Return to Galapagos – Day 3

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Galapagos Green Turtle

Getting through these pictures is almost more exhausting than…being there? Than…getting to work Friday morning through the Cubs Victory Parade Crowd?

Or picking up my annual birdseed order from Chicago Audubon yesterday?

Back to the Galapagos.

Below you are looking at potentially the most exciting bird we saw on the entire trip. Why? It wasn’t on our list because it’s endangered, so we were lucky enough to be allowed to look for it. Somehow our group got permission to visit the normally off-limits part of Southern Isabela Island, known as Playa Tortuga Negra, where the Mangrove Finch still exists in declining numbers.

Also on this side of the island, a lovely Galapagos Flycatcher, interesting plants, and the ubiquitous Galapagos Mockingbird.

galapagos-mockingbird-7-12-16-7905We went back to the catamaran for an early lunch, then went snorkeling before exploring the lava rocks on the other side of the island. I tried out my underwater camera gear for the first time. I was not able to capture anything very well, but the dive was great fun. We never stayed in for very long, but I always felt like I could stay down forever.

The lava rock on the other side of Isabela, from the landing known as Punta Moreno, was a challenge to negotiate.

I’m likely not keeping all the photographs in order, but the presence of rock has a way of keeping things together. Below, Brown Pelicans on the left and a Blue-Footed Booby on the right.

We had our Galapagos Yellow Warbler for the day (below left) and a Small Ground Finch.

Below, a Striated Heron with a Sally Lightfoot Crab.

There were nesting Brown Pelicans (below), on the Playa Tortuga Negra side.

nesting-pelicans-7-12-16-8372A closer look at the Sally Lightfoot Crab and a Lava Lizard on the right. You’ll have to click on the pictures to see them better.

Two types of cactus grow in the lava rock, Lava Cactus and Candelabra Cactus. Whichever one is getting started on the left seems to prove the point.

Below, some more species endemic to the islands: the Lava Heron and Galapagos Shearwater.

The Brown Noddy on the left is not an endemic species, but the Flightless Cormorant is. Check out its very blue eye.

Where we saw the Flightless Cormorants nesting it was hard to get detail because of the intense light. So I’m glad I got to see the blue eye on the one above.

Below, the Galapagos Penguin. This was our best chance to see this delightful bird.

Marine Iguanas piled up on top of each other…

Another Galapagos species…the White-Cheeked Pintail. We saw them wherever there was fresh water. This is the only duck species on the islands.

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Galapagos Sea Lion

Again, we were pampered daily by the crew…the dinner sculpture on the left, and a sculpture of fresh towels in our cabin on the right.

Here, back home in Chicago, it is November and we are having warm, sunny weather in the 70’s. The irony leading up to the worst presidential election of my lifetime is not lost. I’m borrowing that sentiment from a sermon heard while singing in the choir this morning. Not the irony part, but life seems overloaded with irony lately.

I find I’m reminding myself to appreciate the moment as if there’s a more acute sense that I should not be taking anything for granted.

I’ll be back as soon as I can manage it. I promise. 🙂

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Galapagos Part 2: Genovese Island

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Short-Eared (Galapagos) Owl

Life has been getting in the way a bit more lately: my apologies for the delayed post. Every time I go back to these photographs I think it will be easy, that I must have been done with them, and then I find out that is not the case. Then I was looking forward to a weekend without much planned thinking I was going to do a lot of work at the computer and it just didn’t happen.

I think WordPress takes matters into its own hands when I haven’t posted for a while and generates some kind of phenomenal amount of hits, then sends me a message our of the blue saying my blog is really popular. This has happened to me twice lately. I get the hint. Okay, back to work.

These photographs were all taken on Monday, July 11, 2016 as we visited what is called Prince Phillip’s Steps in the morning, on Genovese Island, and Darwin Bay on the other side in the afternoon. Galapagos Dove and Nazca Boobies above.

This was the only island where we could see Red-Footed Boobies.

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Some Nazca Boobies had youngsters. There seemed to be a problem trying to feed too large a fish to the fledgling.

This Swallow-Tailed Gull below seemed to be having the same problem. I suspect there may be an upset in the availability of smaller prey. But at least they weren’t trying to feed plastic.

The Swallow-Tailed Gulls are quite striking. You will likely see them again in future posts. We even got treated to a pair that was copulating.

It was a real treat to spend time with the Short-Eared (Galapagos) Owl below. Leave it to a Galapagos Mockingbird to bother him. As always, feel free to click on the pictures to get a larger view.

I think I spent the entire trip trying to get a decent photograph of a Red-Billed Tropicbird. There is likely a better flight shot down the line in a future post. In any event we got to see a lot of them on Genovese and even discovered one nesting (below).

nesting-red-billed-tropicbird-gal16b-lisa-spellman-7285Magnificent Frigatebirds also call this island home.

And we got to see what to my uneducated eye is the difference between the Magnificent and the Great Frigatebird: a blue-green sheen to the plumage of the latter.

And of course we had Darwin’s Finches! Four different species on this island. The first, below, is the Large Ground Finch.

Then, the Large Cactus Finch.

And we also had the Sharp-Beaked Ground Finch.

Also, below, the Gray Warbler-Finch.

Not to be confused with the Yellow Warbler.

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Yellow Warbler

We also saw a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron trying to sleep.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

And I think this was the only time we got to see a Galapagos Fur Seal.

galapagos-fur-seal-7-11-16-7360Not to be confused with the ever-present Galapagos Sea Lion.

More Sally Lightfoot Crabs…

Back at the catamaran, we were treated to another fruit sculpture and received our marching orders for the next day.

I’ll try to be a better blogger and come back sooner. If nothing else, just to escape the landslide into November 8th.

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Introduction to the Galapagos

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.