Galapagos Day 5?


Paint-Billed Crake

The thought crossed my mind recently that visiting the Galapagos was a trip of a lifetime – but I did not expect it would take me another lifetime to get through all the pictures.

The Paint-Billed Crake above and below has got to be the most cooperative crake I have ever tried to photograph, let alone see.

paint-billed-crake-07-14-16-5591These pictures are in no particular order. In fact I think they’re nearly in the order I uploaded them. They are all from Floreana Island and environs.

Always looking for a cooperative Blue-Footed Booby, but sometimes they move too fast.


Blue-Footed Booby

blue-footed-booby-07-14-2016-5792The Nazca Boobies, on the other hand, are always available for pictures.

Below, a Brown Noddy on the left, and on the right and below, the ubiquitous Elliott’s Storm-Petrel. I got spoiled seeing these birds off the bough of the boat every day. Guess I’ll need to take more pelagic trips if I want more of this sort of thing.

Floreana Island has its own subspecies of Galapagos Mockingbird.

floreana-mockingbird-07-14-2016-6082I think we saw at least one Galapagos Flycatcher every day.


Galapagos Flycatcher

This island also has a budding tortoise population.

The hard-to-capture bird below is a Galapagos Shearwater. They were rarely seen except for one early evening when a group of them was following the boat, walking on water.

Adding another Darwin’s Finch to the list, below is the Medium Tree Finch, I believe a male on the left and a female on the right.

And below, two individuals from the Small Ground Finch clan. We may have seen them every day too.

The Red-Billed Tropicbird below was my ongoing challenge. Although we saw plenty of them they were either too far away or too fast to capture perfectly. But I kept trying.

I will never tire of Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Who is Sally Lightfoot? Apparently no one in particular, but one website says they get their name from being nimble on their feet. That’s a Marine Iguana with and below the crab.

The Galapagos Sea Lions we saw nearly every day, too. No complaints.

Below, a juvenile Swallow-Tailed Gull and two flight shots. You can actually see the swallow-tail in the top right flight picture. Click on it for enlargement.

Below, a Wedge-Rumped Storm-Petrel and me, likely trying to get pictures of it.

Those Galapagos Yellow Warblers always seemed happy to see us.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, wherever you are. We are currently toughening up to withstand the Polar Vortex which shows no signs of going anywhere anytime soon. Snow is predicted this weekend. That’s Snow with a Capital S.


Small Tree Finch

I’m doing well after my second cataract surgery and looking forward to a new prescription in a few weeks.

I’m not happy with working late, Friday night. End of Complaining. Hope to be back to this page soon.


Introduction to the Galapagos


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.


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

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

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

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.


There’s Noise, and then there’s NOISE

Recording of Haydn C Major and Constant Budgies

Recording of Scarlatti C Major Sonata with Budgies

Attached is part of a Haydn sonata I was apparently reading through (please accept my apologies, although I warned you in the beginning this was NOT about my playing), with my budgies carrying on constantly. It reminds me of their “cocktail hour,” which is something they used to do with regularity in the early evening: just break out into constant commentary. Also attached is part of a Scarlatti sonata which was part of the same session; they’ve calmed down quite a bit, but I included it because it’s pretty music that I’d forgotten about and was delighted to find.

One talks, the other listens

Budgies carrying on while I play piano may sound noisy. In some respects, they are. But compared to the vast array of human-created noises (including my piano), they barely contribute to the pollution of the aural airspace.

Listening to birds made me more aware of my hearing and what I was and was not listening to. As I strove to hear more birds, I wanted to hear less and less of the human noise that drowns them out. That I live in a suburban area and work in an urban environment doesn’t help.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to go on a naturalist tour of the Burren in Ireland, and I can remember waking up mornings thinking the bird song was incredible. Nobody considers Ireland a top destination for birds and so this may be hard to imagine, but by comparison to where I live, with traffic noise constant, whether loud or a low murmur, planes flying overhead, not to mention booming car stereos, lawn mowers or snow plows–depending on the season–leaf blowers, what-have-you, a rural town in Ireland is a very quiet place, so you get to hear the birds sing in the morning. And realize what you’ve been missing the rest of your life.

I work downtown and the noise is deafening. At any moment a car horn can blast in your ear or an emergency vehicle siren ricocheting off the concrete canyons can make your ears hurt, if your ears are still able to feel and not permanently dulled from hearing loss. Here I had discovered birds late in life and I want to hear them, but if I continue to subject myself to the urban noise, I wouldn’t be able to hear at all. I had to do something, not always having hands free to plug up my ears with my fingers (which is by far most effective). So I started wearing earplugs, fashion be damned, from the moment I get on the train in the morning, because the train too is noisy, and when you get off in the station it’s a whole other experience of idling engines spitting, arriving trains clanging their bells and screeching their brakes, not to mention the distorted, ear-splitting announcements over the PA system that are still too loud even if I press my fingers against my ears. Earplugs cushion your ears against harm but you can still hear, and if it’s too loud, the earplugs are only making the decibels a little less detrimental. Conversely it’s quite possible to go to a rock concert or a hockey game with your earplugs and be able to hear everything just fine, including your un-earplugged friends yelling to you over the noise.

There have been plenty of studies about how all this noise pollution is dehumanizing us, affecting our health, contributing to our demise. But nobody seems to think about it. I cannot recall seeing one other person with earplugs. Occasionally I will see someone’s hands go up to their ears, but for the most part, people walk through the city stopping only their conversation as ear-blasting noise like a fire truck or ambulance approaches and drives by.

The best antidote to all this damage, of course, is getting back to nature. The birds remind me of this all the time. My birds at home will never be so tame that they’ll allow me to watch TV with the sound on. Not that I am much of a TV watcher anyway, but the budgies shout over it in their “noise” voice, the same one they use to communicate or to try to drown out the vacuum cleaner, which is probably the worst noisy appliance I subject them to (the blender and food processors are short-lived noises, so it must be the droning-on that gets them). Yes, believe it or not, their “noise” voice is harsher than their “rap” that goes along with the piano.

Something about the tinny sound of the TV just drives the budgies crazy and they immediately have to drown it out. So I have learned to live with closed captioning, although I don’t know how anyone who cannot hear makes sense of it since half the interpretations are phonetic and the words often come out completely unrelated to the subject at hand. Only if there’s something I really want to watch do I go to another part of the house where the birds don’t hang out. But I don’t feel deprived. I don’t miss TV, and I’m glad, because now there are studies saying the more we watch TV, the more years we take off our lives.

The birds taught me how to listen to them and a lot of other things I used to blot out along with noise. I don’t want to be incapable of hearing them, or anything else I want to listen to. Hearing loss is not a necessary result of aging. It’s due to noise pollution.