Espanola Island: July 16, 2016

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7489Espanola Island is a small island in the southernmost tip of the Galapagos Archipelago. As one of the oldest islands, it is estimated to be between two and three million years old, and was where we spent our last full day of the trip. In the morning, on the rocky, windswept Punta Suarez side of the island, we were greeted by nesting seabirds, and fortunate enough to see the courtship rituals of Waved Albatross and to some extent the Blue-Footed Boobies, although most of the latter’s nesting seemed to be over.

If you click on the pictures below you can see some of the “waved” pattern on the Waved Albatross’s breast. The bird in the second photo has a band with a number on it.

Below is one of several videos I took of the courtship behavior. It was impossible to capture any one entire interaction as they seemed to go on and on for a long time!

Some Blue-Footed Boobies were displaying but were too far away to capture on video. I suspect we were several weeks too late.

Nazca Boobies also nest here.

There was a Wandering Tattler in this tidal pool, along with a Sea Lion.

Beautiful Swallow-Tailed Gulls were present too. Below is a close-up of the red skin that forms a ring around the eye.

swallow-tailed-gull-07-16-2016-7277swallow-tailed-gull-07-16-2016-7750This was my last opportunity to try and capture a Red-Billed Tropicbird.

red-billed-tropicbird-07-16-2016-7297

And the Galapagos Hawk made an appearance.

galapagos-hawk-07-16-2016-7889

Nothing like another Magnificent Frigatebird.

magnificent-frigatebird-07-16-2016-7939

Espanola has its own species of lava lizard.

And the finch find of the day was the Large Cactus Finch.

Also present, the Marine Iguanas, a Hermit Crab and a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron

In the afternoon we visited the other side of the island, Gardner Bay, which has a wide stretch of beach and a lot of Espanola Mockingbirds begging for water. It was hard to resist them but we were not allowed to give in to their demands. You can see and hear them begging from my roommate in the video below.

A couple more Blue-Footed Boobies.

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7934I love the blue accents on the rest of this bird.

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7358Below, our last dinner sculpture and the final day’s plan to visit Santa Cruz Island in the morning before our flight back to the mainland.

I am going to the Gull Frolic on Saturday and will likely report back from that with some photos. The forecast is for warmer temperatures than last year, but it is always windy and somewhat chilly on the lakefront near the Wisconsin border. I am thankful the forecast for rain has been postponed until Sunday.

San Cristobal Island – Galapagos

gray-warbler-finch-07-15-2016-6352

Gray Warbler Finch

I am happy to be recovering from the cold from hell, so it’s time for a long-overdue post and luckily I still have pictures left from the Galapagos. Either I am getting old, not getting enough sleep or going through crow withdrawal – likely a combination of all three – but my resistance to these rhino-inconveniences seems to be less strong than usual. I have made it my New Year’s Resolution to go out more often during the work week and Find Crows. Crows will protect me against the ongoing assault to my spirit.

Below, a few pictures of a Blue-Footed Booby flying and diving.

These pictures are likely out of order, but our landing on San Cristobal was dry, meaning we could climb out of the panga onto steps at a dock. Needless to say we avoided the steps where the sea lions were sleeping (see farther below in the post). We then took a bus ride out to our hike.

A glimpse of the rugged lava-rock terrain.

The iguanas on this island are Galapagos Land Iguanas. They don’t swim. They are the color of the beach sand instead of wet rocks.

Below is a San Cristobal Lava Lizard. Found on this island only.

galapagos-lizard-07-15-2016-7013San Cristobal has its own mockingbird species. As far as I could tell, the “mocking” for all the species here applies more to their attitude than mimicry of other birds’ calls…

Galapagos Striated Heron doing its heron thing.

Why can’t all flycatchers be as cooperative as the Galapagos Flycatcher?

Flying over the beach, a Galapagos Hawk.

galapagos-hawk-07-15-2016-6921

Galapagos Hawk

I felt very lucky to get a couple pictures of the Dark-Billed Cuckoo. Even here Cuckoos are not gregarious.

Our sought-after finch on San Cristobal was the Woodpecker Finch below.

More pictures of the Woodpecker Finch in action.

After lunch we sailed to Santa Fe island for the Vegetarian Finch.

vegetarian-finch-07-15-2016-6484

Vegetarian Finch, Santa Fe Island

Back on San Cristobal, the Gray Warbler Finches are flower piercers and eaters.

The sea lions were everywhere.

The sea lion below left is covered in sand.

I have included a video below for some sea lion action and barking.

Somewhere coming or going we saw Manta Rays close to the surface. Our ship and the dinner sculpture are inset.

As San Cristobal has its own mockingbird, it’s only fair to give it more attention.

galapagos-mockingbird-07-15-2016-6933

San Cristobal Mockingbird

I have a couple more posts to come from the Galapagos. It’s been challenging to spread it out over such a long period of time, but fun too. I never thought I’d say it — I wish I could go back!

 

Galapagos Day 5?

paint-billed-crake-07-14-2016-5588

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-07-14-2016-5738

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-07-14-2016-5494

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-07-14-16-5630

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.

 

Return to Galapagos – Day 3

galapagos-green-turtle-7-12-16-0229

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.

white-cheeked-pintail-7-12-16-8287

galapagos-sea-lion-7-12-16-8486

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. 🙂

activity-board-7-12-16-1970

 

Galapagos Part 2: Genovese Island

short-eared-galapagos-owl-7-11-16-7091

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.

red-footed-booby-7-11-16-6533

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.

yellow-warbler-7-11-16-7433

Yellow Warbler

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

yellow-crowned-night-heron-7-11-16-7540

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.

galapagos-mockingbird-7-11-16-7617red-footed-booby-7-11-16-7559

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.