my dear.”

donacobius-07-09-2016-6158

Donacobius – If you saw my post from the Colombian Andes last year this bird might look familiar.

Luckily these pictures were all taken the last day and a half in the Ecuadoran Amazon when both eyes were working about the same. This completes my recap of the Amazon trip.

boardwalk-07-08-2016-0128

The Boardwalk

On the way to the Wire-Tailed Manakin, accessed by walking a boardwalk trail directly adjacent to our rooms at Sacha Lodge, we stopped by Mariposa Lodge, a butterfly house where butterflies are actually raised and shipped to butterfly enclosures all over the world. Below are a few I was able to photograph.

From the canoe, an Osprey and some Large-Billed Terns.

Also from the canoe, this Hoatzin, looking simply fabulous.

hoatzin-07-09-2016-6170

Hoatzin

Here are a few pictures from the boat down the Napo River as we were leaving the lodge. I was saddened by the fact that this once pristine wilderness is now, of course, exploited for oil. There aren’t too many places left on earth that have not been touched by drilling or fracking, I’m afraid. I was encouraged to hear the Amazonian Ecuadorans protesting further drilling at Yasuni National Park and I hope they succeed in stopping it. Ecuadorans have also joined the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect the Missouri River. The world is shrinking rapidly and we are all in this mess together.

On our last morning, we saw our last Trogon, the Collared Trogon below on the left, and after trying to find a White-Chinned Jacamar all week we finally did see one, on the right.

Below, an Oriole Blackbird and a Grayish Saltator. And two Blue-Grey Tanagers.

blue-gray-tanagers-07-08-2016-5900

Blue-Grey Tanagers

There were two of the Wire-Tailed Manakins, this is likely just another picture of the same one. They weren’t displaying or dancing but they’re still awfully cute.

wire-tailed-manakin-07-08-2016-5993

I think I just found a new profile picture for Facebook.

hoatzin-07-09-2016-6185

I’ll be back as soon as I can, in between eye drops.

Ho-hum, Ennui and Fall Migration

RBNU 09-02-16-0153

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Chicago lakefront park

You’d think I’d be done with processing all those pictures from the two trips in Ecuador by now,  and be happy to just get on with it, but there always seems to be an excuse presenting itself, like hot weather, work, fall migration, information overload, afternoon naps, imminent cataract surgery…

Although I haven’t done a lot of birding lately, it has been impossible to resist the inevitability of fall migration and the days getting shorter, signaling periodicity going on in the birds’ lives, and even if we’re not paying direct attention to it I suspect we’re all somehow getting ready to hunker down for the winter too.

Two weeks ago I was still seeing the female Scarlet Tanager above, at the Portage, but that was the last time.

These pictures, jumping around, are from a couple visits to the Chicago Portage, a few Chicago Loop migrants present last week, and yesterday morning when I went to Brezina Woods before it got unbearably hot. I think this spot may become a new hang-out place for me as the habitat at the Portage has changed so radically in the last year or two, I’m not sure if the birds will ever come back to it. I paid attention to all flying creatures when I was there this past Sunday and managed to get a couple pictures of butterflies and a dragonfly (above).

NOFL 08-14-16-9778

Northern Flicker

AMRO 08-14-16-9827

American Robin

The leaves on the trees start to brown a bit and so do the birds. Fall plumages are sometimes challenging.

Blackpoll Warbler 09-05-16-0414

Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods

Blackpoll Warbler 09-05-16-0429

Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods

The youngsters are sometimes the only ones left to see. Below, from the Portage, a Song Sparrow on the left and an Indigo Bunting on the right. More views of the two species below them. The Buntings all look like their moms right now.

SOSP and INBU 09-04-16-0248

This is the time of year to see large flocks of Cedar Waxwings kibbutzing around the treetops and they have been present every time I’ve been out at the Portage and yesterday at Brezina. Juveniles in the smaller photos and an adult in the larger one.

CEWA 09-04-16-0301Down by the Chicago River last week, a Ring-Billed Gull enjoys his perch on one of the last remaining rotting pilings. And the only bird in the Boeing garden nearby was what appears to be a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher below, after checking Crossley’s pictures as a reference, but empidonax flycatchers are hard to nail down unless they say something and this guy was silent.

RBGU 09-02-16-0025

YBFL 09-02-16-0037
At 155 N. Wacker on Friday, there was a Nashville Warbler.

Sunday’s visit to the Portage yielded a Tiger Swallowtail and a Monarch Butterfly. I have seen more Monarchs but not so many. What I haven’t seen hardly at all are the usually numerous Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Mourning Cloaks.

Below, a couple more warblers from my visit to Brezina Woods. The hanging upside-down Redstart, below left, is a challenge to piece together.

Magnolia Warbler 09-05-16-0438

Magnolia Warbler

Two more views of the Red-Breasted Nuthatch. It was a special treat as I got to see two individuals in the remaining black locust trees at the far east end of the Cancer Survivors’ Memorial, the only trees to survive the total decimation of what used to be Daley Bicentennial Plaza and is now Maggie Daley Park.

Last picture of the post below, an adult Cedar Waxwing at the Portage a couple weeks ago.

CEWA 08-14-16-9763I’m looking forward to cataract surgery on my right eye tomorrow morning, because that’s the eye I use to focus the damn camera lens with, so I’m hoping for future sharper images!!

View from the Top: The Metal Towers

Many-Banded Aracari 07-07-2016-5613

Many-Banded Aracari

On the morning of July 7 at Sacha Lodge in the Ecuadoran Amazon, we went up to the “metal towers” which are three towers strung together with canopy walkways in between. I don’t seem to have a picture of the first tower from the ground before we climbed up, but the view at the top was astounding.

Above, there are two Pied Puffbirds on one of the walkways between the towers, what the walkways look like and the platform on top of one of the towers. Below, I got a closer view of one of the Pied Puffbirds.

Pied Puffbird 07-07-2016-5508

Pied Puffbird

The Toucan below wasn’t as close as the Puffbird but large enough to capture, even if he thought he was hiding behind the limb that obstructs his bill.

White-Throated Toucan 07-07-2016-5310

White-Throated Toucan

The Ringed Woodpecker below was one of the first birds I tried to photograph, and although it was quite far away it stayed on that snag, working on a hole in it, for more pictures than I needed. I’m very bad at editing though, especially weeks later…

Below, a Palm Tanager and a Wing-Barred Piprites.

The Lanceolated Monklet was far away too, but too cute to pass up.

Lanceolated Monklet 07-07-2016-5622

Lanceolated Monklet

The Spangled Cotinga is definitely a canopy bird, always perched up high.

In the afternoon we were back in the canoe. There’s a little video from the canoe below to give you the feeling of it. At some point we saw the Gilded Barbet below but I think it might have been up at the tower. I may have to start taking notes while I’m taking pictures.

Gilded Barbet 07-07-2016-5554

Gilded Barbet

Two more classy woodpeckers to add to my list, the Chestnut and Cream-Colored.

Chestnut Woodpecker 07-07-2016-5720

Chestnut Woodpecker

I do remember the Cream-Colored Woodpeckers below were seen from the canoe.

Cream-Colored Woodpeckers 07-07-2016-5733

Cream-Colored Woodpeckers

Below, a short trip in the canoe. Don’t ask me what’s flying around, whether it’s a bird or a butterfly, before we stopped to see what Oscar, our guide at the front of the canoe, was pointing out.

The Duida Woodcreeper has been split from the Lineated Woodcreeper and I think this is it in the picture below.

Possible Duida Woodcreeper 07-07-2016-5585

I think this is a Duida Woodcreeper

From the ground, not the canoe, we saw these adorable Spix’s Night Monkeys peering out from their daytime hole.

Spix's Night Monkeys 07-07-2016-5704

Spix’s Night Monkeys

It was a great day for Aracaris and Toucans. The Ivory-Billed Aracari was up at the tower.

Ivory-Billed Aracari 07-07-2016-5564

Ivory-Billed Aracari

Likely I’ll be back with one more post from the last day and a half in the Amazon and then it’s on to the Galapagos.

 

Back to the Amazon

Gilded Barbet 7-5-2016-4578

Gilded Barbet

These pictures are from two days at Sacha Lodge in the Ecuadoran Amazon. The first day we spent time at the wooden tower. There were two towers available to us, the wooden and the metal. The wooden tower was the oldest and construction had already begun to replace it while we were there. The climb up the narrow steps all the way to the top was excellent physical therapy. This tower was built around a huge tree, part of which you can see in the pictures below. A canopy view is a mixed blessing sometimes. While you can see birds on the very tippy-tops of trees, they are often too far away to photograph well. So generally the more detailed photographs were taken on the ground either on the way to the tower or on the boardwalks. Below pictures are one of the entire tower from the bottom, and what it was like to be on the top.

I added two new parrot species to my life list that first day we spent at the wooden tower. Below, on the left is a Black-Headed Parrot, Scarlet-Shouldered Parrotlets on the right.

Here’s the only Attila of the trip.

Cinnamon Attila 7-5-2016-4493

Cinnamon Atrila

You never know who’s perched on a branch but in this case it was a lot easier to see the birds below: a Straight-Billed Hermit and a Russet-Backed Oropendola.

Trogons are so amazing. We saw both of these on the same day. I think a Two Trogon Day is exceptional.

Green-Backed Trogon 7-06-2016-5113

Green-Backed Trogon

Black-Throated Trogon 7-06-2016-5231

Black-Throated Trogon

We saw some other creatures too, of course, but the Squirrel Monkey was much more difficult to capture than the snake. Squirrel Monkey and Anaconda. Click on the picture to see the monkey a little better. I think our guide told us the Anaconda was a youngster…

The little bird below is a Slender-Footed Tyrannulet. Whatever possessed them to give it this name is beyond me. Slender-footed as compared to what? But it’s a lovely little bird. And you can see his feet.

I had an opportunity to try to capture the Black-Bellied Cuckoo below both days, first from the tower on the left, and the photo on the right was taken from a closer vantage point.

Below on the left is a Yellow-Tufted Woodpecker, and on the right, a Spot-Winged Antshrike.

It was very exciting to get a good look at a King Vulture, below. Although I think I have seen this bird before, I have never seen it so well.

King Vulture 7-5-2016-4871Tanagers were tough to get photos of on this trip. On the left, Silver-Beaked Tanagers which we saw almost daily, and on the right, a glimpse of a Paradise Tanager from the canopy tower.

You have to work a little bit at finding the bird below.

Speckled Chachalaca 7-5-2016-4961

Speckled Chachalaca

The bird below was not shy, and I am just now noticing how lovely his throat complements the fruit on his chosen plant perch.

Pink-Throated Becard 7-5-2016-4778

Pink-Throated Becard

Blue-Gray Tanagers look different in this part of the world, but they haven’t been split from the other I have been so used to seeing.

Blue-Gray Tanager 7-5-2016-4820

Blue-Gray Tanager

Birds by the water…the Blue-and-White Swallows that hung out around the restaurant by the Napo River and a Striated Heron.

Below is the female counterpart to the bird at the top of my post. She’s lovely too.

Gilded Barbet Female 7-5-2016-4770

Gilded Barbet (female)

I will be back soon with more from this trip! I still have some unidentified captures but none of them were great photos, so I can spare you the agony.🙂

Meanwhile Back at the Portage

SCTA 08-07-16-9432

Scarlet Tanager (female)

I decided to take a walk around the Portage last Sunday. It was my first birding outing since my return from Ecuador. I was almost more interested to see if there were any butterflies since I have noticed a distinct lack of them this year and I am not happy about that.

I got out a bit later than I should have, and I forgot the insect repellent which might have afforded me a few more butterflies, but I came away determined to go back this coming Sunday, get up earlier, and maybe visit McGinnis Slough too. We shall see how far I get with that thought.

There were some butterflies so I have to go through my once-a-year trying-to-identify routine. I figured out the two above, a Silver-Spotted Skipper and an Eastern Comma, but I am stumped by the one below. It appears to be in the Brush-Footed family but I haven’t managed to match it up exactly with anything yet. Identification is most welcome.

There were not a lot of birds, but I found more of them in my pictures later than I could see with my binoculars at the time. A recent visit to the eye doctor has helped me figure out why this is and I am scheduled for the first of two cataract surgeries next month. Maybe I can forego buying new binoculars.

Song Sparrows above, Indigo Buntings (male and female) below…

It’s always encouraging to see a Green Heron, although I haven’t seen two in at least a couple years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t another one around.

GRHE 08-07-16-9522

Green Heron

Below on the left, two Cedar Waxwings my camera discovered, and a juvenile American Robin.

The water level is very low and what water there is, is covered with duckweed. I guess this is good for the American Goldfinches below.

AMGO 08-07-16-9417

INBU 08-07-16-9496

Indigo Bunting Female

I will be back very soon with more from Ecuador.

A Riot of Color

Long-Billed Woodcreeper 7-4-2016-4464

Long-Billed Woodcreeper

I have finally managed to get through all the Sacha Lodge/Amazon photographs, with only a few stragglers left, so as I comb back through them day by day I will try to share the best with you.

Finally settling down into these pictures has buoyed my spirit too, which was broken somewhat by a combination of events. I got sick the last two days of my second trip, which were travel days, basically, off the boat and back to the mainland (I wonder if it was reverse seasickness?), and it took me a week or so after I returned home before I felt like I could eat again. Zapped, everything became more of a chore than usual. And diving back into a cartoonish political sphere didn’t help my mood either. But I think I’m beginning to find some sort of balance again, at least for a while.

Maybe the best medicine was planning to take two short trips next year..something to look forward to.

We visited two clay/salt licks on July 4, where we saw lots of Dusky-Headed Parakeets (above, top) and Cobalt-Winged Parakeets (above, bottom). The Cobalt-Wingeds come to a lick in Yasuni National Park where there is a blind so you can wait for them to gather and witness the pandemonium. Click on the pictures for a better view.

Below, some parrots, which are notoriously difficult to see when in the trees.The Blue-Headed Parrots are in the top of the first picture, but I was lucky enough to get a better shot of two of them below. The Orange-Winged are the two in the lower right and the Mealy has its back to us. I am surprised I managed to get some color off the Chestnut-Fronted Macaws.

Blue-Headed, Orange-Winged and Mealy Parrots 7-4-2016-4160

Blue-Headed, Orange-Winged and Mealy Parrots

Blue-Headed Parrots 7-4-2016-4175

Blue-Headed Parrots

Chestnut-Fronted Macaws 07-04-2016-4457

Chestnut-Fronted Macaws

By the second day I was using the flash attachment… And it wasn’t all psittacines.

Scarlet-Crowned Barbet 7-4-2016-4238

Scarlet-Crowned Barbet

I don’t know if I ever saw the part of the bird below for which it was named, but Woodpeckers have a way of being named for miscellaneous field marks. There’s enough to identify the Spot-Breasted without seeing the spots on its breast.

Spot-Breasted Woodpecker 7-4-2016-3976

Spot-Breasted Woodpecker

A female Hook-Billed Kite on the left and a Gray-Headed Kite on the right, below.

A tarantula on someone’s door back at the lodge later…and a glimpse of an Oriole Blackbird, below.

Let us not forget the black birds. Yellow-Rumped Cacique and Black-Fronted Nunbird…

The picture below was shot from the boat, which is always a challenge for clarity. I begin to wonder how much of the image-stabilization really takes over for me.

Black Caracara 7-4-2016-4036

Black Caracara

Short-Crested Flycatcher and Gray-Breasted Sabrewing…

I think we had eight species of Woodcreeper on this trip and I added three to my life list. but I haven’t begun to figure out that yet.

Black-Banded Woodcreeper 07-04-2016-4197

Black-Banded Woodcreeper

What a wonderful owl, to be awake and visible during the day…There were actually two of them, but the other one was obscured by vegetation.

Crested Owl 7-4-2016-4277

Crested Owl

I’ll be back very soon with more from the tropics and beyond.