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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Galapagos Islands: Bachas Beach & Land Birds

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LOS BACHAS BEACH ON SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

Our Los Bachas walk this morning was right up my alley. The naturalists assured me we would see many birds… ohhh how my cup runneth over. Today was spectacular for bird watching.

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ZODIAC’S LANDING ON BACHAS BEACH

Sometimes I have to stop and bring my face out from behind my camera to pinch myself. Not many get to walk on these islands and I consider myself oh so lucky to be here. And then I stop to take another photo of yet another amazing beach.

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BACHAS BEACH

We hiked inland and I today I started to really feel the weight of the big 500mm lens. This was the sixth hike in three days and I was getting beat but there was no way I was leaving it on the boat, especially on a hike where there were going to be a lot of birds. I just had to tough it out.

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VIEW FROM THE TRAIL BACK TO THE BOAT

The first bird, the Galapagos dove, is endemic to the Galapagos. Endemic in a broad since means “native to”. Its curved beak helps it to feed mainly on seed picked off from the ground. Although it is most commonly seen on the ground my first sighting of this bird was up in a tree.

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THE GALAPAGOS DOVE ROOTING AROUND IN THE DRIED GRASS FOR SEEDS

They are a striking bird with a reddish brown color, iridescent green feathers on their back, reddish feet and a bold blue eye ring.

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GALAPAGOS DOVE – MY FAVORITE PART IS THE BOLD BLUE EYE RING

One of my favorite birds of the trip was the Galapagos Hawk. A large hawk similar in size to the Red Tailed Hawk is well known for its fearlessness toward people. As the only predator on the islands (aside from the introduced feral cat population) this raptor has inhabited the Galapagos for over 300,000 years. WOW

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GALAPAGOS HAWK

Although getting photos of this endemic hawk would have been cool enough, because the hawks are so tame I was able to stand four feet away and take photos without any fear from the bird. Never before will I get to get this close to a rapture in the wild I am sure.

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I AM READY FOR MY CLOSE UP

This hawk hunts in a pack, when one spots prey they signal the others. The lead hawk eats first until it is full and then the other hawks eat.

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LEAD HAWKS EAT FIRST WHILE THE OTHER PATIENTLY WAIT THEIR TURN

With only about 150 mating pairs this bird is a rare find. I love the Galapagos!

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HE KNOWS HE IS SPECIAL

I found the Yellow Warbler everywhere in the Galapagos. On almost every single hike the bird was there flitting among the trees and brush scavenging for food. Unlike the finches which are extremely hard to identify correctly this bird is the only small bright yellow-colored bird on the islands; you simply cannot mistake it for anything else.

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SOME BIRDS ARE EASIER TO IDENTIFY THAN OTHERS

Yellow Warblers are found in many other parts of the world and are found all over the western hemisphere. Although normally they prefer bogs or wetlands they have done well on the islands.

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THIS GUY SAT FOR 10 MINUTES AND WAS VERY CURIOUS ABOUT ME

One interesting fact about the Yellow Warbler is that they like to build their nests directly on top of another often resulting in nests sometimes six tiers high.

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BATHING IN A SHALLOW DEPRESSION OF WATER

The Smooth Billed Ani although beautiful and interesting is an introduced species to the Galapagos. Although it is not known exactly how this bird arrived on the islands they are not very good fliers and since the closest island is far it is likely that they were introduced by humans. The first bird was recorded in 1960 and since they are known for removing bugs from grazing animals it is thought that this is why people may have brought them to the islands. They compete with native and endemic birds for food and territory and were disliked by many of the naturalists who called them pests.

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SMOOTH BILLED ANI

There are four mockingbirds on the Galapagos Islands; the Galapagos Mockingbird, the Hood Mockingbird, the Charles Mockingbird and the Chatham Mockingbird. Because tourists are not allowed on the Isle of San Cristobal, where the Chatham Mockingbird lives, it is impossible to see that one. The Charles Mockingbird is a resident of the Isle of Champion which does not allow visitors. Yesterday we snorkeled there from a zodiac and although I did look around the shore of the island I did not spot this mockingbird. The remaining two mockingbirds, the Galapagos Mockingbird and the Hood Mockingbird are the most frequently seen because they are on islands that allow visitors and are curious about people.

Out of the two mockingbirds it is pretty easy to identify which you have seen. The Galapagos Mockingbird has a shorter, less curved beak.

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GALAPAGOS MOCKINGBIRD HAS A SHORTER, LESS CURVED BEAK

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GALAPAGOS MOCKINGBIRD

The Hood Mockingbird on the other hand has a longer, thicker curved beak.

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HOOD MOCKINGBIRD HAS A LONGER, THICKER CURVED BEAK

Since both birds “mock” when they call the beak is really the most reliable way to distinguish the two.

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HOOD MOCKINGBIRD

One of my absolute special moments of this trip had to do with the little endemic widely spread Galapagos Flycatcher. The naturalists had told us that these birds are extremely bold and curious birds and that they may come very close to us without becoming frightened; because of this fearlessness I was able to capture some truly stunning photos of this bird.

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THE GALAPAGOS FLYCATCHER IS SO CURIOUS

Then I got a true taste of fearlessness. While taking photos of one Galapagos flycatcher I was surprised to see in the lens a blur heading right to me.

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WHERE DID THE BIRD GO

Mr. Rogue took the shot above of me holding my camera still pointed where the Galapagos flycatcher was landed. It took me a moment to figure out that the bird had landed on the end of my lens hood.

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SEE THE LITTLE BIRDS TAIL HANGING OFF THE END OF THE LENS

You can see in the above photo the birds tail hanging out of the end of the lens… and then see that guy in purple, once I saw this photo I was really hoping he had gotten a better shot of me and the bird.

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THE MONEY SHOT

I was ecstatic when he showed me that he had a perfect shot of me, the lens and the bird perched on the end.

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THE GALAPAGOS FLYCATCHER PERCHED AT THE END OF MY 500MM LENS CLOSE UP

That shot is a one in a million shot. Funny enough it is one of my favorite photos of the trip and I didn’t even take it!

1 comment:

lilmansworld said...

that is hilarious. always attracting groupies haha :)

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